I asked my poet friend Matt Freeman to please write some prose about his experiences with paranoid schizophrenia. Here is what he sent me. Thank you, Matt!
The Concise Version
At the instant I awoke to find myself a poet I began experiencing the early symptoms of a possession where something sinister entered and would evolve into what doctors call schizophrenia. I had been such a good boy! Even in a rather Romantic and wild home I had been totally sane, hitting homeruns and getting good grades. Then one of my coaches got me into Dylan Thomas and I began a study of Keats and Rimbaud and especially Jim Morrison (because already I was drinking mammoth proportions in order to relax) in a futile attempt to impress a young lady. Suddenly I was frozen and couldn’t do anything about it. I ended up at college with a scholarship but I could only leave my room at night to buy cookies and cigarettes; one beautiful day I met my muse and she took me to the dining hall and introduced everybody but my brain was completely on fire and I could barely function. My only recourse was to drink lots and remain slightly unstable but somewhat sane. I do remember stepping off an elevator and hearing the Legion and thinking I’d had too much to drink and maybe someday I’d call a doctor. Well, I was bitterly expelled and my father never could forgive me and I was nervous again and I rambled around a little bit and tried to bring myself under control but began thinking an old girlfriend was still in love with me and she was somehow slipping me stuff to make me hallucinate and I panicked and it was like everybody kept saying “soon” and my teachers were talking and stealing from me and I ended up in and out of psych wards for several years while my family and family home crumbled and I would follow the clouds and tell paramedics about all the meds I was on and Jakob Dylan had heard about me in New York and was writing songs to me and once I got so high I had to walk around Webster Groves when language started falling apart and I was so beyond sorrow I couldn’t name it and there was no longer any authority so I went to my parents basement and wrote one hundred songs and put on one hundred pounds and was really creepy and smelly and I withdrew from everything and was barely able to go out drinking and I was smoking three packs a day and I lay in bed for twenty hours a day and got a little check and felt terrible about it and well-meaning people kept asking me when I was going to get a job and finally my community support worker called me out and it became clear that if I wanted to live I was going to have to stop drinking and take my meds and not fool around. I was going to have to submit and become free! Thanks to Clozaril and Ativan and lots of miracles that I can’t explain I googled “Saint Louis Poetry” and started forcing myself to participate in society and met a bunch of new professors who encouraged me and inspired me and met lots of poets and started getting published and was on my way and through symptom after symptom burning clear through me like light I did not quit meds as tempted or drink or otherwise destroy myself and when I see people on my worst day I smile and say what the hell I’ve had my ego shattered and seen the devil and such beauty and instead of one-time oceanic reality I’ve seen what happens when the environment—overheard remarks; the damn signs; the fluttering birds and leaves and fingers of bus passengers—completely falls out of the Romance and turns against you. So that the answer is finding the warmth in the middle of you and about you and remembering to breathe and what an orderly at MPC once said was “ a whole new kind of clean” which I can’t help but feel has something to do with perception.