Restored Post from November 2012
As Porcelain Utopia is coming upon it’s first year anniversary in April 2012, I am including bits and pieces of some of the most popular, some “viral” posts within this single “Best of…” post, as I’ve been so very busy with this full time “job” of Porcelain Utopia and just the day to day coping with schizophrenia and daily stresses. I’ll then drop down the actual posts into the archives–everything from the About page to The Best Day…, and perhaps the Letters to God post—one of my favorites, too!
Keep on tuning in and let’s continue to stay centered.
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.
The gift is yours.
It is an amazing journey and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.
This is the day your life really begins.”
Initially diagnosed with depression in 1994 at the age of 18, I was prescribed antidepressants, including the newest of the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Unfortunately, the SSRIs triggered mania, and to combat it, I began to drink, which intensified my psychological instability and led to an addiction that I was finally able to overcome when I was 26.
However, as difficult as the disorders have been, in many ways, I have been blessed. Many call me a gifted artist, and I have frequently used my art to exorcise my own demons of isolation and loneliness. In 1998, I dramatized those issues in my award-winning film Ten Years, which I produced, directed, and wrote while attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
In 2008, I once again dramatized those themes of isolation and loneliness in another award-winning film, On The Bus, which in addition explores the horrors and chaos of mental illness. Through the eyes of the main character Larry, we see the uncontrollable, tumultuous symptoms of schizophrenia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as brought on by a random act of violence.
A single act of violence rarely causes severe mental illness. Current research indicates that mental illness is generally a result of a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors. My case would seem to validate that research, as there is a history of mental illness in my family, and I have suffered repeated trauma. Whatever the genesis, beginning in 2009 and culminating in the summer of 2010, I experienced a severe psychotic break that manifested in inappropriate, violent outbursts and regnant destructive behavior. Ultimately, however, this break brought me the help I needed, including a comprehensive psychological work-up that provided an accurate diagnosis and the right medication. Now psychologically stable, I invite others to behold my candid daily encounters with the symptoms of schizophrenia.
I willingly and genuinely share my life through my written blog, and with my iTunes podcast “The Real Me”, both easily accessible right here and now. In the vein of prolific figures such as Elyn R. Saks and Kay Redfield Jamison, I illustrate my personal ongoing struggle with chronic mental illness in this supportive website that nurtures truth, acceptance, and community.
My art, imagination, and various creative outlets are simply my own catalyst for continuous resiliency and recovery. With the launch of my website, I turn another engaging and uplifting page of my story. I hope to impact others positively through my publicized journey of how one individual copes with the perpetual rollercoaster of schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome.
I consider myself a still-recovering schizophrenic, an accomplished writer, producer and musician, who blogs and podcasts about mental illness and New Age ideas and treatments.
…My intention has never been to accuse, attack, or even blame. My intention is to heal, and to forgive others as well as myself, and, in an effort to forgive myself and those around me, I begin this series: When Delusions Are Real. The point of the series is to get a conversation going about how those of us diagnosed with psychotic disorders get people to believe our truths.
After all, once you’ve been diagnosed as being psychotic, your credibility is never the same. Even when you’re speaking the truth.
I have a podcast on iTunes, The Real Me, on which I reveal a lot about myself, and lately I’ve noticed how much those podcasts have been teaching me about myself and what I’ve lost. This illness has taken a great deal from me, including my ability to be recognized for my accomplishments.
So, what I’d like to do here is recognize, some of those accomplishments, knowing that had my life been different, they could have been recognized in a more public scale arena. Knowing, too, that because I have schizoaffective disorder, which is characterized by delusional thinking, hallucinations, and mood fluctuations, that many times, even when I speak the truth, I am dismissed, not believed, and my truths defined as mere delusions.
I want to acknowledge my accomplishments not only for myself but for all of you out there, as well. Those of you who may or may not already be diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar, or any other serious mental disorder, whose truths, like mine, are so frequently dismissed as delusions. It upsets me even to write this, to realize that those around me can, and do, categorize what I say as delusional, and I wonder if that happens to all of you, as well.
I’d like to start off by briefly mentioning that I was diagnosed with Tourette’s at age 12 although, according to my mother, I had shown symptoms since I was 2. I sometimes wonder whether even then I was showing signs of the psychosis that has plagued me my entire adult life.
I was 18 when I had my first psychotic break. It was Christmas Day, 1994. I was living in New York City and admitted to Beth Israel where I was given a number of tests – medical and psychological.
My toxicology report came up 100% clean, a clear indication that my psychosis was not drug-induced. My intake report by the ER doctor shows I had a ‘loosening of association’ and ‘pressured speech,’ both of which can indicate schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder with psychotic features. No wonder it took so long for me to get the right diagnosis. So many of the symptoms overlap.
But I want to bring this back to delusion and truth, and how people so frequently label your truths as delusional, once you’ve been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.
Tomorrow, I’ll give a more thorough background of my own illness – its genesis and prognosis – and then move on to those accomplishments, for which I’ve never truly been recognized.
In the meantime, leave me a comment. Let me know if what I’m writing resonates. Do you, like me, have trouble being believed?
As I may have mentioned already, serious mental illness, such as schizoaffective disorder, is believed to be caused first, by a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, and second, from environmental factors. In my family, I have a grandfather, who seems to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to old medical records I found recently. In addition, I have two second cousins, both of whom have been publicly diagnosed with mental illness. So, I would sure seem to be genetically predisposed to becoming mentally ill.
But, having the predisposition isn’t enough. You need certain environmental factors, as well. What I’ve read in some of the NAMI literature is that mental illness can be compared to diabetes. A person may be genetically predisposed to develop diabetes, but if that person gets enough exercise and watches sugar intake, then the diabetes may never take hold. Same with mental illness.
In my case, I had the predisposition, and I had enough traumas – sexual, physical, and emotional abuse – and upheaval, like my parents’ divorce when I was young, that the illness took hold. Boy, did it take hold.
Sometimes though, people, like my sister, who have a genetic predisposition, plus environmental factors – my sister came from the same family, had the same kind of upheaval – do not become mentally ill. Nobody knows why.
Maybe, as my wife says, it’s just the luck of the draw. She’s kidding. At least about the luck part because having mental illness isn’t lucky, but we do have to keep laughing about it. Keep positive. You’re never alone, if you can laugh with someone about it.
As I’ve mentioned, I have schizoaffective disorder. Originally though, I was diagnosed with depression. This was back in 1994, when I was 18.
The next 10 years or so, I saw doctor after doctor, moving here and there… trying to find my place in the world. I had 7 suicide attempts and years of alcohol and drug abuse issues-my last suicide attempt was in 2001, and I was freed of my drug and alcohol addiction in early 2003. Almost 10 years ago.
As I was getting off the drugs, I saw a doctor, who diagnosed me with schizoaffective disorder, which basically means schizophrenia with a mood disorder thrown in, and in my case, that mood disorder is bipolar with manic features. But then, in 2005 and 2006, I saw a doctor who said I didn’t have schizoaffective disorder, I had a personality disorder. The point is, getting the right diagnosis can be time-consuming and frustrating. But necessary. Because once I was ‘re-diagnosed’ with schizoaffective disorder, I was able to get on the right medication, but that’s a different story altogether.
What I’m focusing on here is being diagnosed with any type of mental illness that includes psychotic features, which then makes it nearly impossible for people around you to believe your truths.
My diagnosis, as I’ve mentioned, is schizoaffective disorder, which is a form of schizophrenia with a mood disorder thrown in. The double whammy, you might say. But not only do I have the double whammy of a thought disorder coupled with a mood disorder, I also have Tourette syndrome, which is considered severe, since it usually tapers off in one’s 20s and mine did not. I’m 36 now, so along with the confusion I suffer and the mood fluctuations, I also tic and sometimes engage in coprolalia, which is involuntary swearing or yelling out racial epithets.
Add to that mix, I also seem to have aspects of OCD – have to keep my computer arranged ‘just so;’ PTSD – I frequently relive earlier traumas; ADD – I can’t focus on anything for any period of time; Autism or Asperger’s – like Temple Grandin, I may be smart, but I can’t read social cues at all. Makes it difficult to hang out and just be ‘one of the guys.’
My current psychiatrist, who never hesitated to diagnose me, as others had, saw me when I was at my worst. I was in the middle of a psychotic break, was in the process of a divorce (my wife and I have since reconciled), and I had no money, as my family had cut me off from my trust income. In the past, too many doctors had seen me when I did have my money, and I could hire the people to do what I couldn’t – shop, drive, clean, those sorts of things. And because those other doctors saw me when I could hire the people to do what I couldn’t, they all considered me to be “too high functioning” to have any form of schizophrenia.
As a result of my being considered “high functioning,” for years, I was diagnosed as having a personality disorder. Some doctors thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder; others thought I had a Personality Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). Let me tell you, having the right diagnosis has turned things around. At last. I’m now on the right meds. My wife and caregivers know the nature of the illness and know some excellent ways of dealing with the illness. And with me.
And so, although the illness will never go away, I do have hope that I’ll continue to get the right treatment and that my life will continue to get better.
Now, the big one: What to do when people assume your truths are delusions.
Let’s start with just a little bit more background. Last count, I had approximately 30 rehab stints and/or hospitalizations. That’s a lot. When you’re hospitalized, especially involuntarily, people tend to dismiss everything you say as a symptom of your illness. I understand that, but I don’t like it because it’s hard when people don’t believe me.
A couple examples: I moved to Los Angeles in January 2001 because I wanted to be a Hollywood screenwriter. I was two days shy of my 25th birthday. I was a go-getter back then, a social butterfly, and found it easy to introduce myself to just about anyone. As a result, I met Joanna Cassidy, Dick Van Dyke, and others.
Then as my drug and alcohol use spiraled out of control, I got myself into rehab. Because I had access to my trust fund, I could afford the rehab facilities where “celebrities” went, places like Promises in Malibu. In those places, I met movie producers, writers, actors, musicians, and kids of celebrities. The point is I met all these people, and some I befriended.
And, because so many of the rehab facilities didn’t help me stay off drugs and alcohol, I, along with a friend, started my own facility – Wavelengths – which also catered to celebrities. Wavelengths took a more proactive approach to getting people off drugs and alcohol.
If you ever saw the show The Cleaner, you’ll have a better idea of what I mean by ‘proactive.’ In fact, that show was based on the friend with whom I started Wavelengths, and although I was never credited, I was also co-creator of the show.
But now, when I tell people about The Cleaner or knowing Chuck Lorre or Robert Downey, Jr., or Mel Gibson, people smile blankly, nod their head, and dismiss what I say as a delusion. That’s maddening – if you’ll pardon the pun.
Another example: The summer of 2010, I checked myself into a facility in Colorado, so I could get on the right meds and try to get myself re-stabilized. Because I was being admitted as patient with schizoaffective disorder, which is characterized by a thought disorder, including delusions, both my wife and my doctor spoke with the facility before I was admitted, so the doctors and social workers would know I wasn’t delusional about the people I knew.
My wife and doctor also let the facility know about my financial background because I don’t always look “rich.” Lately, I like to dress in t-shirts and pajama bottoms. I like to keep my hair permed and wild, and I like to wear a beard. As a result, sometimes when I’m admitted, the staff person will write that I’m a little unkempt, and when I then start talking about the money I’m worth, that staff person will flash a little, tight smile like, “Of course, you are. And I have a Swiss bank account.”
Those staff people don’t always know that I can ‘tell’ what they’re thinking – I can see it on their face – and they feel free to openly doubt my truth.
More on “delusions.”
The reason I blog and podcast is to share my story, and sometimes – I’ve got to admit – it’s hard knowing that a lot of people may not believe me. I bring this up because I’m sure that those of you who read this blog (or listen to my podcast) must have as complicated a story as mine.
I am just spelling out some things – kind of ‘straight from the heart’ sharing with all of you. My family, as I’ve mentioned, is rich and powerful. Maybe your family was not rich or powerful, but still I think you’ll understand. Their money and their power helped make me who I am, just as your parents helped make you who you are. And I’m not attacking anyone. I am simply telling the story of my life. I have earned the right to do that.
Come to think of it though, maybe I never had to ‘earn the right’ to tell the story of my life. People have a right to their own stories and to tell those stories in their own voice, no one else’s. This is my time. My story. Not my family’s. And I owe it to all of you to share a little taste of the complexity of my life, so you’ll understand the complexity of your own life.
So, yes, my family is rich and powerful. That is not a delusion. You can look them up yourself. They are public people. Sometimes I think because they are public people, they have had a hard time accepting me for who I am. I know they have had a hard time accepting my diagnosis.
And, really, I am not attacking them. Maybe they can’t accept my diagnosis because they think it will reflect badly on them.
I haven’t talked to my family in a few years. I wish I felt sad about that, but I can’t. My family doesn’t love me. Sometimes I think they might even hate me because they cut off my money, and they cut off contact with me.
But I’m getting sidetracked – what my wife calls ‘going off on a tangent.’ So I’ll stop.
One area that has always been hard and created a lot of misunderstanding in my family is my diagnosis. No one has ever accepted that I have had the wrong diagnosis for years, and that getting the right diagnosis has helped me move forward. Not that a diagnosis makes the illness easy, and in many respects a diagnosis is nothing but a label.
However, with the right diagnosis (or label), you can get the right medication, the right therapy, and people – like caregivers – that know how to deal with you. The right diagnosis is a starting point, so you can read about whatever that “label” you might be tagged with, or might need to be tagged with.
In my case, for years I was ‘tagged with’ Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). On one hand, that would not have been a bad diagnosis because people then wouldn’t label me as being delusional. On the other hand, when people did think I had BPD, they accused me of lying, which brings me back to my family.
In the past, my family has told me to ‘snap out of it’ and to ‘get my act together,’ and then I would be ‘fine.’ You can’t ‘snap out of’ schizophrenia. You may get the symptoms under control, and you may even, as John Nash did, seem to recover from the disorder, but you don’t ‘snap out of it.’
My family believing that I was capable of getting my act together created a lot of tension between us. I use the past tense here because I don’t know if they believe my diagnosis yet. As I’ve mentioned, we’ve had no contact since January 2010, so I don’t know what they believe.
In January of that year, my family cut me off, stripped me of any help. I had no gardeners, no driver (I no longer drive). I had nothing. Based on what they wrote me at the time, they seemed to think they could do a little ‘tough love,’ (like you see on Intervention) and I would agree to get better
I was never not agreeing to get better. Believe me, it’s no fun having schizoaffective disorder.
More on this tomorrow, but let me leave you with my opinion that if your family and loved ones already believe your diagnosis, you are that much farther ahead. Because if they believe the diagnosis, they can help.
I’m taking my own advice today and staying positive. I think of all I have lost, and I can get very depressed. At one time I had editors, and housekeepers, free travel, a huge inheritance, my trust funds, and lavish cars. I’d been to the best schools in the country. I had public figure parents and several celebrities in my extended family, some of whom had actually, quite publicly been diagnosed with mental illnesses.
When I compare what I once had to what I now have, I can get depressed. I focus on the past and fail to appreciate the present. Taking my own advice to stay positive, I have: 3 dogs, 7 cats, and 1 bird. Now, some people might not think having so many animals was positive, but I like walking through the house and being followed every time, at least by one of them. My animals are one positive.
Another positive. I no longer have diabetes. I have lost so much weight that my blood sugar is normal. I still take one of the diabetic meds because it can prevent diabetes and because the other meds can cause diabetes, I still take that one, but I am healthier than I was. No diabetes is another positive.
My wife is the third positive. We reconciled 2 years, and so far we are working things out and trying to help each other.
My work is the fourth positive. The schizoaffective disorder has really affected my thinking and my emotions, but it hasn’t touched my creativity. I podcast, make music, and blog. I have even sold a couple songs on iTunes.
My memories are the fifth and final positive for today. Although my father and I had a falling out in 2009, that’s his issue. He and I have had great, absolutely fantastic times and memories together. And when I focus only on those memories, I can stay positive.
For many reasons, I have had quite a few psychiatrists over the years. My current doctor – who I call Dr. F. – is the one who most recently diagnosed me as having schizoaffective disorder. When I went to see her the second or third time, I brought along five bookshelves’ worth of my journals. My diaries. All my written documentation of madness – the faxes and emails that proved that I had 1,000 hours of film that I shot that was stolen. That’s it. Can’t do anything about it. I have proof of a software development proposal I made when I was 15. Got a scholarship to business school, honors, and recognition. I was like John Nash except I was proposing software, not math, and what I proposed would have been the first online shopping interface. But it got taken away. Like everything. I have the proof, the actual documents. Real. These truths are mine. And I have schizophrenia, and I even have delusions but I know, and my wife knows, and my close friends know, that these are real, not delusions.
I spent 3 years of my life developing a show for A&E Television. I have the proof. I save everything. Faxes to the actual producers… and anyway… My point is that I have lived an incredible life and often, all too often, facts become so-called delusions to others, mostly to the others who actually count, like medical professionals.
It matters to me.
All of this really matters to me. It means something very special to me because it is about me, from my perspective, only my perspective, that’s the only perspective I know for sure. It’s part of my story, or as some might consider it the “myth of that stupid Jonathan kid.” –I know who I am. And I think I know who my friends are. I know I am a legitimate and loving and grateful, spiritual human being who deserves to be loved and accepted and who deserves to make decisions and to make mistakes, to be forgiven—to be myself. The Real Me. The Jonathan Harnisch who is not alone, who is loved. The Jonathan Harnisch whose moods and behaviors might be a bit difficult to predict. A guy. A citizen, with schizophrenia, a full-spectrum of mental maladies, who believes in some kind of higher power… who believes in himself, who tries, and tries, and tries… who never gives up, or even tries to give up-resiliency. Who struggles every single day as an adult who is still being abused, who has been abandoned and treated like waste-a mistake. Manipulated. Jonathan Harnisch who is a teacher and a student. A rich kid who used to ride up front with his limousine driver. Someone who used to be a real a**hole, often due to his drinking and drugging, and mimicking what he saw growing up in the people who would have done better, but just didn’t know how, to protect me.
I have been in therapy since I was 9, and was “put away” on far too many medications since I was 12, some of which I am still physically addicted to, and some which have caused me to gain weight, develop tardive dyskinesia (chronic muscle stiffness) and some of which I was actually allergic to, causing me to rage and even increased my tendency to drink alcohol.
I chose what I did regardless of what the literature suggests, or what certain medical studies indicate.
I am who I am, and I have my own story—my own version of my own story. It changes and adjusts on a constant basis. I’ve been closed up for so long. I am opening up. I am not being inappropriate. I don’t need to be judged. But I will be judged. I don’t need to worry about what others think of me. But I actually do care what other people think of me.
I can’t control other people. Come to think of it, I can’t control what thoughts come into my head and I can’t control which ones leave, so how can I control other people, or their thoughts. On a deeper, or more spiritual level, how can anybody control the galaxy? How about the billions upon billions of existing galaxies and the billions of galaxies that have not even yet been discovered? That is what we are living with—within—at the same time.
Even Jesus, he experienced the full gamut of the human emotion spectrum, having been so-called spirit in human form. He was killed for that, for being who he was—for being honest and sincere, and essentially, for being real. His life was far from easy. The most enlightened beings in the history of mankind—Buddha, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Krishna, and the Dalai Lama—they have struggled and suffered every single day of their lives. And they too, in a way, live within all of us.
I want to let you know that you are not alone. You never, ever will be alone.
I am excited and determined to come to you, who are seeking… seeking something. Maybe you’re just reading as you sit there at work, or maybe you’re my family, checking to see how I am, if I’m “misbehaving.” What I am is a disabled, and yes, very troubled adult. But I am allowed to share my story. My life. I am safe.
Now, I laugh now when I say this, but my wife is 24 years older than me. And if and when she passes away before I do or for any reason leaves me. (I doubt she will. We seem to be doing very well together)… I worry that I will be forced into a psychiatric institution back east, back by my family, when we don’t even talk. I worry it’s inevitable.
I guess in conclusion, my life is full of grandiosity. But I still have schizophrenia, and I still have people who seem to have a need to control me, yet, want nothing to do with me. This fascinates me. Why do they still want that much to do with me?…
…Somebody who happens to also be a staff writer for a local news magazine, has independently written the following about me, which I have included on my website. It makes me feel so good:
See things can change…
“Envision a blend of a mentally ill mind with unsurpassed resiliency and fiery intellect and your result would be the brilliant Jonathan W. Harnisch. An all-around artist, Jonathan writes fiction and screenplays, sketches, imagines, and creates. His most recent artistic endeavor is developing music; a new-found passion with visible results already in the making. Produced filmmaker 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 is an alumnus of Choate Rosemary Hall. Subsequently, he attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where he studied film production and screenwriting under Gary Winick and David Irving. During his studies at NYU, he held internships under renowned producers Steven Haft and Ismael Merchant. He is best known for his short filmsTen Years and On The Bus, both of which boast countless awards including five Indie Film Awards, three Accolade Awards, and winner of Best Short Film and Audience Award in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, to name a few.
Despite his impressive formal education and awarded honors, Jonathan is your normal, down-to-earth guy. Meditation, Duran Duran, vivid colors, Patrick Nagel prints, and rearranging furniture are some of his favorite things. Vices include cigarettes, Diet Coke, inappropriate swearing, and sausage and green chile pizza. He enjoys irony, planned spontaneity, redefining himself and change. Jonathan lives with his beautiful wife Maureen, their three dogs and seven cats, in the unique, desert village of Corrales, New Mexico.“
…Following includes part of how I have been putting some of the pieces of the otherwise “shattered stained glass” of schizophrenia, as I see it, and from what I have read and heard and just… believe:
My psychiatrist has often asked me to describe or explain my symptoms and thus schizophrenia while I usually do not know how. I simply reply that it is all “indescribable.”
Since then, I have been looking deeper into myself and so at least to be able to summarize at least a few of my experiences, both past and present in order to share with you, as well, some of the complexity—demystified. I’d like to share some of my discoveries as I find them, regarding my experiences, false perceptions and schizophrenic psychosis. Hopefully I’ll succeed in maintaining simplicity so others might benefit and perhaps understand this otherwise extremely complex disorder.
I have come to realize that between my own self, my lovely wife, whom I’ve known for over six years now, my support team (medical doctors and friends) and even those who might be considered my enemies have been helping me along the way to self-actualize and thus understand myself, where I find myself today. I’ve been able to find some meaning in schizophrenia, which helps me redefine how I see myself and how the symptoms of schizophrenia came to be, in order to describe them without simply dismissing them as “indescribable.”
Please forgive any terminology I might use incorrectly; in general, as I am not a doctor and I do have schizophrenia so some things I might say, although I have stabilized (recovered, not cured), I still must admit I might get it wrong sometimes.
We schizophrenics through our psychosis—our delusions, our hallucinations, or reality, we create, or develop a story—a storyline.
What is real has many universal implications. Many are extremely personal, symbolic and moral. As we build the framework to our delusional reality, which tends to fade in and fade out, like with dreaming, it can become very mystical as well. The reasons for our realities, which we might not have always had all our lives, can become delusional for mystical and magical reasons. This might be why, for example, when psychotic, the television might seem to talk to us, or we might see and know Jesus—again, for reasons of a mystical or even religious nature. It becomes difficult for us to then realize that it is not necessarily real.
The further and further we might or might not be drawn deeper into a full blown psychosis—it’s just baffling, to say the least—complex and disorganized, yet to us, we might believe wholeheartedly that our delusions are real, based on facts, yet, facts that are not correct to others without the illness.
Many episodes, thoughts and experiences combine thus building up a storyline, which then become more intense and even fascinating and seductive, with more and more meaning as the delusional realities or events go on—as our lives go on. The meanings become “hidden” or disguised—our realities, hidden, in a way.
This illness thus can become very isolating because we have a whole different belief system about the entire world, especially when in a major psychotic break. It can take years and years to arrive at this fully agitated state but it’s often how we schizophrenic’s will end up being diagnosed, like when an alcoholic generally “needs” to bottom out completely before getting help.
Through our perceptions, as they change over time—they are altered and a new way of thinking for us then becomes hard to disengage from. Precisely like being on a constant, continuous LSD trip, every single day.
This is the bottom line, and for me, this “acid trip” never stops, even when recovered, it’s a matter of training and re-training our minds, through therapies, like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) with medications, and treatment, also a lot of training—mental training, that I certainly do on my own, especially when not in a session with my doctor. I’m always checking things over and “reality checking.” I also find it very helpful to have a friend or loved one to do what I call reality checking or “mediating my reality.” I can, for example, ask my wife, who loves me deeply, to see if something is or is not what or how I might be perceiving it—from her perspective without the illness.
There is an element of us losing what is called object permanence, or object consistency—my doctor in California once told me.
The famous child psychologist Piaget had discovered that infants, at a very young age, will forget about their toys, like a ball, when they were playing with it, and it rolls out of sight, or someone puts the ball underneath a blanket. At a certain age, that child would begin to look for that missing toy, and when finding it under the blanket, it was in fact there the whole time. It always was. Before that it had, to the infant, mystically gone away—disappeared from the world entirely.
That’s what I mean by mystical reasons, because we lose this object permanence. We see the mysticism in most of our experience and yes, it fades in and out, but we basically feel that things, in general, will usually happen for mystical reasons. This becomes a part of our belief system, which is pretty hard to change.
Enter the double bind as we can be caught in a contradiction, or a series of them, due to cultural or moral and both personal and universal reasons, while the object permanence is out of the picture. We might, for example, based on actual things, in place of object permanence, a “multiple realities” effect as if being in several dimensions at one time—several realities. Based on how we grew up, at any given time one reality may slip into our mindset, and so while behaving like a racist, for example, our best friend might be African American. It doesn’t “make sense.”
During my last psychotic break in early 2010, I collected and even wore Nazi memorabilia, and yet I am both half Jewish, on my mother’s side, and handicapped, and I behaved as if racist when my best friend was and is African American. We might want to save the world from global warming, however, by doing so we might pollute, and drive gasoline cars, on purpose, in order to save this world cause. A lot of grandiosity, extreme thinking and thus behavior, with realities slipping in and out—is only a part of what baffles science and medicine. Different realities slipping in, overlapping and combining makes for an extremely difficult scenario to treat and understand from a scientific perspective.
We often will think poetically, in addition to symbolically and metaphorically. Poetic thinking can take over, thus our symbolic and deep personal feelings are a huge part of how we schizophrenics might think and reason. We might hallucinate Jesus for a seemingly concrete reason, a very special reason.
By helping someone with schizophrenia, to consider that he or she thinks mostly through concepts of mysticism is a good start—the idea that everything happens for a deep reason, everything has a very special meaning, and everything is synchronistic. A schizophrenic is often a very traumatized and sensitive person living in a brutal world, much more so than your average Joe. That’s where the help—the recovery can really start to take place and healing begins.
We schizophrenics must learn through counseling, to understand ourselves and participate in therapy, sort through our delusional thinking and, often with help, to get back as much of our accurate intuition as possible, take our medicine, and have love and understanding in our lives. In this way, we might be able to reveal our secrets to someone we can trust, our secrets of trauma, day in and day out—and do our best, resolving as much inner conflict as we can. Peace of mind is what we all want and need. It is my #1 goal in life, has always been. It is what we all deserve.
Developing a new identity in many ways through our recovery is key—finding our voice so that we can be heard and sorting through our mysticism and religious or spiritual experiences and observations of reality. It’s a matter of finding those people we can trust, like I said, to help us define or redefine our reality. I have that these days, especially through my wife, Maureen, and my doctors. I live with gratitude.
Just like diabetes, schizophrenia simply does not go away. Not yet, for any of us. It’s always there in the background. The “lifelong acid trip”—yet now for delusions specifically: I have had delusions that weren’t real, too. And I wanted to start with perhaps why and how we tend to cling to delusional thinking and thus why perhaps I cling to not necessarily a delusion—but the kind of thinking—it’s “dimensional” for me—it is a grieving process for me. Missing my old Hollywood lifestyle is what I’m referring to. The content involved with that lifestyle of the rich and famous, the grandiose nature of the thinking itself. The celebrities I had befriended, when I lived and worked in Los Angeles, for example.
We often begin with smaller scale hallucinations during the onset period of schizophrenia, delusions, and perceptions—there is a root that is actually rational, wrapped around a delusional outer layer. And I think we can actually, yet often we do not—doctors, caregivers, loved ones, etc.—we can reach the schizophrenic while in a completely psychotic state. By understanding that everything the psychotic schizophrenic individual thinks in a synchronistic way.
It all starts with the object permanence—that we lost this and the one reality we once believed in is replaced—based on thoughts and events in our lives.
A flow of realities, of things appearing and disappearing at the same time—not just the simple ball under the blanket, the rules of both time and place come into effect here: The time is now, and the place: grounded right here on Earth. Let’s call it an Earth belief, or thought. These thoughts and beliefs basically can, through the “schizophrenic lens,” occur at the same time. In this waking dream, this constant LCD trip, this synchronicity in real life and the more fluid mindset. (Carl Jung first coined the term: Synchronicity—) If we can think at the core of a schizophrenic in order to reach him or her would be to think extremely synchronistically—
Without being stable enough or properly medicated, our dreams actually can become within the same reality as reality itself. My wife had asked me once, for example, “Jonathan, are you going to be recording an episode for The Real Me podcast today?” In the meantime, I had been planning on it, and yet I had not told her. I simply said, “Oh yes, I actually was thinking about it. It’s been a while since the last one.” Now, if I were in a more psychotic state, I might have (rather the delusional process would have) started with my real-life fascination with Edgar Cayce and psychic ideas, my New Age books, my meditations into the Akashic field—that my wife was secretly reading my mind, or that she and what she said, was mystically connected in some way—that she “knew something,” so that my psychic experiences in the past, would have then overlapped with my wife knowing something psychically, mystically, symbolically and with synchronicity—for a deep and personal meaning. Add to that, the paranoia that comes from her “reading my mind,” that she is therefore “God” because she knows I’m planning on recording my podcast today without my having told her. The terrifying belief is now engrained, as we are all often more sensitive to the world as a whole to begin with, even being touched on the hand or ear can create extreme fear for us schizophrenics—the idea—the belief that, “She knew I was going to record a podcast today.”
Synchronicity may have little, or perhaps some, scientific evidence, at least theoretically, yet there are things that we cannot prove, like the definition of time, through science, even God. In a state of schizophrenic psychosis, this overlap becomes compounded as it builds up more intensely and thus perhaps overtakes our entire belief system.
Perhaps a coherent way of explaining how we schizophrenics might create our own reality, our delusional, or schizophrenic reality, as I see it with some things I have laid out so far—Please bear with me here:
I’ll speak for myself, and my own experiences, though the end result is now something I can talk about and demystify rather than actually believe, due to the proper treatment and therapies and support I now receive.
I’ll first start with a collection of thoughts. Theoretically, let’s say, for real:
- In 2008 I made a film called “On the Bus” about mental illness—it was part of the story in the film.
- Mel Gibson (an old friend from California)—he and I were first introduced to each other in 2003.
- I listened to The Beach Boys. We’ll assume that the music was playing in the car with Mel as we went for a drive as we did up in the hills of Malibu.
- Mel Gibson is rich and famous.
Whether in a state of schizophrenic psychosis or not, since it seems to be a matter of degree—a degree of how psychotic we might or might not be, or how much of the psychotic part of our minds might have its grip—a matter of our abilities and the constantly fluctuating brain chemistry that we might be able to filter through (perhaps not) and if we might have been successful in redefining our delusional realities to a generally consistent state of well-being, and peace of mind…
In a psychotic state, due to our hallucinatory thinking, the chemistry in my brain, our brains, is constantly misfiring the stimuli from the environment, into our brains, and going to the wrong places, the effect is similar to putting our hand under cold water and feeling hot.
Essentially, through this schizophrenic thinking process, I would come up with a “composite sketch,” if you will, a sort of “Frankenstein” version—a storyline that might be experienced as:
- I knew Mel Gibson therefore I am famous. (Based on: Mel Gibson is famous and is rich.)
- Then, but at the same time: I am rich because I made my movie called “On the Bus” and it made me rich because Mel Gibson is rich and I am famous because I made my movie, it won awards and Mel Gibson did, too. I must have met Mel Gibson because I made a movie, and he did, too, and we are both rich and famous.
So far—this might not be the best example, but time can thus be altered—2008 coming before 2003 in this case.
If I were asked to explain this, while I’m still psychotic, I’d say first that I am not mentally ill—I am simply psychic, rich and famous. Besides, The Beach Boys were playing and one of the Beach Boys has a mental illness, not me, but my film was about mental illness. Brian Wilson is still rich, and famous and also an artist so he was playing on the radio because both Mel and I were both artists and it was “meant to be” that he would be playing music for us because we all were connected, through art, fame and money.
Exhausting, isn’t it? But this is actually how jumbled it can be for us and thus for those witnessing us speak or even communicate in general. It’s schizophrenia.
Let’s assume that we got pulled over for speeding:
Well, there is a police officer character in “On the Bus,” my movie—
You see, grandiosity, both real and imagined content, time inconsistencies, and now this character was in the movie so because we were all in the car, we were in the movie while in the car so that the police officer was playing her role—it all happened for a reason. And beyond that, paranoia might also slip in—in a way that the officer who pulled us over was male (not female) and in my movie she was female so she was disguising herself in order to take our money and meet three famous people (even Brian Wilson on the radio.)
Theoretically this might suffice as a pseudo case study, and yet in normal reality, for us schizophrenics, this type or process of thinking compounds itself and thus can become completely distorted.
And our friends and families start to think we’re going crazy (in a way we are) but stigma arises, plus confusion and thinking, “What the heck happened to this guy—he’s speaking like a drug addict who lost his mind. Where is this all coming from?”
We all would benefit from more awareness of what schizophrenia is, and how to possibly know when to consider when someone we love might either be predisposed to the illness (through family history, etc.,) but this is what we, with schizophrenia, usually experience early on as the illness is progressing—we believe this thinking (to us—) based on other facts—they’re disconnected and we can not see this without appropriate help. Later, yes, we can have this type of thinking while recovered or recovering but we are able to, hopefully, be mindful enough to both have similar thinking and cope with it differently, and to even, down the road, do our own “reality checks,” so as to not talk about these things inappropriately, in public, let’s say—and to use the hallmark of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which is “evidence”—on our own—so that we can connect the disconnected parts of our thoughts, thus our reality—that we can, with the support of loved ones, family, doctors, medications, friends, and support groups helping us, to love us enough to deal with assisting in our connecting the right pieces together, and why—the reasons why.
To wrap this up for now, I have not even mentioned the hearing of voices and hallucinating—everything from shadows to people, even friends—and the hidden traumatic paranoid features of schizophrenia that we are often too afraid to speak about. We might sound or behave cryptically, in code and with pressured speech and flight of ideas. Add on the “zombie-like” features, the manic episodes, the muscle dystonia, and the side effects from medication, and if we have turned to drugs, often just one hit of pot to quell the symptoms—Yikes!
We’re often too embarrassed to speak about our experiences with schizophrenia early on. To say that, “Yes indeed, this is an extremely devastating and debilitating illness.” I am so glad that I am at a place in my recovery, and I do have my bad days, but I haven’t even slept in the last day—insomnia (another symptom, technically) but I am glad I have been to this intoxicating wonderland and come back—just enough to be able to deliver this kind of explanation, possibly demystifying in a way that others can understand—some of these processes which affect about 1% of the world’s population. Schizoaffective disorder then includes the manic highs and periods of deep depression. My Tourette’s syndrome features the obvious muscle tics, but also obsessive/compulsive tendencies, and elements of autism or Asperger’s (often referred to as higher functioning form autism—in summary, but it’s, of course, much more than that)—
We all have our issues. It’s how we deal with them that sets us apart.
As always, my journey continues, on and on…
Yes, you could say I’ve been through the ringer!
Opening up and sharing my world and my experiences, with hope, and participation in my own recovery and metacognition (usually in deficit for those with schizophrenia) and mindfulness—these all have been helping me become who I am today: an accomplished writer (literature and film/TV) technically a professional author of erotic fiction. I often laugh at this because there are so many sides of me—the “angel demon human dichotomy” – I use various outlets to express my creativity. I have an education in the arts primarily but have worked on Wall St. in my “healthier” days, so I know a bit about that field—I chose ultimately to do what I am doing now—which is just this. I am also a film producer and a musician. My new full 15-track LP will be arriving at over 60 retailers in the coming weeks under the band name Schizophrenic and Caregiver. All my work is also available for free, and always free, as far as I know. My thoughts are free—my public life, my ‘open source’ information-life of J.H.
Having lived in New York, Connecticut, Paris France, Los Angeles, and now New Mexico, I am now married and I blog and podcast mostly about mental illness, inspiration, New Age ideas and transgressive material—transgressional fiction—[If you’ve seen or read Fight Club—it’s pretty much like that!]
I am myself—an expert on myself, and my own experiences, that’s about all I’m an expert on. I am not a doctor of any kind. I enjoy learning, reading and communicating—whatever I say, or write, I like to add, “take what you will, leave the rest.” I try my best to speak for myself when it comes down to it—
I just love what I do. I love who I am. I have accepted that which was taken away from me including some cognition, some intellectual and artistic credits not given to me due to silly and ignorant stigma—the bottom line—my money, the companies I’ve owned, and some I still do, as majority shareholder but the power ever-so-creatively taken away from me because of stigma.
I do understand stigmatic judgments—the mindset; it’s almost “sociopathic,” but I do understand “greed” for example, but moreover, stigma—I don’t believe in stigma. It doesn’t work. Nor do I agree with it or think it’s right, but I understand how some people’s minds work, and how they just won’t, or might not ever change—not knowing and not wanting to know. Further, I accept that stigma exists and is real, and rampant in our society and culture.
Again, I love what I do, what I create, what I believe in, my own Porcelain Utopia—the hub of it all—I love the Internet and computers, reading, learning and getting frustrated, figuring out ways of fixing some computer glitch that presents a mental challenge for me—Of course, my life would be easier without schizophrenia (Sz)—sure, I wish I didn’t have this condition. But I do, and I accept it.
Oh, and this early one to leave you with…
I know that I already have not just one, but many individuals who are 100% on my side. I have that. I know it, yet I still want it. It’s as if I feel like I don’t have what I know I have. This is the feeling I get, it’s almost metaphorical in that I either can’t see what I have or just, as they say, “Not happy with what I already have.” But I am happy with everything that I have. Yet I seem to still long for what I already have. This kind of idea is baffling. It’s baffling me, and might seem baffling, almost paradoxical to others. I wonder if others feel this way. The same for having people on my side—I have that. I’m thinking the effects of the schizophrenia are causing this distorted view—basically the view that the good that I have might not really be good. It is good. And everything is certainly ‘good enough,’ too. So what could this sort of schizophrenic mind trick be all about?
My wife, for example, she loves me unconditionally and is 100% on my side. I seem and feel like I know this but I still want it. Not more of it. I just want it, crave it—it’s like I still want what I already have. I’m not trying to belittle, attack or accuse anybody. I simply wonder how to cope with this kind of mind play when it occurs. Others, you, included, and my wife and support team do take how I perceive things—through my “lens”—both the good and the bad into foremost view and do respond to my needs—what I want and not simply what I might want out of petty desire. Yet I still want that. And the feeling causes me both angst and confusion—perhaps powerlessness, too.
So I ask, what is it that I’m missing or not getting here? The “Schizophrenic Lens” can be so distorting and literally not make sense—at all.
I deserve to be heard, for one thing. Not just seen. And I have that. Other people do see and hear me, and so many fully consider all my limitations as well as my strengths and give me the benefit of the doubt when they can. Some do not, but that’s just Life.
I don’t give up. I am not giving up. I’m invested in this, though lately, I’ve been in that mindset where I believe that, given the schizophrenia and the more negative impact it has had on my life and perceptions with reality—and there are many examples, I’m sure most are common, from grief, to loss, and the list goes on, but especially when things, especially in my own head, whether I realize it or not—that they’re more symptomatic and not real, I think to myself, “I just want to move to the English countryside and start my life over again, altogether,” you know? But I push through. If I would follow that impulse of moving away, literally and restart everything, that would turn out to be the most devastating thing I could do. I have all that I need and want right now. The distortion that the “lens” of schizophrenia causes, I can further illustrate, especially when under more than usual stress levels, and all of my senses become heightened, to frightening levels.
The other day, my room temperature was not heating higher than 70. The thermostat read 70—not 75, as I had set it—for 24 hours. What I saw was the digital number “70″ on the thermostat. When my wife—and again, I’m not arguing, blaming of complaining—said (as I hear from others as well) that I “imagined” [that] (for example).
I need you to know that I saw 70 while my wife saw 75—on the same exact thermostat at the same exact time. I’m not “joking around” by mentioning this obvious delusion—which I fully acknowledge as such—it messes incredibly so with my already schizophrenic mind, or “lens.”
I know that I have Sz (schizophrenia) and I trusted my wife’s perspective more than my own, but just with that “little” day-to-day example, are you able to grasp the kind of impact that such a thing has on me? Then the spiraling down from there would consist of my questioning—in complete isolation—if all individual things in my life and experiences—my friends, even my own name—to question if such things are real or not, and knowing that I could never know the answers, except by hearing it—again, perhaps through the veil of delusion—from people I trust, then trusting if the answer or they are real or if they might have said, “Yes,” yet through my lens, I might hear, “No.”
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