The Psychotic Author

I had a conversation with my therapist…oh, a couple years ago now. About perspective and reality; I question both. Deeply and frequently. As an author, I very often put my mind into places that technically don’t exist and I can stay there for days at a time. By the definition I learned back in college, in Psychology 101, this would be classified as psychosis – a loss of connection to reality. I was having a particularly bad time of things, and I had come, once again, to questioning my own memories, perception, and intuition.

My therapist was quick to reassure me that I didn’t fit the true definition of the word and that what I was experiencing was a crisis of self that was caused by the gaslighting portion of the traumas I suffered earlier in life.

Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity. Over time, a gaslighter’s manipulations can grow more complex and potent, making it increasingly difficult for the victim to see the truth.

That was kind of her, and I don’t doubt her. She’s proven herself to me more times than I can count over the past six or so years that I’ve seen her. My health team, at this stage of my life, agree with her. It’s comforting…when I can believe it.

But she’s not been my only therapist in the thirty-five years I’ve been employing one. My first therapist, when I was fifteen, was actually a family counselor, hired by my parents to “fix” the family dynamic. It was her job to whack me into line with the stated family dynamic, as laid down by my father. The tool she chose to use was her diagnosis for me: Major Depression with Psychotic Episodes.

That diagnosis followed me for almost twenty years, until I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. Then, the ward’s psychiatrist listened to me tell him my diagnosis from before and he laughed, shaking his head. Then he gave me an equally inaccurate diagnosis that I carried for another decade. More pills that did nothing, but I took dutifully because I wanted not to exist in hell.

Until then, I’d only had the one perspective. They were my parents and the paid professionals whose only stated goals were to help me. Why would I fight that? I took my therapies and my pills and continued to believe that I had no idea what reality actually was and needed to rely on the perceptions and words of trusted others.

The same trusted others who I have now come to understand were responsible for my fractured perception. And the trusted others who reinforced the fracture.

I don’t think the effects of gaslighting ever really go away. Why else would I look at an email from a friend and see something entirely diffferent than anyone else who’s seen it? Of course it’s my warped perception causing the problem. I’m psychotic, aren’t I?

And I write. I continue to deliberately put my mind into places that don’t exist. Is every writer, to some degree, psychotic? Well, no. Not if you read the actual definition of the condition.

In the low times, it’s hard to find that defnition and believe in it. In the low times, it’s hard not to look at the face in the mirror and wonder if I’m slipping beyond the acceptable boundaries of reality.

In the low times, it’s hard not to hear that diagnosis and wonder if they really did get it right, way back when.

The low times suck.

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