What does it feel like to be delusional?

Where is the line between dream and delusion?

 

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That is the question I find myself asking when considering how my antipsychotics are affecting my day-to-day decisions. The drugs have some very noticeable effects, things like an increased capacity to engage in conversation, but on the flipside are things like a perpetually dry mouth.  

 

It was a delusion when I told myself in 5th grade that if I just laid flat enough in my bed, that if I could just lay as flat and as quiet as the sheets, that I wouldn't have to go back into school and subject myself to facing … her … again.

 

It was a dream when I thought my partner and I were going to save the world. I knew it was unattainable but I still wanted to reach. Unfortunately at the time I was unaware of the people I stepped on to reach so high. It felt safe. It felt open ended, non-binding.

 

~

 

Every memory has weight. Some memories carry more weight than others. This weight has gravity. These memories are held within the matrix of the mnemonic structures of the brain. As we recall something from memory, the path our thoughts take might pass in proximity to some of the weightier memories, recalling them into the conscious mind. This is my understanding of how individuals become “triggered”.

When I become delusional, it feels like I have encountered a memory of such massive magnitude, of such gravity that at some point I cross an event horizon and begin to fall into myself. That is to say, that in the course of autonomically recalling something from my mind which is triggering, my thoughts fall into a black hole from which I cannot escape through any direct or active measure. The only escape... is time. Time to rest, time to breathe, time to remind myself that I am loved, or more importantly that am capable of returning that love. Time to be mindful of my body, of my environment, of my family.

 

Not all delusions are the same. Delusions regarding an expectation placed upon myself, they feel like they have a pull to them. Delusions regarding an expectation I place upon others, those have more of a “pull” feel to them. To the delusional mind, the corpus of these traumatic memories warp and refract the way my mind’s eye perceives that projection of our own memories. The analogy which comes to mind is that of gravitational lensing, or the way massive objects in space bend light that passes by them. In just the same way that a dead star can refract and warp our perceptions of a younger universe, my traumatic memories refract and warp the way I perceive my younger self.
 

On Privilege and delusions

When I stepped out of the UC Psych ER on the second of this month, I carried with me a generic prescription for the anti-psychotic Zyprexa. I have been taking it daily since then, and it has had some very interesting effects. First, it severely retards my tendency to fall into a disassociative, delusional state. Second, it allows me to differentiate between daydream and delusion. Third, it has allowed me to see that some of my delusions had been going on for the better part of two decades, ever since the episode of sexual assault in fourth grade. It has provided contrast and relief in many senses of the word.

I have so much to write about. But for now I have taken catalogue of my delusions up to that point when I took that first pill. These are the delusions with which I struggled that caused so much harm. These are the delusions which I used to protect myself and made me think I had to strike out to do so. These are my demons. Please read them with respect, as they will always live within me. Thankfully, with the love others have shown me, I am learning to put them to sleep.
 

  1. WHAT DELUSIONS DID I HAVE BEFORE I KNEW LOVE?

    1. The delusion that my intelligence gave me an edge over others.

    2. The delusion that it was my privilege to be in a position to save the world. This sentiment made it easy for me to overlook whenever others carried more than their fair share of weight. I learned a lot from others about how to carry people you love, and it is a skill that I would not be here today without.

    3. The delusion of the “Truman Show Complex” from ages 9-14. It served as a layer of abstraction through which my repressed sexual trauma expressed itself.

    4. The delusion that the people who told me they cared about me were going to attack me. This was by far the biggest delusion I had and most of the others are rooted in this one.

    5. The delusion that my I was tainted, dirty, or that it was somehow an expression of evil and thus had to be tamed by exposing myself to risks like herpes or proximity to riot police. I was clearly delusional and I put a lot of people at risk because of it.

    6. The delusion that my privilege would protect me.

 

  1. WHAT DELUSIONS DID I SHARE WITH THOSE I LOVE?

    1. The delusion that I could keep my partner in the box I found them in. I had an impossible idealization of what my patner should be, and no matter how close they were to the mark I never allowed myself to get to know them deep down. I also think that this means I was also never able to share myself with them, either.

    2. The delusion that ‘we’ were something outstandingly special. I thought that we, together, were literally supposed to use our privilege and partnership to save the world. It was a prideful notion that I am today severely ashamed of, having overlooked others in the course of achieving my own goals.

 

  1. HOW DO I THINK THESE DELUSIONS AFFECTED THOSE I LOVE?

    1. It feels like I have given people reason to be afraid, that I have traumatized their memories in the same way that mine were traumatized in fourth grade. I fear that I have imbued a sense of irrationality, of fear and anger, where there was once calm waters. My greatest regret is having infected others with the notion that striking first is the only way to protect ones self. It makes me sick to my stomach and it is something which I will work till my dying day to reverse.
       

  2. HOW DID MY DELUSIONS CONTINUE TO DEVELOP AFTER SEPERATING FROM THE COMMUNITY I LOVE?

    1. The delusion that ‘Cincinasty’ would serve as an example of radical transparency and as a window onto the problem of sexual violence. Instead, I feel like people think I just did it to ‘get famous’ which leaves a super sour taste in my mouth.

    2. The delusion that non-violent tactics would be appreciated for being non-violent - even if it meant chaining myself to the Freespace. One of the things I learned from the mediation process was that I should not be planning actions alone.

    3. The delusion that I was a rapist *because someone I loved said so*. When she said it, I trusted that she knew what that word meant. I now accept that there are a wide variety of definitions for the word ‘rape’.

    4. I’m not sure if this one is a delusion or not but it is deeply connected to the previous delusion. I believe in order to defeat evil, that evil must be embraced, understood, loved into a peaceful slumber. That violence itself is evil, and that evil cannot destroyed by evil itself. When I was called a rapist, I came to understand my perspective to be that of a “rapist”, even if I did not agree. I accepted that if others saw me as a rapist that is what I must be. I explored this perspective, hoping that if I could understand it that I could help other people, other “rapists”. I wound up scaring a lot of people before I found out that I was, in fact, not a rapist.

    5. The delusion that people would be able to look me in the eye again after going through with the mediation process. I was so battered and delusional with a desire for radical redemption and rebuilding, I think that this delusion came from me looking for safe.

 

  1. WHAT STATE ARE MY DELUSIONS IN TODAY?

    1. The delusion that people who care about me are going to hurt me. I feel like I have this one mostly under control. I’ve discovered and become familiar with the bodily sensation of dissociation, how my arteries dilate, my stomach tightens, and how my adrenaline begins to tingle. I have begun to combat the dissociative patterns with breath work, and this plus medication and regular therapy has given me a fighting chance to knock them away before they have a chance to suck  me into their downward spirals.

    2. Related to the previous delusion, right now I am exploring how the impulse to strike first out of self defense (“Hobbesian Trap”) is connected to my impulse to interrupt and speak over other people in conversation.

    3. The antipsychotics I’m on now give me a much clearer sense of the boundary where my reality begins to cross into dreams - but there is still one thing which no matter how I try to throw into the delusion bin, it keeps looking more and more real the longer I take this medication. It’s the regret, the fear that I exposed those I love to my anger and my lies and caught them up in a chain of abuse.

    4. I still have a delusion about saving the world, but it is closer to a dream than a hallucination, and I consider it to be more of a healthy one now that I have had my privilege severely checked. I want to build a support group for people who are struggling with repressed trauma before it manifests into violence.

 

Ten DIY ways to check your white privliege

  1. Read more books.

  2. Go out of my comfort zone and experience parts of the world which I am unfamilier with.

  3. Check others when their privilege is causing, using tactics which gives the person being checked access to alternative decision-making process and/or an alternative path to take.

  4. Listen instead of speaking and accept that compromise IS the objective

  5. Never expect personal recognition for my work.

  6. Get my hands dirty every once in a while.

  7. Remember why they invented the phrase “first-world problems”

  8. Check in with my neighbors and my community on a regular basis, and to weigh the needs of both against my own.

  9. Weigh the needs of myself, my neighbors, and my community against the needs of the next seven generations of each to come.

  10. Remember that I am blind to my own privilege, but that if I trust in my friends and my community I can form an outline around its otherwise negative space.

  11. BOUNS Relieve someone of a burden which is preventing them from completing something on this list




 

A letter to someone who once called me friend.

Dear XX,

For the first few months after recalling my rape I felt so liberated and free to explore all of my circumstances in an entirely new light. After exploring the wilderness of my heart for four years I found and rescued my twelve year old self from a closet hidden in the deepest parts of my heart. I emerged from that wilderness exploring old struggles with the intensity of a child and felt their pain fade away. Things that I once thought I was destined to kill myself for I could suddenly shrug off now with the context I now had. In the couple of months following my recollection I found so much learning and growing. I have found a place of healing within me.

My newfound curiosity eventually came upon an old problem from a new approach. I used to believe I was legitimately a rapist specifically because XXXXX told me I was one. I used to think that I deserved all of the things that people were saying about me both true and false because I was evil. I used to think my sexual energy was inherently toxic. I used to think...

The weed germinated. The child once set free explored until reaching the walls of a great cage, built by myself in the absence of his innocence. This child is still trapped inside a cage of sexual violence, the repercussions of my own acts. For eighteen years I struggled to get out of that fucking closet, XXXXX gave me the courage to finally look it those demons in the eye to escape and now after a brief but blessed moment of well deserved peace and clarity it feels like I’m never going to wake up from the nightmare where I am trapped inside a kaleidoscope of sexual violence, reality and dreams become broken and reamalgamated into a single abominable whole.

I have the tools, I have the dedication, I have the love I need to look this problem in the eye. I have found all of these things inside of myself. What i make up for in heart however I am lacking in body - I am paralyzed. I cannot move with out being attacked. I cannot go outside of my house without being called a rapist. I cannot contribute to the conversation. I cannot tell my story to the people I trust.

You were the ONLY individual who came to our mediations*. XX, as a true ally and sister in this struggle, please help set me free. Please help me discover my story and the deeper meanings in it. Please forgive me, please trust me that this is the beginning of something beautiful, something important. I am so sorry that I don’t know if any words will ever do it justice - but I’ve learned a trick or two i think will make up for it. Please share with me once again, so that I may share with you, and that we may share together.

Here’s to 2018 :)


*as opposed to groups or communities

Two Letters resulting from the Cincy DIY Mediation Committee

 Pieces may be edited one more time before publication. I will update the pieces as they become available.

1. A public letter to the city-wide community:

Coulter Loeb has participated in our Cincinnati D.I.Y. conflict mediation process to address and resolve several outstanding conflicts he has had with the community. These meditations have yielded tangible results towards: addressing and comprehending a pattern of sexual violence and problematic interpersonal relationships;  laying out concrete steps to not repeat them; and, building the foundations for restitution on Coulter’s behalf. A significant portion of Coulter’s progress was made after he was able to recall being sexually attacked at the age of twelve. Because of Coulter’s progress we will begin reaching out to communities from which he has been alienated and begin to seek reconnection and restoration.

Coulter's actions have been damaging to many in the community. However, from what we've been able to ascertain there are a certain few rumors about Coulter that are either taken with liberty or we cannot prove actually happened. Coulter has made considerable strides towards holding himself accountable to the victims who have come forward to be involved in mediation, but an ongoing hindrance has been a few allegations against him that have been difficult for the committee to verify. This is not to vindicate Coulter, but rather to obtain a full reckoning of his actions on others and to suss out the truths from untruths in his alienation. Those of us working directly with Coulter do not feel he is presently dangerous. For these accusations we do make a point to verify with the person making the accusation, and that person still has the opportunity to come forward if they do choose, but in the majority of the cases the person accusing have not responded to our inquiries to verify them. . Coulter would like the community to know that he welcomes open and transparent discussion regarding the circumstances surrounding his alienation.

We do not demand or expect that victims who are unwilling to engage in mediation come forward with their stories. But for those who wish to share their story we will keep your information confidential. Our goal is to hold Coulter accountable for his actions and to explore ways in which Coulter can restore or replace what he has damaged. To do so it is important to have transparency in understanding what Coulter is accused of doing and accountability in telling the truth. For those who have experiences where Coulter has assaulted, threatened or harmed you in any way, please contact us at diyconflictmediation@gmail.com.

2. A general form for a letter to the smaller tribes

My name is Ryan Hall. I helped start, and am currently involved in, the Cincinnati D.I.Y. Conflict Mediation Committee. Our group tries to connect people who are in conflict by sitting down to meet face-to-face and, with the assistance of a mediator, discuss the conflict and begin to figure out how to fix the issue. With restorative justice at the core of this process, we try to develop personal accountability on a case-by-case basis.

Coulter Loeb is one of the very first candidates to elect to be a part of our experimental process since we started work last year. I have personally been working with Coulter to help him find accountability for the ongoing conflicts in his life. The majority of these issues revolved around his pattern of sexual violence. Over the past year Coulter has found a better understanding of what he was, what he did, and why he did it. He has recalled the memory of being sexually assaulted as a prepubescent minor, and comprehends how this exposure to sexual violence perpetuated his own patterns of abuse. He has begun the process of recovery from his trauma.

Coulter has come recognize, despite his exposure to patterns of sexual violence at a young age, that the participation in those patterns was his own. He recognizes that while the pain he caused was to people, the trauma he caused was to communities. He accepts every rumor is rooted in a kernel of truth: that he participated in a cycle of sexual violence which is endemic to our whole society. He recognizes that his participation is the reason for being disconnected from the community he once felt so connected to. Today, Coulter feels a sense of obligation to use his experiences for the purpose of preventing in himself - and others - those acts of power-based violence which brought pain and trauma to the community tribe he once violated. We would like to see him be able to do this, and so we are reaching out to you today.

This committee recognizes that in the face of Coulter's significant progress towards self-accountability, he has been repeatedly traumatized by members of the Cincy DIY community who have assaulted, isolated, harassed, stalked, and gaslit him. In many of these cases the committee is incapable of holding any individuals to account. Despite this, we believe by recognizing the multidimentional nature of the violence within our community that we can find the tools for comprehensive accountability. This process is based in the knowledge that participants like Coulter can only tell a part of the larger story of violence in our society - and that the rest of our story can only be told by the surrounding community. We would like to see the pieces come together so that we may all take a full account, and so that we can all figure out how to move forward as a community.

Through the course of Coulter's struggle to provide answers to these questions, there have been two questions which no one has been able to answer: what steps can Coulter take in order to demonstrate a comprehension of why he did the things he did; and, what actions can be taken to restore the damage done? We are reaching out to you with hope that you may be able to provide a good lead on an answer. We are looking for individuals who would be willing to sit down with both Coulter and a trained mediator to formulate steps to help him make amends for his actions and re-engage with his community. We want to see justice delivered through the acts of rebuilding and revitalizing, not retribution. We hope to bolster Coulter’s capacity to restore the things he has damaged. Would you or your group be willing to sit down and become a part of this community process?

 

Ho'ponopono #4 - (To my Victim)

Dear XXXX,

    The last thing I heard about you was that you were in the hospital. Back then, when we were younger, we were both struggling with self mutilation. Still I never could cut as quite as deeply as you. While I knew what it felt like to be suspended over that great abyss - that desire for death - I had not the experience or the words with which to relate to you, to find you, or to stand with you in either body or mind. What I had instead was a dangerous combination of sexual trauma, privilege, and hormones. About 5 years prior to that evening we spent together I had been held against a wall and sexually attacked by a classmate. The whole three month episode of sexual violence really shaped who I was to become right as I was hitting puberty. That trauma was amplified as I grew into adolescence and became influenced by its raging soup of hormones.

    After what happened to you, even though we were both minors and even though all of the adults involved decided it was not a rape, I feel like a big reason I was treated by doctors and drugs instead of cops and lawyers was because my parents had money, and I had privilege. As a minor, instead of being faced with the reality created by my own hands, I was put into a box and treated as another victim. I was shielded from the intensity and violence of my own act. While I was eventually able to come to terms with what happened, I am not the one who had to bear the scars of that night.

     You did not deserve to be put into a position where you felt too scared to say no. You did not deserve to be treated like an object of sexual desire. You did not deserve to to be knocked down into that dark abyss by a friend, a peer, a classmate. Our society might not have the capacity to hold anyone accountable for the things that happened that night, so please consider this letter as an attempt to hold myself accountable to you, because if there is anything in this world that you do deserve, it’s an apology.

    I’m sorry for not knowing what to look for when it came to you giving me your consent. I know that your mouth whispered yes but only in retrospect could I see that your body was screaming no. Ever since I was told that next morning how your parents had found you only hours after I had gone… the memory of how you looked, acted, felt, the things you said… it has all stuck with me. I walked away knowing that i did something wrong, knowing I needed to reflect in order for it to never happen again. Today, with the retrospect provided to me by my community, I see the path towards recovery from my history of sexual violence much more clearly.

    It took me a decade and a half to connect what I did to you with what happened to me in 4th grade. While the path to where I am now has been marred by acts of self-mutilation in attempts to quell my own sexuality, today I strive to be a student in the communication of consent and the love used in facilitating it. I try to share with others the things I have learned, both my successes and my shortcomings. I hope by sharing an experience of being chained to sexual violence - and my path towards liberation from it - that future generations will be able to build a better world. It’s not right, the things I did was able to do to you. Please forgive me.

     Our time together, my reflections upon it, bring me great sorrow and I relive our night together every time I become physical with a new partner. The fear that I would again miss the nonverbal cues of consent stuck deep into my gut from the instant I heard you had put yourself into the hospital. It brought out a fear of myself, but it is a fear I now have hope of overcoming. Thank you for teaching me that people speak in ways other than just with their mouth. Thank you for still being here to read this, if in fact you ever do.

     The first place I ever found refuge from the violence associated with my own sexuality was in the meditative space of [our religious high school]. I didn't understand it at the time but it was there in our meeting of Friends that had I began the process of coping with my trauma. The structure of that community and its environment of peace connected me to the love in my own heart, a light which exists right alongside the darkness of my own trauma. Thank you for being a part of that structure. Thank you for being a part of that light.

     Sometimes it feels like all my life will ever account to is the sum of light and dark in my heart. That if one side ever comes to totally dominate the other that I would become a drone, a slave to more rudimentaryinstincts. On the other hand, if both light and dark are in complete balance it means I would no longer be growing as a human being. As a wise gypsy once sang to me, “I know it’s a little dramatic / but the word for not changing is death”.

     It is at this junction of my trauma and my love that I become most alive and unique. It is atop the greatest peaks on the ridge between light and dark that I find my deepest potential. When i meditate on this space, it is where I can hear my ghost whisper back to me which direction it wants to go. The light which shone through you and our meeting of friends would eventually come to save my life. Thank you. I love you.

     Without events transpiring between us the way they did I may never have had the opportunity to face the darkness inside of me. Without knowing where I have been, I cannot know where I am headed. Without your light I would have no shadow, and without my shadow I become lost. My injustice gives me purpose as I struggle towards liberating my brothers and sisters, and my objective is to see that no one ever has to go through what we did ever again.

I am sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you. 

Ho’ponopono,


 

Ho'ponopono #3 (To my attacker)















 

Dear XXXXX,






 

I write to you today because I want I to know that we are both OK.



















 

It was fourth grade when you told me to liked me.  Ms. X's class, three stories up on the east facing side of our elementary school. I was so young - I hadn't even started puberty - and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do if a girl told me they liked me. But even though I was so young, I remember your smile was when you said it. Your cheeks lifted your eyes and there was a beauty shining from somewhere inside. I shied away… That was when something began to happen between us.

The sequence of events is fuzzy, but I remember you flashing me your breast in public, in the middle of a class. I remember you trying to kiss me, how intrusive your tongue felt; hard and forceful. I remember you pinning me against the wall in the coatroom, I remember your wet grasp on my genitals. And I remember your eyes, and how cold they were. Compared to the smile you had shared with me only a few months prior, they were icy, almost numb.

I wasn't ready, for any of it. Emotionally, mentally, physiologically... a piece of myself disassociated when you had me pinned against that wall. All that piece has ever wanted to do for the past 18 years was jump out of that window in the closet. But a part of me knew, and has always known, that you didn't mean to scare me, and that you were only trying to show me how you felt inside.

All this time I had the assumption that you had been through something - some kind of abuse in your past - that taught you that it was OK to do the things that you did to me, the way you did them to me. But I’ve never reached out to you. I‘ve never checked to see if you were actually trapped in a closet all your own. I’m sorry. Please forgive me, I wasn't ready.

When that piece of me disassociated so many years ago it created an imbalance within myself. It felt like the earth had broken under a river, only to create a massive waterfall like that of the great Niagara. I can feel the power of it’s imbalance, its potential, its force... With the structure provided to me by my friends and family I have come to dwell over it’s energy. I have come to appreciate and respect what you shared with me in fourth grade. Because of you I have the experience to help others who have been through similar things. There is still a whole lot of work to be done, but as I write this it feels like my life has a new beginning.

You are such a huge part of who I am today. We were so young at the time, I don't know if it would even be appropriate for me to forgive you two decades later, but I still do.  Without our history I would not have within me the experience necessary to confront in myself and others a history of sexual violence. It has propelled me to grow, to learn, and ultimately to love. Today, I feel like I have so much to offer the world, and so much of it is because of you. Thank you for trying to show me you liked me.

We are in this struggle together - not just you and I but our communities, our city, our society, our species - at all levels we have been stalked by a spectre of violence which has existed since the human epoch began. It has been a violence which inspires fear; and it has been a fear which has separated an “us” and the “them” from the “we”. It is only by coming together in solidarity and reconciliation that we can see each other for what we really are: brothers and sisters in a struggle for liberation. My sister, I love you. My friend, I forgive you. My neighbor, I am here for you.

Here is to hoping that smile is still well,