Monday, July 07, 2014

Loose Associative Links

"I've been thinking about a problem." Moneypenny and I are sitting in his living room, while I'm on my visit to larger Midwest City from Smaller Midwest City. "If you are working from a many worlds theory, where everyone's life is their own world, then you basically create your own world. What do you think people would do differently if they realized that they created their own world?"  I wasn't sure if this was a poke at how I had been feeling all weekend, so mired in the lack of a clearly, overwhelmingly good decision that I feel unable to make any, or was coming from his own place of wanting to make a better life for himself. Either way, it still put me on the defensive and I went on a five minute rant about how no matter what changes in life or attitude people may make there would still be things in their life that they couldn't change and that would still suck anyway. Then I felt guilty for not being able to add anything to his conversation. I ended up leaving an hour earlier than I might have originally because I couldn't stand to sit there anymore as I fought both being angry and wanting to cry.

These kinds of thought experiments used to be fun for me. Even when I couldn't completely understand or envision them, the seemingly kooky ideas that pop up in quantum mechanics always blew me away and I loved thinking about the possibilities they presented. When I was studying Buddhism and how we create our own realities, I could easily get carried away in those possibilities as well, the ability to unravel so much of the suffering that we have created in our own lives. Stone-cold sober, he and I could have the kind of conversations that people are only supposed to be able to have when they are on some sort of mind-altering substance.

But in recent years, I've drifted further and further away from those kinds of discussions and, on the drive home, I was plagued by the question of why. I used to love those kinds of thought experiments, would come up with at least half of the places we would start on my own. Now it rubs me the wrong way to even things of them. I'm trying to work out why. I'm going to try to arrange my thoughts as best as I can, but I'm not sure how good of a job I'll do, so bare with me.

I think part of it is that with the stuff that has happened in my life, it has felt less important. Who cares about the possibilities of the multi-verse or unravelling the cycles of suffering in our lives when we're caring for ill and/or dying family members? Or even when we are just trying to get by, paycheck to paycheck? When you're spending all your time trying to figure out how to pay the next bills or how to afford to move out or you'd be able to someday go to school to be able to get a better job so you don't have to worry as much about paying the bills, you don't have as much, if any, room in your head for thinking about more esoteric things. Or at least I don't. We had all these conversations when I was 21 and in college. Yes, I only had a part-time job and I had to think about my schoolwork and being able to pay bills, but there were much fewer of them and I was convinced that soon I would have a decent enough job that I wouldn't have to worry as much about paying bills. I was convinced that my near future looked brighter so it wasn't as much of a chore to worry about the bills then. Now I'm 32 and I'm hitting this wall where my future doesn't look any brighter, where my best case scenario is having a future that is this same shade and not a shade darker. As much as I might want to, I just don't have it in me to give a shit about that stuff any more.

But I think that a big part of it is the crazy. I read this article last week from the Atlantic's website that was about the link between creativity and mental illness. Near the end of the article, she writes about talking to another colleague about creativity and schizophrenia (emphasis is mine): "Heston and I discussed whether some particularly creative people owe their gifts to a subclinical variant of schizophrenia that loosens their associative links sufficiently to enhance their creativity but not enough to make them mentally ill." Her end conclusion in the article is : "Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill. And some people, like John Nash, are both." This really hit home with me. Now, I do not have schizophrenia, or a family history of it, nor have I ever been a creative genius, but I do think that the ways in which I think of things that many others might not come from a different way of associating things. But I think that that much of this is tied to letting the crazy drive the train more. Now that I am not letting her drive the train as much, the less I have that. It is not as bad as I had hoped that it would be when I first started down this road of improving my mental health, but it is there and it is enough of a difference that i notice it. I also have to deal with the long-term side effects of psychiatric medications. My memory has never been the same after I took lithium. Being on a mood-stabilizing medication that wards against the brain chemically induced suicidality as well as bringing up the low parts of the low side and down the up side of the ups means that I don't have those periods of creative hyper-energy anymore. (You know, mania.) As we speak, I'm also having weird things happen which I'm not sure are mental illness or medication related (or neither), like spacing out and losing time, and increased light sensitivity and black floating spots in my vision occasionally. But if you take this and add it up what you get is less memory to cull from, less energy to make associations, and a quieter and more orderly brain with less loose associations. And a woman who is very sad and more than a little angry that she has to make the decision between living life at all and having an interesting brain, though she is pretty sure what decision she will keep making day after day, even though it means she doesn't get to have those conversations anymore.

1 comment:

TyRoy Washington said...

Also, sometimes there is just "writer's block". Don't take it that hard. Happens to everyone.