Plato's Play-Doh

Play-Doh for the Mind

Month: August, 2014

Broken Souls

Broken Souls Pic

Molested by the utmost disgraceful thoughts. Subjugated by authority who thought they knew best. Disparaged by contemporaries. These are a few characteristics of a broken soul. Nay, perhaps these were just the characteristics of my broken soul, for one man’s problem is another man’s pleasure.

Regardless, broken souls are everywhere, although I have never been able to relate to one. However, I did see two movies this past year in which I saw myself in both of the main characters. Albeit they were somewhat fictional accounts, comfort and resonation swam through my blood in such a manner that my body was pulsated with the calming vibrations of the interconnection of the human race. For the first time in my life, I was able to fully and completely identify with another person’s struggles. Alas, I will never meet these people, for they were just actors acting out scripts in front of a camera. Nevertheless, I have to say, witnessing someone go through the same struggles I have dealt with felt good. REALLY good.

Might this intertwined feeling of mine, that of consolation and relief, be a result of instinctual selfishness? Who’s to say, that’s a discussion for another time. For now, follow me as I delve into the two characters that helped me feel not so quite alone.

The first character made me realize that we all have our routines, however some become empty burdens rather than a functional categorization of life. Melvin Udall sticks to the same exact schedule every day in order to not upset himself. Rather, in order to not aggravate his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He hates being touched by anyone, is afraid of germs and performs rituals in order to prevent any danger that might come his way. He frequents the same restaurant every day, eating the same breakfast at the same table and eagerly hoping to be served by the same waitress. If something unexpected happened during Melvin’s daily routine, than all hell would break loose. He would become increasingly agitated and uncomfortable, and lash out at others around him. Melvin Udall was, in essence, a broken soul.

Melvin was the first person, fictional or real, that I ever found myself relating to. I used to have the exact same routine every day, and if anything put my routine in jeopardy, I would have a mental breakdown. Growing up, I absolutely hated to be touched by people who I did not know, and I would wash my hands over and over and over until the water ran red with blood. My rituals included everything under the sun, from locking doors to flipping light switches to retracing my exact walking patterns to moving my jaw in precisely the same manner with every bite of food I took. If I was strong enough to deny myself permission to perform such rituals, my mind would become overwhelmed with disturbing thoughts, such as my parent’s being lit on fire and then dismembered. I could not, for the life of me, liberate myself of these thoughts. That is, unless I began to perform my self-degrading rituals again.

As I observed Melvin’s slow but eventual progression into recovery, I felt as though I was watching myself through the eyes of an individual who had also traipsed the wallowing depths of Hell. I felt exultant for Melvin, while feeling grateful and joyous that a certain stranger could relate to his own personal hardships. You see, I was this stranger, because not only did I find someone whose actions were the exact representation of my own, but I also found, inside myself, that lone observer that I have spent my entire life waiting for. That one onlooker who says “I see a piece of you in myself. A piece that has defied all odds. A piece that obliterates any obstacle in life. A piece that, although born flawed and defective, has turned into an astonishingly exquisite specimen.”

The second character offers a glimpse into how I conducted myself when I was a boy. Charlie Fineman’s soul was broken after his wife and daughters died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Charlie was once a sociable and successful dentist, however five years after his family died he is but a shell of his former self. He suffers from PTSD and is a withdrawn social outcast, all the while being judged due to the fact that his actions differ from the norm. When he does traverse the terrifying, carnivorous jungle of civilization he keeps to himself, hiding behind his unkempt hair while blaring his favorite music into his headphones. It is extremely difficult for him to communicate with others, and he takes solace in his house by playing video games in the dark. Charlie Fineman was an extremely promising being whose potential was being devoured by a broken soul.

Watching Charlie aimlessly toddle his way through life pierced my heart as if it was a pumpkin being carved by an overzealous child on a cold and rainy October night. I sobbed throughout the majority of the movie, tears streaming down my face and neck until they became one with the wrinkled shirt I was wearing. I realized that I used to be Charlie. I used to be a shell of my former self. I used to be victimized because of my odd behavior. I used to hide under my hoodie and blast music into my ears to drown out my terrorizing surroundings. I used to have a broken soul that ate up every last ounce of my sweet, innocent potential. Perhaps worst of all, unlike Charlie, I knew what kind of capability and aptitude was bestowed upon me, yet it was eclipsed by my unreserved fear of the horrors of the outside world. I had been beaten down and stepped on so many times in my young life that I was excruciatingly petrified of trusting and depending on anyone outside of my family, and the notion that you can make it through life in this world by yourself is an immense fallacy.

Melvin Udall and Charlie Fineman both redeem themselves at the end of their respected movies, which was yet another reason I could relate to them. I am becoming the man who I have always yearned to be: a thoughtful, honest being who is determined to accomplish his goals and who is strong enough to persevere through the darkest of hours. A loving, caring individual who is exceptionally understanding of others and their afflictions. A man who acquires his intellect through great erudition, and who takes tremendous pride in his intelligence, for he now knows that knowledge is the one thing that can be given to you, but can never be taken away.

I assume that by now you are quite curious as to what the titles of these movies might be. The first movie, starring Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall, is As Good as It Gets, while the second movie, starring Adam Sandler as Charlie Fineman, is titled Reign Over Me. I will always hold these two films in high regard, and I am exceptionally thankful that I stumbled onto both of them. Although my soul is no longer broken, from time to time I still wage war with my inner tribulations. At least now, however, I have two individuals to think of when somebody tells me that I am not alone in this fight.

Poem from the Past: Get Well

Get Well

Get Well pic

You have no friends

You have that special wish that you commend

You finally met the person of your dreams

But fuck the feeling it’s pretend

 

You were so excited; you were climbing the ladder of love

But then you fell down the rungs; you’re starting to think that there’s no one above

That watches over you; instead he watches you!

He torments you! Like a fucking flat tire your heart blew

 

You wish you could go back, back to when you were ten

Your were so popular; Yes, sir, you were the man

But that fuckin’ metal in your mouth didn’t give a damn

Blow your fucking brains out! In this life a chance you didn’t stand

 

But this is now; there’s no denying the last ten years have been pure hell

Robbed of a childhood, your heart pounded while your brain swelled

Your old friends walked the bridge over the pit where you just fell

But now I guess the time has come, to stop dwelling and get well

 

©Russell Lehmann 2014

30 Delightful and Enchanting Writing Tips from Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

 

We all know Jack Kerouac as one of the most fundamental writers of the 20th Century, as well as a literary genius who helped kick-off the Beat Generation.  For heaven’s sakes, if you can type a last name as unusual as his into a Word document without it being underlined in red, you know the guy must be pretty special.

Kerouac was always being asked how he created such symbolic magic on paper, so one day he sat down and created 30 writing tips he called “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose”.  These tips, listed below, are Jack Kerouac at his finest.

 

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Guest Post: Maria Senise

I am quite proud to have Maria Senise, a woman of determination and strength, contribute to my blog with this post of hers.  I can relate to everything she mentions here, from her mind-numbing obsessions and rituals to her descent into the never-ending abyss of worrisome thoughts.  I was stunned to learn how strikingly similar our life stories are. I urge you all to attempt to read this whole post, even if it doesn’t interest you.  If you do indeed finish it and come away even modestly more aware of just how dire mental illnesses can be, and how it truly tests the strength of one’s character, then please, by all means, share it with those who may become enlightened themselves.

 

Anxiety, OCD & Depression: How It All Began

By Maria Senise

Guest Post by Maria Photo

It was March 8, 1982, the greatest day in history…the day I was born. It was a blizzardy, blustery night, with blinding snowfall, crazy winds, and chaotic natural danger. This was what I was born into; who knew it would be a metaphor for my mind the rest of my life?

 Allow me to preface the rest of this piece by saying I grew up a cheerful kid and have many happy memories from my childhood. I did not deal with abuse or trauma. Aside from my parents not getting along, life was pretty normal and happy.

 I was always the academic, the top of my class, class president, band president–basically, every nerdy job in school, I occupied. I was voted in grade school as “Most Likely to Succeed,” and my classmates predicted I’d grow up to be a nun or the president, which I find completely laughable now; I don’t think a nun would have the foul mouth I have. In retrospect, however, I see why they thought these things.  I was ALWAYS pleasing everyone from my parents, to my friends, to my teachers. I wanted so badly for everyone else to be happy that I soon lost sight of my own identity. I now wonder if I purposefully lost my identity in a crusade to avoid confronting my demons.

 I remember always being a worrisome kid, thinking about things that shouldn’t concern a little one. In first grade, I distinctly recall needlessly spinning a scenario in my head about my parents’ finances. What if my parents lost all their money? Then we’d lose our house, and then we would be homeless, and then we would starve, and then we would die. Why was I thinking like this? There was absolutely no reason or evidence to support this line of thinking, yet I, as a 6 year old, decided to send myself into a dizzying panic about this impossibility.

There was another time in elementary school when I thought I was going to die. I took a bite of my sandwich, and I neglected to meticulously chew it into the tiniest bits possible before I swallowed. I was not choking, nor was I having trouble breathing or talking. It wasn’t even traveling slowly down my esophagus. Nevertheless, because I hadn’t chewed it through to my normal standards, I thought I was going to die. I went to the nurse’s office and everything. Why they didn’t raise a red flag back then, I’ll never know…

 The OCD and anxiety I had felt those early years had lain fairly dormant until middle school hit. That’s when my mind kicked into high gear, and the overwhelming anxiety truly began. I became absolutely obsessed with praying and trying to be perfect in order to ensure protection for my loved ones. I was convinced that if I didn’t do anything wrong, not only would I save myself from going to hell, but I would also protect my loved ones from any harm in the world. I thought that if I fucked up, I or someone I loved would be punished for it. I compulsively prayed to keep the devil away. I knew this wasn’t normal behavior or thinking, and I was deeply ashamed of it. I spoke to my mom about it, and she comforted me the best way she knew how. I just wish that at that point, she would’ve taken me to a therapist. At that time though, therapy was never an option in my family. No one ever spoke of doing such a thing. Therapy?! Gasp! You’d be considered a fucking nut job if you needed THERAPY!

 The thing was that I felt I was a fucking nut job and continued to be one for a long time wasting precious energy and years of my life feeling lost, crazy, alone, and incredibly confused. During college, I had gone through a few bouts of deep depression. My dad helped me the best way he knew how, and it took the heaviest darkness away, but still no therapy was in the cards for me at that point. It wasn’t until I had a hard-core breakdown in my mid-twenties, during which I sobbed until I puked continuously and simply wanted to die, that I finally went to therapy.

 Therapy saved my life. When I first started going, I told no one about it, not even my closest friends. I feared the sting of the stigma that surrounded mental illness. I was very soon diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Through weekly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication, I was able to start managing my issues and start to understand my life and discover myself.

 I had won the huge war that had raged within me by confronting my issues. However, I am, by no means, cured of any of these disorders; in fact, I fight smaller battles against them every day, now equipped with the tools to do so. Because I had waited so long to seek treatment, my mood disorders are aggressive. The neuro pathways in my brain have been trained to follow the worries, obsessions, and negative thoughts habitually. It’s hard to retrain the brain and carve new pathways after so many years. This is the reason I so strongly desire the disappearance of the stigma associated with mental health issues. The stigma silences people unnecessarily into years and possibly lifetimes of misery. I, after many years of silence, am proud not to be silent anymore. I have been incredibly open with my friends, family, and perfect strangers about what I deal with mentally and emotionally, despite any possible judgment or backlash. The more I speak, the more strength I gain. I have found that through sharing my struggles, my treatments, and my thoughts, that others become more willing to share theirs as well. I’ve realized that my early days of feeling alone and isolated were all for naught; there’s a whole world of beautiful, not-so-crazy crazy people out there who are my kindred spirits.

 

 

*Please feel free to check out, like, and/or share Maria’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HeadAboveWaterLifewithMoodDisorders

You can also check out her blog at www.LifewithMoodDisorders.blogspot.com

Or follow her on Twitter: @MariaCMeow 

 

**Originally published at http://oldschoolnewschoolmom.com/2014/05/stigma-fighters for the Stigma Fighters campaign.

 

Video: Unconquerable

I dug up this spoken word poem I made back in May of 2013.  It details the struggles I have had with what I call “intrusive thoughts”, that is, unwanted thoughts that I would not be able to stop thinking about.  If you enjoy this video, please share it so we can spread awareness about mental health, while also showing people that everyone has the power to defeat their inner demons.

 

Thanks,

Russell