No Progress in Forty Years (Update)

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder contended in Lost in Math that no fundamental progress has been made in physics in the last forty years.

Instead of advancing an understanding of the building blocks of the universe, we are simply working out the details of what we already know.

Chris Rock in 1999 chided the medical community for a similar lack of progress. The rise in autism in children and our lack of understanding COVID suggests medicine has become as baffling as physics.

“Same diseases as when I was hanging out as a kid.

What’s the last shit a doctor cured? Polio! Do you know how long ago polio was? That was like the first season of Lucy. Shit. Fred had an Afro with finger waves.

Have you ever met anybody with polio? Anybody feel a little polio around you? No, that’s right. They don’t cure shit. Same diseases have been hanging out since I was a kid.

Sickle cell anemia, bronchitis, cancer. Jerry’s Kids still limping around. I’ve been watching a Jerry Lewis telethon for probably about 15, 16, years now. Not one stitch of progress whatsoever. C’mon, man, lie to me Jerry, lie to me!”

I mention all of this because the effort to cure mental illnesses is as slow as our efforts to resolve major physical ailments. No progress. With autism, we’re going backwards.

Unlike Chris, I’m old enough to have known someone who limped because of polio as a child. And I once met Dr. Salk who was kind enough to answer a few questions for me when I was editor of my Junior High school newspaper. If you want to know why we’re losing the fight against COVID, look at Dr. Fauci and the people around him. They would not have been able to conquer polio. Not in forty years.

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Who Are You?

NB: This is a repost from August 24, 2019. My eyes no longer permit long form writing.

Who Are You?

None of us wants our personality judged when we’re drunk, high, or have lost our temper. “That’s not who I am.” Fair enough. But what if you always want a drink, a drug, or live in a violent environment? Who are you then? What’s your true personality? The person you are during years of addiction? Or the person you were before? What’s the real you? With years passing and the changes that happen naturally because of that, can you even remember what you were before?

We all know people are different at twenty than forty. And that a person acts differently if they are an alcoholic, addict, or live locked up in a threatening place. They’ll get back to normal once their life gets back to normal, right? Maybe. So what are they now, in their present condition?

I started Zyprexa for my violent nightmares in 2007 and it helped immediately. It saved my life. And it drastically altered my personality, at least that’s how it felt to me. Drugs like Zyprexa or Prozac aren’t temporary and short acting, they build up in your blood stream and stay with you as long as you take them. They’re not like a drink or a fix, you are under the influence for perhaps years.

Although Zyprexa reduced the number of intensity and severity of my nightmares, it never ended them. They’re still with me but less bloody. And Zyprexa wasn’t my first attempt at ending them, I’ve been on psychoactive drugs since 1990.

With Zyprexa I became less contentious, less argumentative, less inclined to make a point. Actually, not inclined to make a point at all. I walked away from insults and slights I would have never tolerated before. I didn’t care anymore. I also didn’t care about many things that were important, that were worth fighting for. More difficult to explain was that I felt my brain changing. A physical-like feeling which was very disturbing. But I couldn’t live with my nightmares so I accepted my new personality.

The question, though, again, is what makes up a person’s personality? I worried tremendously when meeting new people. I didn’t want to start any new relation. Who were they meeting? I wasn’t myself, I was something else. A new person would only see me in this drug altered way. Would they accept me when I went off the medicine and got back to my real self? Or would that self return?

Zyprexa failed me last December and I went off it because it was no longer working. And I gave up alcohol on doctor’s orders in April of 2018 for health reasons. I’m still drinking coffee but stopping that has always left me tired and stupid. I should be as clear as I was before the drinking and the drugs. The real me. Right? And that’s a good thing. Right? But who was I all those last few decades? Something else. I don’t know what.

Life is now back in my face. Drinking and medications put a blanket over everything. A soft focus on the world, distance. That distance is now gone and I’ve noticed this every time I’ve stopped prescription medicines or drink. Everything is painfully close along with tremendous anxiety. That anxiety starting for me in the third grade. Well, here I am again. The real me. Right? It’s been a long road back.

“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” J. Krishnamurti

Or, an endless road.

non-fiction writing Uncategorized

The Self-Righteous Self-Help Industry

“We are truly the sum of our own choices, nothing more.”

That’s the distillation of every self-righteous self-help advocate who has never had a loved one suffer or die from mental illness. Or had a loved one killed when someone blew through a red light. Or had a friend or loved one brought down by a crippling disease like cancer. To these zealots, life is simple. Problem is, life ain’t simple.

My mother and grandfather didn’t choose to have dementia. They didn’t ask to die from it. They didn’t choose how they felt, which was probably anxiety and confusion and feeling lost. The sum of our choices?

I have a 60 year old friend in Folsom who is still tending to her child, now a fully grown adult in his thirties. It would break your heart to see him as he approaches you, with his staggering, clomping, limping gait. His head swivels in an aimless manner while he walks, looking at everything, looking at nothing. His face wears a constant smile, but it’s vacant and punctuated by random grunts and other other unidentifiable sounds of disease. The sum of our choices? Damn you!

John Lennon said that life happens when you are making other plans. Exactly. Life happens. We control what we can but life makes its own plans, too. Too many self-help advocates make money off of misery as they blame people for things they would desperately like to change but can’t.

I didn’t choose to have my nightmares. I don’t choose to have them now. But I can’t count how many totally clueless people nearly drove me to suicide with suggestions that I was responsible for the way I felt. That I could control how I felt by simply thinking better. Making a choice to feel better. Perhaps these people are more mentally ill than I am.

You try to act normal after you wake up from a nightmare in which you just smashed in a baby’s head with a baseball bat. Live with that! I feel tremendously for vets and anyone else who suffers from PTSD or whatever caused their problems. Whatever caused their problems. You see, you might understand what started something but finding the off switch may prove impossible, no matter what you try. That’s life.

Finding the off switch is like trying to find a light switch panel in a huge, dark room whose floor is littered with painful tripping obstacles you can’t see. These self-help experts seem to know where that light switch is, you just need to listen to their advice. Their life is undoubtedly a mess. But they know how to get your life straight.

According to them, you could find that switch with more talk therapy, less talk therapy, more medicines, less medicines, meditation, Scientology, organized religion, exercise, hypnosis, or whatever seems in at the time. Oh, and most importantly, buy their book. As if that would do any good. Because their outlook is based on blaming you. You’re the one making bad choices, so suffer from that until you listen to them. And if you did listen to them and their advice didn’t work, well, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough. You’re still to blame.

This self-determination mantra might work for mentally healthy people, whatever healthy means. But while they peddle their self-serving, self-righteous shtick, they drive anyone tortured by mental illness further into madness by saying that one can control the often uncontrollable. They debase people depressed over losing a loved one or those fighting the blackness that comes from having a miserable, crippling disease. Isn’t a little charity in order?

In the Inferno, Dante is allowed to move through Hell and eventually return, leaving the condemned to the Pit. As Eliot translates it, a wretched soul cries out to Dante upon seeing him start back. “Now, I pray you, by that virtue which leads you to the top of the stair, think of me in my time of pain.”