The collected writings of Jonathan Harnisch mark a magnificent contribution to the public understanding of mental illness through a masterpiece of transgressive fiction with a heart. The general reader is finally able to see mainstream literary author Jonathan Harnisch at his best. Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia contains the works of 2014, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Second Alibi: The Banality of Life, in one complete streaming narrative. The monumental scale of Harnisch’s achievement through adversity flourishes and can now be appreciated in this diverse, invaluable, and thought-provoking collection of fragmented fiction which will make your brain spin as Harnisch's sense of the inner machinations within the human experience spring into life through the written word. It forces one to question reality and step into another world wanting the protagonist and his alter ego to get it together and be okay. The author reveals himself through a series of alibis in the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, a corner of psychiatry that is hardly understood, and shedding light on the experiences of schizophrenia in a language that the non-sufferer can understand, albeit from the author who suffers himself. Not for the faint of heart, this fictionalized account of a disparate mind triumphs.
Conversation with Self
I woke up and set myself the goal of getting out of bed. I achieved it.
I set my next goal of getting washed and dressed, and I achieved this too.
Next, I successfully went to my first appointment of the day.
Am I afraid?
I was. At first.
Because I know I am dying, and I’m not finished.
I don’t know.
Then why did you let yourself die?
I didn’t know I had a choice.
Did it hurt?
Not in a way you will understand.
Well, what did it feel like then?
It felt like forgetting. Like my life was slowly pouring out of me as I lay there grasping for it with invisible fingers. I watched it fall out of me as if it had never happened. It was that fast, the undoing of it all. And, just like that, it was gone. I was undone. I saw you at age thirty-eight, my same age, and I understood your own forgetting and how difficult it was to keep a life going when there was no body anymore.
I understood my body was going. My arms were numb, my head heavy, my eyelids caked shut. I understood my body was disappearing, and I was afraid for what that meant.
I was afraid of who I’d be without my body. And how would my grandchildren know the sound of my voice? And--oh my God—they wouldn’t.
So what did it feel like?
It felt like forgetting. Letting go of the body is an effortless thing, unless you fight for it, and that’s what I did. I fought. I fought to bring my body back. But I was too tired. I gave up fighting when I understood.
What did you understand?
That you might forget small details, but that you’d carry on my legacy. And that you and your Mommy and your sister would know that I loved you and did the best I could. And that maybe I was finished. How can anyone really know, anyway?
Did you? Do the best you could?
I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. No.
Why is it so hard to do our best?
Because we forget.
The Outsider Artist
Hidden beneath his meticulously cluttered desk covered in piles of books sits a frozen, mysterious, mosaic-eyed man in a tattered brown-and-yellow plaid suit. His thick salt and pepper hair is shaggy and mussed, his face unshaven and his demeanor disheveled. His name is Jonathan Harnisch. Already up all night and day, and onto the second batch of serialized Alibiographies, he just can’t stop. This writer writes fast, and, as one reviewer on Amazon.com wrote, “It’s for the masses.”
Following is the stream of consciousness currently communicating inside my head:
The drug I take is called schizophrenia, among other labels, which I desperately want to put away. I want to put the drug of schizophrenia down, and I want to put down the stigma surrounding its label.
Subterranean By Design
Hidden beneath his meticulously cluttered desk covered in piles of books sits a frozen, mysterious, mosaic-eyed man in a tattered brown and yellow plaid suit. His thick salt and pepper hair is shaggy and mussed, his face unshaven and his demeanor disheveled.
Let's get the facts straight up front, to avoid any confusion later. I am a person first, a human being, just like anyone else. Maybe a little different, that's all. Years ago, I publicly disclosed my diagnoses with comorbid schizoaffective disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorder NOS (not otherwise specified), and Tourette's syndrome. One might argue that I have been dealt quite a handful of cards and have been put through the wringer. Maybe it's just the luck of the draw, or maybe it's not luck at all. But some time ago, when I felt internally trapped and suffocated and hiding all my inner demons (as I call them) while secretly writing about them, it simply grabbed hold of me, and boy did it grab hold.
I had made seven suicide attempts and had over 30 hospitalizations and addiction rehabilitation stints within a decade. Then, one day, I just made a choice. It felt like the sun smacked my face, allowing my mind, my experiences, and my altered sense of reality to burn, twist, deform, and coil. I am referring to a metamorphosis, which had taken place inside me.
I looked into the mirror and everything came alive--my delusions, my dreams were burying everything within reality as I experienced it. Now, I no longer saw impossibility in the mirror. My imagination ignited once again. I kept staring at my reflection. My delusions of grandeur formed a shape, on their own, in my reflection--in my double reality, if you will (not a multiple personality, which is one of many myths surrounding schizophrenia).
Within the depths of my mind and psyche, my imagination began to dream while awake. In short, the metamorphosis occurring inside caused me to begin my mission, exploiting all that I had kept buried inside for far too long, letting loose all my secret weariness of suffocation of and derailments from the truth, my truth.
I opened up: raw, unabashed, facing perhaps my hugest fear. I went public with my mental health conditions. One morning, I awakened for the day at midnight and was unable to think clearly, concentrate, or remember much of anything. I dove into my art, my work, my life purpose of productivity, but I couldn't concentrate. Growing more and more upset with myself, I felt a very familiar stinging sense of shame and disapproval. My thoughts, my executive function deficit, were askew along with my condition. My morning writing session had gone awry, at least at first.
This happens to be a part of my morning writing session.
My concentration had been thrown off, and an overload of stimuli within the silence of my home office frustrated me. I took a hot shower to ground myself, which often does the trick, and then returned to writing. At this point, the original thesis or subject of my words shifted with my thoughts, and that suited me just fine.
Earlier, I had been overcome, irritated beyond belief --mentally, physically, and perhaps spiritually too--by my role of being an artist, which is commonly known to involve, for example, my latest novel Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography, my masterpiece. However, the point to my sitting at my desk began to metamorphose on its own. That's one thing I love about writing and writing therapy--how it helps me. It keeps things simple, and it helps my thinking become clearer.
Being a mainstream literary author is known to be 50 percent writing and 50 percent marketing, and it was the business aspect, the marketing, that ripped at my soul. At least that was how I felt. I felt defeated. While writing therapy is a tool I take quite seriously, perhaps I was not upset with the onslaught of internal difficulties. My own goal of being the best, being on the best seller list—that doesn't matter any longer, and that's not why I write. I write for therapy, and that is why I keep fighting my mental health condition, my mind, every single day, because I can overcome the demons, the delusion, and the distractions.
Perhaps this morning my cognitive behavioral therapist would have reminded me that my mind plays tricks on me, or that we all suffer in some way from cognitive distortions. He would remind me of how cognitive distortions and living with mental illness can take its toll on interpersonal relationships. After all, I believe we are all in the same boat in many ways. And it comes down to something very clichéd, yet entirely true.
We all have problems, but let's not kid ourselves: it's how we deal with them that makes the difference. I ponder on what the difference is. In my question, I see the answer. I see my self-confident smile once again. Relationships with family and friends have faded and deteriorated in my world, and then just the opposite occurs, sometimes at the drop of a hat. I am grateful for living on a mental roller coaster and not a merry-go-round.
My illnesses make me unusual, as I said, and sometimes I think we all just need to give ourselves a time out to be alone for a bit, simply to figure some things out. Usually, we can see a problem in a new way when we focus our eyes some place new. That's what the past hour has taught me. It's good. Good enough.
Realistically, things may not be as bad as they seem. Sometimes another perspective on distressing matters can help. I see it as my task, perhaps our collective task, to be resilient, even if some days we just have to be there for ourselves when we are feeling alone in the enterprise. We move on. There's no way around it. I ask myself now if I feel okay, and the smile is back. Thank goodness.
One last note: I've often doubted my abilities and my perception of my reality by fearing others and feeling myself withdrawing and going inside, losing hope of coming back to myself with any peace of mind. The future, that's not where I am; I'm right here in the now.
Katherine Hepburn once said, "If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun."
I apply that to writing and writing therapy, as well.
Instrumental: Digging Up the Past
Do You Know What You're Getting Into?
A little bit of fun, for example, catching the reading bug, if you haven’t been hooked already, can change your life forever and a few minutes could lead to a lifetime of commitment.
“A fragmented debut novel about life lived under a fog of schizophrenia from author Harnisch.
“Benjamin J. Schreiber has a number of problems, not the least of which being that he tried to rob a bank with a cellphone. Mentally ill… Ben finds himself in therapy instead of jail. While in therapy, Ben explores his alter ego, … Georgie Gust… [L]ike Ben, Georgie depends on wealthy parents; a state of affairs that he uses to explore … humiliation and kinky sex. After Georgie hires a neighbor named Claudia to torture him, … he succumbs to a type of twisted love only his peculiar mind and circumstances could produce. At one point, Jonathan Harnisch introduces himself as a mentally ill artist in a string of beat-like sentences: “Thoughts. Thoughts bombard my head, my brain. My psyche.””
Second Alibi: The Banality of Life is the sensational prequel to the groundbreaking Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. Harnisch's The Banality of Life handles the backstory of Georgie, Ben, and Claudia, further incorporating the invisible studio audience introduced in Alibiography. Ben's confessions flourish, written once more in his noteworthy and imaginative style. Harnisch seduces the reader by presenting a genuine, eerie sense of dissociation from the story, and once again conveys the feeling of what it is truly like to be mentally ill. There's an edge to Second Alibi that is beautifully countered by the author's personal story of how his writing helps him to rise above his own disorder, while allowing the rest of the world to understand what it is like to be mentally ill and how people with schizophrenia think and see their world.
The author of Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia is Jonathan Harnisch. An all-around artist, Jonathan writes fiction and screenplays, sketches, imagines, and creates. Produced filmmaker, fine artist, musician, and published erotica author, Jonathan holds myriad accolades, and his works captivate the attention of those who experience it. Manic-toned scripts with parallel lives, masochistic tendencies in sexual escapades, and disturbing clarities embellished with addiction, fetish, lust, and love, are just a taste of themes found in Jonathan's transgressive literature. Conversely, his award-winning films capture the ironies of life, love, self-acceptance, tragedy and fantasy. Jonathan's art evokes laughter and shock, elation and sadness, but overall forces you to step back and question your own version of reality. Scripts, screenplays, and schizophrenia are defining factors of Jonathan's life and reality - but surface labels are often incomplete. Jonathan is diagnosed with several mental illnesses from schizoaffective disorder to Tourette's syndrome; playfully, he dubs himself the "King of Mental Illness." Despite daily symptomatic struggles and thoughts, Jonathan radiates an authentic, effervescent, and loving spirit. His resiliency emanates from the greatest lesson he's learned: laughter. His diagnoses and life experiences encourage him to laugh at reality as others see it. Wildly eccentric, open-minded, passionate and driven, Jonathan has a feral imagination. His inherent traits transpose to his art, making his works some of the most original and thought-provoking of modern day. Jonathan Harnisch's struggles with his mental health conditions are interlinked with the incomprehension of non-sufferers, which provokes him to explain his reality. He has explored a range of media, including film, music, and now the written word, to help the general public understand exactly what it feels like to suffer from schizophrenia. By fictionalizing the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, he is illuminating a corner of psychiatry that few understand. As an author with schizophrenia, Jonathan Harnisch is ideally placed to share the unusual perception commonly defined as 'mental illness'. Harnisch is not dealing with an altered reality, but a double reality. His main characters, Ben Schreiber and Georgie Gust, perfectly illustrate how two lives can share the same body.