A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Residual Delusion

I can pinpoint entering into psychosis to a few days after I mailed an audiocassette of myself singing a few of my songs and then talking to a somewhat famous rock singer/musician/songwriter. It was the end of May 1998. Before that moment I may have been withdrawn, still suffering from the aftershock of abuse, but not psychotic. The psychosis came upon me quickly in the form of a pleasant (at first) paranoia which led to the formation of my most enduring delusion: that this famous person was attracted to me and either having me followed or following me himself. I ignored the fact that this was extremely unlikely since I sent the tape with no return address, not even my first name.

But why did I send a tape to this person in the first place? I first heard him singing his songs seven years earlier when I was a couple of years into my relationship with Brendan. Brendan played the band's first album over and over again, often when he was drunk. I responded to the music and to the singer. During the abuse I found myself thinking about this man. He seemed like someone who would protect me if he could and that was a comfort to me. Over the years I listened to his songs. He often wrote about his conflicted relationship with his long time girlfriend (and later wife). It sounded like an abusive relationship to me and I sympathized with his situation. After I left Brendan I began writing songs and recording them on an 8 track cassette recorder. That's how I kept busy the first year I was free and during this time I fantasized about sending this songwriter a few of my songs and maybe talking to him about the abusive relationship I had been in. It was a passing fantasy.

I tried to get my life in order, so I began taking a few classes. Then I started work on a portfolio and applied to an art school nearby. I was accepted. Then I went to school the next year and really enjoyed myself. I thought of the songwriter off and on. I was still attracted to him but I didn't take the attraction seriously, it was too superficial. A year went by and I had a crush on my painting teacher who was happily married. So I tried to distance myself from him. I did this by turning my focus back on this songwriter. I had been making up songs all along. Singing had given me a release that I badly needed but I didn't share my songs with anyone. So I had this not so brilliant idea that I should make up a tape to send to him and after the second semester ended that's what I set about doing. It only took me a couple of days and it felt good to make it and it felt good that this person might hear it.

For years I had heard voices but they were barely conscious and when I was aware of them, they were like friends and even teachers. Perhaps I was psychotic and I didn't even know it because the psychosis was not yet delusional and paranoid, that is, not negatively interfering in my life. But after I sent the tape one voice came forward and identified itself as a being called Darius. This had never happened before, the voices had always remained anonymous, barely visible. This voice began telling me that the songwriter had heard the tape and responded strongly to it and that we would get married some day and have a son together named Christian. At the time I thought this was ridiculous and I fought against it. But then the paranoia took hold and I thought I was being followed and spied on. This was oddly flattering but also very disturbing. I knew that if this man was following me,etc... that it was bad behavior on his part and that I should detach but I found myself unable to do so and got pulled deeper and deeper into a proliferating delusion.

The delusion quickly became elaborate and I was quite lost in it. I thought this man and I were telepathically connected against both our wills. Gradually he morphed from a deranged Gnostic cult leader to a serial killer. That was when the paranoia was at its worst. I lived with this shadow who seemed to want to rape, torture and kill me for a couple of years. It was like not only being in an abusive relationship but totally living inside one with no escape. All day, all night, every day, every night. It was horrible. I had three psychotic breaks during this time and after the last one in December 2001, I began taking the anti-psychotic meds every day. At some point I stopped believing in the delusion and the paranoia faded away. I fell into a deep depression but got through it as my psychiatrist kept increasing the anti-psychotic meds. After that I avoided listening to the songwriter's music. Meanwhile he got divorced, he got remarried, his wife had a child and life went on. I was so grateful that I never did anything to interfere in this man's life.

But every now and then I fall into thinking about him again. I no longer see him as a serial killer which is such a relief but I can't help but wonder who this man really is and why I became so obsessed with him. This Monday I slipped and watched him on VH1 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions. I had a mixed reaction to him, moderate attraction to near indifference. I taped him giving his speech even so but then didn't look at it. I felt disturbed again and knew intellectually that I should avoid anything to do with this man, but emotionally I still felt this ambivalence. I went online and read an article about him. Then I stopped and reflected. Should I be doing this? The answer was still no.

Yesterday I talked with my therapist about it and told her that it felt almost like an addiction. Something I nearly felt I had to do but knew without a doubt that I shouldn't. My problem and my responsibility. Though the experience left me unsettled, it also showed me how far I had come that I could identify the problem and could resist getting embroiled in it. And lately I've been remembering my initial delusions and have been able to see more clearly than ever that they had no basis in reality. For years I wasn't able to do that, I really believed the delusions. So, while I'm not happy with the fact that I'm still mentally ill, I am happy with the other fact that I have the ability to get better through my own self-awareness and perseverance.
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