Take heart. Psychosis is NOT a fatality.

(this is a transcription of a Twitter thread I imposed on my longsuffering followers. I’m posting it here because, while tweets are read, they’re ephemeral. A blogpost is everpresent but unread. It seems that I’m still addicted to irony)

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Odd. It stays hot.

When you’re a lifelong psychotic it seems as if you’re always and irrevocably the Outsider. The things other people do, the way they think, their reactions to the world, are incomprehensible to you. And you’re more alone than most people can imagine. Half the time people seem unutterably shallow; the other half, they seem party to some arcane understanding from which you, specifically, have been excluded. It begins to feel as if everyone is sharing an cruel, pointless, and rather stupid joke at your expense.

As the years go by, you learn never to open up to people, however friendly they might seem. You shun intimacy, because intimacy leads to rejection, scorn, and ridicule. You learn to function superficially, to ape the behaviour of those around you. You try to fit in. At the same time, your awareness of how different you are squats in your head like a toad in a stone. What begins as hyperassociative delirium morphs into paranoia. You have no friends, merely acquaintances you must keep at arm’s length. And yet you’re human, and you long for human contact. But your difference stands between you and the world. You hide what you are from them, and from yourself. You fall deeper and deeper into what the world would deem insanity.

The characteristic emotions of delusional psychosis are fear, suspicion, resentment, and boundless loneliness. And they become what you are. If you’re high-functioning (which for us means having a reasonably serviceable mask), you can hide the internal chaos for decades. I lived with all this for over fifty years. Of course people got the feeling that there was something odd about me, but no-one knew the full extent of my crazy. Or how desperately lonely I was in my private delusional nightmare.

I was lucky. I met someone who forced their way through my self-protective shell and confronted me with myself. And, in humble desperation, that led me to seek help. I started medication. And while I will always be different, the meds allow me to confront, integrate, and accept. For the first time in my life, I can control myself. I can observe the psychosis from outside, and distinguish myself from it. I can be a person in my own right. I can see myself as a person among people.

If any of this strikes a chord with you, do likewise. SEEK HELP. Psychosis is perhaps the worst mental affliction, but with modern medicine, it is no longer a fatality. There is no shame. You don’t need to fight it alone. You don’t have to *be* alone.

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Mister Badger is obsessed with sex.

I’ve been on antipsychotics for six weeks now and I’m beginning to imagine how I might live with psychosis and still be a reasonably good person. I say “live with psychosis” because I’ve had to accept that while the meds suppress the paranoia, there’s a difference in the way I function, and probably always will be. Heigh ho.

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A Beautiful Mind.

I’ve had three non-paranoid psychotic episodes since I started the meds, and each has been less intense than the precedent. Two were full-blown 48 hour-long delirious impositions on Charlotte; the third lasted about an hour and I was able to bring myself out of it, which is a first. While the first two spun out into obsessive circular ruminations on “relationship issues” (read “sex”), in the third I felt briefly overwhelmed by nebulous mental and emotional impressions and had to struggle against delirious overinterpretation, but managed to avoid dragging her into it. All the same it was brought home to me that I can’t just rely on meds and hope, but that I need to identify and neutralise trigger situations and telltale behaviours. This is where the psychotherapy comes in, as well as a deal of honesty.

I can’t remember when the psychosis started. There’s a history on both sides of my family. My father (from whom my mother separated when I was 6 months) definitely suffered from delusional disorder of the jealous type – like father, like son. On my mother’s side, my half-brother is a fully-fledged schizophrenic and there are numerous great aunts and distant cousins who were afflicted by and even institutionalised for various unspecified mental disorders. As far as I was concerned, the psychosis was fully in place by the time I was ten, when I started child psychotherapy that lasted until I was sixteen. Between ten and eleven I was regularly sexually abused by my mathematics tutor, though I kept *that* to myself until I was 40. I have few memories of what happened, save that I was deeply ashamed and strangely thrilled. At seventeen I was hospitalised in a psychiatric unit for two months, but I can’t for the life of me remember  what happened to make it necessary. Having been the school creep,  by eighteen – when  I  left for college – I had suddenly got dead cute, reinvented myself, and was living in a semi-fantasy world in which I was going to be a rock musician. Although I hung out with – was the ringleader of – a crowd of interesting weirdos, I still felt somewhere outside. Drugs gave me a manic thrill, but for some reason all the feelings of isolation and alienation crystallised around sex. I was not like other men.

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only connect

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I lived in a world of happening and experience that I spun into reality through the medium of ongoing autobiographical narrative. People were objects among other objects. The only moments of shared subjectivity I experienced were when I was in love. Love meant being with someone who wanted me – the raw subjective feel – and who would  plunge with me into the flux of happening. Love was all drugs and every drug rolled into  one, and was indeed characterised by a parallel  consumption of hallucinogens and empathogens. I had sex with dreams, not people; and when the dream faded I was bereft, alone with the sense of alienation and difference. I could only stand relationships with generic Pre-Raphaelite lilies, including the ones in docs & lace dresses, and it always ended when they tried to get close to the real me. Bad idea. It wasn’t that I didn’t do intimacy, complicity, and respect of boundaries, but rather that I had no idea what they were, what they implied, and how the fuck they were supposed to manifest in behaviour.

The sex  was great – I  don’t have *any* hangups – but only during the honeymoon period. As soon as it  morphed into true intimacy, I morphed into Mr Hyde. I became suspicious  – one night without sex and she didn’t want me, was preferring others. And then, of course, there’s the fact that my thought processes are weird – we don’t live in the same world as you. Even when we take our meds, and when we don’t…

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You just don’t get my point.

I don’t think I ever consciously seduced anyone. I’m cute, I’m bright, and I’m weird; and I seem to seduce people by accident. And then I think we must have been brought together by some cosmic accident (probably involving my taste for anal). And all the rest is sheer raving lunacy. And I invariably fall in love. Or at least what I call love.

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After a few years of short term relationships in which girls (and guys) took to their heels on full exposure to Badgerhood, I met my first wife. We fucked like maniacs for three months, and then things “normalised”. We started having sex less than three times a day, and so I was “not as good as Other Men”. There was something wrong, something missing in me. I was being compared to Better Men with abs, donkey dicks, and a capacity to melt female hearts though techniques that were to me a closed book. And I began to obsess, my mind racing round in circles like a badger on a wheel. And this, with minor variations, characterised my three subsequent marriages until Mrs B sent me to get my brain cleaned.

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It’s for my own good…

Basically, all my relationships have been constructed around the paranoid delusion that my partner was punishing me for something by withholding sex. I was, by lack of having proper personhood, incapable of complicity and intimacy and, for like reason, entirely unable even to conceive of personal boundaries; but this fact was no more available to me than was quantum mechanics to alchemists.

As a narcissistic psychotic with a delusional disorder, I constructed an imaginary world in which sex generated intimacy-surrogate rather than intimacy allowing sex. And any refusal of sex was a rejection, a denigration, an unfavourable comparison to blokes with  muscles. I was incapable of instigating “normal healthy sex” because I was incapable of intimate relations; I was incapable of intimate relations because I wasn’t a person (this is  what psychosis is. Don’t try it at home). Edith and I established a minimally stable if highly ritualised sexlife that nonetheless left me deeply dissatisfied, and still feeling that I was lacking some arcane sexual knowledge known to all but me. Sex, not having enough sex, not having good enough sex, became the obsession around which my psychosis crystallised. And  then, in the midst of paranoid satyriatic delirium, there was Charlotte.

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You have been chosen.

This brings me back to Charlotte, our first encounter, and explicit sex stuff. Stay tuned for more anecdotal shit. There’s a fuck of a lot more to say.

Mister Badger, by popular request, comes clean

Hello Badger People!

My fanbase – that is, my Mum and her friend Ethel (hi Mum, hi Auntie Ethel!) – have pointed out that I haven’t written anything since 1791, so here I am.

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I need coffee first, though.

My last few posts were supposed to be anecdotal, but the writing of them was more a matter of revelation. I’ll resume the anecdotes below – I left myself on the point of throwing myself off a cliff – but I needed to take stock. This post won’t be long, but it’s at the heart of the weirdness. At the point we’ve reached in the story, I was more or less batshit crazy and behaving in consequence.

The more I’ve thought about that period, the more convinced I am that there had always been something … unusual … about the way I think, and that the events I’m recounting merely show how the latent problem became manifest. In fact, I don’t think anyone realised the degree to which my thought process were divergent. I don’t think I realised – or rather, I now know that I didn’t. There have been a lot of odd things in the four weeks since I started the meds, but the overall strangeness comes from that: I had no idea how crazy I was, and that I’d been hiding the degree of divergence both from those around me and from myself. Those familiar with the issues facing the neurodiverse will certainly have heard of the notion of “passing“, a term borrowed from the autistic community that applies generally to those who are obliged to hide their “true nature”:

When I first heard someone on the spectrum talk about “passing,” I didn’t realize how prevalent and conscious this effort was on the account of many autistics. The person I was speaking to was referring to “passing for neurotypical,” in other words, acting neurotypical enough that someone else wouldn’t recognize they were autistic. Outsiders often dismiss the severity of any disabling conditions when they see autistics who act non-autistic. However, many can pass for neurotypical only with great effort and feel pressured to act this way, living in constant stress over every small behavior and decision they make and never feeling accepted for who they are.

In different ways, and in varying kinds of situation, this is also true of all kinds of personality disorder. If you want a reasonably trouble-free life, and to ensure a basic degree of social acceptance, then you have to learn to fit in. You hide your difference from those around you, you pretend that you feel and think in the way they do, that you apprehend the world much in the same way as them. In my case, what I was hiding was – basically – that I inhabited a different reality from those around me. Certain concepts were meaningless to me (particularly those concerned with complicity, intimacy, and respect), I had a wildly inappropriate understanding of relationships (I actually asked Charlotte if I could allow myself to be relaxed with her), and some of the ways I understood physical reality were odd to the point of counterintuitive magical thinking. I’ve spent many, many years trying to hide just how odd my thinking was (and the crazier you are, the more you try to hide it – if you can). But I was spending the vast majority of my time and mental energy on maintaining a basic semblance of stability. And I was more alone than I could ever have admitted, because I had no idea how not to be alone. Learning that I don’t have to be alone is perhaps the most precious gift Charlotte has given me.

As I’ve said in earlier posts, the way I was thinking then is barely accessible to me now, despite there being so short a period between the two states. The doctor takes this as reinforcing the diagnosis of a slight dysfunction in terms of brain chemistry that, given experience and reinforcement, has led to pretty major psychological and behavioural divergence. But the upshot here is that, first of all, I can’t really remember how I left Edith and, secondly, I’ve never really thought about how creepily bizarre the beginning of my physical relationship with Charlotte was. I remember the sequence of events well enough, and what I thought was going on. I also have some memory of what I was feeling during the period. My problems start when I try to put the three together – events, understanding, and feelings. I must say that, from my present perspective, I find it hard to see how I persuaded myself that walking out on Edith and imposing myself on Charlotte was not only feasible but necessary. This being the case, I’ll try and stick to what happened, or what I remember as happening, and leave the analysis of my understanding or feelings aside.

Bear in mind that at this time I had still never met Charlotte. It was only when we started talking about the concrete possibility of meeting that I learnt she didn’t actually live in Paris as I had thought. So, once we had decided to meet, we had to organise our meeting around her children and my marriage. During my holiday in England and for a week or so after the return Charlotte and I were talking about meeting somewhere in Paris – she would have come up for a day or two, stayed in a hotel. This plan, which admittedly never actually got further than “I could”, was definitively shelved when Charlotte’s ex turned up unexpectedly to spend time with their daughter. From what I’d understood, he was a good-humoured mild-mannered chap; he and Charlotte had split up amicably three or four years previously and their relations were generally good up to the point of him spending a week or two with her in summer or at Christmas to see the kid. He certainly wasn’t in the slightest upset or jealous over his ex’s relationship with me.

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…a good-humoured mild-mannered chap…

But his arrival at that time put a definite end to the idea of Charlotte coming to Paris. I was due back at work in the beginning of September, and the tension generated by being with Edith while feeling that I should have been with Charlotte was getting too much. So I decided to go to the mountain myself. I booked a train ticket for the south of France and took a week’s rental on an apartment in the next village to hers.

If Charlotte had come to Paris, I could probably have met her without Edith knowing. For me to go away, even overnight, was far more difficult. And so, although Edith was entirely aware that the tensions between us were reaching breaking point, as soon as I evoked the possibility of going away for a few days to get some perspective she was convinced there was another woman. She made it quite clear that, if I left, it would be definitive. The agreement between us, made fifteen years previously, was non-negotiable. And to be honest, I’m not sure I would have been able to handle the situation of “cheating on Edith” – as it was, and even when my departure was ‘overt’, the guilt was almost insurmountable. But I said I’d set analysis aside… the facts, man; just the facts.

That last weekend with Edith was very odd. It was apparent that she was planning to make it difficult for me to leave Paris so, although I’d taken a train ticket for the Tuesday, I left the house on the Monday and took a hotel room. Edith was at work when I left the house; I remember closing the front door with the feeling of one crossing the Rubicon by the light of burning bridges.

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So pretty…

Charlotte’s reaction to all this would perhaps have given me pause for thought had I not  been in a full psychotic episode – by then I was in fairytale mode and more or less delusional. Edith was the wicked witch from whom I was escaping, Charlotte was the good fairy to whom I escaped. I said I’d leave comments on my internal state aside for now, but I really can’t explain otherwise how I could have been unaware that Charlotte  was not particularly enthusiastic about our meeting and entirely unprepared for my arrival. From what I’ve since pieced together, and given that both her mother and her boyfriend were visiting, Charlotte had been following the to-me-intense drama of my separation from Edith with a rather distracted eye. Indeed, I think she was taken by surprise by my message saying I’d actually left Edith, was in a hotel room, and would be arriving the next day.

One thing in particular militates for the less-than-onboard Charlotte: while she had indeed split up with her ex several years before, he was unaware of this. To him, and despite his having more or less told her to fuck off back to France, she was still his official-if-abroad girlfriend. With me arriving the next day, it became necessary that he be made aware not only that he was effectively the ex-boyfriend but also that the new boyfriend was on his way. And my image of him as a mild-mannered skinny little chap was as off-target as everything else. He’s a 230-pound welder who can hump washing machines upstairs under one arm and  he was not pleased to hear Charlotte’s news. I followed events by text, I even spoke to the guy on the phone. He told me that Charlotte was unable to think for herself, that she couldn’t function without him, that he’d put a lot of energy into building Charlotte’s family and that I didn’t want to burden myself with her, and that I should do the decent thing and return to my wife and family. Eventually he fell asleep, things calmed down, and I got a few hours sleep.

The next morning I walked to the station – my train was at 8:45, and it was 8:30. Charlotte texted me asking me if I still wanted to come. I was in a story, and therefore had no choice. I walked through the barrier, along the platform, and took my seat on the train.

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Mister Badger comes clean – strange encounter

Yesterday, I said that I’m writing this blog because I can’t make sense of the passage from the past to the present. I don’t know whether that sounds weird. It feels weird. Since I started the antipsychotics, the way in which I used to think is slipping away from me. If the things I’m talking about don’t make much sense to you, they don’t make that much to me, either.

This is supposed to be a post about how I left Edith and started a new life with Charlotte. Yet suddenly the exercise strikes me not quite as futile, but as if it were about someone else. The strange encounter is Badger with Badger. What the fuck.

At the time, the narrative force of that “how I left Edith and started a new life with Charlotte” was something I would have taken as self-evident and profoundly meaningful. Indeed, I don’t think I really began to question that way of thinking until I started the antipsychotics. Yet now the more I try to understand how I was thinking at that time – which, to a large extent, is also how I was thinking until about a month ago – the more it seems to slip way from me. As I said at the beginning of this post, I can’t make sense of the way I thought. I’m not even sure I can really remember who or what I was, and I really didn’t know how other people saw me. The antipsychotics have had an effect I couldn’t have imagined. There’s no feeling of having lost anything, and yet I really don’t think I’m the same person I was three weeks ago. I could, a few days ago, still go into long expositions of what I thought was going on in my head. But after another week of the meds, even that seems to be dissolving. The strange delusional landscape I mentioned yesterday is closing in on itself and, as the eyes and stars of its indices are being eliminated, begins slowly to fold itself together again. I was so involved in what I felt about things that I wasn’t aware of what was happening around me – I was entirely absorbed in the apparent flux of experience and the delirious interpretations arising from it. I have no clear idea of who or what I was. And as far as what was “wrong” with me, what kinds of behaviour stemmed from this delirious understanding of the world, all I can say is that I notice small ways in which Mrs B reacts to me or handles me that make me realise how difficult it must have been to live with whatever I was.

Tonight’s experience of writing is very different from anything I’ve done before. I feel as if I’m talking to someone, rather than talking to myself (hello to all my friends who do read me, and thank you). A strange feeling has been growing on me, the feeling that I’m not alone. I was just saying that I’m noticing or picking up on things around me that seem to have little to do with the way I understood my environment before starting the meds. I said yesterday that it was the emotional equivalent of a Bosch painting, and insofar as any external image can stand as an illustrative metaphor of the world I inhabited, Bosch is certainly the best candidate.

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Move that bus,

I remember reading a story about a man who experienced – or rather, perceived – the things around him as unspeakable horrors, who lived with demons screaming in his ears, yet who was unable to communicate his experience, being rather condemned to live as if his internal, private experience corresponded to external, public, “reality” (and here we’re dealing with something along the lines of the association between “experience” and “happening” I’ve drawn in earlier posts). In the story, it was not that the victim dared not say what he was experiencing – he  quite literally could not say. His behaviour – everyday, normal, behaviour – was external to him and bore no relation to the horrors he was experiencing.

Now, while the horrors in the story were perceptual, the weirdness in my story was emotional. Between that and Bosch, what I’m doing here is providing myself with a metaphor or analogy of what I’ve undergone. Whether it makes sense to anyone else is perhaps secondary – you, dear reader, are only concerned insofar as these reflections lead to some kind of action, be it nothing more than me putting down words that have some basic entertainment value – the Syd Barrett of WordPress, perhaps?

As the Bosch delirium fades, so is the obsessive overinterpretation of what were, when all’s said and done, emotional hallucinations. And the strangest part of this is that I seem to be developing the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view. My emotions are no longer screaming in my ears, and so I can listen to other people as if they were the subjects of their own lives, and not the objects of my experience. Indeed, the effect is rather like being stoned on clarity (OK, weird metaphor, but just imagine how strange sanity is to someone who’s never really experienced it). The world-as-seen-by-Bosch is beginning to look more like this:

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Don’t forget the toilet paper this time…

The upshot, Dearly Beloved Oojamaflips, would seem to be that I’m beginning to develop the inkling of a modicum of cognitive empathy. And – O Strange and Portentous Event! – being as it seems (I have a diagnosis, I have a diagnosis!) emotionally hyperreactive, it would appear that I might just be feeling the first stirrings of some analogue or surrogate of emotional empathy. This is more than slightly bizarre. Like hearing colour for the first time after years of having no sense of smell. The psychological effect is strange almost in the way the effect of a hallucinogen is strange, and for good reason. My brain chemistry is undergoing modification. OK, so what I’m seeing is (I have it on good authority) reality – or perhaps, as we’re being portentous, Reality – but it’s still a new experience, a new kind of experience.

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Portentous,

So, take this as an interlude in my anecdotal reconstruction of The Decline and Fall of Badger in which I, as narrator, make a sudden appearance in my own narrative. Shit, I’m doing a De Quincey. I will continue, but perhaps in a more summary, practical, and – hopefully – humorous vein, as all this is getting rather ‘Eavy. It’s not surprising that I’m feeling decidedly peculiar, it’s not surprising that I’ve spent three weeks in a kind of dazed and not always stable convalescence. But I do need to do a bit more than hang around on Twitter and write autoreferential blog posts.

Mental illness is a scourge. It isn’t just my life that had to be rebuilt, but our lives. The family. Mrs B. The worst thing about it is that it begins to impose itself as a norm for the sufferer and his entourage. This is where we are now. Mrs B is awesome, as anyone who knows her will confirm. We can, perhaps, stop thinking and start acting together. Or together we can stop thinking and start acting. Or something.

OK, practical thinking. And have more fun.

Hey, that sounds like a good idea. We are in the Caribbean, after all.

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Fun.

Mrs B has just remarked that all my recent posts are introductions. She’s right (she’s always right).  I’m circling whatever it is. I’m not sure what is. I think I feel a bit ashamed of just how crazy I’ve been. Next post, I’ll get to the point. Promise. I think it’s something along the lines of “Mister Badger Learns Respect”.

Mister Badger comes clean – the day the world turned dayglo

Once upon a time, a few years back, I took a powerful synthetic cannabinoid and made a choice. And then all hell broke loose.

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Strange, but true.

It’s been pointed out to me that my last three posts are confusing. This, of course, is a stylistic device, and corresponds to my mental state during the period under consideration. But actually, it’s more than that. The truth is that I’ve never really understood how I came to be where I am today, in this life, in this relationship. I can’t make sense of the past, or of the passage from that past to this present.

This, I think, is why I’m writing this blog.

The events I described happened as I described them. I had been someone, and then I was with Edith. I don’t really remember who I was before, and it’s becoming harder to remember who I was then. Indeed, since I started the antipsychotics, it’s getting hard to remember who I was a month ago. I realise that I’m writing about things I remember, but that my relation to them, what I felt or thought, is somehow absent. In some strange way, what is absent is Badger as a person.

I’ve never really been, or become, a person. Well just fancy that.

I really can’t tell you who I was up until the period I’ve been describing in my last three posts. The memories are there, but I no longer inhabit them. I can make suppositions about myself – about what I did and why I did what I did – on the basis of my memories, but when I try to describe or explain what happened, what I experienced as happening, all I can give is metaphor.

I could analyse metaphor. But for once, I won’t .

As far as I understand things, for most of my life I’ve been living with a latent psychosis, and four or five years ago it became manifest. What it meant to live with the latent psychosis, what it was “like”, is no longer available to me. I can’t give a more exact account of the events I’ve been describing, of what I thought or felt or intended. It’s impressionistic, oneiric. I had met Edith, and something in her polarised and crystallised certain elements of my personality. I became some thing that took form from my relationship with her. I think. But then this could be a reflection of my thinking since my psychosis became manifest. Or the whole thing could be a narrative imposition on an amorphous clump of experiences and events.

I could develop the implications of that remark. But for now, I won’t .

I was with Edith, and Edith gave me Form. And then there was Charlotte. Charlotte didn’t fit. Charlotte shook things up. That’s as simple a summary as I can give of my last three posts. I think I can stick my neck (at least) out and say that the whole things was intimately entwined with my libido. This is fucking Dali.

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Another bloody metaphor.

I’ve talked about my tendency of seeing everything in terms of symbols and metaphor. Until I started medication, this was … well, I think I was living in the emotional equivalent of a Bosch painting. imagesEverything had meaning. I’m not sure what strange understanding of my relationship with Charlotte I had at the time, but I began classic narcissistic transfer from Edith to her while denying to myself that I was. I became increasingly critical of Edith both in my day-to-day life with her and in my online exchanges with Charlotte; at the same time, I subjected Charlotte to a crescendo of idealisation that led to my creating an entirely unrealistic mental image of her that bore little resemblance to who she actually is. I’ll return to this in my next post – it’s so ridiculous that it can only be given in the form of humorous anecdote.

Bear in mind, Gentle Reader, that at this time Charlotte and I had never met in the flesh. Indeed, I didn’t even know what part of the country she lived in. Nevertheless, by the beginning of the summer holidays, it seemed (to me, at least) increasingly inevitable that we were going to meet. I specify “to me” as I’m now not at all sure Charlotte saw things in the same way. I really didn’t know how I felt about the idea of meeting.

Spice-2So, it being holiday time, Edith and I left for our customary three weeks in England where I fully intended to meditate on the best course of action with the help of a hefty dose of αMT. Save that, on arriving in the UK, I discovered that αMT had been banned and that the only effective designer drugs available were the (then) new generation cannabinoids. With even less than my usual caution, I smoked the same quantities of the synthetic as I would have used had it been weed. The trouble is, not only is it far stronger than any natural weed, but its effects are very different, and resemble more some kind of hallucinogen. And, while weed can sometimes provoke mild paranoia, the synthetic can provoke a kind of profound, dissociative, existential paranoia.

Given that I was already in a state of uncertainty about the future of my relationships with both Edith and Charlotte, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the more I smoked, the more I was subject to intense moments of anxiety about the course of action I should take. This culminated in a memorable evening when, while sitting on the bed in the holiday cottage chatting online with Charlotte, I underwent a kind of complete existential breakdown. I’ve talked a bit about how narcissism is fundamentally solipsistic,  but this was solipsism as direct experience. Nothing was real, save what I experienced directly through my senses, and only what I experienced directly through my senses was real. Thus, the cooing of the wood pigeons was real, but not the pigeons themselves; the heat of the sun on my closed eyes, but not the sun; my children’s voices, but not my children. The sense of dissociation became so strong that I had to stop typing, and I remember staring at the computer wondering whether Charlotte was even real. And then it occurred to me that, at that moment and in that state of awareness, she was neither more nor less real than Edith, neither being directly available to my senses, but solely present to my memory. And it further occurred to me that, both being as it were equal before my contemplative and speculative faculties, my inclination tended inexorably towards Charlotte; and thus was my preference fix’d.

OK, this might sound a bit far-fetched as a way of deciding my future, but I was baked. And the decision stuck. Over the next couple of weeks I continued overusing the synthetic, and as I did so, my relationship with Edith deteriorated to the point where we couldn’t even speak without arguing. By the time we returned to Paris we were hardly talking. I can’t really remember the period following our return, save that I was furious with Edith and obsessed with organising a meeting with Charlotte.

All the same, and with both hindsight and the clarity brought by medication, I’m now  aware that this period marked the passage from latent to active (if not fully manifest) psychosis. I’d never been particularly in touch with reality before, but now I was attached to it by the thinnest of tethers.

I was free, I was nuts, and I was about to surprise everyone, including myself.

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The Persistence of Absence.

Mister Badger comes clean – lovebombing

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Red Flag of a Narcissist #1

Love bombing is the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction — think flattering comments, tokens of affection, or love notes on the mirror, kitchen table, or windshield, and you’re beginning to get the picture. It’s flowers delivered at work with hearts dotting the i’s in your name. It’s texts that increase in frequency as they increase in romantic fervor. It’s surprise appearances designed to manipulate you into spending more time with the bomber — and, not coincidentally,  less time with others, or on your own.

Well, we left our story with Badger lovebombing Charlotte – an exercise akin to taming a tiger by teaching it to play the accordion. But what is this lovebombing bullshit, and why do we do it, even in the most … inopportune … situations?

First off, I don’t think there’s any inherent deceit or insincerity about it. If my feelings in such situations are anything to go on, there’s a rush, an intense high that’s very similar to the kind of hit you get when you start smoking weed after a long break from it. It’s the “being-in-love-with-X is happening] to me” I described in my post on the phenomenology of personality disorders. But that’s about being in love, not why there should be this absolute compulsion to lovebomb. As I’m actually thinking about it for the first time from a reasonably sane point of view, I’d say that – beyond the reinforcement of admiration and desirability – there’s a kind of social convention of reciprocity that obliges the recipient to respond either in kind or by expressing gratitude. Both these considerations are, of course, a matter of establishing, maintaining and – above all – exploiting a new and powerful source of supply.

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The Religion of the People.

There is also, as the quote above remarks, a process of centring the recipient’s attention on the narcissist to the exclusion of all else – and, as far as possible, of all others. Another technique is to identify and mollify the recipient’s self-consciousness and self-doubt and reinforce the self-image that best reflects her role as our consort. Most of all, we want to see reflected in her eyes the image of ourselves as we aspire to be.

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The apotheoisis of some chick or other…

As the quote suggests, the tools and techniques of lovebombing are primitive and tend rather to rely on massive overkill than on precision targeting.

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Oh here it comes now!

I’d say… no, rather say that in my experience, the whole range of techniques have been borrowed from books, cinema, popular culture. I think sentimental/romantic collage is a typical tool of narcissist seduction – for some reason, Roxy Music’s Remake/Remodel comes most forcibly to mind as an excellent illustration of this, but you could take anything from Barbara Cartland to Umberto Eco on Barbara Cartland:

“I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her “I love you madly”, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still there is a solution. He can say “As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly”. At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly it is no longer possible to talk innocently, he will nevertheless say what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her in an age of lost innocence.”

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The first days of Badger’s four marriages.

To what degree is this typical of narcissists in general rather than of this narcissist? Well, I’ll leave the details to HG Tudor (who has not yet realised that his sole future lies in becoming my amanuensis), but I’d say it’s pretty common. Like our ASPD cousins, we tend to be somewhat smarter than the average bear (though the Orange Obscenity is limit), so I think we’re probably good at spinning a convincing romantic persona out of cultural tropes. And so we inundate the recipient of our affections with what we have learnt are emotionally effective symbols of our affection and worth, thereby ensuring that we are likewise the recipients of affection and worth. It’s the first stage of the emotional manipulation that is, I must admit, the mainstay of narcissist relationship control.

It would seem that the technique kicks in automatically as soon as a potential source of supply is identified as an actual source of supply (and this can happen in anything from flirting to …. erm, Charlotte). With Edith the technique was, as I suggested, systemically if toxically interrelated. We provided a certain kind of mutual supply source that I believe Vaknin describes as a somatic/cerebral narcissistic pairing, and her use of sex as a particular means of acting on my desires, fears, and expectations would seem to me a natural extension of the “ability to identify the recipient’s self-consciousness and self-doubt and reinforce the self-image that best ensures his assigned role as her consort”. I imagine I used similar techniques. Even the odd bedroom rituals ensured an artificial, ultimately-unsatisfying equilibrium that – I suppose – masked our mutual difficulties in being direct, spontaneous, and unselfconscious.

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Hugh Grant…

Charlotte was, of course, entirely unaware of this Huysmanian pseudoerotic hothouse, and more than unprepared for the idealisation phase of first-stage supply transfer. It seemed to her that I became someone else. In my own defence, I had no idea that I had changed – to me, these were ripples in the flux of emotional experience that I reacted to by placing seemingly-appropriate tropes with the passionate involvement of a Go master. Somewhat nonplussed, Charlotte played along as best she could, hoping that I would revert to being the sharp bright scintillating Badger you have come to know and love I turned into… well:

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Where are you, my little objet of art? I am ‘ere to collect you.”

But, rather than fading, this odd situation spiralled into – for me at least – an increasingly strange technicolor illusion. As time went by, Charlotte attempted to curtail the more outrageously cheesy of my delusions – which, in my hermetic self-referential dramascape, I took as meaning that I should redouble my efforts to be the memetically perfect suitor.

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An outrageously cheesy dramascape.

Of course, my involvement with Charlotte as a real and increasingly probable lover destabilised the already-odd existing equilibrium with Edith, making me less tolerant of her by day and more dissatisfied at night. And as time went by, my heart tended ever more towards Charlotte, despite the vows that tied me to wife and family…

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…despite the vows that tied me to wife and family…

Of course, the stress imposed on my commitment to Edith also contributed to a reinforcement of my romantic and sentimental attachment to the image of Charlotte I sought to establish and promote. To this day, I’m not sure why Charlotte hung around. Horrified fascination is perhaps the best bet.

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A horrified fascination for… My God, for what?

That’s enough for today. Suffice it to say that we finish today’s episode with Badger in love with a meringue Snow White and Charlotte hanging around (even remaining in Europe) in the hope that Mister Badger would return from his trip through the looking-glass.

Tomorrow, we take the road to England. And that way, madness lies.

 

Mister Badger comes clean – the comedy of errors

The story so far: having fallen for the Immovable Badger, the Irresistible Charlotte has become fed up with his density and sent him a hot “fuck off fuck you this is what you’re missing sucks to be you” selfie. Badger implodes. Meanwhile, Lucia is regretting her fling with the hot pool guy and the escaped octopus has begun to mutate.

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Explicit, eh? You’re drooling, too.

Given that she had taken risqué photos just for me to underline the concrete reality of what she could offer me if I saw her as a real alternative to Edith rather than some merely virtual je-ne-sais-quoi, I became increasingly troubled by seeing Charlotte as a real alternative to Edith rather than some merely virtual je-ne-sais-quoi. And this is where things became a little odd.

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“She sent nudes…”

At this juncture, and in order to explain the oddness of my behaviour towards Charlotte, I suppose I’d better HG Tudor a bit and recall a characteristic of narcissists I imagine you’ve all heard of but have forgotten while pursuing the empty, meaningless activities that fill the aching void of your empty, meaningless lives. Losers. So sad.

(sorry, I think we got some interference there from Narc Central)

A narcissist will always maintain… no, sorry, let me put this as a quote so I can pretend to distance myself from it (“Not all narcissists”)

A narcissist will always maintain alternative sources of supply. It’s not a matter of scheming or plotting, despite what the born-again websites would have you believe – it’s more the kind of thing the personality disorder community self-deprecatingly calls a “superpower” – an ability specific to a disorder or set of disorders that neurotypicals don’t have to the same degree. And the ability to scan any environment and immediately spot alternative sources of supply is one of ours. It’s not that we seek, just that we *see*. This ability is inherent and – it would seem – permanent. If we’re secure – that is, if we’re in a relationship that provides us with either what we want or what we need – then this is just an awareness, like knowing the direction of the sun by the heat on your skin. If we’re insecure – in an unstable relationship, or not in a relationship at all (if that could actually happen) – we actively maintain and develop these alternative sources. Just in case.

Now, for the reasons set out in my post on Edith, I had adopted a Badger-is-faithful posture with her that, along with her other attitudes and requirements, had entirely shaped my way of seeing the world. Despite the evident tensions in our relationship, I maintained an almost mystical faith in the “founding myth” of our relationship as some kind of Eden from which we had been excluded and to which we would some day return. It’s only on writing it down that I see how weird this is in a grown man, and what a peculiar thing it is suddenly to be free of … well, of psychotic thinking. It’s very strange indeed to realise that there were entire sequences of thought and belief patterns that motivated my behaviour yet were – and remain – entirely inexplicable. Not only do they bear no relation to the external world, they have no internal logic. But, at the the time, I was faithful not to Edith as a person, but to Edith-as-symbol. In whatever queer way the BadgerBrain functioned, Edith-as-symbol was foundational to the way in which I structured my personality-surrogate at that time. In some inexplicable way, something about her meshed with something in me in such a way that, although I was pretty much divorced from reality, I could nonetheless maintain a consistent delusion. If, as I surmise, Edith was also a narcissist, it’s entirely possible that we had established a system of mutual supply through communicating vessels. A durable if inherently unstable relationship.

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The Principle of Perpetual Emotion.

So, in a very real way, when I met Charlotte whoever or whatever I was was a mutual construction in and around Edith. And the regulatory mechanism adopted by Edith to control this system was my libido. Badger’s libido. ***Badger’s sacred libido***, for chrissakes. I rather think I should be a little cross.

ANYWAY, Charlotte. She had been, without the shadow of a doubt, my closest friend for two years. This might sit ill with my blatant neglect of her, but the truth is that narcissists make very bad friends. In fact, I’ve recently wondered whether we are capable of friendship at all, but that’ll be another post. Suffice it to say here that as soon as my immediate day-to-day life became my priority, I disappeared from her life. Charlotte was both perplexed and pissed off – she even blocked me for a while. And then, when we reconnected, she angrily slapped me upside the head with boobs and long socks. Now, I’ve had my face slapped by an Andalusian girlfriend in a bodega in Madrid, but this was an entirely new cosmos. I, in my solipsistically deluded romantic imaginings, took it that our reconnection was due to her being unable to live without me, and that her headslap photos were a deliberate invitation to take things to another level.

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Another level (objective representation)

Now,  however naive and Internet Explorer my online sexual activity might have been, it was not of course the first time I had unexpectedly received such pictures. However, 1. this was from Charlotte, whom I knew to be the most cognitively awesome person in my acquaintance; and, 2. this was from Charlotte, whom I discovered to be the most physically awesome person in my acquaintance. No shit sherlock no soft soap – to me, Charlotte is the very embodiment of that intersection of the intelligent, the erotic, and the aesthetic that shakes me to the depths of my decadent morbidly-sensitive soul.

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Well, she’s proper fit, innit?

Anyway, comedy of errors. Against his (iron) will, Badger became increasingly convinced that, in direct contradiction to the prime Edith directive, Charlotte might well be his one true soulmate (listen, mate, I’m a fucking narc. We’re soppy sentimental wimps and if you don’t like it I’ll hit you with a hyponym of “garden utensils”). So I began to fixate and, in true and tested narcissist style I set out to entrance her. Disregarding that we were already best mates and needed only, in Charlotte’s immortal words, to combine the high-fives with fucking. And so (and bear in mind here that Charlotte is a sociopath) and so (oh my God the embarrassment) and so (gulp) I started lovebombing her.

She thought I’d gone mad.

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That’s the way to do it!

I’ll stop there for tonight. Tomorrow we get Disney, and things take a…darker…turn.

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I see you’re already shivering…