Aspirations

Enough of this lolling about, I need to organise my psychosis, shape up and get with the programme.

In March 2017 I experienced a six-week episode of improved motivation. For several years until then I had been subject to such a degree of Schizoaffective-induced lack of interest and anhedonia that I rarely left my flat. I’m frequently the same again now.

This window of desire and inclination coincided with me receiving therapy.

I am fortunate that I live in the South of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Regarding service provision, it is arguably the best place to be a mental patient in Britain. I have had extended periods of psychological intervention and haven’t just been fobbed-off with the usual short course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): 12 weeks, or ten weeks, or 6 weeks, or twenty minutes. Dr Jay Watts (Shrink at Large on Twitter) has written that GPs in East London are being trained to administer 10-minute slices of CBT. It’s so miraculous that just a short burst of it with a family doctor and you’ll be as ripe as ninepence. It can cure everything from the blues to boredom to baldness.

Understandably, the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) are very keen on CBT. Mind doctors will be present wherever poor people gather – in health centres, in Greggs, down the bookies – ready to dispense work-related mercies and performance-enhancing kindness. Psychologists will be placed on every street corner as a precaution, available to spot any behaviour that can be used to diagnose a person as “fit-for-work”.

The video And This time It’s Personal, Psychocompulsion & Workfare looks at the use of the use of psychology in mandatory back-to-work schemes.

On the Psychotic & proud page, I refer to Therapy Types. I use this vague classification as I’m not clear what sort of therapy/counselling I received. I’m not convinced the therapists/counsellors were entirely sure what that they were administrating. It goes to the heart of the problem. How do you deal with someone who turns up one day engaged and reasonably articulate and the next day is all but mute and can’t make eye contact? Added to that is my need to cancel things at short notice because I believe people are trying to control my thoughts using a force called sonic or I’m going through a hefty session of visual hallucinations and don’t want to leave the house.

There seemed to be a constant ebb and flow of optimism as to what could be achieved, but in my most recent course of therapy, we settled on dealing with some of the most elemental problems resulting from my Schizoaffective-induced lack of get-up-and-go. I think the therapist started out with loftier ambitions but was a realist. I’m pointing this out as there are more militant Therapy Types out there who’ll want people in catatonic states to talk about their childhood, while others dismiss Anorexics who refuse to eat a burger and chips as being unwilling to engage with the process and beyond help.

We talked about me setting goals, a set of ambitions and daily destinations. I wondered if my having targets might be pitching it a bit high. We spoke about objectives and missions but settled on aspirations because for most of the time I can’t do more than just hope to achieve things. Even the most modest tasks can be distant dreams.

It took several weeks, but we managed to distil my bashful yearnings down to a prudent list.

Eight months later and I’ve edged slowly forward. It now contains broad areas combined with micromanagement.

I have some hours of the day allocated to “activity”. This includes the voluntary work I do, learning new things and creative endeavours such as writing this blog. There’s time set aside each day for reading and another block of time earmarked for art gallery visits.

The micromanagement would be better described as nano-management: I have reminders to record how much gas and electric I use each week, to check the carbon monoxide alarm and even to put a note next to the kettle on Thursday night to make sure I don’t forget to weigh myself on Friday mornings. I aspire to cut my toenails on Tuesday evenings.

My aspirations are in a Microsoft Word document called typicalweek.doc. I resave a copy of every Tuesday evening and plan my aspirations for the coming week, with my week beginning on Thursday as I get my Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) every other Thursday and that’s the day of the week that my care worker/cleaner comes.

You’ll be thinking this sounds amazing and that I must get so much done. That’s not how things pan out.

I have an idealised version of my life where I undertake a few light hours of activity in the morning – say, voluntary work – visit an art gallery in the afternoon, and come home and do some reading in the evening. In reality, I go for days or sometimes weeks at a time when if I manage to take my medication, brush my teeth and change my underpants I consider myself a high achiever.

No voluntary work gets done most weeks, and I had to publish the “Schizosomething is Unwell” post to explain the lack of updates on this site, and I have been nowhere near a gallery for more than a month now (the aim is to visit one three times a week).

Why?

The Sonic Phenomenon continues to dominate my life. For at least a third of the week, I struggle with the idea that people are trying to insert a force called sonic into my head and that they are trying to control my thoughts. This can often take up the whole of the week. At a low level, it can go on for weeks at a time. I have to consider myself lucky that overall I retain a fair degree of insight.

The Sonic Phenomenon is closely linked to motivation. You could set flat on fire, and I’d still lie in bed, and I procrastinate to an unfathomable degree. I thought I was becoming very ill again at the start of November 2017 as I kept saying to myself. “I’ll feed Schizo in ten minutes… I’ll feed Schizo in ten minutes”. Poor cat went unfed for a long time. Recovery in the bin on Twitter advised me to get an automatic cat feeder.

I don’t like leaving the flat during one of my hallucination jam sessions. It’s not that I find these frightening – I know that some people experience terrifying visual hallucinations – I just have a sense of wariness of being around people. They can tell that I’m not in the present and that I’m mentally otherwise engaged.

Then there is my anxiety.

I saw my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) a few weeks ago and told him I never experienced anxiety like this before, though I speculated that I may have been too busy being mental in other ways to notice. Now when I leave home, I experience soaring dread. I feel jumpy and hypervigilant and constantly look around. I think I attract attention to myself as a result. For several weeks I haven’t felt equal to running the gauntlet of the motley collection of misfits who guard our palaces of art, especially the oddballs at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).

In the street, on the tube and walking around Tesco I am terrified to make eye contact. I momentarily caught someone’s gaze while sitting in the local Tesco cafe. I thought they gave me a sour look. It was only when I glanced back at them that I realised it was their countenance. They just had one of those faces. Often I don’t spot these things and instead return to my digs thinking the world hates me.

Talking aloud in public and at home continues to be a problem. Outdoors, naturally, this attracts attention.

The only good news in all this is that I am reading more. For the first time in my life, I have a reading list in preference to ambling along from one book to another. It’s full of things I think I should have read (mostly fiction). It’s in a Word document, and I would put it here to download, but I’m too embarrassed for it to be publically known that I have such huge gaps in my fancy book learning.

There is a long-term quest. Apart from the weekly prompting to check my carbon monoxide alarm, my aspirations are primarily geared towards acquiring the skills required for greater self-expression. The learning aspect of the activity I described above includes web design stuff, making videos/podcasts and general digital tomfoolery. It will allow me to develop more of a voice. I bought a copy of Grammar for Writers to help me on my journey.

If I ever become well enough to think about paid work, maybe I will be able to go back to web design. If I end up washing dishes, at least I’ll have some sort of intellectual outlet to stop me going even more mental than I am already.

Featured image

Double exposure of angel and trees in Brompton Cemetery using the Snapseed app. Taken with my iPhone, December 2017.

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