Now then, don’t panic, it’s ok, I’m not wearing a tin-foil helmet just yet…
But, still, paranoia can be very tiresome. Over the last couple of days, two posts have gone up on Mental Nurse (actually several have gone up – I mean two that are relevant). The first was on the subject of Daily-Mail-Gay-Adoption-Gate. The second was on (or at least partly on) the issue of change, and resistance to change, and the process of managing change. Both of these posts related in some way to posts I’ve put up on this blog recently. The gay adoption one is obvious. Issues about change and resistance to change within the NHS came up towards the end of my post about my mum’s experiences in elderly care (the third paragraph after the asterisk, if for some strange reason you’re desperate to read it).
Now, there’s obviously nothing odd about that. The row about the Edinburgh adopters has been winding lots of people up on both sides of the debate, so it’s not a surprise to find other people blogging about it. Focussing on change (and, specifically, change in the NHS) is a little more coincidental – but coincidences happen all the time, and this kind of subject matter is out and about at the moment, which is why I wrote about it in the first place.
But on both occasions my immediate thought process was – that was my idea/ where have they got hold of my ideas/ why have they got hold of my ideas/ are they stealing my thoughts? And so on.
Now, this is clearly batty. Obviously everyone and anyone might choose to write about these issues completely independently. Even if they were influenced by me (and I have no real reason for thinking they were), then clearly they would have been influenced by the publicly-accessible posts on this blog, and not by direct access to my thoughts. I know from comments they’ve left here, and links to my posts from the MN site, that both zarathustra and Mr. Ian (the people who made the posts concerned) read my blog from time to time. And, of course, even if they were trying to access my thoughts, they wouldn’t be able to without there being some kind of a thought-transfer wave, and that idea is patently nonsense.
But, the thing is, I have had to consciously walk myself through this thought process, and even having worked my way through it, I haven’t resolved the issue. I’ve reached the point where I’ve managed to convince myself that the rational explanations are most likely to be true, but that doesn’t do anything to shake the utter conviction I have at the core of myself that, actually, my instincts are right, and that my thoughts are no longer my own. That I’m no longer alone inside my own skull.
Now, of course, the fact I have this level of ‘insight’ (if you want to call it that) is a very good thing. Equally good is the fact that I have managed to train myself to trust in rationality, even when every other mental faculty I have is failing me. This maybe seems like it’s nothing to most people, but to me, especially at times like this, it’s a big deal. Rationality is the only bulwark I have against chaos, it’s what allows me to build stepping-stones out of a place like this. It gives me a firm place to stand in the middle of quicksand and say ‘This is real.’ I have no doubt that it’s what helps me in a crisis – in fact I’m certain it’s what stops days like today from becoming a crisis.
But, truth be told, it’s exhausting having to constantly second guess every thought I ever have. I know I can do it – it’s got me through times far worse than this – but I don’t know if I can keep doing it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. The price of freedom may or may not be eternal vigilance, but, for me, relentless rationality is the price of a medication-free life. And that relentless rationality itself comes at the cost of relentless self-analysis and relentless mental effort.
Now, there’s an obvious solution – give up on the medication avoidance. There are times when it seems incredibly appealing to just give up on the attempt to stand on my own two feet, and to sink back into the welcoming arms of chemical oblivion. If I was someone else, and I was giving me advice, I’m pretty sure I’d advise trying an antipsychotic. In fact, I’m sure that at least trying an antipsychotic is the rational course of action, and I’m supposed to have put my trust in rationality.
But still – I don’t want to. I may be wrong, I may be muddle-headed, but, still, this is me. This obstinate, heels dug into the ground, sheer bloody-minded determination is what I do. This refusal to let anything beat me is what defines me. I admire myself for my willpower. I’m proud of the fact that, when I decided it was time for me to stop smoking, I just stopped dead, and that nothing the world or my own psyche has thrown at me in the decade since then has been enough to make me take so much as one more puff. I’m proud of the fact that I’m managing, more or less, to do the same with alcohol. I’m bitterly ashamed of the fact that I haven’t been able to show the same willpower when it comes to food, and of the fact that my size and shape make my failure obvious to everyone who sees me.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Exaggerated regard for a particular character trait leading to the setting of impossibly high standards leading to exaggerated shame and guilt. It’s absolutely cast-iron, copper-bottomed mentalist thinking. CBTers will be falling over themselves to thrust their ‘thought diaries’ into my hand, and I can see their point.
But, then again, the fact that I can see their point renders their point invalid, doesn’t it? I’m aware of the thought pattern, I can see that it’s partly defective, and I can trace its effects. Perfectionist thinking is a problem for me (which is strange, really, given how obviously imperfect I am…), but that doesn’t mean that everything I think is wrong. I just don’t think I am wrong. Is it really wrong to want to hold off from antipsychotics until they’re absolutely necessary? Is it really wrong to take comfort from the fact that, even though I’m ill, I can still force myself to acknowledge the difference between what’s real and what’s false?
Now, that’s where I’d have liked to finish this post – some nice defiant rhetorical questions to make the point ‘To hell with the lot of them – I’m fine on my own.’
But I’m not, really, am I? ‘Normal’ people, ‘sane’ people, don’t have the kinds of concerns I do. Normal people don’t have to spend hours convincing themselves that their thoughts aren’t being stolen. Normal people don’t want to run away from every real-life human contact for fear they’ll be contaminated, and won’t just die, but will worse-than-die. (No, I don’t know what worse-than-die actually means, but I do know that I dread it in the pit of my stomach.) Normal people don’t have to convince themselves that, even though it looks like boiling porridge, the carpet is still safe to walk on. Normal people don’t find themselves sitting paralysed for minutes at a time by images and sensations of what it would be like if the carpet really was boiling porridge, and they sank through it up to their knees, and couldn’t get free, and the heat seared through skin and muscle, and started to char the bone.
Now, looking at it in that light, there can’t really be any talk of coping, can there? It’s clear that the person thinking like this is very far from coping. His willpower isn’t going to be enough on its own to win out against all this. This person needs help, his willpower needs reinforcing – so what a relief to know that he’s due to see his psychiatrist next week.
But I still don’t think I’m going to go see him, even though pretty much everyone else thinks I should. I’ve got through worse on my own, so I can get through this. And if I do that, then at least I’ll know there’s always a last resort to fall back on. Because that’s what really scares me the most of all. What happens if I allow myself to be persuaded to try the last resort and it doesn’t work?
What the fuck would I have to fall back on then?