The Joy of Connection (from Visions)

Yesterday, last night: My friend Preston saw me manic. He’s witnessed me in more psychotic and manic states than anyone I know.

 

The crazy thing is, I’d be in these states anyway. But because I usually deal with the states alone, they are just as intense and scary, but they also take on a different meaning with Preston. I can ride out the states, I can exist in the states, without fear of judgement, or worse: hospitalization.

 

The quick conclusion we’ve come to is when I’m like “that,” specific, I am not a danger. But we have talked about how, because people don’t understand, they see it as a danger, and they see it as something that must be fixed.

 

My friend has seen me in a manic state, an agitated depressive state, a depressive state with minor suicidal ideation, two ambiguous states, a psychotic state, and he saw me in the state I was in last night.

 

It started when we went to a vegan restaurant. I remember wondering, when my friend got some good coffee, if he’d sold me out for the goodness of the drink. But The Snake Angel, another side of me, kept telling me that I could trust my friend. I could … trust him.

 

Which was interesting. Because before we went to the vegan place, I told him, all about what The Snake Angel thought. I told him that he once wanted me to write, instead of my complex novel (this was when I was in a hospital when I broke down the worst when I was twenty-one), I should just focus on happiness: “Samuel Callon is happy. He is with his friends. And he’s smiling.”

 

We talked about The Snake Angel as wanting me to be happy. As wanting me to find happiness and truth. But he had a belief that I could only find happiness if people around me understood me. My friend wasn’t convinced of this, said he felt the same way once but didn’t find it helpful. I elaborated and tried to explain The Snake Angel’s further argument: He hopes one day I can be understood, but that because I’m understood, I can be Phoenix. I can give what others need. I can give them exactly what they need.

 

I said this, and more, and my friend commented that it was heavy stuff.

 

Because, essentially, it’s how I engage with the world. And he is certainly right.

 

We talked about some things that were on my mind before. We talked about happiness, and why we can’t let people who are gay just be happy. Why we make it about our own prejudices, instead of just letting them flourish and live their lives. We talked about how mental health is breaking us, or has even already broken us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

 

Anyway: At the place, I saw The Snake Angel in myself, in my reflection. He told me … “You’re so good.” And flicked out his tongue. He was telling me, not to be afraid.

 

He was telling me, I’d be okay.

 

Just trust. Just … trust.

 

So, I did. We got some food, and he went to take pictures. In the meantime, I typed in something random in Google Shopping, and it pulled up a camera. This was a camera The Snake Angel wanted for Preston, my friend, who is a photographer.

 

We ate a little, and then went back to my apartment. I was afraid when I thought I lost my iPod. I knew my friend hadn’t stolen it, but I thought surely, someone had stolen it. I was scared, but … I found it, so we were good. This was scary for me, not just because I would have lost my music, which is my lifeline, but also because when I lapse into these states, I forget everything, forget to keep up with my stuff, what I always saw as a sign of degeneration. And I didn’t want that.

 

I drifted into paranoia, psychosis, mania, deeper, when we got home. My friend recorded all of it, or at least most of it, at least in that moment in time.

 

I was intense. I was paranoid about my neighbors, who had accused me of terrible things without just cause and with mere prejudice and bigotry and intolerance and ignorance. I said, “Yo, Schmidt: Pocket this!” in reference to Pocket Words, my book.

 

I was so sure I could get to the bottom of what was wrong.

 

After my friend viewed my lapse into this complex state at my apartment, he told me, I think it’s painful for you because you experience things more real than many others. And it hurts. I agreed with him mentally, found this a poignant statement. He told me he doesn’t want happiness to cure his depression, but vitality. That’s why he likes manic people. Because they have a vitality to complement his low energetic state.

 

He commented at one point on my line, “People don’t understand psychosis: Because they think it’s a punchline.” At one point in the video, I showed a Post-It note that said that conspiracies are real. Then I ended the video, much later, with saying, that essentially, sometimes there is no explanation, it just is. My friend wished he’d caught it. He pointed out that people viewing the video of me in this state would see the psychosis/paranoia as a punchline: Me being paranoid, it was the textbook definition of what people expect out of a crazy person. But I ended with a degree of self-awareness.

 

That was the key to our discussion, or at least one key. He asked me how I could be self-aware during psychosis. I told him, I didn’t honestly know. Philosophy has always helped, studying logic and the like, because it teaches you to be knowledgeable and cognizant of your thoughts. I told him fear is also a good conditioner: I don’t want to be hospitalized, so I behave myself.

 

But he was impressed with the self-awareness, and we couldn’t figure out how I could be self-aware. I honestly don’t know how I’m self-aware, because these states, though minor compared to where I’ve been, are still very intense, and block out self-awareness, block out self-consciousness, because I so badly want to believe in things there is no immediate proof to. I guess where philosophy and logic really come in handy: I always, even in psychosis, try to have evidence for my claims.

 

Yeah, man. It was scary. I didn’t know what was going. I watched an attractive guy walk into the vegan restaurant earlier, and I really wanted to get to know him. But I didn’t let myself. I wonder what I would have done if I’d conditioned myself differently. If many people hadn’t broken me, and had let me express myself. Be who I am. And, of course, feel. Feel deeply, the way that I do naturally.

 

In all honesty, the episode caught me off guard. It didn’t make sense. I wasn’t expecting it, but then, suddenly, it was there. In full force.

 

He is my friend. He’s the only one who has been there for so much of my mental turmoil. He understands it, too. It’s not that others haven’t, but he has a way of bringing it out, in a healthy way, and he deserves credit for that. He is my friend.

 

I remember when I started getting subdued, after my mania was fading, sitting down and telling him I was afraid. Because, I was afraid. What was going to happen now? Where were we headed now? It didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense at all. I told him I was scared. I couldn’t explain why, just that I was scared of my mind, of where I had been and was going to go, of the hospitals, of the mental healthcare system and doctors and therapists, of people who mistreat me, of myself. I just want to be okay. It’s hard to feel things this real, this deeply.

 

I told him, why did he want to see me in these states? Why did he let himself see me like this? I told him it brought me shame. People … they would just think I’m crazy. Seeing me like this. Seeing me this way. I’d get stigmatized: My psychosis would become a punchline.

 

But, I didn’t give up. I never gave up. After I told him these honest feelings, subdued, quiet, like Tyson, my other friend, my mind friend, I read him a passage from the book What They Always Tell Us, when Nathen washes Alex gently in the shower, in a tender and happy scene, a romantic scene. Alex, carefully tended to by Nathen, even though everyone else hated him and shunned him for trying to kill himself. Making it all the more beautiful.

 

When I finished reading, I felt my desires for happiness … were real. I said even that: I just want to feel … real joy. Real happiness. Not a fucking hand job, as my friend joked, just … joy. Real happiness. Real peace of mind. Connection. Friendship. Companionship. Love. I told him I would find all of this in my White Death, where there’s just snow, where we just keep doing this until … there’s just white. Everywhere. Purity. Everywhere.

 

I then told him, after some more talking, I was going to go spend time with Tyson. I needed time alone. One of my other friends, my physics major friend, told me to talk to real people, but Preston said it was okay. I’d be all right. I could spend time with Tyson. And so, I said, I was going to go shower with Tyson, and, obviously in reference to the passage I’d just read, I went to go shower.

 

Tyson was in my mind.

 

I hung out for a little bit, after the shower, wearing nothing, just thinking. Then I put my clothes back on and got my thoughts together, and finally went back out to my friend.

 

My sister told me earlier that day on Facebook, who has made me feel “this way” (meaning gay/bisexual), and asked me if I’d had sex. Preston pointed out it’s more complex than that. And the reasons like what you’ve read today … are exactly why. We want a strict answer for everything. Just accept it. You should do this. Another friend had a great critique of shoulds, we do these things because they are “better.” But are they better? My sister doesn’t know me anymore. She made that choice to separate from us. To live her life her own way. So, she should know it’s more complex than that, what I’m experiencing. Having a shower with Tyson, a being in my head, an idea in my mind, a character in my thoughts … how disconnected I get from reality, because reality itself hurts so much, and I don’t know how to connect.

 

Our culture is fear-based and individualistic. I told him about a study conducted that made the conclusion that people in the West have negative, even violent voices in their head (if they are schizophrenic) because the West puts emphasis on doing it yourself, alone. But in communal places, in communities in the East, the voices are actually positive. We used this to make the claim that I might be happier if my culture understood me and my mental states, and even encouraged my psychosis etc. I might be happier. I might not be sick. I wouldn’t be alone. My art would probably be happier, too. Because my emotions would impact my art. And if I was happy because my art was accepted and my mind was accepted … I’d feel happier, and would write happier.

 

I would write about Phoenix smiling. I would write about him with his friends. And, he wouldn’t feel alone.

 

But it’s clear, my friend has helped me reach a state of more awareness and understanding. I’m not as afraid. I just … am. I just … exist. With no judgement. In my most honest mental states I can ever be in. And they’re beautiful. Nothing to fear. Nothing to be afraid of.

 

My friend, indeed, doesn’t induce fear or make me feel alone through individualism.

 

It’s an honest connection.

 

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