Native American Visions

When I took my 17,000 mile road trip in 2008, I called it a “Shamanic Car Quest” upon my return. The phrase summarized my experience: being thrown into a world full of meaning, or a search for meaning in a sea of meaning, though it was all about the modern world. I’ve never written about this trip, except in passing. What I will say is that my experiences with psychosis, now ranging in seven breaks from reality (really, I’ve lost count) seem to be distilling themselves into a more concise story. It’s a story of Fact and Myth.

Let me begin by saying I am 1/16 Lakota; my paternal grandfather’s mother was 100% Lakota. When my great grandmother was young, Native American children were separated from their parents and sent to Christian schools where they were stripped of their identity and given Christian names. Around the 1920s, it was shameful that one be Native American here in America, and my grandfather’s siblings all shunned their mother’s ancestry and never spoke of it. The only person interested in the religious aspects or the culture of Native Americans was my grandfather, who kept meticulous and rich scrapbooks from his youth.

So, in short, this is my family history. I say in short because there is a lot missing to the story.

This past psychosis in May I started hearing nature sounds (aside from birds talking). One day, while driving by my grandfather’s old house, I started to hear a huge swarm of birds as I got closer and closer. I rolled down my window to figure out the source of the sound, because it first presented as a beautiful, loud buzzing or stirring of the air. As I passed each alley, the sound of an active flock would swell as I approached and shrink away as I passed the next alley. This continued for at least a mile and disappeared one or two blocks past his house. At the time all I could think was, “What does this mean?” Unable to come to an answer, I went home and continued on with my day.

Other, strange events have been happening, like hearing mice in my ear or hearing the wind talk in the trees. The nature sounds are a sharp departure from the motors, fans, and fridge talking. For one, there are no words (obviously) and two, these sounds are easier to hear over the long term.

As the story goes in my head, this legacy of magic has skipped a generation will now only go to the women in the family because the men misused it, which is part of the family history I passed over. Part of what I am hearing, for I am still hearing voices as well as noises, is that it is best not to talk (even think) about the mundane aspects of life while walking in the spirit world, or as Western Science would call it, “while I am delusional”. There are practical aspects as well because my mind isn’t altogether functioning in a strait line. So this thinking then led me to the saying in my prior post: Live Your Myth. Walk Your Reality. It is still necessary to take care of my day-to-day chores, I just should not plan or fret about mundane life during this time.

Another theme that was prominent in this “psychosis” (and I put that in quotes because I am truly questioning the nature of my experiences now) was to not spiritualize events, but to allow them to be as they are, experiences. The idea being is that the shaman walks the spirit world all the time; the shaman lives her myth.

Some schizophrenics develop detailed delusions with overarching themes, so this could all be viewed as the continued degenerative nature of my disease. Part of this, however, is foregoing the Western explanation of events. I don’t feel I am degenerating, on the contrary, I seem to be more grounded. I am going to try and live my experiences without the encumbering (or dismissive) explanations. “Oh, that’s a hallucination.” “I’m delusional.” These sorts of self-reflective definitions seem limiting. At the same time, I am going to continue on with my medications and treatment and not throw myself head-first into unreality because, quite frankly, I disconnect quite easily.

Live Your Myth. Walk Your Reality.

Since the onset of schizophrenia in my late thirties, I’ve been reeling spiritually. Delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations, both auditory and visual, have left me pondering deeper truths and reflecting upon the nature of life, death, and all things taken for granted. I came up with saying to help me discern between two (often disparate) realities of what I hear and what I believe to be true.


Feeling the Weird

Psychosis is weird. In all my years prior to this diagnosis, I’ve not experienced anything like this.

I stand outside for an hour ranting about the magicians at AT&T who develop ciphers and code to track fellow citizens who are becoming sorcerers. The following day, I sit in the community recreation room at my apartment complex talking to myself about god knows what. I don’t even remember. The security guard keeps finding me trying to catch a wink. He isn’t kind when he wakes me and pushes me on my way. He is, however, compassionate enough to walk me home, barefoot as I am, through the snow at midnight.

I’m so terrified of being  harmed that I spend one night at a women’s shelter. Not just any shelter, mind you, but the place my mom used to work as a Director. I check in through the police station and then drive downtown for my voucher. Since my mom worked there a decade and retired, I know the location and am able to find the shelter with ease.

Once here, I check in to my room — a hotel-size accommodation with not one, but three twin beds and an institutional baby crib stripped bare of everything including the mattress. A fellow woman is already in the room. We sit outside and smoke and get to know one another. She, like me, seems to have some illness affecting her perception.

At 3 am and this weathered, fifty-something blonde woman is sleeping sideways on her twin bed when I awake. In some macabre dance, she is lifting her legs together toward the ceiling, inching them in, extending them toward the door, inching them in again and extending them parallel to the floor. I see this.

Bolting upright, I find my sweater and shoes, hit the door. All thew while, she continues to sleep soundly, softly snoring as some unseen force moves her legs.

There I sit for the remainder of the night, there in my car in the gated shelter parking lot, engine running, smoking, talking to myself. They have already found me… these magicians from AT&T who can enter your body and make you move as they wish. They were just giving me show through the woman with the puppet legs so I know I will never be free of them.

Dating and Timestamps

Being single presents its own problems when wanting to date. Add to that a touch or a wild streak of mental illness and you’ve got yourself what may be a lethal cocktail. Having been single my whole adult life, I have a dating story for every occasion: weddings, funerals, promotions, layoffs… well, everything but a true pregnancy.

I’ve dated a myriad of men from poets and musicians to engineers and attorneys. In my search for true equality I’ve romanced dark and light skinned men, from Philippino, Chinese and Mexican to the plain, old-fashioned Southern white male. The poor and millionaire alike, I’ve broken up with the best (and worst) of them, never fearless enough to settle down (not going to dive into my own personal psyche here). So it’s no surprise I’ve started dating those with similar diagnoses. Started, then stopped.

Let me explain.

I met N. at an on-line dating site for the mentally ill. He was in my area, so we met, but I was not impressed. It wan’t his bipolar diagnosis, but his demeanor that turned me off. My friends encouraged me to “give it go” see what happens. “C’mon, give the guy a chance” one male friend begged. I reluctantly put aside that small voice in my head that said this is a bad idea, after all, who I am I to judge? He could be a nice guy, right? Right?

After the obligatory courtship period, we decided to give it go. I should have stuck to poetry and drinking alone on weekends.

After a few drinks…

“Wow, that’s the ugliest ingrown hair I’ve ever seen.” I frown at his pubes.
“That’s not an ingrown hair.” he quips.
Pushing away I gasp, “What the FUCK?! When were you going to tell me THAT? Didn’t you find that tidbit relevant?”
“Well,” he said calmly, “That’s what you get for being a whore.”

Last Call

He sent the last text message:

“Why did you leave so fast last night? Was something wrong?”
“Yah, your disease and your attitude toward women.”
“What did I say?” (Nevermind him skipping over the STD as a huge warning sign.)
“You called me a whore!”
“No I didn’t. You must be DELUSIONAL.”

And that’s when I knew he had a screw loose and it was sane to run.

One year later

It’s not the ups and downs of his bipolar that scared me. Ultimately it was the bumps of disease that did me in. I don’t know if he was joking, but who the hell actually jokes about STDs and calls a woman a “whore” these days? There’s insane and then there’s twisted.