Getting Through an Episode
The curtain opens. I am Jonathan.
I have schizophrenia.
I don’t want to make a big introduction. Perhaps some of you have read my work before. For me, schizophrenia is similar to what I have read. In the early material, from such turn-of-the-century psychiatrists as Kraepelin and Bleuler, there seems to be plenty of subgenres or comorbidities with this condition, which I have had since I was a boy. I believe my traumatic upbringing—at least for me, though not my sister, who was brought up in the same environment—likely set off my illness. A series of other, seemingly ongoing traumatic events in my adult life have created complications, as my doctor would call them. I experience manifestations of other mental health conditions from autism to borderline personality disorder, and my case, for lack of a better word, involves many symptomatic days and times, which often cycle rapidly. For example, my moods can fluctuate up to 30 times per day, with concomitant autistic experiences, and muscular manifestations and malfunctions. A significant number of the comorbidities of which I suffer, not only just happen and I deal with them, but rather they create reactions to even the simplest things.
I battle through daily life. I experience confusion with electronic devices, which is likely and appropriately a common symptom of schizophrenia itself. I may need to reply to an email and I forget how to, or I go to turn on my computer and I forget how to find, much less press, the power button. At the opposite end, on another day, or even another hour, I am capable of solving advanced logic and mathematical problems. While I often forget the simplest things, I have a photographic memory.
Let me back up for a moment… I left off my last essay, mentioning that I would be back writing during my next episode.
And I am having an episode right now.
Schizophrenia might be considered an umbrella disorder, though I am not a doctor of any kind. I consider myself an unemployed artist with a botched trust fund and a life that, in terms of conventional reality, doesn’t actually exist, so I create delusions, or in a way a double self—not a multiple personality, which is one of the myths of schizophrenia; this double reality, despite all the chaotically misfiring neurons in my brain, helps me to have experiences that replace the uncomfortable truths or situations that I prefer not to have. To exist. To be not myself, though loved ones have told me that there is a core, an “oversoul,” that is intact throughout my schizophrenic life.
My thought has trailed off slightly while I was about to write one last bit on my episode, primarily consisting of paranoid thinking that I should keep on writing through my now former episode until I could break through it. That is what I do. I archive my writing. Often, and only when I am feeling symptomatic, I go back to the categorized collected written words that I have been documenting since I was a boy so that I can see what happened through my point of view and so learn how to cope better the next time. I take my writing to my therapist, explaining what happened. I often bring up with him that my life is incredibly synchronistic with my books, which consist of a series of 36 alibis of what makes me who I am so that I can know. So that I can understand and so that I can keep going and move the hell onward as I always do.
I always come back.
My intention for this essay was perhaps that it would be another inserted chapter in my literature, my books, my documentaries, my life, my art, and my reason. But that thought has now trailed off as well… and I had only begun what I referred to as what was not my beginning, or my introduction to this piece.
What I would like to do now is simple: take a ten-minute break.
Time goes on, with people coming in and out of my office and interacting with me, communicating. My goal now is to return to my laptop and recall the 5 minutes after my last break; I mean my cigarette break when I wrote the initial thought that trailed off. Things change. Holy cow, things change.
I am back.
But I can’t stop now without completing this piece, my three-act play, my opera, where I am not the conductor but feel I should be, naturally, if I did not have schizophrenia. I was the violin section. I was beating the melodic tom-tom drum. I was the full orchestra performing live, both alone and with an audience. Together, all the musical instruments communicating with each other, creating a rusty fragmentation, if you will, communicating with me, at my core.
I’ll take a break now, and I will recap how I got through this one, this brief setback, and the five minutes that changed everything.
I know I can recall what happened. And I will. I never intentionally abandon what I am doing at any moment. Again, I always move ahead. There is at least some sun after the storm. If I can stay on track, or if not, while I still play this out live, some might be able to see the stream of thought that is my specialty, where I present a typical day living with schizophrenia. And I’ll call it a good day at this point. I can’t lose what I already have. If I do, I will grab something else and run with that.
In summary, if I am able (for thoughts still bombard my psyche, overlapping and wild) I will, and if not, I will just move the hell on. And let this go. I should have better things to do than to examine my day-to-day experiences with schizophrenia.
And you know what? Maybe I will.
However, I can’t leave anyone hanging. The show is not over yet. The chips are not down. I will simply do my best to finish on the stage, close the curtain, and become the director, the switchboard operator in my head. I have nothing to lose now. I am at war. Just not in combat; I am now in reserve. So let’s get to some meat, the heart of this, and some completion.
It is all so confusing and stressful.
Damn right. But it fuels me. It fuels everything.
No matter what those 5 minutes involved, from overlapping tears and a hardcore crying spell, followed by re-centering a crooked picture on the wall, to having a can of soda and a smoke, a cigarette smoke mind you. Nothing more. I can laugh now. Maybe it doesn’t matter. My brain chemistry changed, all on its own.
I am back again. I have returned another time from within the hallways of going deep into Wonderland, and back and forth. That is something I am used to. The sun is now out, at last and at least for now. Until, well, we’ll just see what comes next.
Roll credits. Insert title card:
*Amendment: There is no end. I walk off stage. The seats are empty. I am back in real life. Well, sort of. The story of my life with schizophrenia continues. The curtain draws shut.
You can also find Jonathan on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, which is his preferred social media site. Author Jonathan Harnisch has written a semi-fictional and semi-autobiographical bestselling novel, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography, which is available on Amazon and through most major booksellers. He is also a noted, and sometimes controversial, mental health advocate, a fine artist, blogger, podcast host, patent holder, hedge fund manager, musician, and film and TV writer and producer. Google him for more information.