My Circus – The Lost Generation, Paris circa 1923
You remember how the boy in “The Sixth Sense” saw dead people? Well I hear them… constantly, loudly, but more importantly proudly (at least now). At first I was taken aback as I was unsure of what was going on… Are they real? Imagined? Is it just in my head? Can you, the royal you, hear them? More than that how do you broach the subject with your family and friends, doctors, teachers and confidants that you are hearing The Lost Generation.
As I have written about here before, I had an accident when I was attending a very prestigious boys school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. At the time of the accident, I happened to be reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which begins with the following statement;
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
As it turns out, Paris indeed is, a moveable feast, especially in a fractured mind. For it was shortly after the accident that I started having full blown, aloud, conversations with Big Poppa himself, Ernest Hemingway. Ernest started only as a voice but soon became an active visual and auditory hallucination but more than that, I could actually feel his presence. At the tender age of 13, I had to contend with one of the heavyweights of American literature living inside my head persistently. Unsurprisingly, this is also when I started drinking, daily and heavily. This lead to a few awesome delusional experiences that I will write about another time.
Up until I decided to do something about the conditions that had plagued me, I found that self medication, as mentioned before, was the best way of dealing with my particular issues. At 22 when I was politely asked to leave a job that I happened to be very good at and coincidentally dating one of the bosses daughters I came to realize or perhaps accept that there was something incredibly different inside of me and I had to seek help. Unsure of who or how or where to begin I called one of my frat brothers fathers and asked him for advice as to who I should contact and whether he could offer an introduction.
Everyone had always known that I was different and not just a weird, highly intelligent kid.
There were deep seated issues that had not been dealt with. When I asked for the help he quickly referred me to one of the best psychiatrists in Toronto, perhaps even North America. I entered therapy on my own terms for the first time rather than being forced by the authorities within the school system. I was fortunate that I knew what question to ask of the right person to find the right therapist for me. Carl was a godsend. Though I do not believe in ‘the god,’ I do believe that She/He/It/They smiled on me the day I asked for help.
Carl used to design drugs for people like us in the 60’s. He has fourteen letters after his name (no exaggeration) and he decided that talk therapy in conjunction with specific drugs cold effectively alter any predicament. I spent the first few sessions with him, smoking and drinking coffee, or scotch, fussing him out to make sure that he was the right one for me. For in our efforts at improving ourselves our therapists play a massive role. The right therapist and you get a great result. The wrong therapist and well, I think all of us reading this know.
After a few sessions I revealed to Carl that I had been experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations since 13.
By this time he had already known that I was a prolific writer but he had not understood that I was being pushed by Big Poppa himself and he only discovered this through attentive listening and upon hearing me repeat a phrase several times; “Write drunk, edit sober.” Inquisitively, cautiously and dutifully he asked me after about the third or fourth time of hearing it as to whether Hemingway was inside my head as we had discussed A Moveable Feast many times. He initially chalked it up to my intelligence and the need to develop defense mechanisms against the demons that had followed me since I was very young, perhaps as early as five were. He started to probe and found that I had always had some type of voice or imaginary friend.
I also revealed to Carl, as I am revealing to each of you, that inside my mind, when I am triggered, the above music link from YouTube plays extremely loudly, I call it my theme song. Truly it is, for my life, has been one big top circus after another. Most of the time I bitched to Carl about the external rather than dealing with the internal. This went on for a few years as the walls and defenses I had built up required me to focus on anything other than myself. In many ways that had become the pathology of me.
Over the years Carl has received thousands of pages of writing from me. In so doing, Carl understood, that through the mania and depression, the hallucinations and delusions, the writing, had become the key to my survival. He encouraged me to embrace it fully.
Around the time of my last nervous breakdown (number four) I had become a shut in and was going to kill myself.
Everyone was worried and one night when I could not take it anymore, I called Carl at four o’clock in the morning. My external manifestations of my conditions were a severe closing of the throat known as Globus Hystericus as well as severe increase in heart rate. Our conversation was short but clear as he explained if I was in imminent danger he would call the police who would break down my door and hospitalize me on a mental health warrant BUT if I could make it five more hours, I could see him in the office. I explained I could wait.
In order to leave the house at the time I had adopted a persona very close to that of The Lost Generation in Paris circa 1923. I did not understand then but would later find out that this too was my defense mechanism and the beginning of endless dialogues with the likes of Hemingway, Pound, Eliot, Stein, The Fitzgeralds’, Picasso, and Joyce. Full blown, auditory and visual conversations. So began and continues my experience with a group of people that push me to be the best writer I can. In terms of role models they truly are not the best given my predilection for self medication and their penchant for the drink. Carl suggested we try medication and I was in no position to disagree.
However, regardless of the cocktail he put me on, it did not chase them away leading him to the conclusion that they had become part of my psyche and such a central force in my defense mechanisms that they may never go away. He believed, as I did, that he could deal with the paranoid delusions, persecutory delusions and the like, such as my green car (an entire article on its own), my silent helicopters and my snipers shooting lasers at me constantly (also their own article). In addition, for those it seemed that my mind, my beautiful mind, was clinging to them for dear life, as nothing seemed to work. Even running away from the city did not help and I spent day after day walking like a zombie care of the medication that was supposed to help.
I hear them all. I see them all. I speak with at least one of them daily. They are an intricate part of my continued survival. You know, through our struggles, I guess the whole point of this is; only we can know what works for us. Perhaps some say I am crazy because I experience these things on an on going basis but I view them as tools that I can use to enrich my writing and through that the lives of countless other people. They are a resource, a powerful resource that continues to press me forward. Good, bad, or indifferent, these are our lives. OUR LIVES.
I say embrace your crazy, feed off it and realize that they say we are crazy because we are different. I say they are all crazy because they are the same. Embrace it. Love it. Live it. Be who you are and use whatever resource you have, no matter how crazy, shameful or embarrassing as it may seem, to improve your life and those of the people around you.
I also want to say how grateful I am to everybody for reading. I have had a big jump in the number of people reading my blog of poetry and I appreciate every one of you. If there is anything that you would like me to write about here please get in contact with me and I will gladly write about it.
BE INSPIRED TODAY!
Love and Light,
It’s a manic world.