The Episode, Part 12: Settling In

Composed on the 2nd of August in the year 2011, at 6:32 PM. It was Tuesday.

I was putting off all answers to questions until the end, but this seemed like a good moment to address this:


I just don't understand what is going on in the brain when all this is happening. I mean I've done LSD and I can relate to the crazy thought patterns and temporary insane feeling, but its like it just didn't wear off for you. How is it that when you are in a nut-house, you dont all of a sudden come to, and realize, "oh shit, this is a nut-house...I must be insane!"

The answer is that to me, it wasn't a nuthouse. To my mind, there was no such thing as crazy, or it didn't mean to me what it meant before or since. I'm going to try to beat some sense out of this metaphor: Imagine the whole possibility of thought and sensory experience is a floor, with a pendulum hanging above it. The pendulum is your awareness, stream of consciousness, short-term memory, whatever. There's a roughly demarcated circle in the center of the floor that represents the usual, acceptable arcs of the pendulum. It swings around conversations, practical matters, the occasional flight of fancy, creativity, skepticism, belief, and so on. It has a reasonable sway and curve that matches most of the other pendulums, and the fact that all these paths are generally similar to one another, and not too out of control, allows them to communicate and function.1 An acid trip is like giving the pendulum a gentle shove, so it roams around a larger orbit, but one that's still related to the circle of everyday understanding.

Now, to the end of one of the pendulums, we're going to staple a small, screaming child with a rocket engine handcuffed to its wrist. The path of this pendulum is now careening wildly all over the floor, rapidly tracing paths nowhere near the circle, utterly unpredictable and out of control, constrained only by its mechanical nature. Sure, the rocket-powered child might occasionally send the pendulum into the circle, but only for brief moments.

In that circle lay the pattern of interpretation that told me I was a mortal human boy in a mental institution. It might occur to me, but only as a fleeting thought before my internal narrative shot off in another direction. I no longer had the ability to hold on to my mind and turn thoughts over in a measured way, because there was a screaming child with a rocket stapled to my brain.

Part 12, or "Assassin Demon Hunter God Angel Thingy, Interrupted"

My next report:

INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 09/05/2000

He would perseverate on certain themes, especially related to the positive experience of having been on LSD. Even though he was alert and oriented to person and place, he seemed to have difficulty with the exact time frame.2 Later in the morning, he was sent to Eastern Maine Medical Center for an EEG. Afterwards, he eloped, taking one of the cars from valet parking. He was brought back in the afternoon by the police. He admitted to having used some marijuana3 and having gone to some classes and to see his ethics teacher. At the time he was quite withdrawn, anxious, irritable, avoiding eye contact, and appearing even more disorganized in his thinking and behaviors.

We had some therapy groups. These were the kind of classes a vegan new yorker would take to get back to whatever it is they want to get back to after two years in the financial district. There was some perfunctory yoga, some anger management, and a woman who taught us how to press our joints together to strengthen them.4 This is the only one I remember, which should tell you something.

At one point they brought in a woman who I never saw out of her bed. She was late 80's, at least. They wheeled her in, and where she went a hush followed. She never said anything I could hear. She spent the night in the room across from me, and died a few hours later. They wheeled her body out in the night, but we were all awake for it.

The next time my parents visited, that I remember, I was allowed outside again. My dad had been getting reports of what they thought my delusions were, and apparently got the one about me thinking I was God, so he mentioned, "Well, divinity runs in the Welch family." Probably not the best thing to say, but I admire the effort to maintain a sense of humor.

At one point, I thought the entire world had been melted into liquid metal by the expanding sun, and all reality was just electromagnetic static in this ball of iron. This led to a very complicated delusion involving me being a kind of incidental assassin, and my job was to end people's normal lives through extremely indirect means—so indirect, as a matter of fact, that I was already responsible for many deaths, despite not having left the ward for two weeks. This way, they could understand that consciousness was just an electric dream, and we could create a new universe while the old one was ending. The notes from that meeting describe me as "friendly and cognitively intact." Also, I was supposed to start by eliminating my family, because my name was Peter Hunt Welch, and if you read Hunt as a command, it all makes perfect sense. Oh, also, my true name wasn't Peter, it was "Peer" because Trinity's real last name could be creatively rearranged to spell something that sounded phonetically like "fog our tea," and I thought that meant that by joining Trinity, the T in my name would be removed, and I would become Peer, the singular peer of all humans in the world, the second coming or a truly egalitarian Jesus.

INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 09/11/20005

Interpretation of the EEG became available. It showed the presence of left temporal intermittent theta waves.6 The case was discussed with Dr. ________ _________, who stated the importance of reviewing the clinical situation and the need for repeat EEG after at least two or three months of sobriety.7

There was a level system written on whiteboard at the front of the ward. All the patients names had a number from 1 to 4 next to them. Level 4's could go outside, go on passes, and were slated for release in the near future. Level 1's were on 24-hour watch and couldn't even eat meals in the cafeteria. I'm sure it was meant to help the staff figure out what was what when they came on duty, but it functioned as a crazy scorecard for the rest of us. I repeatedly thought it was describing our positions on an angel hierarchy, from cherub to archangel, and level 4 meant you were close to ascension, which made perfect sense since level 4's tended to leave shortly after making the grade. I was one of the very few people who made it to level 4 and got dropped back to a level 1 in the space of three hours. I spent most of my time there as a level 3.

In order to garner my powers and prove my worth as a level 4, I adopted a kind of uniform. I had some yellow shades that I wore because they gave me ESP. I took two key rings, looped them together, and wore them around my right middle and ring fingers, to focus my electromagnetic powers. I also always kept the green Pen of Creation and the red Pen of Destruction on me, so I could rewrite the universe around me as I saw fit. This served to maintain some consistent delusional stories. Objects seemed to be the only things that shifted meanings in a predictable manner, so they kept me grounded to some degree, and in a sense, they did garner my powers and help me get to a level 4. Go figure.

They certainly helped me defeat TheWrestler in push hands. This is the same thing I was doing with Jun outside the car on the ride back from Berkfest, and I do have some mediocre skill in it,8 enough to surprise TheWrestler by taking him down in about thirty consecutive rounds. He was twice my size, so at first he was just trying not to hurt me, then he was just confused, then angry, then impressed, so I taught him a few things. The staff was chewing their fingernails off wondering when somebody would break a bone or flip out, but our mutual friendliness and quiet personalities somehow convinced them that we could mock-fight in the middle of a mental institution and it would be okay. It seemed to be. I thought we both came away better people.

The ESP shades also helped me freak out the staff. I would ask them to start talking and then repeat their sentences back as they were saying them, about one or two syllables behind. They one and all told me to stop after ten words. I assumed I was reading their minds, probably on a 24k modem, which would account for the lag. I expect most people could do this with enough concentration; but there's no reason to practice unless you're crazy. Research suggests that even when our adrenaline pumps up and seems to distort our sense of time, it's a function of memory, not actual activity: we can't perceive or do things any faster than normal, we just think we did. So my patchy, out of order sense of time that seems like it was running through a flanger and wah pedal wasn't giving me any extra powers, it was just the chemical imbalances encoding my experience into my neurons a little haphazardly.

It didn't help that I'd stolen my mother's watch, which didn't have hands or numbers, just a little LCD display that had pie sections light up, and it was broken. Aside from randomly lighting up various sections in no particular order, the five minute section before noon or midnight was never on. Since I was born about five minutes before February 29th, 1980, I decided there was some deep flaw in the spacetime continuum having to do with my being born five minutes too early, and I had to heal the time gap. At least until my mom noticed I had the watch on and took it back, after which I just forgot about it.

My extreme disassociation from reality kept me at a distance from the stressors everybody else was dealing with. BadMarraige, after learning how to swear, decided to take up smoking again. This led to her taking up collapsing on the way back from every smoke break.

The first time, everybody freaked out. Truckette kept it together and helped her up, the nurse started screaming into her walkie-talkie, TheWrestler started crying and ran off down the hallway, ShittyFriend backed up against the wall and stared without speaking. Pocahontas and I went to help Truckette.

The second time, pretty much the same thing happened. The third time, same thing, except Pocahontas, Truckette, and I were less impressed. The nurse was getting sick of it. Try as we might, we couldn't make her see the connection between cigarettes and passing out. We would patiently explain to her that she never collapsed otherwise. She only collapsed three minutes after finishing a cigarette, and she did it every single time. She railed at us, screamed at the nurses and called the whole hospital staff bastards for not letting her have a cigarette because there was no connection at all between her smoking and collapsing. I pitied the staff in this particular battle; a normal person would probably be more worried if they spontaneously collapsed without cause, instead of claiming that was the case in order to keep smoking. As far as I know, it never got better, and she's collapsing to this day. I haven't quit yet.

Near the end of my stay, Truckette managed to collapse too. I have no idea why. At the time, I was seeing three of everybody. Not literally, there were just three aspects to everybody's nature, possibly based on an ego, superego, and id distinction, but it got more complicated than that. I would watch people's edges vibrate as the three aspects wavered and fought for dominance. So when I helped Truckette into a wheelchair and wheeled her back to the ward and she looked at me and said, "Jesus, there's three of you," I just nodded and said, "You'll be here soon."

I hope I was wrong.

Next week

Ain't no cure for crazy love.

1 To what end, who cares, and how pendulums communicate, I don't know, but bear with me.

2 This bugs me. When I person seems to be "oriented to to person and place" yet thinks it's 1783, maybe they have a completely insane story running in their head and they're just humoring you on a few details?

3 This is bullshit. They asked me, "Did you use marijuana?" And I said no. Then they asked, "Are you sure?" and I decided they were right, and that the menthol I had smoked was marijuana, so I admitted to yet another drug experience I hadn't had. I'm not trying to decry the efforts of the psychiatric profession, but I want to point out that most of the time, it has no fucking idea what's going on.

4 She would be disappointed if not horrified that in the decade after meeting her, I've cracked my wrists a thousand times each.

5 Yep. 911.

6 I don't know what this means. All they told me was there was an irregularity in my temporal lobe.

7 This never happened. Makes me think I should get an EEG soon.

8 Except when I do it against Jun. Jun at one point took down the push hands champion of the world. True, only in one out of nine, and in the next round, the champion sprained Jun's wrist with two fingers, but still.

Mouse angry. Mouse cut you.