I get an idea.
A few minutes later, the very distinct thought: I need to stop thinking about this too hard. Or I need a pen.
My fingers twitch.
It can’t move fast enough on the page, chaos that will be a brief note in a dated, color coded table of contents.
Tucked in the back pocket of that notebook that is rarely far from me is a sheet of paper with emergency information about me on it.
In a previous draft, one of the notes, the sort that’s more for psych ward intake than found unconscious in a park, noted a few topics that tend to make my condition worse. Absurdist jokes about reality; things like The Matrix or Inception; general death and gore; certain corners of politics.
The immediately following note said that I might bring these up first—some of them even extremely frequently; I spent years talking about nothing other than gory Hunger Games fanfiction—but to tread with caution. And that I especially bring them up in writing.
It can be hard to find a balance between reality and fiction when you have a condition that heavily blurs those lines to begin with, and the mind and overactive imagination of a writer. I have never been one to write much fluff and happy endings; I write about apocalypses and dystopia, morally gray villain protagonists, death and torture, gore to disturb horror fans, extreme mind and power games, toxic and abusive relationships, manipulation and gaslighting. The note also recommended don’t look in the notebook. More so a you’re responsible for what you find. I’ve read that such dark obsessions can be common for people with PTSD, another factor here.
Yet in reality, the stray comment that is innocently just incorrect can send me into a frantic spiral of questioning what exists.
So, yes, I need to stop thinking about this too hard. Or I need a pen.
Frequently, when I question whether something I do, think, or feel, is normal, there are two people I ask. One, my wife to be, is seemingly neurotypical and works in STEM and barely even reads fiction, usually at one extreme of the answer spectrum while I am at the other. In the middle is my best friend, a writer in much the same genres I am, who has ADHD. The overactive imagination of a writer gets them halfway to my end of the spectrum, but psychosis takes me the rest of the way.
Asking about daydreams, my end of the spectrum was, “The room disappears basically entirely. I am now seeing and hearing my characters like I’m exclusively in the room they’re in, in detail. I can experience things through their senses. It may or may not be ‘pleasant’. It’s all a little bit my doing and a little bit theirs. I’m dissociating. It is frequently hard to snap out of.”
Kate, my fiancee’s, end of the spectrum was, “I am thinking about an unrealistic idea with less logic and more fancifulness.” I understood that and did that myself sometimes, but it wasn’t what I meant by daydreaming, and her version never really went further than what she described.
In the middle was, “I kind of see a picture in picture window of my characters doing things; I can hear it; they might be doing well or bad emotionally; I basically control it. Sometimes I’m a little spacey after.” I sometimes, but less frequently, experienced that version, but again, for them it never went further, and for me, it still wasn’t what I called a daydream.
Since I have started taking meds again, I have had an easier time slipping out of daydreams, their grip on me less tight, less emotional. The rest is still true. But for a few days as the med levels stabled out in my body, the daydreams were almost hard to stay in when I wanted to—and I found that, deeply affected by psychosis or not, they’re a very important part of my writing process and I missed them. I felt, strangely, like losing that intensity to the daydreams was to lose touch with my characters, which felt like losing touch with not only writing goals but also good friends. (Now, whether or not most of my characters are good people is a very different question).
I was glad when I was again able to stay in them, but more at will, largely stopping when it was no longer a good thing to be doing at the moment.
I’ve written before—and God knows I’m not the only one—about the relations between writers and creativity and mental illness. Most talked about, though, are anxiety and mood disorders, certainly substance abuse, and some personality disorders. Psychosis, and especially schizophrenia, seem less well documented.
It’s something I’d like to explore more in the future.