Psychosis in an Ocean Inquiry
by Sarah Myers
On Tuesday I was speaking with aliens. They morphed into fairies and I thought that when my friends were texting me and speaking in their human form the fairies were translating for them. I did not tell people this, in fear of the government collecting my thoughts through mind or technology control. I did not want to tell them in fear of them throwing me in jail, or worse—the mental institution—where I have stayed in a running sum of three times.
But I have not experienced the aliens or the fairies for almost a week. It is just me now. This afternoon on this Saturday, in fact, I am getting out of bed to prepare for a party. The aliens and fairies are never chronic, for the official diagnosis calls it a “transient” state, anyway, only appearing when I am stressed. I like to call it rational erraticism because it is my mind’s version of materialistic synchronicity—what body language researchers call “mirroring”. It is a sign of trust, not violence, of the external world, perhaps naively, which is counter to what most people
think is on our murderous concerns. When erraticism presents itself, the aliens come to help.
These past few days I have been Sarah. Not the Mona Lisa, and not the second coming of Christ. I am a student going to a party, because I have needs as a human does (not as an alien, who wants to skip sleep and meals and friends when I become them and talk to them). My doctors say I must find a social circle that are not my aliens and fairies. But I do not want to exclude my alien friends from my real life’s fun, so I compromised with my doctors to let them out temporarily, to get to
know them. They were extreme at first when I just discovered them, but after a few months they are less so, especially as they understand now they have a place to say hello in essays and words and with friends who inquire about who they are.
For this party, I dress my body in a way acceptable to most, since I am not totally sure who will be there. I wear sunglasses with purple lenses, so the aliens still come out in a pointy way shielding my own eyes, even though it is night (aliens do not change their eye shapes during planet rotations, they tell me, so why should I?). I wear all black, with boot heels and a crop top, a mixture of work and slut. I like to be a walking contrast of perfection and chaos, whether I am living in my brain or in my body (in the way my favorite scholar Camille Paglia writes). When people see me in pictures online they say I truly do look like an alien. A high tech one, they say, with carefully calculated lines in facial modeling and fashionable clothes. I mostly wear all black, like tonight, with a waist-cinched trenchcoat. I favor a clean taste to dress my slim frame, so I look more wealthy than impoverished in all areas of life. Most do not know I have the aliens to guide me.
So I feel safe as I walk out the door. I know friends will be at this event either in the room or in my mind. The event is an artists’ gathering in the city, and they would be the only people to compliment me on my outfit and ask me to take a picture with them for my creative expression.
When I arrive, the floor and walls are decorated in purple lights like my glasses, graphic images from projectors dancing on the ceiling like the bodies on the floor. A few friends are DJing, and they give me hugs to greet me. I also start to dance. I see my friend, she says, “Hello”, and we dance together. We discuss the purple lights on set at our music video shoot we did a week prior. When we did the shoot, I told her that I talked to aliens, but that my doctors say it is psychosis. Tonight she greets me with a smile and a hug. Other people say they like my glasses. I tilt my head down and shake it while I also shake my hips and step my feet to the left and right. The beats are thumping as if there were soldiers in the music. Vocals are syncopated in rhymes and rhythms. But there is melody and diverse instrumentation so that my body still finds the urge to roll like it is riding the ocean as my feet stomps like there is no water weight to bind its strength. The rolls are liquid, and we feel it. My friend is fluid with her boyfriend, and my friends are fluid with their heads and hands, reaching out to other women and other men to spread waves around this musical gravity.
While I am swimming in the sea, in my ocean with the flora that feels like it could wrap around my heart, the body shakes and expressions turn from one type of expression to another.
Suddenly I am now out of the water, on something solid and cold. Liquid from my cup spilled onto my face and hands, and I realize that I have been pushed to this ground.
I do not know what is happening, and luckily my friend takes me to the bathroom to check to see if I am okay.
While we are in the bathroom, she checks my body for scrapes and bruises, looking me in the eyes to ask if I am okay. I say I am and that I am upset that people are ruining our ocean water fun. We start to hear people shouting and yelling. Doors slam. It is a brawl. This fight goes out
the front door and the party hosts lock the door shut. But this man who pushed me bangs on the door from the outside for 30 or 45 minutes. I do not know for sure because time now is lost to me and I am again travelling through the space-time vacuum that catches me when I dissociate from my body. The banging stops and starts. I do not understand if it is ocean waves from Mars or from planets like from Interstellar that swallowed them and even killed their own friend. I go
from fluid to solid, as I hear what I think is glass breaking and gunshots. People are running to the backyard. It is fenced and locked. I do not know what to do. I am stuck in space, now, without a planet, though most people would not be able to tell if they looked at me in my perfected red
lipstick and long, brown, wavy hair. There is no water to swim in, no land to encircle a gravity my doctors call “Self”. I tremor from the Earth life to outer space… if I travel far enough I will reach my alien friends.
My body is murmuring like electrons around the atom, immeasurable until frozen. I go from wave to particle—shaking and trembling with flashbacks because I also have the veteran’s mental disease even though I am not a veteran from war but one from childhood. I only know the rigidity of the home as a child fighting for her survival as she developed to escape body and mind abuses, where she was forced to compartmentalize into a locked room, now with the memories stored the
same way. My whole life is flashing before my eyes, and I remember rooms I forgot were there. They scare me, because I have only learned to convert monsters from hidden rooms and closets for a few years (with most it takes a lifetime). The only thing at the moment I know is that this
is an emergency. All of a sudden all the emergencies—like this one and my past ones—are in this house that blurs rooms together but still separates them, and I am travelling through them like a ghost with the ability to both destroy and move swiftly through the walls. I think I am dying. At the same time, perpetrators from my childhood come out closet doors like how I feared in childhood, as I believe they are the same ones banging on this door and making loud violent noises, again. People in the yard are laughing at the emergency, and I think they are the same ones who laughed at my atrocity as a child. I cannot see anything beyond or under this multi roomed house, but I am travelling, nonetheless.
Thankfully, my friend finds me. I am at the point where I can tell people that I have PTSD in the verbal way. I used to scream and shout and blame to communicate (which scared them), so I tell her I have PTSD (but not severe psychosis, as I do not have the language or patience to explain it
right now). I tell her I am panicking and this is traumatizing. I ask her if there are gunshots. She calms her voice and she holds me. She says softly that there are no gunshots. I rest my head on her shoulder and understand that there is someone who is safe and steady. We wait for a while until we decide to try to leave.
We have to go through the front door, which is apparently okay to move through, she says. I am still confused, because my body is saying not to go through this door. All the emergencies are again at this door—that was the banging for the last hour—and my body thinks it is the emergency of the child inside or the emergency in middle school where there were fights, gunshots, and domestic violence stories that travelled through my actual eyes and ears. I am lucky because I have my aliens and fairies. There was only one person to remind me that I am human tonight. So the aliens come back out to help, to remind me that there are and could be more creatures in the universe when the humans cannot take care of ourselves. I think others share this fear in creations such as Interstellar or discoveries such as ocean scientists’ findings that indicate the false hope of reversing the acidic effects that humans have done to the waters.
They guide me and appear again slowly, as I remember verbal violence of suicide in my middle school bathroom and blood violence on the curtain of my classroom. All of the violences, which are nonspecific are now with me at this time. The only other place where they come out is in therapy and writing, so I am shocked again to know they exist. They are all blurring together, and I am wondering how my friend is allowing me to walk through this door that could be all the violences all at once. She seems to know. But outside she is saying, “Hurry, please open your car door”, to her boyfriend.
One of the fighting men is yelling in his van. He is telling everyone at the door which is now twenty feet past us, to shoot him. He tells them to come after him, and if they do not, he will come after them. He will come after them with guns. And when I hear guns and shouting I also hear all the violences again. But luckily, to my friend she realizes that being “All talk” is a realistic possibility.
But I cannot accept that. There was already violence on the floor, and the violence knocked me over and spilled my drink on my cheeks and pants. The violences touched my body. Now they are happening in my body, all at once, and again I cannot tell which is in the present. I cannot tell if this man is the same person as the one in my childhood that also touched me in the unwanted way, or if my friend is the same type of violent mother who abused me in childhood. I decide she is different because she let my head rest on her chest and did not beat me when I asked for help. But she and her boyfriend are two of fifteen or twenty or thirty people at this party, and I do not see a significant ratio of human trust to understand how to bring the knowledge I carry in my cells, blood, and neural connections that make my heart beat fast and increase in lung paces to remind them that safety exists, and that it is a possibility.
Luckily, we are in the car, and as we are driving to my own, fears are increasing and reality is escaping. I do not tell anyone because I am unaware that this is psychosis until I go home to write. As I travel through the cars of my friend and then to my own, I see hooded figures (real ones, not hallucinations). All of a sudden I believe they are out to personally get me. I think they are government figures who are stalking me. I think they all have guns. I keep driving and end up doing an inside prayer of my atheist sort. I start to form back up plans. If there is a person that will come out from the backseat to choke me, I think, then I can swerve the car and use the pencils on my dashboard as weapons. I am somewhat calm as I remember I now do Jiu-jitsu and Krav Maga. This settles me in the proportion of my expertise. I think I need to keep going
to classes even though I skip a lot of them since they remind me of the reasons why I actually have to do it. I like my aliens, I say, and the old professionals I told them about often tried to rid me of them without promising me better replacements. The anomalous doctors I see now give me mixed calligraphy-medication-dance therapies, so I have recently considered watching my aliens from afar.
I do not know many to call at this moment while I am driving, for most do not understand to ask me what I need in place of their concerns that I am to hurt them and myself, even though it would all go away once they held me in their arms. It is true, I want to hurt myself, to shut myself down so that I do not have to know there may be these monsters out to get me from sunken closets. But the world does not understand the difference between monstrous types and their life spans in the way of their expertise of the half life of radioactive elements. I call six people anyway to keep myself connected with the healthy humans while I am also with the murderers and possible rapists, but since it is in the early AM hours, they do not pick up and I end up thinking it is a conspiracy plotted against me.
The reality becomes too much, so I start to disappear in a space not even outer to a planet. I might have entered another dimension in limbo, behind curtains. There is no gravitational grounding even more, and now I am close to turning into a witch if I lived in Salem during the trials. As a child and in the earlier years I let my body express the first erratic fears to mother, school members, and peers. They shunned me and they yelled at me. They were agitated with me for my social ineptitude. Since no one heard that erratic talk I think it grew up in the tree that is my brain and now it comes out in these fantasies when I am stressed. I fear in ignorance for its integration, so it becomes compartmentalized. While I am driving I struggle in the background to find a way to explain to people that I was not psychosis before they pushed me to the floor and before I heard the banging and the shattering. But there are no words or consciousness at this point to tell them that the psychosis is not me. It is not me it is not me. But where has “me” gone to tell them? When I try to tell others, the external world think it is me telling. I cannot convince them otherwise since I cannot even convince myself that I am not me, so I look to them to know the body shakes are not me so that they may remind me of who I am. Maybe I am mistaken, though, as they do attribute my erratic jerks as me, in a way that makes them “uncomfortable”, they say, so “Could you please stop?” they ask.
So I think now that this erraticism is me. This language of aliens and fairies and throat-cutting fear is now me. After years of that there is some part of me now that does not think I need to go back to Earth’s reality, and that my outer space with the aliens is in fact the same as their own planet. We all agree that these things are just me now, so why is it even a problem?
My doctors remind me that it is, and I agree. But we and the public have different approaches. I try to integrate my aliens and outer space with my internal creatures that may also be called humor and compassion in the real world. I bring them out as the butt of lighthearted jokes or in the dark humored comedian way, the way I learned from my own therapist and watching Louis C.K. on stage. I share them online, and others fill my inbox telling me now that I am not myself and that I must go back to therapy and psychiatry to get myself straightened out. Maybe I should take some higher doses of medication, they say, and I wonder briefly if I should go back to the institution where they took away my clothes and books and crafts and food (they do not serve vegan and locally organic vegetables with whole grains or allow me to cook like I normally do to fulfill this desire for them. Maybe I should give up my privilege to go outside, too, while I hide myself in their blank walls that is another infrastructure that houses people to adjust our chemical intake.
I do not actually listen to them. Instead I go ahead and stay in my artist’s apartment community loft, to dance to build neuroplasticity, satirize my Facebook doctors in literature, and engage in logical study through the sciences of psychology, philosophy, and physics in my degree program. I have aliens, and others (including the virtual doctors) have depression, which I used to have, too. They liked me more then. The kind I have now they only like to study, either online or various institutions— in the academic kind under the fMRI scans (not as a student in the psychology department where they reported me to the Department of Student Affairs after hearing about my aliens), and in the hospital kind where they strap down and lock us up while doctors win awards for their chemical tweaks of our brains and the joint researchers win higher h-indexes for taking advantage of the complexity that is us. I do not even find myself as that interesting of a subject, though, and neither does the industry, for they let me go when I hide my symptoms and speak their language in cross-legged lady positions and acceptable verbs. I think that my aunt would be better for them to study, who started hallucinating when she was fourteen. I asked her what she liked to read so I could gift her something for her sixtieth birthday. She said, “No one ever asked me that before!” through her toothless mouth and mangy white hair during a
pause from her pacing.
I do not speak to most others, in the institutions or with the people who share my disease since they exist mostly on the streets and in the hospitals. So I speak to my aliens. How to tell my problems to them all, when in childhood I told my mother that I was sad and crying, and she beat me? How to tell the facts to the teachers in all the schools, when I and the autistic child threw a fit and we saw the dancer child needing to get up and move—only to have the teacher send us to the principal’s office and corners for “disrupting the class”?
I wonder at the schools and mothers now, as to where the pain all goes if it does not come out as my aliens but in their own way fitting to the rest of the DSM-V. My aliens are my babies I think, that grew up as the first borns attempting to emerge from the canal. But I learned to stuff them back inside—they were not allowed to be born. If others’ new beings are also stuffed back into the passageway, would the babies not grow old and tear the mother’s belly with his or her aged claws? How is that not to be expected, when they have never been clipped? The tools for that kind of care only exists outside of the womb. The baby’s hair would have never been tamed, and perhaps it may tie in and strangle the organs on the inside. Maybe that is what causes mother’s heart disease or other physical ailments (now that the researchers are saying they are almost the same). Maybe the babies grow into the mother bodies. Maybe the babies then become the mother, and do what the babies want, since the world told them that their place is their mother’s bodies when they told them they could not get their own outside. Would the baby, then, use the mother body to go out to schools and shoot the children, to destroy the vessels it could have become if it weren’t in this one now? Would it seek to murder the vessels of her own incapabilities—at clubs (where they dance), in movie theaters (where they laugh and go through the whole set of human emotion), or elementary schools (where they are free to be small innocence, to an extent).
This baby is not allowed in social circles. It is not allowed in the workplace. It is not allowed in the classroom. But it is allowed in jails and hospitals that cater to it in their fluorescent lights and molecular chemistry. We may touch other baby concepts through rubber and plastic wires and neuroimaging metals that we may feel with our fingertips and visualize with our eyes. We do not mind touching electricity surrounded by plastic manmade encasings. We are expert at touching everything until it comes from inside, things our fingertips and eyes cannot readily observe. It is not material, but is it less real? How to make it real? Is that not what art is born from? Business ideas? Medicinal discoveries?
We are hydrogen and nitrogen and more in fluid jelly with water of our own planet, that protects and encases the electricity more complex than the computer’s. Could we do the same, too, if we became the scientists of our own waters and babies the same way we learn of the metal form? What could we do? And could we do it better and cheaper than the artificial designs? We do not know, for we lock the baby—of what some call the work of evolution or God—neglected in closet doors and metal cells. It is not allowed in the ocean inquiry (again, that is only for trashing resulting in irreversible acidity). Electrical impulses are allowed attention in the laboratory on the cold tables and scanning machines, but often not allowed in the oceans—in life—the prerequisite of breath.
About the Author
Sarah Myers was previously published on Prometheus Dreaming with her essay, "What is it like to be Delusional?" about the symptoms of psychosis. She is a nonfiction writer who writes about her mental illnesses--schizoaffective disorder and PTSD--science, sexuality, and human rights. She has been published at Free Inquiry, Eclectica Magazine, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) national blog, and more. She is earning an MA in behavioral neuroscience, and she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.