Healthy fascinations went awry
With thoughts moving at breakneck speed, at 16, I did not see an end to the downward spiral. I was on a band trip with my high school in the nation’s capital. In 1998, I was without sleep for at least 14 straight days. The antics of my hotel roommates were no solace for the turmoil I found myself in. The Greyhound took me and the high school band from place to place- from The Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the Washington Monument. I shot pictures of friends that must have been lopsided.
I was clearly out of focus. What would have been a joyful experience was tainted by moods which confused fear with joy. I had spent the whole spring before this trip exploring the local woods, sometimes as early as the break of dawn, sometimes while barefoot. My healthy fascination with the sunrise had become an obsession, as I started to lose sleep to catch the sunrise regularly in the summer of 1997. I was manic and psychotic. The nurses and doctors at the hospital caught it upon my dramatic admission in late April 1998. Immediately the staff thought that I had been traumatized while on the school trip.
Due to my rapidly moving thoughts, the staff Immediately administered the antipsychotic Haldol. In drama club, track. and wrestling, people had admired me for my speed and energy. However, These were telltale signs of my mania, not caught until guided inside the hospital emergency room. The first referral was my pediatrician to a psychologist, then the hospital emergency room due to the urgency of the situation, It was hard to know where to go since things were so sudden, and in the 1990s, mental health was rarely discussed.
Throughout my week’s worth of no sleep in Washington DC, terror was rampant. I hurt myself for the first time arriving home from this trip but caught myself before going too far. The newer generation antipsychotic Zyprexa administered in the controlled setting of the hospital allowed my foggy thoughts to meaningfully coalesce. After a week or so, the real game-changer was making art with chalk pastels in occupational therapy. My brain cells rewired, creating original natural scenery during discussions with others in the unit. Healing occurs naturally in the arts, and in my life, Medicine is secondary.
To this day I make art, with occupational therapy on the psychiatric unit as the precedent. The psychosis WAS the substance of my art. My subconscious came to life in the throes of confusion. Elusive Figures from my past have come alive with poetry and storytelling in artistic expression. Songs on guitar have expressed romantic adventures and provided entertainment to crowded nightclubs. As I recount dramatic stories with creative expression, a new life takes shape.