I spent approximately 1382400 seconds in a psychiatric facility. I wrote every morning. The following is evidence in support or in protest of a period of time over which one moves from being deemed “insane” to “sane”.
the above quote is by David Foster Wallace, whose magnum opus, Infinite Jest, I re-read whilst hospitalized.
Everything past this point is (mostly) unedited.
PART ONE :
day 1 – addendum
I think this happened :
the choice to walk a difficult path was intentional. I wanted to feel the serrated edges. I fought to find trap doors. I desired to inhabit the absolute limits of perception.
flux in emptiness. verbosity in catatonia. I wanted every cell to pucker with annihilation. the ultimate pulse.
The Best of Impossible Worlds
and so I created some shit.
apparently I am feeling better these days. more like myself.
day 2 – collation
there are only so many layers you can escape/reveal. you move with/against reality with the conviction that this “self” revealing might be quantified like time – but, like time, the process reflects only the idea of a process. the space between is impervious to geometry, notation-resistant.
we account for layers. yes, this is the one, the day I (really) tried to die or the moment I really (truly) experienced/gave love. we imagine we are breaking through the layers, or we compromise. “I am willing to grow past this one but only because it’s only a reminder of another one”. then you frame the reminder, like tattooed on your ankle maybe. or, you find someone to fuck who also gets it.
or you do neither. you resist acknowledging the reminder. you may see it attach itself to many layers but you refuse to choose directions. you live in this space which is not only resistant but resistant to resistance because your goal is to never act or move with respect to the layer’s power/magnetism. in such a way, your goal is actually to deafen yourself. in accomplishing this you won’t be able to hear the frequencies emitted by any direction. you will grow inharmonic because you don’t want to hear the layers and so you struggle to rest within the sound of DULL, which really does sound like nothing but feels like bruises, resistance buffering resistance.
Luckily there are options. A lot, actually, so long as you are able to move and be moved.
You choose not to resist resistance but to become resistance and thus, coexist with yourself. you live all the layers at once, a plane that both emanates and reflects in synch. you are really, really moved and in being so moved you realize that your movement, or lack thereof, is absolutely unnecessary. the direction no longer matters. you are out of body. you have resisted the reality of choosing not to choose.
day 3 – gabapentin
in strength there is discrepancy, to the point at which you wonder if strength is merely tolerance, not at all the persevering, superhuman force we claim it to be. strife is but a narrative, played out again and again.
for example, I can tolerate a lot of toxicity but I can’t say for sure how much of the process corresponds to actual pain and the strength to overcome it and how much of this ability to tolerate is simply a psychological grasp of the fact that pain is temporary, an ending timelessly played out.
I have learned to endure the ending within me, that is all. however I cannot yet endure what feels to be permanent. i’d like to think this incapacity goes beyond a basic fear of death and is more a resistance to enduring a life of boredom, expecting the unexpected in the most extreme possible sense, the most arbitrary of reactions, because you can’t live within/as pointlessness, the end consumes the point. I think true strength is the ability to tolerate boredom, to consume vacancy.
I am not so strong. I’d rather sit in quiet struggle by a window and this is why I do idiotic things like call him from unknown numbers, speaking/thinking nothing, simply consuming the gravel in his voice, my hand hurts, I want to switch beds, the Puerto Rican boy went berserk so now we’re relegated to our rooms, a remote and truly acceptable sunset over Washington Heights where I’m technically trapped and excessively eating potatoes.
(I will teach you how to erase yourself, listen closely).
“at this point in my life I’m a professional patient.” he said. his forehead was smooth as hell, his eyes were wide and bloodshot, schizoaffective with manic features. he hadn’t slept in a week, checked in of his own volition in order to score sedatives. they gave him Benadryl, kicked him out quick.
I wanted to help. “melatonin.” I whispered, “over the counter.”
Institutions have become more and more familiar, they overlap inside each other like wood, densely circuitous. the alternative to capitalism becomes clearer each time.
I am tired, we go up afterwards and down in measured time, enclosed in rooms within rooms, in uniforms, a kind of peace.
day 4 – weekends
this shit is making me tired and the best I can do right now is remember.
he bought me two cartons of camels the night before I entered rehab. we had been fighting, bad, but I took the wheel from him in the truck and spun around delray and we laughed, wide turns, baby girl. this shit is making me loopy and kinda drowning out my ability to be selective. like, I can only focus on one thing that over time grows brighter, tilts with dizzier contours, but I’ve been staring at it for a LONG TIME so I think it’s lights out, anxiety notwithstanding.
unless you’ve been on psych meds you cannot fully comprehend this state of simultaneous exhaustion and twistedness, a crystallization of the idea of unclear motives.
it was really cold in MD and I can’t remember what I read on the plane. my father and I had to stop at target to procure a tote bag for a sorely underestimated load of books. rehab is for reading but mostly incessant jabbering. no matter how many books you’ve desperately stashed you gotta show up once the crowd gathers and nests. this is because this is where you will truly face yourself, in the eyes and hand gestures of others who share your compulsion. all addicts operate at a similar speed, that operates faster by degrees but also on a different set of degrees; that generates a slew of tainted stories, regret, hopeful uncertainty or adversely a complete abandon and total lack of belief.
the radio was terrible, I told a joke, I upset the cook, stared at an egret gnawing chicken from the cafeteria, sadistically gifted. we hid in windows there. I never quite unpacked because I never do. we cried and prayed together, Martha and I. she was soaked in Librium, she gave me her shawl, I gave her the city i’d created, bloody with oil pastel. I sobbed a little every day.
day 5 – CNN
you wonder how often you are actually in more than one place, duplicated displacement, so to speak. at times duplication is unclear, you are so present you can’t do anything but smell other bodies and pass around oxygen. at times the similarities are much less obvious and you begin to wonder : do you even know where you are if you aren’t someplace else? can you focus whilst lacking reference? or is the intensity of duality merely a fantasy, a precursor to depression?
when you are locked up in an institution you grow wary of odd things. this is not so much a question of things odd by nature but oddness in their ordinariness – answering the phone, approaching the computer station, re-reading a book. media in general grows threatening, actually, like the early stages of a chronic illness (where does the reading progress from here? what the fuck do I do with this information?), a directive that feels like a bad afternoon during which every direction feels viable and you don’t want to know yourself anymore.
unfortunately this is the era of Donald trump. I think my liver hurts.
in this moment I miss rehab. obviously this is gonna sound ridiculous but this statement is probably more accurate than anything I’ve realized all day. I can’t do anything here without moving there as well, hence the doubling. I feel like I have a deeper level of skin, kind of stretched out and sore and I swear to fuck if I hear one more word about the gunned down lion in Zimbabwe oh god.
in rehab, there was no news. we hovered outside and blew smoke late at night and the lights were nice, ledges and the ovular emptiness between the ED girls’ legs, the fried pancakes circa 7:30a but the earliness was necessary, everything felt necessary, mutual respect via ultimate sacrifice : of organs to god, of time to chaos. we called the van that carted us to evening meetings the druggy buggy. without fail someone would ominously fart en route, fucking tilapia and unprecedented tears.
day 6 – luxury
I wake up pissed. I feel like a casualty, to not only preexisting states of hope and health but my own systems of belief.
I want to stay out of this and by this I mean me. the problem becomes everything you don’t see.
I mean, I just got here. Last night I was sonically cradled by a woman in her 80’s who did not want to be here and this is due to the fact that every day, no matter how long you’ve been here, is like Just Getting Here. This woman, she is murmuring phone numbers to herself like a child lists a set of objects in their purse, and her attendant is calling them for her one by one but they are not working and she’s growing desperate until finally one number clears and she’s connected to her husband and I settle with the idea that he’s retired in AZ even though I seriously doubt this because they are still married apparently. he’s in the Bronx and watches a lot of televised sports, probably.
I am pissed because knowing, understanding, and living ANY event/belief/action is a LUXURY. you don’t get to keep anything for future use, at least in the sense of improving upon the present by realizing that the realization worked in the first round. The paradox is actually really upsetting, totally unworkable. You get to live life but never bring life with you, or simpler yet, you get to live but never live with you, or perhaps the most disappointing : you live with you, not life.
I am trying to stay positive while still considering how the solutions I thought worked did not work, at least not in the case directly prior to my being admitted to a place that only lets you access Crayola markers for writing purposes. existing here feels like even less of a solution than the solution that did not work, although I suppose this is a pretty parasitic chain of thought and mostly I just want what I am not getting. the way I lived, breaking in order to heal, worked damn fine at 27. in growing as the agent of my own breaking I radiated a unique kind of hope, reeked of it even. the problem is that in this kind of hope you are ALWAYS the agent, you are unaffected, and realizing this drops you in the realm of horror : no matter WHAT you do you’re dissecting yourself. not just your thoughts but soul.
The truth is, hope is not something “out there” and real. you can’t store the experience of hope for future consumption.
I am not writing this to sound nihilistic/absurd; if anything, i’m verbally masturbating because I have a roommate here and can’t masturbate in my room. hope DOES exist, but in no particular place or set of particles. you can’t take it out of the eyes of others, quite the contrary. hope grows out of whatever’s lacking, and when the lack grows too far and fast we can’t sense it because it is too big for us. the largeness fills the periphery, and kindly shows us that what we thought was isn’t there. hope is relief, or in pragmatic terms, fear management. hope is not a state, the event is too all-consuming. hope exists in the same void that is YOU. Accepting this is hard but you’ve no choice not to.
Right now I can’t rely upon hope appearing. i’m better off blind and doing something dumb like chewing and swallowing an entire puzzle while hoping I won’t die, slamming my face in mud 100 times and hoping I won’t bleed, stabbing myself in the leg and hoping that i’ll smile.
day 7 – uncle
the same contradictions in space-time exist for basic human interactions; there are obvious parallels. however, knowledge of this cuts much deeper.
the fucked up part is you remember how he bound you. the hotel was moronically ornate. despite how brutal this act of remembering is you simultaneously realize that he was the kind of creature that blossomed with inbred generosity. he was the kind of person that would’ve visited you in the nuthouse every day and he’d even drive far for the cause, his white beard always consistent, fat and fucked up but booming like a friendly goat, fucking frustrating and you recall this friendliness and the sensation is maddening because even now you’d accept more of this generosity and reciprocate, and the accompanying worthiness, pleasantness is the part that sticks in time, that carries over like being on a bridge, trapped but with a beautiful view.
day 8 – the sicilian
as a child, I conceptualized hell as a berlin nightclub in a subbasement, (having never left MD I’m not sure why apart from excessive exposure to German opera), all black and neon red and exclusive, and there’d be people dancing in leather and existing only as outlines.
associations or no, childhood really is the greatest opera ever envisioned.
in this hell he’s scum. scum and the worst kind of anxiety. scum that’s omnipotent, so you don’t want to be anywhere ever again. scum as in what keeps you constipated for a week. he’s the rot underneath the berlin underground. he’s the sound-post in hell. all the more pervasive because hell is probably deaf and so what if it isn’t and we are? what if hell’s this helicopter of a place at the bottom of a bay; once inside you moisten eternally and your skin never quite falls off? You scream for a dishrag that never comes.
he is this hell. plus he is the tongue fungus jeopardizing your most valued relationships. he is the medical advice you receive as you’re dying.
day 9 – NOTHING HAPPENED
day 10 – this is what happened
on august 3rd, 2015 I woke up with one fallopian tube and my glasses in a biohazard bag. I try to no longer attach such an existential emphasis to this statement, but: sometimes this happens.
there’s a woman here, Maura, who really loves cards. I loved cards almost this much when I was a child. I find Maura awe inspiring because with this love comes the reality that no one will ever love cards this much again. there is no next generation.
She’s 70, suffers from anxiety, looks young for her age, reminds me of my grandmother but only in ways that I never knew because she died before I got to know her. She used to play rummy 500 with the girls, Maura, at work during their lunch break. I can taste this lunch break like metal.
Almost everyone in this country exists in a second, excluded reality. the doctors, lawyers, business execs, managers, pilots, scientists, therapists – anyone who, by profession, exists in a social role that’s strong. they are entitled to hide because their goal is not humanity so much as fixing what is wrong with humanity and establishing symptoms for lack of conversation. We are lucky, as artists, no matter what we feel or what they say.
I came out of the anesthesia pulling the breathing tube out of my throat. the first thing I asked for was my blood type (o+). they roll out this lunch cart here, mint green and long and resembling an iron lung.
day 11 – addendum (2)
I want to grow but live past life. I want to cancel but never start over.
I want to flash signals to a source way beyond – madness, blank cold, sadness – life shifting in a pin like an absurdly well-engineered house that may or may not be revelation. there is so much clarity in life that you forget to pee for like 8 hours and your legs start to shrivel. between clarity and pain you grow into a reason to stay alive.
I make art and create a map that blisters and heals because at the end of the day I’ve not the slightest idea where to go. I cannot see the map yet I continue to create. each incident must be enough.
you remember in overexposure. it’s goddamn beautiful.
this is absolutely the end of this conversation.
day 12 – dick
you remember in brightness and pockets. recollections of moments spent staring at blank walls. fatigue growing not from exertion but out of no one saying anything of interest that can hardly be recalled without alien abduction.
on the simplest memorable end you have temperature. you recall the temperature before you recall the effort to recall. the non-events become complication.
god that house was frigid. you’d step onto the porch and the wind was nullifying. you’d jump back inside and the room was still as cold as it was when you ducked out to blow smoke, read: cold. the windows were unforgiving. the kitchen was clearly an addition to the original farmhouse, feeling cut off from the life-source. each room expressed a new kind of cold and this was distracting. you could never fully process what was in the rooms. plastic feet sewn on to necks.
you’d slide down the kitchen floor and pry open the double doors to the room with the fire. from here on out life was profoundly paradoxical: sinister, warm, cold, asexual.
day 13 – rat parks
the only real problem with insomnia is that it physically changes the consistency of your thoughts. thinking is actually usually this belated thing, the ideas are only smooth and clear retrospectively. you’ve got sex, death and sleep in immediate terms. thus, insomnia is a problem. you can’t think about not sleeping. you have no idea.
I was sleepless in Delray. there was this place on the strip that had these caramelized muffins, the most decadent being chocolate chip mocha. my appetite was still for shit at this point but I would think, strongly, about these muffins whilst sleepless, more frequently by the minute. I suppose there are more devastating things to think about eating. better flour than flesh, sinks. they were caramelized oh god were they caramelized.
restless leg syndrome is by far the most dreaded part of withdraw from long-term opiate abuse. the more violent symptoms pass within 4-7 days. the RLS continues for weeks, months. the issue is not the jerkiness so much as what the jerking implants in your thoughts. the kicking builds a cadence, so whenever you begin thinking anything even remotely organic or sui-generic the kicking intercedes as though busting through a crescendo. the experience yields sheer idiocy and no possible way of cleaning up.
we have this built-in life compass that urges us to continue the course of revealing the nature of temporality. meaning: this’ll get better because it’ll change. chemicals, when ingested, throw this simplicity into question. nothing improves, nothing changes. deja vu is the one truth to cling to, and it’s a rare occurrence.
I was wounded in the fringe of a deeply uncomfortable fugue state, wishing I was done thinking about the muffins, venturing out of bed to desperately masturbate on a different surface because maybe the groggy peace was reached in a parallel reality.
once you experience awakening as surrendering the feeling never leaves you, both physically and spiritually speaking.
I woke up at 7:58a and logged onto the internet. I find an article on Bruce Alexander, who is a bit like an unsteady pope in the recovery/addiction world. he is the founder of the rat park, the result of an experiment that inverted the evidence compiled over years of rats in cages with tiny bars dispensing mood-altering substances. the logic was that in the cages the rats were doomed to addiction and suicide. they would never be able to resist the drug bars. Alexander replanted the rats. he built them little parks, all the rats together as one, basking. he found that in this delightfully social setting, trees and trash accessible, the rats didn’t want to get high, at least not every day.
the problem is no addict in their right mind isn’t gonna sneak out of the park to get high. in secret
day 14 – last exit
I couldn’t catch a train for the life of me. freedom is, by and large, the greatest fear of all though it feels great when you’re not aware of it. the train thing is either a problem for me or for everyone around me because there appear to be a lot of people behind me, not so much accompanying or following but appearing. most of them have something cumbersome on their backs that prevent them from not getting stuck in the train doors as they shut, or not. there’s this issue with the sushi that I ate with my parents in some sort of businessplex/parking garage. the issue is ambiguous but also powerful. like a super-power. I start to feel high, rubbery all over with the conviction that I will never need to eat again. nothing in this feeling or in anything that follows goes much deeper than this. you can’t deepen nail-beds. they are inherently deep.
Esther and Brian and Natasha and Richard have moved into the same (physically) but different (geographically) loft-style abodes. at first I am only seeing half the story. there’s an incident involving rescuing all the pets (little kittens) from a hostage-based shopping mall. there is success in interstice. we have foot-ware conducive to little kittens. the exits are epic and confusing but not scary. I’ve been here before.
there’s a mariachi band of hipsters at this café Brian is trying to get me a job at that has no upper regions, which I interpret as a lack of wifi. I want to work here but I accidentally start drinking this lemonade-flavored miller tall boy so I am not sure how well this bodes for future employment though my blood pressure’s top notch.
all in all though it’s a good night and a 20 minute walk between the two loft-style abodes and truly extraordinary couples. in a deeply poetic way, I think this is an application of the 20 minute wisdom dished out by NYC transit. the “trip” always takes this long, the shortest distance between two points, even whilst sleep deprived (though this description may feel very convoluted if you are not a New Yorker). in the shortest transitions we find the strongest wisdom, because brevity is and always will be abundant so long as you are keeping time and riding trains but not exclusively. the unknown is frightening and you are fatefully stupid because you are already living everywhere at once, why travel? you never really find sanctuary though you constantly seek a means to store it. most people get pissed at YOU when they make a mistake. little kittens are always in danger. we are suffering for our sins by making up for lost time, which is to say we only ever really try to save what no longer is. I calculate calories by the hour. I say shit bound to regret. I guess on one level I wish all houses looked alike so I could just walk in anywhere and immediately know how to cope and interact with mariachi-hipster-officers. outside, there is shellac rain. in here, everyone is beautiful. all day, she talks about what she’s accomplished and takes copious notes on paper plates. I eat string cheese for breakfast.
day 15 – the cycle
I just wanted to be skinny, this is how the cycle started up again, because I am obsessed with looking at my legs. I have the ability to observe microscopic changes in their shape and girth. they kept changing, radically, is how the problems began. once I recognized the obsession the window for walking away had passed.
the cycle is shaped as follows:
1. an intensified ability to focus (i.e. obsess) on one particular thing. anything. the object is totally irrelevant. the internet is extremely dangerous.
2. intensified activity and an increasingly erratic sleep structure: an inability to fall asleep/a desire to not sleep/an obsession with sleep.
3. activity grows more erratic and less focused. anxiety/nervousness precedes every (inter)action. difficulty in connecting to others. difficulty in connecting self to action.
4. self is no longer perceived as an active agent (depersonalization). flight of ideas. fear of sleep. frantic adherence to many ideas/objects/people that are disconnected from each other and self.
5. grandiosity: the conviction that engineering an all-encompassing project/set of ideas in order to connect these ideas/objects/people is necessary. confusion of self with a (kind of) god.
6. confusion. all the time. loss of proximity in relationships. emotional impulsivity, outbursts, breakdowns. a desperate clinging to the original obsession (i.e. food/fat).
7. a full blown CRASH. anhedonia. psychotic depersonalization. loss of interest in everyone(thing). difficulty moving or taking in simple information. inability to think about anything that doesn’t feel terrible.
8. suicidal ideation and/or relapse. at this point reality dictates two possible choices.
a. tell someone this is happening.
either decision generally triggers a mixed state, which is to say a rapid cycling between depression and mania. if you succeed in not reverting to substances you end up in a hospital/remote location, hopefully with experienced professionals. they use your rapid cycling as a timeline for care, prescribing medication and making calls as the shifts spin. in the early stages of medical intervention you are everywhere all the time and not at all connected to the events that led you here. you are one moment sobbing, the next screaming with joy. you are acutely anxious.
how well you are responding to meds becomes the focus. you begin to respond and connect to how the responses work. your “feelings” have become a ratio. if you feel good now will you feel the same way later? what if we add another feeling? or a smaller dose of the first? historically, you are a professional test subject but it’s cool because something always breaks before the next.
mood stabilizers kick in quickly when you’re in a boring environment. nothing to do but feel what you feel. there are many side effects of psychiatric drugs but the immediate ones are the most intense; the body chaotically acclimates. spasmodic limbs. limp dicks. major disassociation. Neurontin (surprisingly) triggers hypomania. sedatives are often improper.
you take the time you need to “fix” yourself long-term so as to walk beyond more balanced. frankly the balance is still incomprehensible at this point but you’ve reached the end of the cycle, which is a powerful reality. you move slowly and witness all that is and appears. you take small steps back to love – of others, life, creation. you know that balance dictates one idea at a time, one gesture after the next. keep in simple. daily mindfulness. more will be revealed. just don’t forget you’ve a body or do the things you always do to leave it. spend as little time as possible staring at your legs they are cages, there are more marvels on the other side than you’ll ever know. keep looking. past the edge. acknowledge that the edge exists. walk away if you have to. your only job at this point is to live in state in which relapse (this is also the term psychiatrists use to describe a return to instability, aka episodic living) isn’t inevitable. don’t forget to breathe. you must drink water and take care not to binge eat and/or restrict your food intake.
“what the hell does one do with this kind of life?” you might ask.
“why do you care?” we say, “we are rare and mostly artists, musicians, empires unto ourselves.”
day 16 – end note
this definitely happened:
I had to destroy life to desire growth. I swallowed a bucket of pearls, listened to way too much Billy Joel. I don’t remember these events as they felt but then again, describing life is a forceful process. I’ve ached and struggled like sunburn, no longer cared yet been compelled to explain why this is. I’ve loved in excess and gone public. I’ve taken apart my head, spat on my spine, lived outside of time.
on the evening of July 15th, 2015 I voluntarily committed myself. the moon was in Capricorn, Venus was nearing retrograde. I was composing the story of my death. I broke apart yet somehow managed to commiserate with friends over Thai on the way to the ER.
this is all I can reveal at the moment. in writing towards this point I’ve lost all understanding of regret.
the rest is just wreckage.