31 January 2009

Work Avoidance

I thought that the biggest obstacle I would have going back to school would be the depression part of the bipolarnesses. I was completely wrong, at least so far. It's the anxiety that gives me the most trouble.

Case in point: the fact that I am writing a post instead of getting on with the Greek. As soon as I pick up a piece of homework I become extremely anxious that I'm going to do the wrong homework or do the right homework badly or not be able to finish it all or that my feeling that the medication has made me less intelligent is about to prove itself to be true.

It turns out that it's a good thing that most of my classes are very early in the morning as I simply don't have time to wake up enough to become too anxious to go if I have to leave the house at 7.20 am to get the bus.

Taking the bus is itself a strategy to foil the anxiety. The university is only about a mile and a half away from my apartment but since I live in urban Appalachia, it is a very uphill and downhill and up a very steep hill kind of walk to get home. So, if I take the bus instead of driving it is much harder for me to change my mind and leave or go off campus between classes and fail to come back. This works because, being urban Appalachia, our buses come only once an hour and the routes run in circles rather than back and forth with the result that while going to university takes about seven minutes, coming home on the bus takes at least a half hour. It's faster to walk, which is what I do, but all those hills make me less eager to leave.

So far I haven't been anxious in classes, which is fantastic. This also makes me think that the anxiety will ebb as the semester goes on. It is, as is usual for me, the transitions between doing one thing and doing another that throw me. I quite understand the ancient obsession with Hermes and Mercury; the same sort of anxiety surrounding states of change has led to me attaching my St. Christopher medal to the inside of my school bag so that I can't forget to bring it with me and holding on to it when I feel particularly worried. It helps, even if he isn't officially a saint anymore.

Maybe I should strand myself at the library today. Either way, it's time for me to stop working on this and go look up sixteen more verbs that will all mean anger, death, plague or destruction. If the vocabularies of a language say anything about the people who spoke them, then the Greeks were very concerned with war and spirit and death. The same would make the Romans extremely passive aggressive for saying 'amabo te' for please: 'amabo te' means 'I will love you.' Can you imagine? Sometimes it would work better than our 'please'; if you were hanging from a cliff begging for help, it sounds stronger. But in everyday life? 'Would you please pass the butter' becomes 'Pass the butter and I will love you,' with the implication to my ears that a failure to pass the butter would result in the alienation of affection. Then again, this could just be a reflection of their much stronger sense of duties towards others. I wonder.

See how easy it is for me to distract myself? Off I go, now, truly this time.

De Delicte

Well, I should have given in at 9.00 when I was yawning and gone to bed. Now I'm up too late and as I was trying to fall asleep I became very aware of my upstairs neighbors enjoying themselves in their bedroom, which is directly above mine. So, feeling a bit uncomfortable at how well I was beginning to know them, I decided to come out to the living room and make a new post instead.

I'm going to delve into the realm of the self-indulgent, so bear with me if you like or go investigate the blogs of my followers: they're worth looking at. (My followers - saying that makes me feel as though I were some sort of sage or prophet when I am actually someone sitting next to her cat in her badly mended pajamas tapping away on a laptop in the middle of the night.)

After splitting up with the girlfriend in July, I have now come to the end of the obligatory six month celibacy. It is own-made obligatory but I began to impose it years ago because it seemed fair neither to myself nor to others for me to engage in any kind of dating so soon after. It never seems to really be six months, though. That is, it is always at least six months but once it turned into four years and usually it ends up being ten months or more.

At this point I feel like I have gone far into a relationship too often and that it would be better to lay off, perhaps altogether. I'm tired of the normal pattern and if espousal of some permutation were not the mutually desired end of the relationship, I can't quite see the point. Espousal is my own neologism to avoid both the weakness of the terms 'partnership' and 'commitment ceremony' (ugh) and yet avoid offending the sensibilities of those who would object to calling it marriage. Those objectors come from both sides, by the way. Those who take a conservative view of the idea of marriage may not realize it but there are many gay people who are also against marriage for gay people. So I have happily settled on espousal as my term of choice, which can also eliminate the "who is the bride, can I call her my wife, or is she really my husband or what" related confusion by tossing those terms out and replacing them with spouse.

And so I ramble. I did have something like a point. Ah yes, espousing. For me it is a question of it being one of the Sacraments of the Church and that is that as far as I am concerned. If I'm going to be committed to someone, then I would like the church to have a hand in it, just as I go to confession and would want to receive the Last Rites.

This makes it very hard for me to find anyone to date. The heavy handed way in which the Church has dealt with homosexuality has driven most of us screaming away. I myself was a conscientious objector to church attendance until Gene Robinson was made a bishop. Now I delight in going and doing the flowers and singing in the choir and leading the rosary and working with the social justice committee and the prison mission. But most church-going gay people are some sort of very wishy-washy protestant: Unitarians and non-denominational semi-Christians. Dear me, that's very judgmental. At the same time, if Buddhist meditation comprises part of your Sunday service...well...I'm glad people are going to Sunday services but without most of the Sacraments and the Eucharist, I do feel that they are missing out. I wish they hadn't, some of them, been made to feel that they deserved to miss out.

My point, to drag myself back to it, is that it is hard to find a church-going young woman who shares my proclivities and is also not on the far side of protestantism; harder still to find someone who isn't Low Church. I want to be espoused/married but it is so difficult to find anyone who is willing even to consider it, especially if it involves church.

I think that I would rather not be in a relationship at all if religion will create constant tension and half of the relationship has a principled stand against espousal/marriage for gay people or against church marriage in general. Of course, technically I can't be married in the Church (or the civil state for that matter) but only have a blessing. That is enough, though, for now.

And there I went on another klonopin induced ramble around but not to my point. My point is that I would like to fall in love but it seems impossible. I would like to embrace celibacy but I fear that I do not have the strength nor the temperament. Having been in love (still quietly pining after seven years) I understand how wonderful it can be: there is no substitute for requited love.

Now, with the bipolar disorder, I also feel at times unworthy of love, that I am damaged goods. It is a lot to ask of someone, yet I know from my own experience of looking after people whom I love that there is no resentment if the love is true. Ubi caritas.

Hearing my upstairs neighbors put me in mind of what seems unlikely to be a part of my life. How happy many people are to be able to choose a husband or wife and have social and sacerdotal approbation or to make a free choice to forgo it. How happy am I, too, to live now when though I might be damaged goods, something can be done to help repair and though I might face many obstacles to finding a spouse/wife, I'm at least no longer an outlaw.

To my Catholic readers who have stuck it out this far, thank you. Same to the atheists and agnostics among you.

30 January 2009


School is starting to settle down. I'm getting used to getting up early and having a schedule and showing up on time and sleeping at night. I still haven't gotten over the way everything feels different. There I am, same campus, same people, often the same classrooms and I'm not filled with rage and I can see clearly and the air is breathable and people are friendly. Too strange. The difference between my memory and the current reality is startling.

This isn't going to be too much of a post but I don't want to get out of the habit, so here goes. I'm doing frantic research to put together a paper for a conference and I want to write about madness in ancient society. I've found one good source, which should lead to others and then thirty minutes on JStor should furnish a few appropriate articles but I cannot decide what the focus of the paper should be.

I have decided to concentrate on Hellenistic philosophers (Cynics/Stoics) because they have the more easily accessible views on madness. They divide it into several kinds. There's melancholia, where a person is mad in emotions but still able to reason; mania, where a person is mad in emotions and cannot reason; bestial insanity, where the capability to reason and feel appropriate emotions (the Hellenistics are fixated on appropriate emotion) is entirely lost on account of continual emotional stress; temporary madness, which is the result of wine or drugs and temporary madness that is the result of strong emotions such as love or anger. For all that their main tenet of virtue is to have, indeed, to chose the correct emotions and desires, they make no moral matter of madness. A person overcome by melancholia is not giving in to a vice but suffering from the bodily ill of too much black bile. (black=melan, choler=bile)

Those suffering from bestial madness are seen as being outside the bounds of vice, that is, their actions are so far removed from reasonable and are so violent that they constitute something more like an illness than a vice because they cannot be said to choose their behavior or emotions. They cannot reason and thus they cannot be said to be vicious because they are unable to choose virtue. This is why it is called bestial, by the way; because they can no more reason than a beast can.

I cannot, though, decide what it is that the paper should be about. Should it be the links between Hellenistic theoretical models of madness and modern theoretical models of madness? Should I contrast them with some other philosophical school? If so, who? Should I drag Hellenistic medicine into it?

I do really hope that someone out there is actually reading these posts. No one comments, even if I ask. Despite that, I'm going to ask again: any ideas? Anything from the brief explication pique your interest? Please suggest me a thesis statement!

26 January 2009

16 Things

There's a "16 Random Facts About Me" thing floating around on facebook these days and I feel inspired in my fretful sleepless on a school night state to make my own version, which I shall call:
16 Random Things About My Madness

1. Medication-induced acne on previously unblemished skin will eventually go away if you use heavy-duty Clearisil face scrub long enough; in my case, three months.
2. Baking is very relaxing provided you remember to set the timer.
3. Any spending urge caused by the hypomania (or proper mania, if you have it) can easily be satisfied by the constant need to buy larger clothes as the medication continues to help pile on the pounds.
4. You don't have to do anything but smile prettily at looks of confusion when you tell someone you have a chronic illness and they try to puzzle out how that can be true when you look so young and physically healthy.
5. The standard of care with Nurse Practioners is highly variable.
6. Sometimes klonopin is the best choice.
7. I like having a psychiatrist who is younger than I am (only by a year but I find it tremendously amusing for some inscrutable reason.)
8. Most books on coping with bipolar disorder are enormously depressing.
9. There can be a fantastic rush when going out at four in the morning for a cigarette while very hungry and looking up at the stars.
10. Pretending that you are someone else who had a mental illness can take the strain off and provide mild entertainment on depressive days: sometimes I like to sit in my armchair and pretend I'm Virginia Woolf; sometimes I like to lie in bed and pretend to be Anais Nin; sometimes I walk to the next neighborhood over and pretend I'm Zelda Fitzgerald. That's actually a bit strange, isn't it?
11. Ancient Greek and hypomania are a great match for each other.
12. Chasing pills with mint tea soothes the nausea.
13. If you are depressed long enough, at some point you will realize that you have memorized all the lines of at least three of your favorite movies.
14. Much to my annoyance, my father turns out to have been correct in his assertion that if I would just keep the house tidier I'd feel better.
15. It is worth calling as many people as you can when you have happy news.
16. It is easy to cause a landslide in the minds of state-mental health services personnel when making your next appointment if you take out your day planner and have your own pen. They will look at you in awe, as though you are a creature from another planet.

So that's my 16. What are yours?

25 January 2009

Someday Soon I Shall Have a Disproportionate Number of Cats

I feel that I have become an official nutter. On Thursday, I was standing at the bus stop, thinking about how happy I am that I'm going to graduate, and all of the sudden I realised that I was singing - out loud.

Fortunately, no one else was there. I do have a habit of talking to the cat (that is, speaking out loud when there is no one else in the room and pretending that what I said was addressed to the cat.) I do sing around the house quite a bit and I hold a running commentary when I'm doing schoolwork, especially translating. However, I had never yet caught myself singing without realising it before.

Now I wonder whether I've ever done it before. Maybe I'm not imagining all of those weird looks. . .

If you're wondering, I was singing 'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion' from Handel's Messiah. I was not singing it very well. I can't quite do all the sixteenth notes. Or the highest ones.

24 January 2009

Healing Dialogue

This is a very close rewrite of the conversation I had this afternoon with my new caseworker. It was the second time I'd seen him. I'm just going to let the dialogue, which is foreshortened but remains representative and is in many parts verbatim, speak for itself, as it were.

I have changed the names.

Scene: a rabbit's warren like office building containing dark, narrow corridors set at illogical angles, dark amber glass, industrial carpet. Inside are three different mental health agencies, a pharmacy service and the office of the local congressional representative. Enter a young woman (that is, me) tired and a bit harassed looking.

Receptionist slides open glass panel
Me: Hi, I’m here to see Owen.
Receptionist slides closed the glass panel and nods dismissively
The young woman sits down on the plastic covered lobby couch and picks up one of the medication leaflets and starts reading it. Five minutes goes by.

A man in his approximate forties opens the door to the sanctum sanctorum of mental healing, revealing employees indulging in what can only be described as loud yakking and ferrying reams of paper from one closet-like room to another.

Owen: Hi, there. Not late this time!
Me: No. Hello.
thinks: wasn’t late last time, either

They walk around the corridors for a minute trying to find an unoccupied office. One is located and several foot high stacks of papers are rearranged to make enough room for two people to sit down.

Owen: How are you today? [shuffles papers]
Me: Doing well, doing well. A little stressed out. A little tired.
Owen: Well what’s up that you’re tired and stressed?
Me: It’s been a long week. The semester started last week. . .
Owen: Semester? But I thought Local County Tech started this week?
Me: They may have. I’m up at the state university, though, and we started last Wednesday. We talked about this last Friday.
Owen: Ah, that’s right. Philosophy. I took a philosophy class in college. That was when I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. You don’t need to know what you’re doing with your life yet when you’re still in college, as you know. My professor, oh man, he was a character. You know those people who always answer all the questions, with their little hands up in the air?
Me: Yes. I am one of those people. But I try to have a sense of humor about it.
Owen: Oh.
Me: It’s okay. Don’t worry, it’s not like I don’t know what . . .
Owen: Well one day the professor said “Whoever answers this next question will get a jawbreaker.” Like a candy, you know. So this guy raises his hand and answers the question and the professor like, you know, just slugs this piece of candy at him and it hits the wall, and oh man, it just like breaks into a bunch of pieces and I mean just like this huge thwack, BAM! Yeah, I still don’t know what that was about.
Me: Hmm. Neither do I.
Owen: So let’s see. [shuffles papers] And you’re graduating when?
Me: Well, that’s part of why I’m so exhausted this week. I’ll be graduating…
Owen: It’s not a race, you know. You’ll get there when you get there.
Me: I know. But I’m going to graduate this spring. I just got the registration worked out yesterday morning. And I think that having borne with all the stress of it this week and still sleeping and going to class and getting my work done, I really think that I’m going to be able to get through the semester.
Owen: That’s great. And you’ve been doing the mantras like we talked about last week?
Me: Well, no, because like I told you last week, that doesn’t really help me very much. But I have been doing other things to relax.
Owen: The great thing about mantras is that they center your breathing which is at the core of the way you feel. You have to say them breathing in and breathing out and it just takes you out of yourself. In fact, I spent about ten minutes doing that this morning and it was amazing. I was kinda still half asleep, kinda drifting in and out of being awake, you know, and it was like I just left myself, I really got outside of myself. And that’s all related to what this guy I know’s brother in law who was in a monastery in Vermont, real religious guy but he died real young, like fifty-two or something. Anyhow, he said in a poem that I can’t really remember how it goes, but it’s about how the core of everything is love. That that’s the real truth about everything. With your philosophy, I guess, you’d call that the meaning of life, right?
Me: Well, the idea that love is at the center of everything is certainly a very religious idea about the essential nature of the world.
Owen: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s why the mantras are so important because they take you out of yourself. And this guy, this monk guy, said that hell is full of all the boring people, the people who never get outside of themselves and what they’re thinking and that’s why they go to hell.
Me: Hmm.
Owen: But you don’t use the mantras. What do you do?
Me: Taking baths, reading. . .walking, when it’s a bit warmer, or sitting in the sun. Sometimes I… Owen: And you take [peering down at file] klonopin?
Me: Yes.
Owen: How often do you take that?
Me: [sighing internally] Not very often.
Owen: Once a week, or?
Me: Well, it depends on the week. This last week, I’ve taken it pretty often. But when things are less stressful, maybe once a month or something.
Owen: You have to be careful with that. Those pills can be addictive. But you’re only taking half a milligram?
Me: That’s right. And I really don’t take it often enough to get dependent on it, though I realize, believe me, that that’s something to worry about.
Owen: I was talking to my officemate, you met her, Rachel, and we’re not sure that you need to be on CST. In fact, another of my colleagues overheard us talking last week and asked me whether you really needed to be on CST. Do you think about stepping down to med management?
Me: I have been, but with school starting and having had to change agencies, I thought it would be best to get to know things here before stepping down to med management.
Owen: I can see that. But what with all the restructuring we’re doing, I’m not sure that we’ll be able to keep you as a CST client. And they’re talking about doing away with the med management program because we can’t get any money from the state for it.
Me: What?
Owen: Yeah, well, I guess they expect you to get your own doctor.
Me: Well…I can’t afford that. That’s why I’m here. Psychiatrists are expensive. I have no health insurance. What am I supposed to do if that happens.
Owen: Oh, don’t get stressed about this. I didn’t mean to stress you out.
Me: Well, it’s a little late now.
Owen: Nah, they’ll never do away with it. I’m going to go ask Beth. [stands up, sticks head out of the door and shouts] Hey Beth? They’re not going to stop the med management program are they?
Beth: [offstage] No. I mean, they want to and they’re going to review it in February but we’ve got 112 clients in it and I don’t think they’ll be able to get rid of it.
Owen: [to Beth] Thanks! [to me] See, they’re not going to do away with it. So don’t stress.
Me: Well, with all due respect, I have heard that before. It was the same at the last agency and then they went out of business and gave us only two weeks’ notice and then it took me eight weeks to get in over here after they told me that they would take care of the transition work for me. It was eight weeks of people not returning my phone calls or saying that they will call me and then not calling me and being given misleading information. Even if you’re going to find a private doctor it can take a couple of months and for me to find someone I could afford to go to would take at least that long. So if they’re even thinking about stopping that, I have to wonder whether I should go ahead and start looking around now.
Owen: Well, that might not be a bad idea. But they’re not going to stop the program. But people do go through a lot to find a doctor. When I was first out of college, a friend of mine got me a job in a mental institution and, I was telling you about this last week, about how everyone was being involuntarily committed and I got to see all kinds of crazy diagnosisses [sic], man it was crazy out there. [laughs ruefully] Well, there was this pregnant girl, pregnant and fourteen, fifteen and psychotic and they had her on all kinds, just all kinds of different drugs – thorazine and neurontin and all that – and none of it was working so her parents just took her out and said they were going to take her to the root doctor. You know what a root doctor is? Like, there was a band called the Root Doctors? You must have heard of them.
Me: No, I haven’t, I don’t really know all that…
Owen: Man, why am I even telling you about this? This is your time, you should be doing most of the talking. But you don’t know what one is?
Me: No.
Owen: Never heard of a root doctor? It’s funny who does and who doesn’t. Well, they’re like witch doctors, like voodoo doctors. And they put these things in like cheesecloth, well I don’t know if they really use cheesecloth, but they put these things in and her parents took her out and said that if it worked, they’d bring her back and if it didn’t work, they’d bring her back. So after a like long weekend, they brought her back and she was fine. No problems anymore. I’m not saying it worked but it did have an effect and I guess you with your philosophy would say that it was about belief.
Me: Well, the placebo effect has been very well-documented in a number of well run drug studies over the past century, so yes, I suppose that could have been about…
Owen: Now when are you seeing Dr. Perry?
Me: I think it’s the 16th.
Owen: I have, let’s see, the 19th.
Me: I’m willing to bet you’re right. I have it in my planner but I don’t know it off the top of my head.
Owen: I’ll just look it up. [taps at the computer] The 19th. Well, that philosophy’s great stuff. One of the most interesting classes I took, although I thought it was a whole lot of bull at the time you know. See you next week. Good to talk to you.
Me: Yes. Next week, then.

22 January 2009

Return from Registration Cloud Cuckoo Land

This is going to be a brief one because I have to run off to class in a minute but I'm so happy that I cannot keep it to myself.

I am actually going to graduate this spring. Proper graduation, parents there, handed diploma in front of people, excruciatingly boring speeches, Elgar-accompanied graduation. I thought it might never happen!

Really, I would have been content to graduate whenever I could have. The main thing is to graduate. But the bipolar disorder has messed up things more times than I can count and I am so thrilled that I actually get to do things the traditional, normal way for one time. Generally speaking, I have given up worrying about it too much. I'm not all that bothered by the fact that I'm graduating at 28 and not 21. It's okay that I have had to be off school so often. I'm going to figure out how to have a job I can keep and I'm not worried that it probably isn't going to look like what my extended family or many of my friends would see as a 'good' job. I've made peace with having to leave social gatherings at a very boring early hour. This time, however, I'm going to get to do one of the things that many of the people I know take for granted. It makes me happy, I know it will make my parents and sister happy and I know that all those who have supported me in this long struggle will be happy too! It's thrilling to be the locus of happiness for once.

I love getting to call people with happy news. I can't believe this is actually happening. I had come to think that it would be more likely that the apocalypse would arrive first!

20 January 2009

The Taste of Homemade Victory is Sweet

In honor of the joyful proceedings tomorrow, I wanted to share my election night 'Martha Stewart' type project. I was very enthusiastic! I am very enthusiastic!

I was lucky enough that I saw the man himself at a rally here in my fair city. He spoke mostly about healthcare and health insurance, which I liked because they are abiding concerns of mine. He even spoke about mental health coverage parity. So, let's all remember to try to keep him honest on the affordable healthcare for all Americans (and ALL illnesses.)

If things aren't better this time next year, I propose a Mad March on Washington. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, though; it's a long walk from here to DC!

18 January 2009

Knitted Together

Before I had my diagnosis, I always thought that the euthymia that I experienced was the Holy Spirit. Even though I will use the technical term now, I still think it's the Holy Spirit. I don't mean that in a delusional, I think I'm the second coming way; I mean that it feels like the Holy Spirit.

I do strongly believe that mental illness has a physiological basis. I have no doubt that the extraordinary mood swings I experience have their root in a neurological defect. However, I also believe that God is everywhere, which means that there is no reason that He can't be in illness as well as health.

It seems a little perverse to me sometimes that a very, very good mood could be a symptom of illness but the way it comes on does seem to suggest that something has been triggered in the brain. I can feel it happen and it comes on the way the effects of a drug come. One minute I'll be sitting there feeling nothing out of the ordinary and fifteen minutes later I'll be filled with a luminescing joy that has come from no discernible place and that will not go away nor change in degree. It just is.

It's not strong enough to be called hypomania but it's not an ordinary state either. It might last a day, or it might last a month. It's a wonderful feeling.

The advantage of knowing Greek is that one can parse all these psychological/psychiatric terms. Euthymia comes from 'eu' meaning good, lucky, happy. The -thymia part comes from 'thumos' meaning spirit, heart. Euthymia is closer to 'high spirits' than 'good mood.' So it seems not incompatible to me that euthymia could be an experience of the Holy Spirit. By suffering are we made holy and by the Holy Spirit, Christ's own first gift to the faithful, is not called the eternal comforter as a joke. (Although it does conjure up the image of an enormous fluffy duvet sometimes.) Euthymia does feel like God's peace and comfort and a kind of earthly compensation for the rest of it.

It's not an accident that I have bipolar disorder. I wouldn't have chosen it but that doesn't mean that I have to experience it as a meaningless invasion of what would otherwise be a more ordinary life. I don't always know what exactly to do with it but it is mine to do something with. It is part of me, in my inmost self, and though it has a pathology (laws or order (logos) of suffering (pathos)), it takes its form from me and not mine from its.

We had Psalm 139 in church today - one of the really lovely ones - and it put me in mind of all this. And really, am I not, are we not all, marvellously made that even an illness can bring me joy?

Domine, probasti

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *

you know my sitting down and my rising up;you discern my thoughts from afar.

2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?

7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"

11 Darkness is not dark to you;the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; *
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.


Does anyone else remember when the Queen of Hearts tells Alice (in the book of course) that "all ways around here are [her] ways"? Thinking about that used to make me smile whenever I'd go to or through Queensway, a neighborhood in London. I miss it. London: not Queensway. It's hard to miss Queensway. Or the Central Line, for that matter.

Well, friends, I think I might have a touch of the euthymia. I was speaking to my ex on the phone earlier and she asked me had I been drinking? what had I been doing?

I haven't done anything but wash the dishes, said I, except that I came back in the living room and found two mugs and a plate and thought, oh well, I'll just do them tomorrow.

But you're making me laugh, says she. What's going on?

Oh dear. What a regular ball of sunshine I must have been being!*

I should probably crack on with the Greek homework. Nothing mixes better with an effervescence than Greek and I've got 42 lines of Homer to tran and scan. (Like the abbreviation? See, you can tell I'm so cool that I'm part of the app. crit. crowd. {which is an extremely dorky form of cool wherein classics students show off by referring to the apparatus criticus [critical apparatus - it explains variations and misreadings of other texts and manuscripts and helps with weird verb forms] as the app. crit.})

Needless to say, this is a variety of cool not recognised in the general taxonomy.

I am, however, very excited to be following the same educational syllabus as St. Augustine, which is probably not a form of excitement recognised in the general taxonomy. But then, I'm an anomataxic girl at heart, really.

Ah, the nonsense. But at least I found my Carmex this evening. Can't have been a total loss, then.

*(Ah, the past perfect participle. Nothing could make me happier, except for the timely use of the future perfect.)

16 January 2009

Oh the moaning

I'm trapped in the registration black hole of "will I be able to collect enough signatures quickly enough and I think that they gave me the wrong form and please, God, let me graduate."

Well, I will graduate and soon enough, whether or not I can do so at the end of this semester. I wish I could. My poor beleaguered parents: I want to give them a happy day where they get to see me stand up and receive awards and commendations. They have to go through so much with me and I know that this would make them happy.

I'm wearing my anxiety screen, clonazepam. It's like sunscreen, but instead of blocking out harmful sun rays, it blocks out harmful stress and anxiety rays.

What shocks me is that I seem to be handling this surprisingly well. Am I actually finally stable? It's a strange feeling. I love it. I'm excited to be back.

Again, all I can say at the moment is

St. Thomas, pray for me
St. Catherine, pray for me
All of you reading, pray for me

This graduation is a gift I want to give to my parents, so, so badly.

If any one knows of a patron saint for untangling bureaucracy, I'd love to here about it. The two who come to mind are St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Theresa of Avila. Any other ideas?

On a less related note, I see now that I have another follower and I want to say welcome, I'm glad you're here.

Look out for the more humorous version of this entangled endeavor in the next post.

First Day Back

As I sat in my first class this morning, I couldn't believe my eyes. The light was clear. All around me were students from different years. Some of them were happily chatting to their neighbors, two behind me were bemoaning the lack of party opportunities in our fair city and talking of transferring to one of the other state universities. Some were silent, as I was. It was warm in the classroom and I sat comfortably at my desk.

It was not at all what I remembered.

One year ago I had my first class of the semester in this same classroom, taught by the same teacher. But that day it was too dark to see properly in the classroom so that the edges of things blurred and crackled against one another. That day, the air was sharp and rough, and made me cough. That day, the desk felt too small and I sat squeezed uncomfortably while my fellow students made a chorus of raucous guffaws and descant whispers. My hands were numb while I was damped with sweat and shivering.

It was not that the heating system had been redone, nor the building remodelled, nor the desks changed nor the students. It was me.

The stark difference between my memory and my immediate perception was startling. I had new eyes!

We rely on our senses for unmediated knowledge. Our modern sciences are based in empricism, i.e. the idea that knowledge must come from direct observation. This has led to many innovations: the helio-centric theory, evolution, calculus, even our dear friends psychology and psychiatry. Empiricism as a code of action and of evaluation has reached into history, political thory, philosophy, art. It is always with us, even in such hackneyed sayings as "I can't believe my eyes." This expression would carry no great meaning if we did not understand that our senses were our best conduits to understanding. Divine Illumination it is not.

I thought that I was entering the port of an earthly purgatory; imagine my surprise when I found a welcoming place instead.

14 January 2009

The Best Thoughts Come While Bathing

Thank goodness for hot baths. Nietzsche said that the best thoughts come while walking and he certainly has a good point but when it's 29F outside and you're feeling a little fragile and anxious, I have found that the best thoughts are more likely to come in the bath.

While I was basking there, my toes finally warm, it occurred to me that all my histrionic "I'm going to die homeless on the street having alienated everyone I know on account of the foul unreasonable moods of bipolar disorder and, for the same reason, on account of never having been able to hold down a job and thus becoming an indigent, hallucinating old lady" rants have their origin in something relatively small that just has a tendency to snowball.

It's not the worry over going back to school, it's not the worry over what seems at this moment to be likely to be a rather bleak future: I'm really worried about the stress itself. The other things are things I can only deal with on a day to day basis. There isn't anything I can do about my future indigency at this vary moment. I know this but once my mind leaps its merry way down this track the very fact that there isn't some concrete action I can take today to guarantee that this won't happen is very distressing and helpless making. What I was missing was a consideration the mechanics behind my illness.

There are several things that will set me off. Sleeping badly, travel, letting others down, not finishing homework and so on. The sleep is a different matter but the common root of nearly everything else that sets me off is stress itself.

Following from that, it easy to think 'oh, well, I just need to avoid stress,' which is true in its own way. However, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to eliminate stress from my life entirely. (!) What I really need to do is focus on how best to handle it.

For years I have had overwhelming anxiety, the kind where putting on shoes is too stressful, let alone fixing something to eat. All that accumulated anxiety seems to have burnt out (metaphorically speaking) the circuits in my brain than process anxiety. Now I seem to have three experiences of anxiety: none, extreme anxiety and stark raving mad.

I haven't had the stark raving mad kind for quite a while, thank God; not since I was in the hospital and given some very helpful drugs to deal with it. Taking them, clonazepam mostly, for about four months put me back in the realm of normal. I still have them as a PRN. (That's medication-ese for 'when I think I need them')

It's quite possible that going back to school will send me far enough up or down that I will have to drop out again. But it's a very helpful thing to realize that it's not having to show up at a certain place at a certain time each day or the homework or being around lots of people that's going to throw me. It's the stress of having to do all these things with my lovely broken mind that goes from zero to 260 in less than half a second.

I can't change the way school is run but I can do several things about how I approach the stress of it all. I can go back to the clonazepam on a daily basis for a week or so, I can make sure I take a bath every night, I can go to weekday mass, which is something I should do more often anyway, I can have hot chocolate every night. Knowing that the difficulty lies in the stress itself rather than school itslef (which I cannot change) makes all the difference.

13 January 2009

School's in for Winter

Well, tomorrow is back to school for me. I'm so nervous! I bet I'll feel better by tomorrow night if only from exhaustion. (Wednesday is the big church night - rosary and choir practice and then there's also a party for the new artists at my job!)

I'm no end pleased to have received my first comment and to have three followers, one of whom is the lovely Sister Mary Martha herself! I never thought that would happen this quickly.

I'm too pre-occupied to have much else to say this morning apart from:

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for me
St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for me
Everyone who sees this, please pray for me

It's my last semester. . .I can't believe that I might actually graduate! (And am I not specially blest to have two saints who are patrons not only for students but also for philosophers? Very nice for a philosophy student. . .)

12 January 2009

Symptom, Sin, Circumstance or Psychology: I lost the thread on the way out of the labyrinth.

I have been having a great deal of trouble with motivation lately. I can't seem to get past it and I'm not sure where it's coming from.

I first taught myself back in 2002 to like cleaning my house, which was a big leap for me. That was the same year that I started looking after my eating habits. Then in 2004 I finally got a handle on keeping my clothes tidy. I got television watching under control in 1999. I have long had good spending habits. I developed the discipline to finish sewing and knitting projects somewhere along the way, I think in 2004, maybe 2002. Perhaps it just took a couple of years for it to really take hold. I learned how to talk to people, that is to overcome my shyness - I still come off all wrong sometimes, in 1998 and again in 2003 and again in 2006. I made a good habit of timely bill paying in 2003. I learned how to keep up with schoolwork in 2005. I seem to be developing a new understanding of how to give and receive help as I write, which feels like the only thing I have going at the moment.

Everything else seems to have slipped out of control. I have piles of unsorted clothes on my closet floor. I have two outstanding bills. The television seems to have taken me over. I have one unfinished sewing project and one unfinished knitting project. I've gone all shy again and my spending habits need reform for the first time I can remember. I haven't been able to properly keep up with the housekeeping for a good six months now. I cannot keep up with the schoolwork nor feed myself properly.

It took me a long time to develop good habits, which is a bit embarrassing. Some of that is due to never having been prepared to look out for myself once I no longer lived at home. Some of it is due to the disproportionate anxiety due to the bipolar. There are assorted secondary reasons for it as well. But bit by bit I pushed myself past it.

Now I seem to have lost it all and that is very discouraging.

Part of the current problem is that I'm not sure what has brought it on. One possibility is that I need an additional 100mgs of Lamictal. Another is that my routine is so loosely scheduled that I can't use my time effectively because it feels like there will always be time tomorrow - acres of time in front of me. The possibility that worries me most is the dreaded akedia. (Also known as accedie and accedia but I have done too much Greek to bear with the badly pronounced Latinate form of the word: it grates.)

I've had some rather flummoxing moods lately, the kind I look back and fret about. It's odd, though, because I am by and large on an even keel. I have been since September 6. (I know the date because I keep somewhat meticulous track of these things. That was the first day I felt well since October 2006.) Now the eveness has lasted more than three months and I am beginning to trust that it will stick around. So where has this deep lack of motivation come from? Why do I abandon all these good habits now when I was able to keep them up while I was severely ill?

If I were to tell my case worker or therapist about this they would immediately be on my case, saying that I should go to the hospital. But I'm not ill, not in a way that a hospital can help. Going to the hospital when I did is one of the best decisions I have ever made: it helped me to find appropriate medication quickly; it got me away from friends who didn't understand what depression is and were doing their level best (one of them, anyway, whom I was sharing an apartment with at the time) to make me feel incredibly guilty for not being able to behave as they wished I would; it kept my family at a distance; it stopped me having to do things like cook my own meals; it cured my insomnia for a good five months; and it gave me a chance to be around a whole bunch of people who were going through the same problems, so that I no longer felt as weird and isolated. But there's no opportunity for sustained counselling there. It's not the appropriate place for me to get to the bottom of whatever it is that has demotivated me.

This is the difficulty with the psychiatry/psychology part of things: they read everything as a symptom and automatically assume that the sufferer is having an irrational reaction to external circumstance, an attitude that has been shown to be distinctly unhelpful in several well conducted studies over the past sixty-odd years. It seems more likely to me that the cause lies in some psychological difficulty that would require some time for discernment or in some reaction to external circumstance, neither of which would be solved by playing around with medication.

If only I could figure out how to start figuring this out! Any ideas?

11 January 2009

The Exhaustion of Being Earnest

One of the things that I dislike most about the mental illness is having to be so earnest all the time. It's very tiring.

It's dangerous to behave in any other way. Being sarcastic and certainly being self-deprecating around a doctor or case worker can easily land you with a new diagnosis of some personality disorder, or worse, in the hospital involuntarily. Then, too, other people are so very earnest about the illness; they want to help and they have advice on drugs and omega-3s and their very special sympathy voice and this all makes it difficult to do anything but be earnest and meek right back at them.

Now my internalized earnestness is warning me to qualify that statement. I do often give people who genuinely want to help too hard of a time. In fairness to myself, though, I have a hard time understanding why it is that I have to be polite about being talked down to by people who have no idea what they're talking about. More even than I am tired of being earnest, am I tired of people telling me that "natural" cures work better than my medication. Why one set of synthesized molecules is better than another I have a hard time understanding.

I hate being expected to unload my life story on qualified strangers and to listen humbly to their pronouncements on my motives and my feelings and my mood as though they knew me better than I do. (Obviously this is one thing if one is in the throes of illness and genuinely out of touch with reality but it's quite another when one is stable and as healthy in action and self-awareness as one's doctors.) I wish I weren't expected to take it all so seriously all the time. But what else can I do when I am required to be 'treatment compliant' if I wish to continue to receive services? I couldn't do without the medication right now. I only have to forget one day's dosage and I start to feel the effects.

I miss the days when I was still an artist and I felt as though my depressions were, if still tedious and painful, at least also glamourous. In all honesty, they feel more like a character defect than ever at the moment.

I miss the sense of glamour because it made me feel like I had something to offer the world. It made me feel unique. I still felt like a person in my own right. Now I feel like a bundle of symptoms. On the one hand, it's great to have a diagnosis because people take bipolar disorder much more seriously than depression, where one can often tell that people think that one is faking and malingering and mucking about in a desperate bid for attention. On the other hand, a fair number of people make it clear through their actions and comments that they don't see me as a full person anymore. Their preconceptions stand between their eyes and good judgement and myself.

I wish I knew better where I am in all this. I had rather be honest than earnest.

And Where I'll Land, Nobody Knows

As anyone who is reading this will have noticed, I'm still finding my feet. I don't seem to have decided what exactly this blog is about. At the moment I'm just writing about whatever takes my fancy, so please be patient with me and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

I had originally intended to stick to the philosophy end of things but that can get to be a bit much, especially as I have a somewhat pretentious writing style when I'm trying not to be too academic. I also have just a tidge of the stage fright. Apart from some university publications, hardly anyone apart from my professors reads anything I write and what I do write for them is full of statements such as "logical invalidity of the exclusive disjunction in biological sex dimorphism" and "Weber's criterion of exclusive right to military force as constitutive of government is neither necessary or sufficient." That sort of thing gets unbelievably boring very quickly.

So then I started thinking about what I enjoy in other people's blogs. I don't follow so very many of them with regularity. One is nearly exclusively images, one is mostly news and facts, another is advice and information and the last is personal narrative. (You can have a look at them on the blog roll.) They're such a mix that I couldn't find much of a common thread except that two of them are about the Church and two are about bipolar disorder, both of which are of such abiding interest to me that anything I wrote would inevitably touch upon them both.

I also started thinking about what I had been looking for in a blog. I have struggled with illness and school and identity ever since I was diagnosed almost two years ago. I spent hours last winter hunting for whatever information I could find on bipolar disorder; I particularly wished I could find something, anything about managing school in combination with bipolar disorder. I never could find anything. Just last month I found 'The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive,' which has been wonderful to read. There is a distinct paucity of information and narrative about women and bipolar disorder. Women and PTSD, women and depression (the regular kind) are all over the place. I by no means wish to belittle those illnesses; I just really want something that bears directly on the illness I have. Men's narratives of bipolar disorder are helpful but they do have a different experience of it in some ways.

At this point I'm leaning towards school and bipolar and self-identity and bipolar. Church and philosophy will be in too: they are always with me. Same for health insurance, politics and social justice. But it's good to have a focus, isn't it?

09 January 2009

Never again would birdsong be the same

I’ve been reading a rather interesting book: Mad, Bad and Sad, which was written by Lisa Appignanesi. The book is concerned with the evolution of psychology as a science and its relationship to women and vice versa. I haven’t finished it yet, so I can make no comment on the book as a whole but I was enchanted to learn that Virginia Woolf complained of hearing “birds singing Greek choruses, King Edward using foul language in the garden.”

I’m not so sure about King Edward (VII presumably?) but I really like the thought of hearing the birds singing Greek choruses. Obviously, that would be one thing if they were singing the Orestaia, but quite another if they were singing the chorus introducing Phaedra or the one about longing for escape from Hippolytus. I think that I would find those ones quite comforting.

But then perhaps I am a little odd in that.

Would that I were hid within the hollows of a mountain,
there would a god fledge me into a bird
among the winged flocks:
that I might soar over
the sea waves
of the Adrian shore
and over the waters of Eridanos,
where in the dark-gleaming swell
wretched maidens,
lamenting Phaeton,
let tears fall
from bright amber eyes.

That I might reach journey’s end at the apple-planted shore
of the Hesperides, the singers, where the sea lord
of the red-dark shallows
gives no farther passage to sailors,
where strikes the awful boundary
of the firmament, which Atlas holds:
and divine springs flow
by the place Zeus lay,
where, bestowing gifts,
most sacred Earth
increases the blessings of the gods.

There is a rock that drips, they say, with Ocean’s water,
where water is drawn up in pitchers
from its flowing cliffs:
there was a friend of mine soaking
russet robes
in the pure waters of the river,
stretching them across the warm backs
of the rocks in the kind sun: here
came first to me news of my mistress;

keeping her distressed body upon a bed of sickness
inside the house, fine cloth
covering her golden head:
I hear that it is now three days
that her mouth is unfed
and from Demeter’s
grain she has kept her pure body,
wishing, from a secret suffering,
to run aground at the terrible shore of death.

own translation

Scholarly Stoicism

I’m about to go back to school. It was only the other day that I realized that I have actually finished only one out of the last three semesters. I didn’t realize that I had been so long out of the usual run of things.

I’ve hated school ever since I was little. On the night before high school graduation I remember sitting on my bed by the window and feeling deeply shocked that it had all actually ended and that no one could make me go to school anymore if I didn’t want to. I couldn’t believe that that thing that had made my life so miserable for so long was actually going to go away.

Now I’m applying for grad school. Things change. University is different from high school. I’m still extremely frustrated by the general education curriculum, though. I hate having to take classes on things I already know and am bored by. Soi-disant “Health and Wellness,” for an example. I will, at the ripe age of 28, get to learn how to use a condom, why drugs are bad and be forced to take exercise in groups. I already know these things and exercise on my own. I don’t partake of any illegal substances (and frequently give obnoxious lectures on why no one should) and I don’t even sleep with men!

But these things are no what make me nervous. I’m much more worried that I’ll lose my mind again and have to drop out. If I do, I see no hope of going on with my education. I’m not sure I’d even have the perspicacity to finish my BA. After all these years of forcing myself to go to classes and study hard, whether well or ill, the thought of giving up so close to the end is sickening. Yet, I can’t stomach the thought that I would have to spend another year of my life trying to complete these (to me useless) classes.

Many people to whom I speak of this say “What’s the rush? Take your time.” The rush is that I’m tired of taking my time and I’m tired of being in undergrad. If I take any more time, I’ll lose it. That’s the rush. It’s like asking what the rush is to stop being in chronic pain. Of course, one can only expect so much insight in this area from a bunch of people with doctoral degrees. They liked being in school. Why should I expect them to be able to comprehend the rush?

But why should I take on so much if I’m afraid to do so? Clearly my professors and psychiatrist and therapist would stand behind me if I wanted to take three semesters to finish. The answer lies again in fear. I’m even more afraid to give myself more time and thus more chances to screw up. I’m fairly certain that at this point I can hold it together for eighteen weeks. I’m not so sure about another fifty-two weeks.

My parents pleaded and badgered me into going to school each morning for fifteen years. In that whole decade and a half they never worked out that I might not be the problem. It never, as far as I know, occurred to them that perhaps school was the problem or that my continuous litany of why I didn’t want to go to school might have some useful content in it. It was always assumed that it was a behavioral problem and thus, because it was caused by my behavior, my problem. Now we all know that it was bipolar disorder. But those long years of constant remonstrance have taken their toll: I still assume that it’s all my fault.

As my parents and indeed my teachers and friends and sister and psychologist and so on saw the situation, there were only a few possible solutions: leave it alone, try to bribe me and try to punish me. None of them had much effect. I don’t want to make the same mistake about school. As far as I know there are only a few possible solutions as to how to get through the rest of the undergraduate education. I can suck it up and be stoic. Actually, that’s the only one I can think of. From experience I know that it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, which means that it is probably more correlative than causal to my ability to go to school.

One factor that I know to make a huge difference is the bipolar disorder. I can’t go to school in the throes of it. It seems to be more in remission than not at the moment and I don’t think that I am ignoring contradictory evidence. But is that a sufficient criterion for determining whether I’m ready to go back to school? And when I do go, how else can I deal with it except to be stoic?

04 January 2009

Pajamas, Bipolar Disorder and Capitalism

I want to know when I’ll have things together again. I’m entirely useless in December: it takes me quite a while to get over being away for Thanksgiving. That whole process is hampered by my knowing that I’m going away again in three weeks. Then I go away again, act surly around my family and come home full of woe.

Now that I’ve been back for seven days (really? that many already?) I’m starting to feel settled in again. I am looking forward to getting back to a real schedule with school and work and church. That’s the main difficulty with going away. I get jogged out of my routine and then the bipolar disorder gets the upper hand and I forget how to get dressed and eat and sleep, which rather gets in the way of doing anything at all.

Worrying about staying on top of things has me thinking. I’m not good at it. I do best in a well-worn rut, so I’ve been running around trying to make mine a little deeper before school starts. Some of the things I’m trying to get under control are reasonable and unequivocally good for me like eating and not wearing my pajamas all day and sleeping. Others I wonder about. They seem to be concessions to capitalism and, though they are often taken to be innate to human nature, I’m not sure that they are.

I worry about this because I live in capitalism. I don’t know whether I’m against it or not: at the moment, I’m just trying to figure out how to live in it. We tend to accept capitalism as an objective fact but to me it appears instantiated in history, crafted by human theory and a not entirely predictable force in the shape of the world. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to fit very well into the social structures capitalism has created. I’m not the only who doesn’t fit into the current ideal of human being that modern capitalisms require. Nuns don’t, for example, and neither do various of the disabled, nor certain criminals. Nor do lottery players and inheritance beneficiaries: they’re after money not tied to their own labor. But all these people still exist and it seems worthwhile to theorize capitalisms that might include them and include me.

One aspect of modern capitalism that seems worth exploring in this light is our collective concern with time. We have bound time and work together in such a way that their meanings have significantly altered. If we look back to John Locke’s Second Treatise*, we will see that he identifies ownership and by extension tradability and value with mixing one’s labor with the material world. Time, except that labor must pass in its duration, does not enter into the value of work as a sufficient component. The specialization of skills, the usefulness of the finished product, does. What happened that we are now fixated on forty hours a week as a valuation of labor? Can we have an economy such that individuals can have control over their labor rather than the other way around?

Attempts at answers will be found in the next post.

* “. . .every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.” John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, italics his. Quoted from page 19 of the 1980 Hackett edition, C.B. Macpherson, editor.

03 January 2009

Why Intermittently Rational?

Why Intermittently Rational?

I’m a philosophy student and I’m bipolar. I found out about the latter in the middle of being the former. I had been through three and a half semesters and nearly completed my major when I lost my mind. I had to drop out of school, I had to navigate the state mental health care system, I had to go to the hospital and I had to face the fact that something was seriously wrong with me: that something was wrong with my mind.

In those semesters studying philosophy I had learned about the school of thought that underpins our democratic governments and our theories of rights. Much of what we see as innate and intransigent about the world was born in the Enlightenment Era, the Age of Reason. We have our rights because we are possessed of reason. We can be citizens and are fit to elect our government because we are possessed of reason. We are human because we are possessed of reason. We can write geometrical proofs of God’s existence because we are human and we are reason.

So what happens when someone loses her reason and then gets it back? What happens if she has a chronic disorder that means she will someday lose her reason again? What happens if you can identify someone who will always be only intermittently rational?

We don’t make too much use of this in our political system unless there’s a crime involved. We’ve all heard of people being incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity, a designation that has a very specific meaning in jurisprudence. But what does it mean to be insane and not criminal; what does it mean to be insane in ordinary life? There is no formal response but there is much confusion and fear and loathing. There is so much conflict about how to treat those with mental illness, either medically or socially. How dangerous are they? Are they lepers or just sissies? Is it okay to exclude them from schools and universities? Is it okay to give them health insurance? When they’re in the hospital, should you call or just assume that they’re as embarrassed as you are and won’t want to talk? Are they immoral? What did they or their parents do that they are that way? Why don’t they pull themselves out of it? Have they tried fish oil? Vitamins? Aromatherapy? Aren’t anti-depressants for the weak and hysterical? Is she going to come into the office one day and kill us all?

And then there’s me, asking myself all the same questions: wondering whether I would be giving in if I took medication, thinking that I was weak for being unable to carry on. Into every life a little rain must fall, and so on. Things will be better tomorrow. If I would just face up to my responsibilities I wouldn’t have all these problems. If this isn’t my fault and it’s never going to go away, how am I ever going to keep a job? What if I become homeless? What if I don’t need this medication and all its fun fun side effects? Maybe I could just take St. John’s wort instead.

What if I’m faking?

If you have the misfortune to be a philosophy student the wondering will not stop there. It will spread, invading all corners of your life. The Declaration of Independence will never sound the same.

I’ve become hyper-aware, during the past two years, of the dialectic of madness in predominantly English-speaking societies. My neck prickles at every passing mention of someone being crazy, at every prescription drug ad, and all the news stories about mentally ill graduate students and their firearms. It seems to me that we are all dead set on hiding mental illness and pretending it doesn’t exist while denouncing anything we don’t agree with as crazy. What are we talking about? Who are we talking to? Where is all the madness in its raging glory and suffering viscera?

What does it mean to be intermittently rational? I did get to vote for Barak Obama, so my political concerns are not at the forefront although I did glance up at the psych ward in the local hospital on November 4 and wondered whether they got to vote. I can’t buy firearms but I never wanted to in the first place. I want to spend my life writing about social and political philosophy: am I allowed to do this, considering its origins?

Let’s find out.

All right, gentle readers, bring it on. I want all your words for crazy. Give me the words, give me the context if you can, tell why you like them and hate them and love them. Tell me what you call yourself and what you call your relatives behind their backs. Let’s see what’s out there.


So: New Year, new stuff to do. I don’t know if anyone will ever look at this, but keeping a blog seems like a good way to get myself into the habit of writing and corralling my thoughts.
Let me introduce myself.
I’m studying Philosophy and Classics (Greek and Latin.)
I’m an Anglo-Catholic (a very particular and frequently odd type of Episcopalian.)
I’m applying to grad school.
I’m about to start learning Spanish for my church’s Social Justice committee.
I read voraciously.
I am officially a madwoman.
There are, of course, other rather salient facts about me but it seems pushy to just list them. They’re not in the set of personal qualities that one lists when introducing oneself. They’ll come up in due course.
I want, provided anyone ever reads this, for this blog to be discursive. I am not so interesting that anything written about only myself and my thoughts could hold anyone’s attention over a sustained period of time. I hope that all of you will leave your thoughts and queries on philosophy and religion and literature and so on in the comments. I also hope that you’ll take a moment to introduce yourselves in the comments for this entry, even if you’re reading this long after it was first posted. I’ll still see them and it would be nice if everyone knew where to look. Of course, if you prefer to lurk or be anonymous that’s okay too.
That’ll do for an introduction, I think. I’m going to try to keep this regularly updated, hopefully every Monday and Thursday. We’ll see.