My Reality
August 19, 2012, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Human Potential, Mental Illness

“But we’re never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy.” — Seal in “Crazy”

This is a song I’ve had in my head before and that I assumed was a message to me. The message: that my “mental illness” had purpose for me. Lately I haven’t heard it. Lately I hear, “Unforgettable,” by Nat King Cole a lot, “A Thousand Years,” by Christiana Perri a lot, “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song from the television show The Jeffersons, and sometimes I hear “California Here We Come,” by Phantom Planet, which I also heard a lot the last time I was in the hospital.

I know it sounds crazy to believe hearing songs in your head has some greater purpose, but it seems I innately see the songs as messages to me, messages from the universe or from my soul mate. I believe most of those songs I just mentioned are my soul mate trying to tell me that he loves me and hasn’t forgotten about me even though we’re not together. I like to think that The Jeffersons theme song means that I’m going to be successful one day. I’m not sure what the “California” song means.

It seems to be a common symptom of schizophrenia for people to believe that there are messages especially for them in songs they hear on the radio or things they hear or see through other media. But I prefer not to see my experiences as part of a “mental illness.”

I choose to view my beliefs as part of me living and believing in my own reality. Even if I tell myself a thousand times that I’m wrong, I honestly believe that the songs I hear in my head out of the blue are messages for me. That could change some day, but right now it’s my truth.

Surely if one looked at the general population, there would be lots of people who believed things that others didn’t believe, and most of those people probably have no mental health diagnosis. For example, often religious beliefs about how to live vary, even among people of the same denomination. Consider how different Christians view homosexuality, for example.

Even aside from religion, generally everyday people go about their lives seeing things through their own filter, their own private reality. And I’m happy to have my own, even if that makes me crazy or obsessed–to someone else.

A year ago when someone asked me why I wanted to write a book, I said I wanted everyone to march to the beat of his own drummer, and my new theory about me living my own reality seems a reflection of that desire. At the time I hadn’t developed this theory of people having their own realities. Now it seems the perfect puzzle piece to materializing my dream. Perhaps I am “movin’ on up.”


The Real Delusion
August 9, 2012, 11:30 am
Filed under: Mental Illness, Race, Society | Tags: , , , , ,

“One must be careful not to take refuge in any delusion–and the value placed on the color of the skin is always and everywhere and forever a delusion.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

After I copied this quote from the book (The Fire Next Time), I realized that it refers to being out of touch with reality, as do the other quotes I’ve posted recently; two are my own and another is Baldwin’s.

I like random quotes on mental health, especially when they’re part of a work that’s not focused on mental health, like Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time. I especially like references to society as a whole being mentally ill because I believe a lot of popular practices (such as not telling or asking someone’s age if they look over 30) are based on denying reality.

Yet, people with mental illness, such as myself, are seen as being singular in their disconnection with reality. Even in A New Earth by Eckart Tolle, Tolle refers to the insanity of the ego which drives a lot of people’s actions; he also believes that this ego-driven culture is coming to an end. Like in Baldwin’s quote (above), Tolle talks about people’s tendency to identify themselves with “form.”

Form can be anything material, such as race, income, sex, job titles, parental roles. It’s pretty much common sense in American culture that things like parental roles and  job titles define individuals. And when I look around, it’s obvious that race seems to define people so much so that most people marry only people of their same race or socio-economic background.

It seems like insanity to me that no one realizes that our popular practice of identifying with skin color (and other “forms”) is the complete opposite of what Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of. Yet we celebrate his dream as if we’ve accomplished it. I’d be crazy not to acknowledge that we’ve made progress in our interactions, and in educational equality, among other things. But in reality Americans are still far from valuing the content of a man’s character over the color of his skin (or over his income, or ESPECIALLY his marital status, which is celebrated as a character strength in America).

Sometimes I feel anti-social talking about this phenomenon of people only marrying someone of their same race because it’s so common. How do I make friends with people when almost everyone around me does something that I see as problematic? I don’t want to push people away, but I don’t want to swallow my beliefs either.

But I end up doing a bit of both: avoiding people and zipping my lips about my views. It feels awful not getting to live more fully.

Particularly there’s a married couple I used to love spending time with. But after I posted some notes on Facebook about my perceptions of marriage and same-race marriage (and after posting some comments on Facebook when I was in a psychotic state), I feel the need to avoid socializing with them, partly to protect myself from rejection, but also because I feel like I’d be a traitor to myself otherwise.

At least in being alone I have more time to find true comrades, like James Baldwin and even Eckart Tolle who, in revealing themselves, hold up a mirror to for me to see myself and my views. They make my views seem noble and loving, not so viscous and divisive.

Part of My Insanity: I See Inequality

“Something very sinister happens to people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become… The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality–for this touchstone can only be oneself.”

–James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

I really liked this quotation (above) from James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time, which includes two essays–a letter on the 100th anniversary of Emancipation and an autobiographical piece. I feel that this and other parts of the book, which was published in 1963, still ring true today.

All my life I have been hyper-aware of people’s tendency to avoid mentioning taboos, like race and sexual orientation. I think I adopted the tendency as my own for many years because I was so keenly aware of it, even though avoidance goes against my nature. I love talking about race, especially with people of  different races. And I love direct, blunt interaction, which is rare in American culture.

The only discussion of race I probably heard as a child was education at school about how things were so much better than they had been. However, in my experience, I saw that race was still very powerful, seemingly more important than character; it determined who people married, who liked who at school, which girls were prettiest, who had the most desireable hair, who was smartest at school, who had the most money.

I often wonder why I didn’t trust myself and my perception of a racist reality over the heaven-like reality suggested by people’s avoidance of race discussion. People’s silence on race implies that everything is okay and that the inequality and racism that I perceive is all in my head.

I can only guess that I believed in the crowd more than myself for so many years because standing my ground would have resulted in a me-against-the-world situation; I had no one else to confirm the reality I saw.

At least that’s the challenge I face today in telling my story. I fear I’ll be labeled a “troublemaker,” or insane for seeing same-race relationships and continuing inequality in education as reflective of Americans’ deep-seated racism. I say deep-seated because it’s survived so many struggles, such as the civil rights movement and changes in laws and public opinion.

Going back to Baldwin’s quote, I don’t think racial separation is natural in this country. I think racial divisions are the result of people distrusting their reactions and desires. I think we yearn to be together, but fear of not fitting in and displeasing others conquers that yearning.

I had a thought last night that when we leave this world or if we ever end up in a spirtitual world together–black, white, Arab, Asian, etc.–it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be as separate as we are in this world’s so-called “reality,” which does not accurately reflect people’s true desires.

It’s unfortunate that we have to live in a world with so many barriers (race, income, religion) between souls that might really enjoy each other’s company if they got to spend time together. Souls that might even change the world if they had the chance to intermingle.

Of course, I believe in soul mates, an idea that’s largely discredited by the culture I live in, so all of this may sound like craziness. Luckily, sometimes I’m unafraid of seeming crazy.