Paul’s ECT Diary
Well, ok, no more real excuses left I suppose I had better write at least something or later rue that I did not.
I have just had my first treatment of ECT – electro-shock therapy. I had it at around 7.30 and it is now 9. I am wearing purple underwear and multi-coloured socks that do not match and I am typing at my desk in a room at the Perth Clinic. I feel ok, no worse than usual and better than most as I am not in the depths of the deep blue as I often am.
I have a headache and I neglected to mention two of the things I am wearing – a hospital wrist-cuff and some kind of electrically sensitive sticker on my chest. I was not afraid in the morning that led with stalking inevitability to the procedure (by the way there is a doctor here called “Dr Assumption” – what’s the prognosis Dr assumption? Looking GOOD huh? Is this arm broken? Are you SURE? Are you really really SURE?).
I have done my f*cking research like I always do and not only that but so have my father, my sister, and my mother read a BOOK about it. And they all agree that the unusual and devastating diagnosis appended to my usual manic-depressive diagnosis seems to leave little choice (an underlying and time deep despair; a manifest and pervading depression.)
Shock treatment is the best path, rutted with reasonable fear and speculation though it is. The staff keep trying to explain to me what it does. Sure, they understand it better than I do, but the truth is that I have read experts from on high depict the brain as the final frontier and something about which we know practically nothing. And it has to be thus. If it were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too stupid to understand it… ah, a catch 22, there are so many in life are there not???
I was struggling with a nasty pointy one yesterday myself – you see I could find no reliable account of the memory loss involved in having ECT because the people who have had ECT have got memory loss. So how would they know? But my fears were assuaged to an extent by the Doctors that I saw subsequently, though I didn’t trust the guy with the Monet tie – passionless limp artist he is. I know why I was not afraid, I suppose. My primary fear was that I would lose the depth of my long term memory – what I have worked so hard to remember over so many many years (“our memories are hunting horns whose sound dies on the wind.” Guillard Appollinaire. Hah. I guess the quotation facility is intact.)
Once I had learned that this was immensely unlikely and all I was going to lose were these moments themselves – around the time of the procedures, the truth came out vomited in my mind that ok f*ck it I do NOT care. Though memory loss in itself is a very odd thing. The memories are masqued and yet YOU appear in them. And… “Who WAS that masked man?” I am kind of cool with it since I have drunk so much in my life. Not that I wish for it to continue, but hey I mean if it works, if it actually really in real reality works, I will have traded two weeks of a hazy existence for really what amounts to… well perhaps that in itself requires some serious prose.
My head is ok… the headache has abated somewhat and all I have to remind me is the memory and the knowledge that it did in fact happen, since I was under a sense-occluding anesthetic – the two pieces of time before and after I went under. I remember up to the point where the nursey said now you will feel a sharp pain and then a cold sensation up your arm. I don’t remember where I woke up – I infer that it was in my bed though I am certain that I do not know.
Now. Hmm. I DID do that a great deal when I was drinking though it was more of a surprise where I went to sleep. Other ends of the loop, catch a timeline by the TALE!!!! I require nicotine. I must make my way hence. ACH. I have at least begun. Eek. Hm. Later it is – the evening of the above day. Wednesday. For a time I felt quite high and otters commented on the change – I seemed as well as felt brighter on the morn of my carapace’s electrocution. Now I do not.
I feel lazy over-full with my own idiocy and BLEH Christ I carry on and on – out out suffering I say and clutch it to my breast like an over-sized cartoon character to an evil little child (or the reverse.) One of the known and I believe the most typical side effects of ECT is tired-ness…, And I feel tired early in a sick kind of tired a sweaty-sheeted tired a moving through mud and honey though not that sticky sort of tired. I do tend to manage to put a tick next to every possible common side effect if I take drugs and why should this be any different?
Maybe I should attempt to write something interesting instead of this drawing out; this cigarette’s call – this hunt for subject just describe how you feel Paul. Put those metaphors down. You might need them later. So And we were…? Was I at the end? I owe you one linear time point. Feel crappy grr. My room-mate is watching the gnus (news) on TV. F*ck. Hm I am having trouble with my eyelid dropping forth closing considering flicking such a soft so fundamentally soft a thing. Ok f*ck you conscience-guy I am going to bed and I didn’t do ANY f*cking painting today!
19th FEBRUARY – Morning
The morning was excellent, exquisite and resolute in deep passion and ocean blue. I swam with Lisa under the blooming sky – we swam and sank and I lifted her in the surf, her weight and warmth devastatingly real. I was immersed, hah! A baptism in life. I said to her that I had found a new goal, I told her that I now sought “Clarity” that all of my thought was going to be tried and tied by its loop. She said she lived. And I laughed and f*cking laughed because of course that was so much more clear than the seeking of clarity could be, than any of my forms and expressions and bullsh*t lines of thought! Why is it that in seeking the value – in askance of value, I miss and preclude the value itself? Ah but not for these moments.
I held her and held her and told her of the things such things that I have seen and know, her eyes a flaming version of the ocean’s aquamarine. I believe there were few wants this morning. Few, yes. A beautiful woman a flawless ocean; the right temperature of day and water, timed by degree. The beach a strip of pure white wire in my mind. What more? I out-stayed the two hours outside the ward I had been prescribed by Dr Orr by an hour, and no-one had noticed, about which I am perhaps more apathetic than they were.
I am shaky and agitated and I do not really know why at the moment – it is not even the turning of my thoughts I do not think, just some state, some slackening of reins somewhere inside me. My hands are quick over the keys with sudden hesitations and corrections. The words are everywhere, laid open like a messy room or wound. I feel a little more calm – that may be due to the absorption of my missed morning meds. I hate this; all, hate it so much it makes me feel like I have grown not at all from the vicious teenager with the wounded eyes that I used to be; used to inhabit.
I do not care to be in this place any longer. I have too much I need to do. I… Foolish to go on in that vein. I am here for the next few weeks, however many thousand seconds that may be. Staying. I have to stay here. It will keep me alive. How strange to even consider that as truth. Thursday night before Friday’s morning treatment. I wrote half of a song this night. Oddly and alternately elated and tired. Tiredness is a kind of madness so Dostoevsky says and am I to argue? The man with whom I share a room at night is watching sport television and hiccupping. He must be killed.
20th FEBRUARY – Morning
After the second treatment. I did not sleep last night, though that in itself is not particularly surprising in consideration of the solid sleep I ascertained the night before and not unlike me or even possibly unlike others if the stress were shared out. The details of the lead up to the general anesthetic are very clear to me, as are the details of the one previous. Perhaps I will be further affected after more treatments, I really don’t know. I feel fried. It is a sensation that I think may well be outside my previous experience. It is not completely unpleasant, though mostly so. Certainly it is preferable to many of the states and sensations that the illness (the f*cking curse) of bipolar subjects me to with pendulous swinging clubbing force.
I have a headache I suppose and my usual restless wandering prickling and speeding thoughts, made worse by the headache and the lack of my music to listen to. I HATE going without a sound track. I suppose I should begin counting down the days. I know I will be having six treatments, one every two days. So it should take twelve days as the lunatic flies, but may not as the specialists involved seem unlikely to work weekends. This would be the third day. Fu-uck. And I hate this place so well already. That would leave me here for another 9 days. My teeth hurt from being clenched so hard so desperately life-bleedingly hard in seizure. I can not of course remember it but it is akin to waking from a drinking binge to find that I had been in.
21 st FEBRUARY
I managed to leave my keyboard and mouse at home and could not get them till this evening – this being an ancient piece of crap laptop I have only begun to write and it is 7.35 in the evening. No memory loss that I can (can I? would I even know? How can anyone ask themselves questions like this?) perceive. I seem to be able to see through my mind like a piece of plate glass being made on boiling tin. I feel… I feel a deep, a bone deep despair.
I am constantly hyper-conscious of my actions; of my words. I cannot imagine being otherwise. It is unpleasant and the way I have felt in my lifetime’s gathered sense. Arc them and reel them in under a long deep grass scythe and that is with f*cking brutal clarity the answer that I get. I suspect that I feel things in some star-bright way… no wait, ill chosen metaphor. I suspect that I feel things raw; as if the skin had been taken from my eyes, my hands, my ears, mouth and throat. Each sense, I believe, is tuned in some way to over-provide me with stimuli and I have too much. Too much! My hands are f*cking full it runs out between my fingers too f*cking much.
I have felt this day little different than I have felt on any other day. I feel tired, I want to go to sleep, I want it all to stop hurting me just for a little while. Am I working myself up to this? Is this what I do? OK few alternatives no recourse to escape never ever, I think I will go and get some more meds and have a cigarette. Find me something else, ever. ….I dare you. Hm well I have done those two things and I think I do feel slightly better, strange (so close that word, to strangle!) as it is for me to admit. I also had tea. A nice hot cup of tea, some godamned biscuits and some psychiatric medication and we have A NEW PAUL.
KEENING IN THE NAME OF… Hm. It seems I have got NPD as a diagnosis appendable to bipolar affective disorder. I passed a pregnant woman in the coffee room who had lizards’ eyes, untouched by her polite smile. Of course, I believe she was here to see her husband. No wonder he cannot cope or hope at home. I think I saw straight through to her soul and it was very cold there. NPD translates to narcissistic personality disorder. More homework – I have to find out exactly what that means. I don’t qualify for many parts of it as I am not actively malicious, and will not sabotage anyone but myself (with deliberation that is). It is the attention that I crave. F*cking footlights that I crave.
Even in writing this I am writing to a vast silent audience, even an older version of myself. Not so I can record my thoughts and later pore over them and what they might mean – fresh from the mental ward – no; more so I can read later and be reassured after sudden chill of reality that I am still something unusual even in here amidst the lunatics and Nietzsche’s abortive saints. And of course, I am. Though if this is an advantage to me I do not know. I am restless today as ever. I have already worked for hours this day and paced the beautifully carpeted halls, smoked my strong cigarettes and cleaned and reloaded my memory.
I am a little better than I was though. The intensity of BEING seems to have abated to the point where I only have to squint and not close my eyes and cut. I am on very light meds. Who knows if it is them or the 2 sessions of electro-convulsion that I have experienced that have improved my existence. Or if it is just me and I turn slightly away from my own searing light, from my own blistering, inward, f*cked up, sun. I need more cigarettes, must smoke I need to hold my head in my hands since there are no other hands to hold it for me. It IS better to die on your feet than live on your knees. I have done pushups sit ups and dips, lots of each. I am trying pretty hard not to let the medication make me fat this time.
It is so strange to have all these people on the inside of these walls – and they do seem more sane than the generic freaks that I may meet were I to paint in public for a few hours. I miss my car. I feel so trapped here. I won’t go ANYWHERE normally without an easy escape in case I am anxious and feel trapped, not even for a few hours. And this is for weeks. WEEKS! Argh! I have at least another week and a half TO GO. F*ck THAT. Man… I mean… sure I have a lot of my stuff here and can still work but not as much as I could were I at home and I don’t have my computer, I miss my friends and I need sex pretty bad.
I miss my cat also. I wonder if they have a policy on that. I am sure they have planned for such contingencies with a hearty rejection. No Paul you cannot have sex or bring your cat or even your computer with you. This is a hospital after all. Perhaps I could charm an administrator into it but I would have to find the RIGHT administrator to charm, ok giving up on that whole train of thought; derailed now. It would probably be the pregnant woman with the lizard eyes or someone like her. It seems that she is here visiting her mother. I imagine that seeing those flat grey lifeless eyes peering over the edge of a bassinet, cot or nipple would be enough to drive most women insane.
There must be some kind of ratio between those of us who are artists and those who can wander around appreciating art and telling the artists that they are cool. I wonder what it is and how it grew, skewed amidst our bizarre archeology; skewed even then. What else have we to describe but ourselves; what better describes us? I suppose this is the point. Though I hardly paint anything in my life that I can actually SEE ALREADY. Some other thing, some other truth maybe. I know that it correlates with something others see out there in the wind in the night. If they cannot see any of what I saw in my work I don’t think they would buy it: It is not just the buying there must be some special thing about owning original art some different kind of appreciation, some once-ness.
I just know that I have no choice and must MUST keep going. Lots of credit in the real world gets you HIGH. And the sky was made of amethyst. I am restless tonight, my god the understatement say is the universe big? Shall I eat? Shall I spend a great deal of time ruminating on eating and even f*cking WRITE ABOUT IT??? Ach, yes, hey what the f*ck? Did I get electricity passed through my BRAIN (or as I like to sometimes call it my Brian) this very morning? I believe that I did. There are many things that indicate that I did…
This morning Lisa came to visit me (“come up and see me, make me smi-ile”) and we walked under thick green leaves and talked softly. We soak each other up, I feed from her her eyes and skin water for my soul. This morning… deep rapturous moments, long languorous and full – wandering around in her eyes, her eyes oh I have to learn from her. I think I learn from her. She is so alive – she does not even attempt the things that I do to assure her that she is alive that she is real. That the things that she sees, that touch her, that move her soft pretty heart are verifiable in all of our senses. She does not to do this. She does not need to; it is my trap and if I can pry it from her sweet fingers then I will, I might. I wonder… We walked together and kissed on the grass in the bright summer sunlight. I cannot let go of her she holds my attention better than I do. I hold her body, her hands. I take her radial pulse, her carotids, once, twice. I am in the sweet scented pollen of her, on the grass stretched and ragged against her. Ah… something there, something lifelong, unfoolish and like a splinter of life.
I had more ECT this very morn. I felt, in an analogy deeply inconsistent for me – a SPORTS analogy, like I had been belted, hard, with a cricket bat. There is some kind of time dilation there also. The morning seems in hindsight to be split more than in two by one event. The pain is real, and consistent, but hardly unbearable. I will bear it – I will bear that the least of my considerations the f*cking LEAST and LAST the pain??? F*ck the pain I know pain and this is just a physical pain not a soul pain! I am losing time away from my work, this causes me to suffer, yes, trade it, time you must f*cking trade it there is always some kind of f*cking deal to be had. And this is it people… often i was too tired to stand up so i lay down a great deal. OF course now it is 6 am and I have insomnia, the reverse but still hardly pleasant.
I feel ashamed that i did not write more whilst hospitalized. I did not sleep with anyone THE WHOLE TIME i was in hospital, though this was certainly not from lack of opportunity. How unusually responsible of me. My neck heals. I have always healed very quickly I am a little like wolverine in that regard – also I am short. I believe the similarities end there – I cannot even grow proper sideburns. There were many so many swiftly powerful moments in there – so much human truth and suffering… even mine. Dawn draws its fingers across the room so slowly it seems that it could never be bright here. I have wounded my arm by doing heavy weights too soon after my atrophied stay.
I am terrified of gaining weight from new meds – neulactil anyone? It is a treatment antipsychotic in nature and design used for schizophrenia to stop voices i admit I have sometimes heard. It frightens me. Much frightens me. I did some work of a new ilk during my stay but I cannot post it on my webpage because I loaned my camera to someone… I shall soon. My typing seems so slow and my touch so sensitive on these keys – I hear them so loudly in the morning CHILL.
In the morning SILENCE re-sounding in my head. This is not enough when is there ever enough for me? How much must I paint and write to not feel like the fool that I know I am in my heart? Even this question is laced with heaviness for me because so many others have asked before in all that I have read, sure, yes, trapped in the human experience that cannot be undone cannot ever be original because of the billions who have died before me and the billions, the BILLIONS who yet live. Narcissist, me? And WHY THE F*CK NOT? How else to live? How else to ever consider self and seething mind and bullsh*t?
Yes I am in the prime of my life and yes I am beautiful to my own eyes and yes I have a soft kind touch and yes oh yes I have a mind that would be considered genius in any society and yes I overdosed and cut my own throat not five weeks burned into the past because none of these things has ever been enough for me! AM I MANIC? Is this f*cking classifiable insanity? What else in existence could I want? How much will I hate when my body breaks beneath age when my sharp eyes dull and my hands fail me? I despise rhetoric I slip in it like sh*t there is such passion in me such raging life and of course this is insane anyone under such a sun must burn my own hypocrisy hurts me and I hate myself for having the courage to ask the questions that hurt me so much for feeling the impossibility of answers so bloody and keen. At least I have the courage to ask and live and cut. To ask, most of ALL, that is the key, stabbed into my eyes.