navigating a world which feels like gravity is working in reverse

Expandmenu Shrunk

  • Category Archives Mental Illness
  • poetry 12 24

    pointing to Jesus
    in defense of Christianity
    is like pointing to the product packaging
    in defense of a product’s quality

    when you admit you’re suicidal to someone you want
    that relationship generally kills itself

    (don’t lean against your invisible cage in a way that creates a posture that couldn’t be maintained solely by your own balance)
    you can’t out the beliefs that you’re not allowed to hold
    because then the powerless would catch on that these beliefs were empowering

    the gospel is fresh water
    to those who are being redeemed
    and salt water
    to those who are perishing

    suffering is measured with an odometer
    the short distance is comedic
    the longer distance is tragic
    and the longest distance flips back to being comedic

    you can tell you are in a hallucination
    when you’re right too much of the time

    when you’re mentally ill
    God and the devil
    are like wires of a bomb
    and you never know where to cut

    there’s a surefire way to test the character of someone you’re in a relationship with

  • brain as computer


    “He saw himself as a scientific materialist; he believes that metaphor—the brain as a computer—has done more to increase the number of atheists than anything by Darwin.”

    This is a quote from a schizophrenic programmer who wrote his own sixteen color operating system called TempleOS.  The whole article is very interesting but I’m mainly focusing on this brain as computer analogy and how it causes us to see ourselves differently.  Being a Computer Science graduate I gravitated towards seeing my brain as a computer so much so that when I had a psychotic break one of the things I wanted to have them do is run my brain through the old-school DOS Scandisk to look for bad sectors (the Scandisk from the Windows 95/98 days, the one that would run on the boot after the computer failed to shut down properly).  More recently I’ve talked about sandboxing relationships that meant a lot to me which I didn’t do when I was in my early 20’s (much to my chagrin because I am still not over them).  Sandboxing is when you run a process cordoned off from the rest of the computer’s resources so it can’t crash or manipulate the rest of the system.

    The metaphor of the brain as a computer when internalized subconsciously is incredibly materialistic, leaving out the soul or supernatural agents.  It breeds scientism and pragmatism.  Things are framed as inputs, processing, and outputs.  This is one reason millennials (who often exhibit this metaphor) absolutely can’t metabolize hypocrisy.  Because they see clearly the inputs, the outputs, and the disconnect between the two.  Output and outworking are what are paramount, existence precedes essence.

    One in four of us millennials has a mental illness and in this regard we see religion as a software patch attempting to fix a hardware problem (as if brain chemicals could be put correctly merely by force of will).  We see religion like an annoying friend trying to photo bomb every picture we take.  It inserts itself into places it has no business being like how one can “pray” the mental illness or gay or whatever away.  By design it’s the one thing, the only thing, the most important thing.  Just follow these spiritual disciplines and things will improve and if they don’t improve you’re not doing it right, it’s your fault.  A lot of time people will judge you based on whether your life compiles.  If they see any fatal errors in you (not living up to what they expect of you) they’ll simply ignore or scorn you.

    Then you have apps like Shazam and SoundHound.  Suddenly we can consult an app to see who what we hear is coming from.  God’s voice can’t be Shzam’d and it makes taking instructions from a deity just seem more and more ridiculous.

  • truth we can handle

    the mentally healthy can take religion
    a kernel of crazy stuff
    with a shell of rationality
    but those of us mentally ill
    eat through the shell and cannot handle the kernel

    I don’t choose what to believe
    the evidence
    chooses for me

    Listened to an amazing Blind Hour podcast on bipolar.  One of the things I took away from it is it’s very hard not to give in to psychosis.  This has been a fundamental to the way I reckon truth.  I have deeply personal reasons for tying truth to the things I tie it to.  For me it’s a grounding mechanism, a bulwark against encroaching psychosis.  The guy in the podcast who was bipolar said the medication kept 95% of the psychosis away and my experience bares that out.  Belief in the supernatural and in particular that a god is talking to me has caused me a whole heap of trouble in the past so I avoid it now.  God has basically told me to date women out of my league, drink piss, and kill myself so I don’t think too highly of his advice.

    Communications with God are so hard to shake off, no matter how toxic, because communicating with a deity is, by its very nature, extra-rational.  You consult a deity when you need an opinion that might not line up with reason or what those around you want you to hear.  Crack open a Bible and you will hear God telling people to do all kinds of interesting stuff.  Delusions of grandeur brought on by psychosis are easier to combat because once you start thinking rationally again you can read cues from the rest of the world as to your place in society and since those cues persist through all levels of sanity they’re easy to accept.

    And then, whaddaya know I got people shoving religion down my throat because I am in a low position in society and the answer to all your problems (even your problems with religion) is more religion!  You don’t shove peanut butter down the throat of a kid who has peanut allergies do you?  Then why do you shove God down the throat of someone who obviously had adverse reactions to God and religion?

  • I feel nothing

    I feel the darkness growing stronger. As you cram light down my throat. – Pedro the Lion

    I honestly think religion unfairly stigmatizes people who do not have a good relationship with their emotions.  They guilt us for being bitter or hard hearted.  I ask the question, “what am I supposed to feel?”.  I’m supposed to do this dance where when you say a certain thing I’m supposed to feel a certain thing.  I am supposed to feel bad about being sinful but that guilt is being drown out by shame from an overly pervasive culture that worships the dollar.  I just don’t get sin.  To me it’s almost a manufactured problem, like how cleaning product ads make us afraid of the bacteria on our counter tops with the aim to sell us Lysol.  I guess I just don’t feel the kind of guilt I’m supposed to feel—the kind of guilt that would make me seek out religious solutions.  I don’t feel anything when the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection is told—how he paid the price for all our sins.  I know I’m supposed to because a lot of people can put on the emotional waterworks when confronted with that story and I was never able to, even at the point in my life when I was the most Christian.  I’m supposed to feel that God loves me or God hates me.  I normally feel the latter because of my depression.  I think it’s putting an undue burden on sufferers of depression to force them to pretend “God” is there with them.  At that state pining for an experience of God is like making someone drink salt water—as if guilting them for not feeling anything is going to help their depression at all.

    The bitter irony is that at the end of the day Christians want to guilt me for feeling nothing, but I don’t even feel that guilt because I feel nothing.

  • indistinguishable

    To me, God is indistinguishable from mania.  People generally don’t find God through reading arguments, they find God because they have a feeling of peace and warmth wash over them.  I have definitely had that when I’m manic.  I know it’s all chemicals.  If we had a better understanding of the brain we might be able to induce these feelings on cue.

  • Leaning on Parts of Yourself

    Pretend you are a creating a character for some kind of RPG video game.  You have a fixed amount to spend on a set of character attributes (for example, speed, attack, shields).  At this first level you don’t have too much to spend so you have to make sacrifices, your character has to forego speed and some shields.  What you are left with is a character that you will have to live with.  You will have to play to its strengths.  Being slow you’ll have to try different approaches to attacking enemies, ones that feature your attack attribute.

    It’s a lot like that with disabilities.  The same way with stroke survivors where other parts of the brain take up the slack of the functions the damaged part was doing, those of us with disabilities must lean heavily on the parts of us that are still whole.  It’s not much of a secret that those of us on the spectrum often have additional disabilities (gastrointestinal issues, anxiety/depression, epilepsy, and others).  Multiple disabilities add up to more than the sum of their parts specifically because the wholeness you needed to lean on because of one of your disabilities isn’t there due to one of your other disabilities.  I am in this category, because I am bipolar and on the spectrum I generally do the initiating in relationships but because of my visual impairment I cannot drive to support groups and the places of the people I am pursuing (I guess I’m more of a social moth than a social butterfly).  I can’t even try churches because I don’t have the social acumen to negotiate rides to them.  For others on the spectrum their social anxiety (often due to past bullying/ostracism) may be by far their worst impairment.  These people are fine in familiar environments.

    One thing I can unequivocally say is having multiple disabilities makes you a test case of how just your environment is.  We are Oliver Twist, not the Marlboro Man.

  • religion and mental illness

    This forum post (I believe from the PatientsLikeMe forum) is the piece of writing that has had the most influence over me in the past seven years or so.

    How do you incorporate a sense of spirituality in your treatment if you do and if don’t why ?

    I’ve worked on this one a lot.

    Depression and “mood disorders” put us in a place where we want to be spiritual.  Mania is characterized by a feeling of unity and perception of god.   Depression makes us (or me, anyway) want to ask really fundamental questions of meaning and metaphysics.

    We feel the acute need for spirituality at these times.  However, I think these are the worst possible times to take on a new spirituality.  Our lens is clouded by desire — desire to stop hurting.

    I have learned to distrust these feelings.  Trying to attach big meanings to psychiatric problems is really dangerous in my experience.  I can go into detail if anyone is interested.

    Spiritual belief and practice are important to us for the same reasons they are important to everyone else.  Faith can be stabilizing.  But proceed with caution.

  • Low Tide

    You are at a beautiful beach at high tide.  Then the tide recedes and you see a ton of garbage that has sunk to the bottom.  That’s the way I feel about the interplay of my pathologies,   The negative symptoms of my bipolar have made my autism spectrum symptoms more acute.  I think in pictures more now.  My cadence is off (I respond too early to people’s words).  Part of it is just that I don’t have the inner strength to put forth the effort to pass off as neurotypical.  The other part of it is I feel more comfortable acting like an aspie so even things about me that allowed me to pass off as neurotypical I have jettisoned in the name of convenience or maybe even laziness.

  • Tall Man or Slender Man (suicide spirit)

    I am really far from Evangelical Christianity but still really appreciate this Billy Graham evangelistic video.  Of particular interest to me was the part about the single mother who was thinking of suicide and someone in the church detected it, finding a “suicidal spirit”.  The reason that piqued my attention is because of a New York Times article about a faceless spirit stalking Native Americans via web comics and dreams that tells people to kill themselves and has already pushed some (already extremely vulnerable) youths to take their own life.  My theory now (assuming materialism turns out to be untrue) is people with already messed up lives and brains are more susceptible to the vagaries of the spirit world.  Even in my own psychotic break I saw demons.  The closest the Bible gets to a suicidal spirit is Mark 9:14-29 (though the conventional reading is epilepsy).

    This applies to people on the spectrum because they are much more likely to have suicidal thoughts than the general population.  Why this is I’m not sure, maybe the stress of making it in the world, isolation, a history and presence of ostracism, rejection by the church, etc..

  • You can help people who struggle with depression by doing these things

    Practice common courtesy and hospitality.  A lot of times little things aren’t actually little to those who are hyper sensitive (something people struggling with depression often exhibit).  If someone struggling with depression does something good for you, thank them.  This is a rare case where one has a ridiculously easy opportunity to authentically build another person’s self-esteem.  Another common courtesy thing is to not ignore people’s communication.  Someone struggling with depression will almost always interpret being ignored as a sign they aren’t worth engaging.  Practice hospitality, taking in people even when you don’t want to.  Quantity of time is often more important than trying to regiment quality time because quality time tends to bubble up extemporaneously in the quantity of time.  A lot of people don’t open up until the second or third hour you’ve spent talking to them.  This is especially true for males.

    Be compassionate instead of dismissive of depressed people’s impaired interpretive skills.  Our hyperindividualistic culture puts all the burden on those struggling with depression to play cognitive tricks to smoke and mirror themselves into thinking positively.  Often the effort to think positive is counterproductive because the chemicals and situations are such that the positive thoughts fall flat like darts against a brick wall.  Plausible deniability is at work a lot of the time (where you are in an ambiguous situation and have to choose to believe a positive or negative interpretation).  One can tell the depressed person to believe the positive interpretation or one can find peace with their thinking.  If you can offer cold hard evidence that an ambiguous situation is stacked in their favor, present it.  But if you can’t don’t try to talk them out of their interpretation because it will just make them double down on the negative one.

    If you are being used as a shield, put up with it.  Many depressed people use people, not principles as a shield against the negativity inside and around them.  This is abhorrent to the therapeutic-industrial complex which is every man (and women) for themselves.  But emotionally weak people need emotionally strong people, and yes it is a relationship where they will be doing more taking than giving (something else the therapeutic-industrial complex tells you to avoid).  But this is one of those cases where effort on the part of the emotionally strong person helping the depressed one will do wonders for the sum total of happiness in the world even if it decreases the strong person’s happiness.