I was asked to write down three things I cannot live without on a piece of scrap paper for a seminar on interpretation.
At that time, I was floridly psychotic, self-referential, tangential, and totally detached from what was happening to me, around me, and despite me. On the paper, I wrote down three things : (1) Ensure, (2) Education, and (3) Language. My belief is that I choose Ensure, and each other word for their complex, profound importance in my life and multiplicity of meanings. Due to my symptoms, I was in basic survival mode, and my body responded by signaling that I need to focus on my most basic needs if I was to survive and continue to follow my dreams. My familiarity with basic artificial nutrition has a rich past with the Ensure drink. My grandmother had passed away years ago, but I still remember the various life-sustaining and life-preserving measures our family took to keep her alive and ensure her health and vitality.
My family ordered cartoons and trays of the beverage, which arrived at my grandmother’s apartment for over a decade during her final years. I am no stranger to artificial nutrition. In the Oncology unit. Nursing homes. Keeping the body alive through any means necessary is something I have been exposed to as a profound ethical dilemma, and continue to question my own personal end-of-life plans. Capacity issues, my own situation, and history with losing the ability to care for me legally. Knowing that I have lost capacity once before, I was told I might not ever get it back. The associated thoughts and feelings of being totally powerless to make decisions on my own behalf were as devastating as it was frightening. The feeling of not being in control was something that I have always feared, like many people do, but are never put in a space where physiologically they cannot control themselves.
But in 2008, I was young, unaware of my illness, and pulling on every and any survival method I could think of to stay alive, healthy, and seemingly able to take care of himself when I was told I was losing my grip to make rational judgment calls and increasingly, using bad decision-making skills. Then, I heard these behaviors as life choices, so I ignored this deafening warning bell, which should have signaled a serious problem at work. I was a young adult, though. I had just learned how to live independently in the community as an adult and function at the level of a college student in upstate New York.
Something was happening to me that turned back the hands of time, both developmentally in terms of my own capacity to self-manage, exercise sound judgment, and be rational about my living situation and life circumstances. I knew that my situation was becoming more and more serious and knew if I was to survive on my own, I would have to be more resourceful and clever about managing my money, conserving food and energy, and living totally independently. The choice became I was preceding to live a new lifestyle.
Indeed the drink Ensure, and other artificial nutrition drinks, snacks, medications, even gasoline, and eventually sugar, basic glucose to keep the heart pumping I began to progressively stockpile. If I would have to lose weight for an extended period of time due to limited access to local soup kitchen from lack of available, affordable transportation, I began asking friends to bring me packages of fresh groceries from week to week. It got so bad towards the end of May that I was eating leftover meals from the common fridge, not knowing whose meal it was, its freshness, or visibility when it goes missing. The owner begins to point fingers at the person who was eating his or her leftovers without permission. But this was a minor infraction in the litany of boundary transgressions, threatening gestures, and non-verbal articulations, and unrecognizable signs I would point to when making a point or trying to broadcast a message to my peers through my thoughts at school, home, or when driving.
Ensure thus became a more and more friendly visitor in my fridge. I stockpiled everything that could potentially be depleted. I knew full well I may not have another opportunity to make up for the provision I would simply have to do without it to continue on the struggle and work cross purposes with the university of which I I refused to accept graduation, and move on in my life unless the school overturned its rejection of my application to its English graduate school. While it continues to be important to me, education was regarded by me then as something above reproach and indefensibly pure in nature as noble, regal, and the highest gift I could give my school was to continue on at the apex of the academic affairs. The deepness of my belief in Education still echoes in the chamber halls and libraries I passed through then and hung up signs making myself a victim of political academic game, and unfair practices in higher education.
The extreme nature of the English department’s victimization inflicted upon me went deep into the psychological wellspring of crimes that persisted to continue without retribution, the intervention of the law, and mediation by a party at the university or by friends and relatives. Collateral intervention and treatment could have put things into a more accurate or relative perspective. If had been nonjudgmentally applied to my situation, it might have helped connect me to treatment sooner before the psychosis was in full bloom. Instead, the very language I was seeking, completing my unpolished rhetoric, and years spent learning about how words work would also fail me. About the time I began running out of medication, I began hearing voices. About the time I realized my body was so ridden with involuntary spasms and tremors, I went looking for any and all medication I could find to ensure I would continue as a student in pursuing higher education.
That was when I noticed the signs were changing all around me. Words were taking on double, sometimes triple meaning. I could not read or speak coherently without getting tongue-tied on a phrase, common expression, or any colloquialism that was generally assumed to have a particular meaning. Given I was in the mindset of challenging everything, and everyone, and all meanings to de-stabilize and create a new altogether different language, I began to get confused when communicating with people, reading directions, and even simple hand gestures which we all have an unspoken understanding of their intended meaning.
But then again, I was bowing instead of saying hello or goodbye because it was in fact, non-verbal. Since I was losing speech a fairly substantial rate, I knew I would have to begin planning my responses, greetings, and salutations with limited capacity. This was difficult, especially because some language was becoming unclear, wholly useless at different rates, and trying to implementing basic interactions, or sustain situationally inappropriate language became increasingly a struggle. For example, since I wasn’t supposed to speak with my professor directly, and I had to communicate with him for class each week face to face, I began bowing instead of saying hello, goodbye, or anything that would orally contribute to tension between myself and the staff I was supposed to keep a distance.
Knowing full well my situation was precarious, I commissioned the Doctoral Guard. This band of imaginary compatriots in the battle against the academy and transnational freedom would be the subject of my many messages on voicemails, requesting the location, position, and success of my transnational freedom with friends and family. After being arrested, I fully well believed I needed someone watching my back. Given the increasing number of unfortunate situations that seemed to keep happening. It was my last sincere hope before I lost all impulse control that these imaginary friends would somehow intervene in my personal affairs and move back into a space of fortune and favor again. My very last hope was returning to the earlier manic periods. This was when I experienced extreme euphoria and little interference from increasing symptoms.
So, I began stealing medication at home. About the time I was searching through the drawers of my housemates and swallowing unknown pills that weren’t prescribed for me I was also hearing very commanding voices to keep taking more medication, all of the medication, or begin fortifying my home from the Binghamton police who were broadcasting on the telephone poles from speakers that they would enter my home with force if I did not do one thing or another at their will. I refused to listen. Not because I knew they were just voices but because the voices were all the self-doubt, negativity, and shame I had experienced before in my life that I was determined not to let it follow or consume me. I believed if I continued on and lived a normal life, it would mean adjusting to my newfound stiffness, a condition that would blossom into catatonia, and other physical complaints that were making it increasingly difficult to move around ambulate without confusion and extreme agitation.
Ultimately, despite having all three items on my list: (1) ensure, (2) education, and (3) language I was still not able to survive without intervention from the authorities. Moments after I lost all control of my body I heard voices that resembled a bomb timer ticking away, and then, a countdown to what seemed like it was going to an explosion. Running out of my house naked and totally paralyzed with fear, I ran into the local police, investigating the broken windows in my car. It seemed that in my confusion I had thrown a giant rock through my car window, and then according to a re-telling of the story. Written documentation of my alleged description of the events, I had crawled through the broken window, took the same rock, and threw it through the other window and side of the car to make the glass appear more even.
Anything for the semblance of normality. Anything to ensure education and the pursuit of my dream. To be a language expert. In the end, the very language I used to survive, turned on me, or became so inaccessible and ineffective to continue without eventually going into free fail and in need of immediate help. When I got into the police car, I looked at the monitor in front of the car. The monitor said “Suspicious Signs” and I knew then, as I know today, to be very suspicious of anything which goes without explanation or plausible rational solution. Anything that takes more than three words to explain, three to clarify and another three to challenge the original meaning is nine words too long without producing or identifying a solution to the problem. Instead, we all need to let you each other know more clearly and urgently before symptoms become unmanageable. Always safely impart critical messages for a course correction in your new condition to avoid the path to relapse. Ultimately, listening, keeping an open stance, and being less blocked to suggestion might have supplied the right perspective to pause the rapid destabilizing and mental status free fall and spin out we are all susceptible to acute crisis.