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Friday, August 15, 2014

It is fun to be a hooligan


One thing I know for sure from my experience of being bipolar is that mad people don’t like the rules. Obviously, there are rules that everyone should follow, but some smaller, more innocent regulations are there in order to go around them.

Everyone who is mad will agree with me on this mantra.

And so, I have to say that my recent trip to Russia in this respect was refreshing. I knew, of course, that things have changed since I lived there or even paid a visit, but still, it was mind-blowing to discover the adventurous, freedom seeking spirit of my native people.

At a first sight I was absolutely flabbergasted to contemplate the picture of some discipline (it was Moscow), something which I have never noticed in my country of origin before. But all signs were there to come to a conclusion that Russia is no longer a terrain of havoc but is a progressive, well-organised, well-presented country. I still remember the spectacle from the late nineties when any parking signs were there…well, for visual pleasure only. Drivers would park where they fancied and crossing the road on the path reserved for pedestrians was asking for death.

Not anymore so. Something, somewhere happened under the reign of Putin and for the best. Smiling drivers stopped when I approached the crossing path, and I even managed to reach the other side of the road without any accident. My friend who was driving me, as well as all other drivers would park the car in the reserved for the purpose places. The public ban on smoking seemed to have worked as well. No one was smoking anywhere in the centre of Moscow, not even outside.

A bliss of rules’ observation, one could say.

But as with everything with Russia, signs are always deceitful. And thankfully so, as the picture of Russian people following the rules appeared to me slightly depressing. ‘If Russians will become like everyone else,’ I thought, ‘then the world is really doomed’.

What fun is in there when everyone behaves???

And so, I was frankly glad  when my friend announced after our twenty-minute walk around the centre (when I started to have serious withdrawal symptoms from non-smoking).

“Okay, so this is all for the tourists. Let’s go now to that place where everyone can smoke’.

And off we drove to a café where indeed it was somehow still possible to smoke on the terrace despite a categorical public ban on such indulgence.

“If you put tables fifteen metres from the entrance to the main café, the rule doesn’t apply any longer”, my friend explained to me the procedure.

On my way to the airport I asked the driver to stop me in a café where I could smoke as I realised that I was too early for my plane.

“But smoking is banned!”, the non-smoking driver tried to explain.

“Yes, but we need to find a café where they could put the terrace fifteen minutes away from the door.”

Such a café was found in five minutes, but it was the remark of the driver which struck a chord.

“Russian people will always find a hole in the rules.”

Ha-ha-ha, and rightly so. Because the world of rules is very much boring.

And so, I left my country in a much better mood, especially that in the airport (where it is absolutely forbidden to smoke), someone made a hole in the wall of the toilette in order to smoke.

I left Russia feeling really cheerful, because I knew that somewhere, somehow, people still manage to have some fun.

Follow the rules, but only when they make sense!
 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My other identity as a queen


Let me introduce you to one of my other identities. You see I think that it is an important topic, taking into account that once in a while we do pause for a second and reflect on the subject of: and that if I was…a fairy?

True, my first impulse was to put something like ‘that if I was Jennifer Lopez’ but it would be reinforcing the celebrity culture, and I don’t want that.

But mentioning the celebrity does help me to address the core of the matter. The other day a certain Ian Somerhandler put one of his wishes on Facebook and Twitter for all of us to see.

His desire? To have two heads.
 

 
True, the capture under the picture says that he sometimes wishes that there were two of him, which is a question that a few psychologists and psychiatrists would find interesting, especially taking into account that Ian Somerhandler is an actor. Like, isn’t enough for him to be a leading vampire in one of his roles???

Look at his other picture where he kisses a dog. This is totally off the subject but I couldn’t help but post it here. Nothing more attractive than a man being kind to the animals.
 

 

But so, on the subject of wishing to be somewhere or somebody that the logic of normality defines as off-limits. Indeed, why some of our wishes attract such an interest from the psychiatry and the like?

I had a few of them myself, and I noticed that if I say some of them to a treating doctor (happened a long time ago, I must add), it leads to some unpleasant questions (like: ‘why do you think so?’), absence of any intellectual debate (like: ‘of yes? Tell me about it more’) and most annoyingly, suggestions about increasing the dose of medication.

Therefore, in case you do want to discuss your other identities with a psychiatrist, my strong advice is to come well-prepared.

For instance, I have a definite, genuine proof that I was a royalty.
 

 
Yes, I was a queen.


 

Yes, I aged gracefully.

 

Now, who can argue against these facts?

 

(if you want some help with proofs of identity, try this guy at http://www.jmartist.co.uk)
listen to 'if I were a boy', which is another matter for discussion as I truly believe that we should be who we want to be without any judgement or stigma attached.
 

Monday, June 30, 2014

X-Factor and the next ‘charitable’ act


X-Factor is coming, guys, a great opportunity for some entertainment, tears, and well…critical thinking.

I love the show for a number of reasons, even if it does cause a lot of distress for me personally. But I will start with the things I like. Because even when knowing that X-Factor became just a show and has nothing to do with helping singers, it has its immense attraction. Simon Cowell will be on it, and we all love Simon even when we hate him, because just the sight of him is enough to bring millions of viewers in front of the screen to check him for any signs of plastic surgery, whether he is still overly sarcastic and whether he has all his charm intact. I think he does, and he is the reason I am going to watch the show this year, as damn it, the man is simply irresistible. But this is my personal opinion and I find it a pity that he happens to be the producer of the monstrous capitalistic machine such as the X-Factor at the same time.

But while he is the main trigger for me to re-join staring at the screen after I stopped watching it two years ago, it doesn’t mean that I am ready for it whole-heartedly. I will stock myself with some herbal tea as well as valerian so that I will be able to calm down my nerves in case they present us with another ‘charitable’ act.

‘The act of charity’ I am talking about is the homeless guy who, and I quote was ‘homeless hopeful’ among thousands of other contestants but who made it to the bootcamp. ‘He needs a lucky break’, the judges repeated saying and the whole thing was, obviously, a total farce, but nevertheless, quite shocking. There was this guy, and his name is Robbie Hance, who was indeed homeless, but it wasn’t what struck me in him. It was his talent and the ‘back-up’ story was just well…a story.

Until something really unpleasant happened. Robbie forgot his words on the scene and walked out. The most unpleasant part happened after, I have to say, especially for me, as I was waiting that judges would rush after him (which they do on occasions in order to make a better show), that he would reappear, and I waited and waited for…at least something. A word about him, an apology to him, some mention of him from judges or producers.

NOTHING.

As if Robbie Hance never existed, which was astonishing considering that the X-Factor is all about some impression management. I thought that after making out of the guy indeed a case for charity and pity, they would go as far as find him and help him somehow. After all, the reason of Robbie Hance leaving the show was that the producers wouldn’t even give him fifteen pounds for food and shelter. So, I suppose the charity consisted in bringing him on the scene, which is spectacular taking into account that the likes of Robbie Hance aren’t after the fifteen minutes of fame, but after some promise of a better life. Not a life consisting of stardom, but a life where one can eat and sleep in a warm place.

But well, show is just a show, but in case you are interested in what happened to Robbie Hance (like I am), he is out there, somewhere. He created his own website at some point (http://www.robbie-hance.com/wordpress/, he wrote his own songs (http://www.robbie-hance.com/wordpress/?page_id=18), and he was for some time on Twitter. He is no longer there, and I can’t find any info on him. So, I am just asking it here: does anyone know where is Robbie Hance?

To conclude, I will put a link to another song. This is a song which won Christmas number one at some point against an X-Factor winner, supported by all those who are fed up with the hypocrisy of not only numerous shows but the system in general.

Which system you might ask? That’s for you to decide.
 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On the matter of onions


Just like with coffee (my post on coffee can be found here http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-benefits-of-good-cup-of-coffee.html) this is an item that leaves few people indifferent. Either you like them or you hate them. I’ve never yet a person in between, someone who is indifferent to onions. One can’t be, surely!

You see, I like thinking about such things: onions, but also garlic, brands of coffee, or pumpkin oil (you can add it on roasted vegetables and it tastes delicious). I think that they all make our lives more interesting and more savoury. I truly belong to the camp of those who prefer salty products to the sweets. And onions make an essential part of my daily routine.

My son got it from me, I think. When we go to town, he asks sometimes for a hotdog and insists on lots and lots of onions in it. Not only does he eat it all, he also has the tendency to take the onions out, like big fat worms, one by one, and put it in his mouth as some sort of spaghetti, saying all the way: ‘nice, very nice’. I have to say that despite my own love for onions even I have to turn my eyes away during the procedure. This intolerance to the onions which look ‘boiled’ come from my experience in Russia, I think. Due to the rarity of products at some point we put onions everywhere, including the soups, and they would float on the surface like medusas in the sea. My cousin and I would refuse to eat it, driving my grand-mother (who made the soup) absolutely bonkers. She should see me know, adding them like mad to every salad I make.

So, as usual, I will try to connect onions to the topic of madness. In a manner of Proust, so to speak.  I think I have an idea how to enjoy the onions while being mad.

For instance, if you are in a psychiatric hospital and you don’t like the food on offer (my experience shows that psychiatric departments serve the best food, seriously), ask for a salad. I remember that during my stay, I was offered a choice between tuna, cheese or ham, and the end result was always delicious.

With plenty of onions.

And to my absolute, quite astonishing surprise (can one make a sentence like that?) I found a song about onions, with the singer even saying that she loves them!

How about that?

Listen to Susan Christie at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM-lEhhsLQw

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The benefits of a good cup of coffee


I was thinking about writing a post on tea, at first. But then decided that it might be too boring.

What is there to say about tea? Here in England they could write a novel actually on drinking tea, but their habit of adding milk to the liquid would put me off reading any such thing from the start.

But coffee…you can’t really spoil it by mixing it with milk, can you? In fact it can even improve the taste, depending on a particular blend of coffee. And the idea of coffee is so controversial, that there is even expression going on like: ‘I will have a sneaky cup of coffee’. I heard it from a friend recently and it made me pondering over the matter. Why do we call an undeniably nice thing as sneaky? This, of course, doesn’t concern only coffee, but wine, chocolate and even butter (!). Tell someone that this is your everyday diet and they will look at you thinking that you are mad.

At first I thought that science is there to blame. Every year there is something new. ‘Let’s ban butter!’, read once a slogan in a newspaper. ‘Don’t drink more than 3 units of wine (or is it 4?)!’ With coffee it is even more confusing, as one day they say it is bad for your health, but the next day it appears to be beneficial. Having followed some advice from the science for a couple of years or so, I decided that listening to it was the quickest road to the grave, because even if I would manage to somehow eat and drink healthily, I would die either from guilt or anxiety. I mean, who really keeps up with what is healthy and what is not?

But right, the coffee. I like coffee. As with my lunches (my post about lunches can be found on http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/nothing-better-than-good-lunch.html) I approach the matter quite seriously. I know that I like a number of good brands and try to budget accordingly. I also noticed that many mental people can’t live without coffee. Give me a chance and this is the only thing I would drink through the whole day (together with my wine, obviously).

But of course, since I do need to think about some remains of my health I restrict my consumption by alternating my coffee with green tea. I had to force it down on me for a week or so before I realised that it is an acquired taste. I even like it now.

So, what do coffee, lunches and tea have to do with madness, you might ask? And well, by thinking long and hard on the matter, I came to an incredible conclusion that once they give you a diagnosis, you can only defy it by embracing a happy, cheerful life full of treats. And it is not the science which is to blame if we decide to live highly regulated lives, but the idea of conformity. If someone said somewhere that this is what you should do, then you do it.

Well, no, you first should think about it. And if you are blessed with being mental, embrace it totally by knowing that you decided not to conform. Drink your coffee, smoke your cigarettes and don’t chase losing weight. We live once and we should live it whole-heartedly.

Being mad doesn’t equal being unhappy, and a diagnosis has the only weight that you give to it.

I think I might pay a sneaky visit to Starbucks right now (and this is sneaky as it would mean that I support Starbucks, which I don’t. But damn it, their coffees are good!).

And to conclude I will quote MUSE:

If we live a life in fear

 I'll wait a thousand years

 Just to see you smile again

(picture found on biosanctuary.com)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Nothing better than a good lunch!


I decided that since it’s (almost) weekend it is good to talk about lunches. Everyone has a different attitude towards the matter (one can be on a diet, another doesn’t bother and I know a few people who even skip it) but I reckon that the topic does have to be taken seriously.

Because you see, if you are unable to divide your day by a nap (ah, a nap, it does deserve not just a post but a novel!) then you have to make some healthy boundaries in a different way. I am all for a nice relaxed living, just so that you know.

If I do have the opportunity, I go out for lunch. I like doing it on my own, and not because I don’t want to see some friends, but because lunch for me fulfils my meditation exercise for a day. I go, I explore, I eat, and I devour. I also take a magazine with me to read (while eating) and at the end of the journey I am restored, well-fed, not grumpy and know which beauty product to try next (from a magazine). Yes, I don’t understand why no one from the new self-help movement thought about putting the lunch on the menu (of meditation techniques) yet. Well, you saw it first here.

And so, lunches. A poem should be written about them. I quickly checked Google on the topic and was disappointed to discover that there is such a phenomenon as writing poems at lunch. It is called ‘lunch poem’. It looks like they even impose this on children at school, denying them the discovery of the true idle me. How can you write a poem when you are doing one already?

Let’s think about it for a moment. You do know, of course, that if you happen to work in an office, lunch is the best part of the day by all standards. We might not admit it out and aloud, but we silently agree. I remember that when I worked in an office, the thought of my mozzarella sandwich was enough to see me through till twelve. What happened after is a different matter, but I hear that some offices do have nap rooms nowadays.

Now that I am not in an office, I take the matter even more seriously, literally into my hands. I sit down every Sunday and make a plan. Which café to visit and most importantly, which ingredients to buy, that in case I make lunch at home?

And so that I don’t leave you without any tips, I have some advice on an ingredient that only a few use but which makes the whole difference once you know the trick. Buy halloumi cheese, cut it into pieces once you are ready for some piece of paradise, fry it and add it to salads, to vegetables or simply eat it as a snack.

As usual, I try to put a song at the end to watch, but as with poems, the only coverage on lunches comes from pre-schools and schools. Well, I suppose it will do to work up an appetite (no lines about halloumi, I am afraid).

 
(picture found on sootdoodle.com)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Diagnosis fit for a King


I was wondering since I started blogging on the issue of madness about what diagnosis one could give to a psychiatry, the psychiatry as science and academic domain. Surely I thought, they (the psychiatrists) did probably reflect on that profound existential question? Because when you deal day after day, year after year, century after century with diagnoses, then one would stop for a moment and ask him or herself – wait a moment, and how exactly do I come up in the picture?

You see, I did reflect on the issue. It started even to bother me to a certain extent as how can one reach the unreachable? True, there are groups (usually created by angry mental patients with whom I certainly sympathise), they are protests and organisations created against the psychiatry, but it is all in vain. It is like shouting into the wilderness, because for a start, some things from the psychiatry do help, not all of them are idiots and most importantly, they don’t even listen to all this critique. Why should they?

As Nietzsche once asked the same question but in a more philosophical way: “Why does man not see things? He is himself standing in the way. He conceals things.”

Funnily enough, he answered the question about the state of psychiatry today. The psychiatry conceals things.

Let me give you an example. For instance, if you are mental, go to your doctor (the psychiatrist) and offer to switch your medication to Seroquel, or if you are already on Seroquel, then ask to switch to Zyprexa. I am ready to make a bet with you on some good money that the first reaction from the doctor will be: ‘What is the name again?’ Before he reaches to that enormous book of theirs which I assume to be the dictionary of different pills.

You see my point? They don’t know themselves what they are doing exactly. Don’t take me wrong, I am not against the psychiatry and I met a few very nice people from the profession, but lately I started to get this impression, that they are bored to death, all of them.

We need to shake things up a little bit. Because as Robbie Williams sings: “And in my confusion I have the right to reign”, the psychiatry is based on confusion (watch Robbie’s video on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKt9-SWKDvg).

Take their manual on diagnoses and you will see my point. I started to yawn on the second page.

However, when I googled ‘diagnosis for a psychiatry’, the first item on the list (funnily enough) appeared to be ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’, and so, reluctantly at first, I decided to come up with the diagnosis for the profession from their own ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’ (but of course, Proust is much more interesting than the manual, even if I never arrived to the last volume).

The diagnosis was looking at me right at my face. Gazing at me intensively, because it is something I am familiar with myself. I even chuckled because it was so obvious!

The diagnosis fit for the science of psychiatry is called DELUSION OF GRANDEUR.

To spare you from the ordeal of going through their diagnostic and manual, I will just re-adjust slightly the definition given by the free online dictionary. Delusion of grandeur is believing that you are much greater, more powerful and more influential than you are.

So, for instance, if I tell the psychiatrist that I am a Queen, he prescribes me an anti-psychotic, because he has more power. But essentially we suffer from the same: I believe in my superiority and so does the psychiatrist.

Watch the amazing video by The Avalanches ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8BWBn26bX0&feature=kp)
 
(picture found on juneshlam.com)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tips (While being mental) – 1


It looks like my post on depression was the most popular one. The absence of comments whatsoever demonstrates it quite clearly…

I did get a lot of private messages related to it though, thanking me for positing about the issue. Which led me to an obvious conclusion that instead of my philosophical abracadabra on the substance of madness (I will still talk some gibberish about it on occasions), people with mental problems simply want more advice.

As Nietzsche once said: “There is nothing in philosophy which could not be said in everyday language.”

And so, I will start with the following question. How to have fun when one is stuck in a hospital? (The psychiatric one, that’s it). Mind you, some of my tips will be good for life outside the hospital as well. But I am mostly concerned about those who think that if they find themselves in that place, then it means that they can’t enjoy it, life in general and that it is the end of the world.

And no, let me tell you. One can actually have a blast. The right attitude is the trick in the matter. It took me ten years, but I arrived there eventually.

For instance, a simple tip in case you can’t leave the hospital (usually, it means that you are sectioned), is to ask for a bath. They all have one and it is your right to soak in. Ask for the bubble foam (all hospitals stock it), take a magazine, or a book and go for some relaxation. I can assure you that you won’t be able to drown since nurses will check on you every couple of minutes. I used to have them five times a day.

However, if you can escape or leave without supervision, and you are short of money, then go straight to the biggest department store. Try to wear something presentable (borrow from another patient if it is a problem), and smile, smile, smile. Approach a make-up counter with a bored saleswoman working behind and you might end up with a total make-over. Get all samples which come your way. And if you are lucky you might stumble upon a promotion. On my last expedition (it was at Marks & Spencer) I drunk so much wine that I forgot that I was still at the hospital and returned home. Which leads me to another tip. I was driven back to the hospital by taxi, so desperate they were to have me back.

That was years ago, I have to say and I shall conclude with my final advice.

Do accept some medication. I know, it is like admitting that you belong wholeheartedly to the mental club, but on a right dose, you won’t lose too much. For instance, I can still see all my visions and hear all my voices, but we came to an amicable agreement that at night we all go to sleep.

And it’s better to enjoy a nice bath at home. I add to it some baby oil, which makes water nice and soft. And while I am in it, and by some miracle, on my own, I put on Robbie Williams’s Feel and sing along. I think that his lyrics do reflect the matter quite well:

Come and hold my hand

 I wanna contact the living

 Not sure I understand

 This role I've been given

 I sit and talk to God

 And he just laughs at my plans

 My head speaks a language

 I don't understand

 

(picture found on animaltalk.us)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Note on Depression


One day this week I woke up in a very bad mood and even started to think about whether my diagnosis is not proper at the end (more on the matter of diagnoses can be found on: http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/to-be-or-not-to-be-in-dialogue-with.html). Bipolar after all is when there is this fluctuation in mood, and I am not talking about spoiling my day once I start reading comments about Russia in the Guardian.

No, I am talking about a really bad mood when you feel like you want to spend the whole day in bed and see absolutely nobody.

Once, when I was properly depressed (this was when I emerged from the hospital for the first time with the whole reassurance from the doctors that something was definitely wrong with me) I spent an entire month stuck in my apartment in Amsterdam. My mom urged me on the phone to go out and do something, and that the best thing to do was to go to the cinema. The advice was actually good, only for some reason I chose to see that movie about the life of Jesus Christ by Mel Gibson and emerged from the cinema even more depressed than ever.

It was a friend of mine who literally saved me. Despite all my refusals to meet with her or her friends or anyone else for that matter, she just came to my house and dragged me with her to a party. And it was there that I had a moment of clarity. I was standing in the middle of a crowd, slightly over-weight due to a wrong medication (it was that bloody risperidone, when the doctor thought I was suffering from schizophrenia), with absolutely no energy, loved by nobody and stuck in the role of a financial analyst of banks, a job I ended up hating with all my heart.

“Wow, you must be so lucky,” a girl told me when I answered her question about my job.

And looking at her I thought: if some people think that my life must be cool then I probably should live up to my status.

In reality, she just made me laugh. She, obviously, had no idea that I was a psychiatric patient, that I hated my job and that I was struggling with my life in general. And so, it was funny. If you are a financial analyst of banks, some people will still envy you, no matter that. In our society of capitalism, it alll comes down to roles.

I changed jobs since then, as well as countries, aspirations, my medication and my weight. But I will always remember that day. Because I learned a very important lesson then. The best way to deal with depression is to get out, even if it seems like the worst idea on earth. Or if you are stuck in the house, then start baking (there is a very good recipe in the Guardian for cinnamon cakes: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/may/22/how-to-bake-perfect-cinnamon-buns).

I also found that reading poems can help as well. Especially if it is written by people who understand what it means to be depressed or feel bad. It is not a secret anymore that depression affects a considerable amount of population. I like the poem by Susan Coolidge called ‘New Every Morning’:

Every day is a fresh beginning.

Listen my soul to the glad refrain.

And, spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin again.

 

And finally, listening to some music does heal the soul. I do agree with Nietzsche who said that “without music, life would be a mistake.”

Don’t stop the music by Rihanna usually does the trick for me.

(picture found on nhs site)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A note on delusions


We all have to deal with them on occasions. A recent example involves a certain Robbie Williams who assumed that he met a certain Maradona.
 

It appeared, however, that Maradona wasn’t real, but was a look-alike.

So, what Robbie Williams experienced was actually ‘a hallucination’. But it can also be put into the domain of delusions. An entry in Wikipedia defines delusion as “a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.” So, when Robbie Williams met Maradona (or look-alike) he, in fact performed a delusion of grandeur, which some compare to narcissism. Not only did he truly believe that Maradona was real, he also put the picture on his site, proving to everyone that he is not right in his head.

However, if we look closely at the picture of Robbie Williams and Maradona, I can say with a hundred percent certainty that it is indeed Maradona. So, when I say this, am I delusional as well?

This is a question indeed. It reminds me of the line from the song by the SunPilots, such as “Deep in a forest of a penicillin mind, where all my illusions are dissolving in deconstructed time” (the song can be listened to on http://thesunpilots.bandcamp.com/track/chapter-iii-god-science). So basically, what they are saying is that it is up to us to decide about the state of our own delusions.

I am writing all this because today I decided to tackle one of my past delusions. I am saying ‘past’ because I changed my mind on the matter after I recovered from one of my psychotic episodes.

The delusion was the following: “In my past life I was Queen Victoria.” I discarded this belief because when I thought about it, it wasn’t following the stream of my other past lives. In one of these I was Catherine the Great, and so being also the Queen Victoria appeared to be slightly too much.

However, the picture of Robbie Williams with Maradona made me to return to this delusion and consult some oracles on the matter.

Since I acquired recently some Meditation cards from the Buddhist centre, asking them for an advice seemed like a perfect choice, indeed, since they do believe in reincarnation.

And curiously enough, the card ‘Our Precious Human Life’ fell from the pack, informing me that:

“Our human life is precious, rare and immensely meaningful. Due to their previous deluded views that denied the value of spiritual practice, those who have taken rebirth as animals, for example, now have no opportunity to understand or practice Dharma” (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso 2013).

So, the answer seems pretty much obvious. In one of my past lives I was an animal.

Something which I knew already.

But just when I thought I reached some conclusion, Madonna sung in the background:

“If you were the Mona Lisa

 You'd be hanging in the Louvre

 Everyone would come to see you

 You'd be impossible to move

 It seems to me is what you are

 A rare and priceless work of art”

Mona Lisa??? I will meditate on that one for now.
 (picture found on bipolarhappens.com)

Monday, May 19, 2014

To be or not to be? In dialogue with Shakespeare


To be or not to be – this was the question I faced once while dealing with a particular situation. I started to talk about in my post on the manual for psychiatrists about how to ‘perform’ diagnoses (http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-matter-with-manual-for-being-mental.html).

So, the problem I dealt with (while being stuck in a psychiatric hospital) was how to avoid being labelled as ‘schizophrenic’. It was still my first episode, spreading leisurely over two months in a row, and thus, I wasn’t yet properly aware about what to talk with psychiatrists about and what not.

The doctor spotted me. He caught me addressing the void. Obviously, it wasn’t just the void, but Pythagoras who was telling me some mathematics:

"The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides,” he was saying, in reply to my worry that all the knowledge of algebra and geometry I ever had I had buried in the ground by chilling out with two of my best friends in the park (and smoking cigarettes) instead of attending the classes at school.

The bigger problem, however, was that while I could see the Pythagoras, my doctor could not.

“With whom are you talking?” The doctor asked, looking suspiciously concerned.

To my greatest shame I didn’t know at that time who the Pythagoras was exactly. I had to Google him, later, when I was researching all the voices in my head.

So, I just answered the first thing which came into my mind:

“He says that he was a genius mathematician.”

“Mhh, is it so?” The doctor touched his chin in a pensive note and went to attend to his business.

And only the next day did I discover what the business was about. He shared it during the interview with my mom and me.

“I think it is schizophrenia,” he announced (with a sad face) to the even sadder face of my mother.

“Shit,” was a glimpse of sanity which passed through my head over the matter.

And so, once I saw the nurse which was new (and kind) in the room of staff, I asked her whether I could use the internet to have a look at my finances.

Once in front (tips as to how to have the best of time in a psychiatric hospital will follow in due term), I quickly googled schizophrenia (I have to admit that I also Facebooked that I was Anne Frank to all my friends, but more on this later).

Right, schizophrenia.

It didn’t look promising. Not at all. From what I could quickly decipher, people with such a diagnosis were the modern pariah of the humankind. In a politically-correct way, but still, the conclusion was pretty much clear. No one wants to have such a diagnosis in our current times.

And so, after reflecting on this for quite some time, I decided to be smarter the next time. As long as I wouldn’t mention any voices I would be all right.

And that’s how I obtained the official diagnosis of bipolar disorder (where they put all those mental people they have problems to label properly).

Or if I rephrase The Pythagoras: to put it concisely, the square of my insanity is equal to the sum of the square of the insanity of other religions.

So, what does it have to do with Shakespeare, you might ask?

And well, I think that the following line of Hamlet (the voice of my bipolar disorder) describes the matter quite well:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question—

Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

 The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

 Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

 And by opposing end them?”

Or to put it another way: who is the smartest – the doctor or the patient?

After all, we still keep on walking, as Britney Spears sings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elueA2rofoo
(picture from gloverandsmith.co.uk)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Out of the closet and into the open


In my previous post I started to talk about the problem of disclosing one’s mental problem to other people. It was rather unsuccessful because somehow I ended up starting (!) to reflect on the meaning of the statement of Nietzsche  - ““The belief in truth is precisely madness”. (some thoughts are on http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-problem-with-mental-unburdening.html)

But that’s a thing with quotes like this: a simple sentence can lead to the whole stream of thoughts. As Nietzsche himself commented on the process: “A certain musical disposition of mind comes first, and after follows the poetical idea.”

You see? Here I am again into Nietzsche.

But telling to other people about one’s diagnosis is madness in itself, isn’t?

Let me try to explain.

A few people who know about my little secret (not anymore, obviously, after I started this blog) ask me sometimes the following question:

“How is your bipolar disorder?”

I have to say that for a moment or so I am lost in ideas about my answer. With such obvious figures of authority as bosses, psychiatrists and colleagues, the reply is easy: “It is doing all right.”

But on occasions when I am not dealing with the mighty I try to answer differently, in the like of: “It is on holiday”, or “I left it at home” (a no, no if the question comes from a psychiatrist), or “recovering from a hangover”. I can’t say it to my mom, because then follows half an hour conversation about whether I am still on my pills (yes – mad doesn’t equal being stupid), whether I sleep well (yes) and whether I am not overspending my money (mhh).

But while this kind of reaction is to be expected from my mom (of course, she worries), I noticed that talking to other people about my bipolar disorder in abstract terms tends to confuse them (they, obviously, forget about the formulation of the question in the first place).

I can see it in their faces. There is a moment of silence or so, followed by either more silence (these people then never ask me this question again), or by a joke from those who do have some humour.

And this leads me to the following deliberation. How should I look at my bipolar disorder? Is it a she? A he? It? Or an entity in a totally different dimension? Indeed, can it be abstract?

Because you see, when someone asks me about how my bipolar disorder is doing, an image of the Ten of Wands comes into my mind. Ellen Dugan describes it in the following way:

“An old man is travelling away from us and down a dirt path towards a castle. He is carrying a bundle of ten blooming hawthorn wands over his left shoulder. The old man is slightly hunched over, as if his burden is just a tad too heavy for him to manage.” (Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan).

So, I decided to unburden this lot and give my bipolar disorder a name! It might confuse the other voices in my head, but on the other hand, I might end up with quite a cheerful crowd.

After some thoughts on the matter I decided to name it ‘Hamlet’. I went first for Pythoness (an oracle from Delphi) but decided against it, because apparently she was prone to talk some gibberish, and if I face this problem every time I call her name, I might indeed end up in that place (the psychiatric hospital).

So, Hamlet it is. I think that one of his lines does describe the matter quite well:

"I essentially am not in madness,

 But mad in craft."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The problem with mental unburdening


There is no other way I could think about the matter of coming out of the closet.

You know…the moment when you decide to share that you are mental with someone from your social circle.

This is less of a problem when you are in the hospital. Every time I was undergoing treatment for my bipolar disorder there were all these sad faces around, mostly from my relatives, but also occasionally from strangers, checking on whether I finally understood that I was mad.

I thought about it. In fact I thought about it hard. I hoped that after my first episode it would go away, but since it stuck with me, I had to rethink my position.

You see, there is a profound quote available on madness.

“The belief in truth is precisely madness” said Nietzsche ages ago.

Now, apart from the fact that Nietzsche was mad himself (irrelevant, but still…), the fundamental question remains the same.

If doctors tell me that I am bipolar, and sad relatives nod in agreement, should I believe the doctors, the relatives and in my diagnosis?

I will start with the diagnosis.

If you refer to my post on the matter with the manual for being mental (http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-matter-with-manual-for-being-mental.html), you will see that I doubt that I received the right diagnosis (I will write a post about it). No, I should correct this sentence: I received the diagnosis I decided was the best under my circumstances. I went for it. Schizophrenia has such negative connotations in our society, that I reckoned that it is better to join the masses of those who provoke tears, rather than fright.

But so, going back to my argument. If I know already that the diagnosis might be wrong, should I then believe in other things?

Another powerful saying from Nietzsche argues the following: “…and if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” This reminds me of Hexagram 48 from the I Ching Oracle: “To be in accord with the time, you are told to: go to the well!” (Ritsema and Karcher, 1994).

However, while the hexagram 48 was the first which came into my mind while reflecting on what exactly Nietzsche was trying to say, he was probably thinking about Hexagram 29, which is often translated as ‘abyss’. It means plunging into the water and accepting yourself as you are.

So, basically, if I gaze long enough into the bipolar disorder, the bipolar disorder will gaze back.

I think that I just (finally!) made one successful connection between The Chinese Oracle and the Tarot. My guess (a humble one) is that Hexagram 29 corresponds to the Hanged Man, which also means acceptance of one’s fate. I read that someone connected it to the Devil, but I am not so sure.
 

I seriously departed from the subject of ‘when do you announce to other people’ that you are mad and will have to come back to it.