A psychiatrist once told me, “A psychotic is drowning in the waters where the mystic swims.”
Mental health and mysticism are companions. My healing crisis was undoubtedly a spiritual awakening. I saw and did things that I had only ever read about in books like The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, which talked of levitation, seeing visions, remote viewing, dowsing – I saw and did many of these things which were diagnosed as schizophreniform disorder, followed by major depression, then Bipolar I. Science has names for what I saw and did, and rejects any spiritual component.
This was a stray drawing that my roommate found in his journal and saved. I drew it right before I was hospitalized. TRUST – you may have the key – RUST. What was I thinking? Is it just nonsense, or could a psychic make sense of it?
I remember leaps of logic in bits and pieces, which I recorded in When Everything Cracks, but I failed to recall a vast majority of my thoughts and feelings from that time. Like the illustration, my thought processes were beyond my understanding once I’d passed through them.
A common theme concerned a puzzle that needed to be solved. I couldn’t make sense of my rational life, which was collapsing around me, so I resorted to thinking that if I just thought, said, and did the right things, I would escape the financial doom that loomed in the near future.
The truth is, my breakdown was my ticket out of the pickle. I didn’t have to worry about rent, food, clothing, shelter, or any other lower-tier items from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I escaped my dead-end life by losing my shit.
I sometimes believe that I intuitively threw a switch that rescued me. I’d reached a point with no forward path, so I created a bypass by inventing a new dimension where identity, reality, and self dissolved so I could flow through the cracks of the wall.
Doctors might pooh-pooh this explanation. People who misunderstand mental illness will shrug and sigh. Our minds, they say, are just misfiring because of an imbalance of neurotransmitters. But how did they get unbalanced? It isn’t just genetics or even situational. I believe we can intentionally alter our brain chemistry to deal with stress and crises. Much of it is involuntary biological processes, but surely some of the imbalance arises from the subconscious, allowing our conscious mind to make adjustments.
Who were these visitors I drew? What were they supposed to represent? I feel one is male yang and one is female yin. They came from outside my conscious awareness. Like characters in a fiction novel, they just appeared to me, and I did my best to record them before they slipped away.
The rush of information, spirit, and mysticism that flooded my consciousness eventually abated. When the waters dried, I was left with a creative consciousness. I became a poet, a musician, a filmmaker, and a novelist. My soul awakened, and I was able to tap into a well of creativity where before I likely had drowned. My imagination was unbridled.
I don’t hear voices. When I write novels, I meet characters who tell me where they’re going and what they plan to do. But unlike the blips and flashes of people I saw and spoke to during my psychosis, these characters won’t leave until I’m done writing them.
Scientists and society call it madness; wise folks call it mysticism. I call it an unbridled imagination with a spiritual component.