Vision Therapy: Seeing Inside the Snow

I stood inside the snow yesterday evening for the first time in memory. I stood inside the snow. Does that seem like a strange statement? Yes, I have been out in the snow before, though god knows it hasn’t snowed in southern New England much these past years so last night’s storm of whitefall was really something to behold. I was holding my breath at 2pm yesterday, because the forecast had predicted heavy snow starting by 11am and it still was only cloudy by mid-afternoon. Then a half hour later, I looked up from my computer, and lo the sky was white with skirling snow coming down so furiously you could barely see the horizon. Thrilled, though still convinced it would switch to rain mid-way through, I pulled on all the warm clothing I could find, plus two pairs of socks and a thick pair of clogs, mittens and my warmest coat: I meant to go outside in that weather. Danged if I was going to be anything but warm!

Well, I didn’t need to go very far from the door. No one else was in sight except for one elderly gentleman sitting inside the lobby near the Christmas tree, and someone already shoveling snow from the walkway. Neither paid me any mind, which was good because I was not there for attention. Actually, in a sense it was for attention, it was to pay attention to the snow, to really see it, that I had bundled up and gone out there. I thought there would be some need for effort or some, I dunno, some before, before I could see it, but in fact I was inside the snow, within the different levels, layers, depths of it before I knew it. I did know it, though. It was immediately and stunningly obvious to me that this was something I had “never” seen before, or not in any retrievable memory. What I remembered was that always before snow had fallen in a kind of whitish mass, a jumble of flakes more or less undistinguished from one another, because indisitnguishable from one another. I can’t emphasize this enough, how if you cannot perceive depth, you lose detail and even the ability to perceive certain structures because of it.

For instance, I now can easily see certain aspects of my palm plant that before were literally invisible to me, because I could not distinguish one leaf from another…and therefore could not see the details that defined these aspects. Just so the snow. Now, it is so clear to me that many many flakes were falling, and what size they were and even what texture they had. But I know that last year I might have had to guess as to all that, or judge it purely on the basis of the feel of flakes falling on my bare skin. Seeing the mass of white flakes falling would not have given me any more accurate information than that it was snowing a great deal. How many flakes fell per foot, or how big the flakes and what kind, I would have had no way of telling.

Yesterday all that changed. I saw that I was actually inside snow, not looking at a curtain of snow, but within an ocean of it, with snow all around me in every direction for many miles. It might sound strange, but the very act of looking through the spaces between the flakes, the sort of weird tunnels that space made as the flakes fell, was extraordinarily beautiful. It is not something I think that most people see, or perhaps can see, having gotten too used to stereopsis (depth perception) or never having lost it. If there were some way for me to lend others this experience, or have them learn to see it from my persepctive, I would share it, as the world is astonishingly beautiful, and everyone should have the opportunity to perceive it, though without having to lose stereopsis to do so. I suppose that is what the various 3-D movies and anaglysh photos of fantasy scenes offer (to view anaglyph pictures you utilize red/green or red/blue lenses for the 3-D experience). One goes to a 3-D sci-fi movie to be wow’ed by the special effects that are so stunning, and there one appreciates the beauty of that “world” — but does it rub off onto an appreciation of the beauty of this one? Alas, I doubt it. I doubt that viewers of the movie understand that this world is as 3-D as the movie is, and that what they see in the world is as wonderful as what is in the movie. No, this world is simply too prosaic to be seen. It truly is a matter of seeing with new eyes. Which is what I have. As I told Dr D, she changed my life with her Vision Therapy, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Schizophrenia and Trust

Today I want to discuss the issue of trust, a specific kind of trust in my case, which is intimately tied to my sense of personal evil and a resultant paranoia that persists to this day. (Note: while I discuss this in the context of schizophrenia, the etiology of my schizophrenic symptoms remains Lyme disease.) Because I am evil, I must assume that people are out to get me, to kill me, to get rid of me by any and all means. This is a logical conclusion even as it leads me to a state of more or less constant fear and suspicion. I worry about where the next attack is going to emanate from. This puts me in a difficult position with most people, who do not like to contemplate the fact that I do not trust them. I must reassure each and every one that they are the exception to the rule, when by and large no one truly is, because I assume that everyone in their heart of hearts despises me! Deep down, deep down, no one really feels for me anything but the purest antipathy and revulsion, and perhaps unconscious to them even, wishes me ill (at a minimum) or like my twin, wants me dead.

That said, I am able to put this awareness aside and deal with people on the as if level, as if they were not my enemies, as if they did not wish me mortal ill, as if I were not somehow a source of scorn and disgust to them. I am aware of it nonetheless, and aware of the double entendres being exchanged, or being sent one way to me. But I do not allow any expression of comprehension to show on my face. That would be breaking the compact of civility. No, I pretend that I didnt “get it” and act insensible to everything but what is said on the surface. but I do get it, and I know what is really being said in the subtext…

Sessions with Dr O are an island of relief for me in all this. I don’t know why talk therapy is so frowned upon for people with schizophrenia. It has been nothing but a blessing for me, despite the many bad experiences I have had with certain incompetent shrinks over the years. Dr O has taught me so much about my symptoms, how to recognize them, what they are and how to handle them, both emotionally and intellectually, how to wrestle them and overcome them, that I cannot but be grateful…And I would never want to have gone the “meds only” route all this time. No, I think that is a terrible mishandling of schizophrenia, and deprives most people with the illness of what might have helped them recover to the best level possible.

But one thing about trust and Dr O is that I need to trust her to take care of herself vis a vis me. I need to know that she will not let me burden her or wear her down. For example, and this is really painful to report, two years ago when I was in the hospital with what turned out to be relapsing CNS Lyme disease, I must have seemed impossible to deal with. I was out of control, on one-to-one almost the entire 4 weeks I was there. I attempted suicide, refused half my medications an hour after agreeing to take all of them…BUT still I knew that when she said she would see me even during her August vacation that it was a poor decision, and I did not want her to do it. I just didn’t know how to tell her, nor if anyone would see me in her place. Well, she made some rotten decisions and got furious with me over things that she ordinarily would have handled better and differently…and finally, to my great relief, took her vacation and got another doc to see me in her stead. But I felt terrible, because she left abruptly and in anger, and it needn’t have happened in the first place if she had taken care of herself and gone on vacation the way any other doctor would have. So I spent the next week and a half in her absence thinking I would not continue to see her. I was too dangerous to her. Because I had not taken proper care to NOT be “too much” even for her…so it was time to leave.

Finally, I was discharged by my demand, no longer committed on the 14 day paper I’d been signed in on in the middle of my stay, not wanting to be still there when she got back. I’d see her in 6 days and for 6 days I deliberated whether or not I would return or find someone new. It wasn’t rancor on my part at all, it was purely fear that I could so misjudge a situation and my effect on things that I’d accidentally allowed myself to over-burden someone before walking away, before saying, Never mind, I’m okay, relieving them of any responsibility or worries. I hadn’t meant to. I hadn’t meant anything by refusing the meds except that I’d wanted to take only one pill of each category, not two or three of each category, and I figured that if I did so while she was away on a long weekend, and was fine when she returned, then I’d have proved it was okay to do so. My memory is SO bad that I simply did not remember that just an hour before that I had agreed to take ALL the meds, including 3 Haldol. This sort of crazy lapse happens to me all the time. The memory simply wasn’t there to hold onto.

In any event, much as I wish it didn’t, that incident haunts me even now. I want to talk about it with Dr O but am afraid to bring it up lest she get angry all over again or refuse to hear my side. And besides, it is not the incident itself that bothers me so much as the fact that I did not protect her from me! I did not protect her from me! And so she was harmed by me, worn out, wearied to the point of exhaustion. True also is that fact that I worry as well that I cannot trust her to protect herself from me! And if she can’t or won’t, and I must, then there’s no point in my seeing her. The only way I can protect anyone is by getting out of the way. Only if I know that someone will protect themselves, take care of themselves vis a vis me and not do things in any special way for me, can I trust them to help me. Otherwise, it always backfires to my detriment.

Symptoms and Progress

I am working on a longer blog entry but it is taking a while, so in the meantime I will get you up to speed on a few other matters: my symptoms, of Lyme, of schizophrenia have mostly subsided, all except the startling, which continues on a reduced level. I don’t startle at bright lights anymore, nor at people coming at me around corners in Stop and Shop, but I regularly shriek in a startle reflex when I am waiting for someone and they knock on the door. It is predictable that I will do so, because it is so unpredictable when they will knock. And yet the strangest thing about it is, I am anticpating the knocking, and am waiting for it…so you’d think I would be prepared. But that very anticipation only seems to make the startle that much worse, I don’t know why. When I merely hear the knock out of the “corner of my ear” as it were, the startle is much less, and sometimes I do not startle at all.

But I do know that this was never a problem until I developed Lyme and the lesions in my brain that have never gone away, the “tiny strokes” that could have been normal if I had been over 50 when they occured, and if they had not appeared in a cluster in a matter of one MRI to the next. Meaning that I had an MRI during a psychotic episode and the results were clear, but a number of months later, the scar tissue of these tiny stroke like lesions suddenly appeared, suggesting that something had indeed occured during the time I had been ill. And we believe it was Lyme-on-the-brain.

That said, I am feeling a great deal better, though I hear some music from time to time and occasionally people talking to me, plus the little People when I do art work, naturally, though they do not bother me in the slightest. (The little People, for those who do not know, are the voices that are absolutely benign and merely argue amongst themselves about matters having little to do with me, such as about Russia and independence of the various states, or Born-Again Christianity, or teenage chores etc…It can be very entertaining but never or rarely threatening.

I have been slowly working on a child sculpture and a couple of bowls, though not a slimemold bowl like the one that several people have wanted a copy of. I don’t think I could make another one, frankly, I think I would be bored and uninspired to have to do it again. But if I can, I will make something else in those colors…Meanwhile, I hvae made a mushroom bowl in pastels and a basic watermelon bowl, that is just a bowl painted like a big watermelon, which I would paint over except that I polyurethaned it already. If anyone is interested in either bowl, and I will post pictures below or soon, do let me know!

Joe, Joe is doing well, as well as can be expected. I ought to write a whole entry on him, given that this is a new blog and I may have other new readers, so for now, to my old readers, rest assured that nothing very new is afoot. He is comfortable, relatively, and commmunicating well with the EyeGaze Response Integrative Communication Assistive device (or some such) ERICA. We even talk on the phone for hours now, for hours because it takes that long to have a conversation. Why so long? Well, It takes at least a second or two for him to spell one letter, and probably 6-7 seconds per letter in reality. So if he want to say a long sentence, and that is the easiest way for me to understand him, then it could take a long time for me to wait to hear it.

But it is worthwhile and I generally paint with the speaker phone on, so I can do something while I wait.

Well, now to post the pictures of the bowls:dcp_3632dcp_3631dcp_3629dcp_3627

Watermelon Bowl
Watermelon Bowl