- Brave. Fear will continue to be an issue, but I hope I can stand up and do the right thing more often in the coming year. My personal and professional life, as well as the political environment, will demand it.
- Compassionate. Need this to temper fear and courage, despair and joy, and everything else. Toward myself and others, all others, regardless of differences from myself. Meditation and mindfulness will help with this, but mostly this is an attitude that I need to renew daily and carry with me into the world.
- Content. A fundamental faith that everything will be OK. The opposite of desperately chasing material and experience to fill the internal howling emotional void. Again, meditation, mindfulness, as well as exercise, action, and discipline toward building a fulfilling life.
- Creative. Two practices needed for this: An opening up, a rousing of curiosity, a desire to engage with life. And a disciplined practice of setting aside time and energy to face the blank page, to challenge myself to be brave enough to make mistakes and fail in hopes of coming up with the spark of something original and meaningful.
- Emotionally in touch. Reversing the trend of the past six years, I want to feel more, both a wider range and with more intensity. I want to feel more alive, less controlled by fear. I'm not quite sure how to do this--Work on centering myself? Accepting myself? Taking more risks? It is perhaps the deepest part of the whole project.
- Healthy. More exercise, more engagement with health professionals, a better diet.
- Open. This is integral and supported by bravery, compassion, and creativity.
- Responsive. There will be much in the coming year that will elicit reaction, a speaking of the wounds and fears. The trick is to act from a solid core, a place that remembers, that is whole among fractiousness, instead of acting from my front line of fear and hate and other reactive emotions. May I be always part of the solution instead of the problem.
- Solvent. I want to continue repairing my credit, paying debts, saving money, increasing my income, controlling my expenses. This all depends mostly upon keeping the feeling of emotional emptiness in check.
What I want to be in 2017 ...
Things that happened in 2016:
Next, looking forward to tomorrow and next year ...
Yesterday, after dinner, my oldest sister's boyfriend said some insulting things about Shelley Duvall, regarding her interview with "Dr." Phil. I was insulted, anyway. I wanted to tell him so, to tell him that his ignorance was offensive, that she is one of my people and insulting her insulted me as well.
But I said nothing. Nothing in defense of someone in the grip of schizophrenic psychosis, unable to defend herself properly. Nothing in defense of humanity and understanding and compassion. Nothing.
A coded statement. When they called me from the literary journal that day, I said, "There is no more poetry." It was the end. It's been the end so many times. Eventually, everything I build comes crashing down. How many times must I reinvent myself? How many times can I? Every once in while, it feels like everything is starting to crumble again, and then I take a deep breath and it stabilizes. When it comes, there will be no warning. Except the warning's already here.
I had a little revelation at my therapist's on Friday. Much of my behavior during the declining years of my second marriage was marked by impulse, rash things done or said and regretted later. The ensuing five years, after the divorce, was driven by fear, anxiety, timidity. For a long time, I have been able to distinguish the parts of my personality, to "hear" the "conversations" taking place among my emotional states. Unfortunately, I have never been able to facilitate that conversation, to direct it to a reasonable decision. Whichever "voice" has been the loudest always took control. Over the past year, I have strengthened my ego, the chairperson of that committee of voices, and made significant progress toward acting not out of impulse, not out of fear, but out of a balanced mix of reason and emotion. Out of thoughtful consideration and decision. I still fall short much of the time. But I need to acknowledge my progress and the fact that I may be headed toward a state of mental health. There's a scary thought (that should be anything but scary).
[This was previously published in Sisyphus and the Cuckoo Clock Speech, but I decided it was better suited to the Sisyphus Bound blog. Unfortunately, I had to wipe out a very nice comment from Dana to make the transfer. I just want to say "Thank you, Dana" for that now lost comment.)
As I look forward to library school and beyond, I'm debating whether I can carry this site into a "grownup" future. I've heard and read stories of people in this area being hired as directors of small libraries even before they had finished their education. But will my public utterances bar me from such opportunities? Should I bury my past? Certainly, once something is posted on the Web, there is always the chance that it remains discoverable even if one takes pains to delete it. Or, one can use the opposite tactic to scrambling to hide: own the controversial aspects of oneself and turn them to good use. That is what I have tried to do here. I have listed the reasons an employer should hire me, despite and because of the kinds of things I reveal here on this website. I still have the option to delete everything and cross my fingers, but I thought I'd try this first.
I am competent. Despite what I think of myself in my darkest hours, I am perfectly capable of doing the job. I have developed ways of counterbalancing irrational thoughts with objectivity, impulsivity with patience, and the barriers of anxiety and depression with courage and steadfastness.
I have that something extra. Creativity and determination are natural outgrowths and necessary components of my personality and the way my mind functions. These characteristics greatly increase my problem-solving abilities. They are at your disposal if you hire me and will help me maximize the value of your library to our community despite the budget constraints.
I am ultimately better for having struggled. I'm not saying that I'm definitely done struggling. No one can make that claim. I am saying that, over the course of my life, I have lost nearly everything at one point in time or another. Because of those experiences, there is nothing life can throw at me that I can't survive. I know what I need to do to maintain my sanity and sobriety and I do it. For years, I developed coping strategies and support systems with the desperation of someone just trying to stay alive. All that I have accumulated to that end is still at my disposal, while the desperation has dissipated. The work that I have put into my life puts me in a better position to handle the stresses of employment than many of the other candidates you may be considering.
Inclusive is where you want to be. We throw around the term diversity a lot ... a lot! Normally, it is code for including groups that have struggled to become part of the public conversation: African-Americans, women, the LGBT community, even the disabled. In my world, the term neurodiversity is in vogue. It's basically the same thing, only applied to the way our brains are put together. It recognizes something of value in people with autism, schizophrenia, and other "disorders" alongside so-called "neuronormals." We are the next group who has stepped up to affirm our own equality. You definitely want someone who understands that struggle, that need to be included, and will extend the library's reach to incorporate those minority voices. The world is better when people understand their neighbors, and the public library is ideally suited to facilitate that.
Look at you, how brave you are. The Mentally Interesting and Differently Brained are one of the latest power minorities to stand up for themselves. By hiring one of us, you will be a pioneer and a hero to the MI/DB community. In time, the rest of the world will see by your example the benefits of tolerance, inclusiveness and forward-thinking.
I stand for the community ... the whole community. There are a number of different ways to deal with addiction and mental illness. The ways that I have chosen require that I practice openness and a nonjudgmental attitude toward others. Ultimately, this serves me as a librarian. I am responsible to the entire community, including various minorities and the "oddball" minorities of one who often gravitate toward libraries. It is my job to provide information without censorship or judgment to those who need and want it. It is my job to facilitate a community nexus in which people of all different backgrounds and viewpoints can interact in a positive manner.
In my dream, I had parked my car--small and round like a VW bug--next to the area in the zoo where the gorillas had an expansive savanna on which to wander and play. The front part of the car, with the front wheels and, I think, the engine (in older models, I think the bug engine was in the rear) rolled through the fence into the middle of the savanna. I was prevented from getting to it from the parking lot by the fence, although I could clearly see it. I went into the zoo and tried to see it across a body of water and the hills of the savanna, but could not. I had no access to the area from either side.
The car, it's clear to me, is the ego: the psychological conveyance by which we navigate the world. The savanna where the fenced-in gorillas roam is some primal part of my psyche to which my access is restricted. In order to retrieve the part of my psyche that drives the ego, necessary for me to function in the world, I must somehow get to the middle of this primal part. Separated by fences (defenses?), water (the Unconscious), and hills (the topography of the conscious mind?), guarded by gorillas (primal versions of me, evolutionary bases upon which I'm built), the functional part of the ego waits for me to reconnect.
Q: Is medication the problem?
A: It is almost certainly part of the problem.
A quick Google search for "emotional blunting and medication" brought up a significant number of articles on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), including "SSRI-Induced Indifference" and "Emotional blunting associated with SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. Do SSRIs inhibit emotional responses?"
Another search for the same effect in response to Abilify brought up a plethora of less official, anecdotal evidence on the CrazyBoards forums.
Antidepressants and mood stabilizers, whether they be SSRIs, lithium, Abilify, or any other, aim to mute the emotions. This is the therapeutic effect, not a side effect. In this way, they alleviate overwhelming sadness, but, psychopharmaceutical science being the blunt instrument that it is, also limit the intensity of other emotions. Chemically speaking, Abilify, for instance, as a partial dopamine agonist and a dopamine antagonist, keeps the brain chemical associated with inspiration, motivation, pleasure, delusions, and hallucinations within certain limits--not too high, not too low. This is its whole reason for being. In my case, it's doing a stellar job.
But just how good a job I don't know, because I believe that other factors are in play in the flattening of my emotions. In particular, I believe that, physically and mentally, I have developed a response to stress that induces apathy when emotions (particularly fear) would otherwise be too intense. The only thing that seems to peak through is anxiety (a bit ironic, as I think anxiety is the main feeling this whole thing developed to control). Motivation and emotional response are both reduced when this happens. This alienating dissociative response serves to keep me calm, but as a side effect sharply reduces curiosity, creativity, empathy, and other stuff that I desperately want to access.
This is what I get for allowing myself to be directed toward the culturally prescribed Stoicism, part of me says. This is the sacrifice I make for the privilege of becoming a good little cog in the clockwork of society. I am not pleased with this.
It is likely that this sacrifice also allows me to develop stable relationships of some sort with other people. Relentless negativity and unpredictable emotional responses do not support healthy friendships, romantic relationships, or working relationships. Lack of emotion succeeds only part way, however, and hinders the enthusiasm, attraction, and affection that, broadly speaking, drive relationships.
Certainly, getting off the meds would not solve the problem, but it would at least remove the external chemical factor that I can reasonably guess has something to do with it. At the same time, I would risk the return of old problems attendant upon a wide range of intense emotions. The question is, which is worse? The real question, as I see it, is whether I have the skills in place to manage these intense emotions in a healthy way. At this point, I do not, but I wish to develop them. Is it reasonable to suppose that this is possible? How effective are the tools at my disposal: cognitive and behavioral skills, psychotherapy, diet and exercise? I will approach these issues next ...
[Side Note: My current plan is to ask my psychiatrist to reduce the Abilify to 5mg when I see him in early July. That should allow me to explore the issues at hand safely.]
But the fallout of my behavior was never just economic, so is it fair to look at it only in economic terms? I destroyed a number of relationships along the way as well. How much did those relationships depend upon cultural expectations? How much damage did my uncontrolled alcoholism do, distinct from my uncontrolled mental and emotional disorders? Is it right to risk my remaining relationships or to risk the emotional comfort of those around me for the sake of ... What are the ends here? Feeling fully human? Or feeling young again? Gaining access to a full range of emotion? Or gratifying expectations of life that are not entirely reasonable? Mad Pride goeth before the fall? I don't know. I will have to think about this.
Who I Am
Mental health consumer. Advocate for the Mentally Ill. Future Librarian. Dilettante. Ex. Nothing extraordinary.
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