Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Valproate and goblins

Well, I don't actually know if this is working.

This is how valproate feels to me. The effects start to kick in in the first three or so days and for me they really hit their stride after a few weeks. It's been the required few days, almost a week now, so I can probably say some of what I'm feeling isn't placebo.

And what I'm feeling is calm. There's a kind of relaxation, a kind of shift of focus, a widening of my mental field of vision. When you're depressed - anyway, when I'm depressed - there are certain ideas, certain images, certain suspicions that I can't get out of my head. Where-ever I look, they are there. When I get really depressed, the ideas become facts, the images become more real than the people and things that normally surround me, the suspicions become realisations. This hasn't happened for ten or so years. But that's pretty much when I edge over from depressed mood to actual psychosis.

But on the valproate, I can avert my mind's eye. Things are there, but you can look away. You can imagine, for example, that everyone in a room is seething with contempt for you, that every time the police come into the ED it's for you, but you can recognise that as imagination and imagine it away. It's not an inability to conceive of failure, like in mania, it's more a removal of the well-springs of panic. To a great extent, valproate (for me) gets rid of that diffuse, omnipresent and omniscient fear.

So, the wonder drug. Who wouldn't want to take that?

Well, if things were different, me. I don't like all of the effects. And I don't just mean the fat, sexless, somnolent side effects. I mean I don't know that getting rid of the fear is an unmixed blessing.

See, I am finding it harder to write. Easier to study, easier to work, easier to plan stuff and get stuff done, no panicking, but harder to write. The last few days I haven't been able to write at all, (which I feel has been amply demonstrated: I should have put up a sign on this blog saying "frontal lobes closed for neurochemical renovation. Speed limit fifteen ideas per hour. Neurons closed except to local traffic. Expect delays in literary production, thoughts of actual substance will resume soon.").

I don't know why removing the fear should remove the impetus for writing, but I've got an idea. I have this half-arsed theory floating around that is difficult to articulate, but basically it says there is a close, a very intimate relationship, between art and fear. Creativity and terror spring from the same root.

It's hard to explain. Art is hard. And I don't know that art is the right word there, and I'm aware I'm talking about something a lot of people know a lot more about than I do. But to me art is an attempt to communicate something, and you wouldn't make the effort, you wouldn't try to try to communicate unless at some level you were uncomfortable with being alone.

That's making it sound more spiritual and deep than it actually is. If there is a fear, and I believe a lot of our drives, our desires, our ambitions are just fears looked at from a flattering angle, what is it a fear of?

I can't put this in English. But I wonder how much art would come out of someone who did not fear being alone, who did not fear being irrelevant to others, who did not fear being passed by and forgotten? Once you've transcended all that, who would bother? If I didn't fear, and thus did not need reassurance, and coddling, and admiration, and attention, would I be writing this?

I don't know that a lot of good writing comes out of ennui, or comfort, or satedness.

I don't know. It's just an idea, and now that I look at it in print, it's a less clear one than it seemed before. I blame the neuron goblins. You know those realisations you have while you're driving to work or going off to sleep that amaze you with their profundity, and you write a few brief words down, possibly slewing all over the road as you do so, and then a day later you look at them and they don't make a lot of sense and they don't even make an impression, like blowing on cold coals, and you think "what happened to that great idea I had before?"... well, it's the neuron goblins.

Anyway. One fear I've obviously lost is the fear of putting my name to gibberish. In a few days I will actually be able to post about recent events, including work. And since those recent events have involved pyromania, foreign bodies and attempted murder, there's something to build on here.

John.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Weirdmilla said...

Thank you. You just gave me a big "aha" moment, re: fear and writing (not in Las Vegas, ha ha).

On the "why we write" thing, I lean towards the psychoanalytic idea of Desire, myself. Which is where what you say rings true for me - damn write (ok, so I'm going to leave that nice little spelling mistake where it is, thanks. I like it.) we wouldn't be writing if we felt sated and content. I don't know how it is for you, but writing for me is both hunger and food. Too many days without it and I get crabby (but too much at once and it all starts to taste the same and is not remotely satisfying).

I make absolutely no sense at all after midnight.

1:51 AM  
Blogger Stoic Stranger said...

Living with a mental illness shapes one. We are no longer whole when we have been changed by medication. Saner, safer, more stable surely; but we are not the same. There is a gaping hole where that part used to be. Now, to bridge that gap we have... nothing. Or rather, now we can sleep, not hallucinate, be unparanoid. But is it worth it?

4:11 AM  
Blogger Chade said...

One author is all that's required to put this into context:
Ernest Hemmingway

8:29 AM  

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