Luck and circumstance make us as different from who we might have been as cats are from dogs and birds are from bugs. There must be a point in paying attention to what goes on. My father’s fame falls into the one-in-a-zillion category. Had I told someone after my first series of breaks that I might go to Harvard Medical School, they would have upped my meds and cancelled my dayroom privileges.—Mark Vonnegut.
The psychotic state is a destructive process. A fire can’t burn that brightly without melting circuits. Making allowances for individual tolerances and intensity and duration of the breaks, complete functional recovery becomes increasingly unlikely much beyond eight or nine breaks. Fixed delusions, fears, loss of flexibility, loss of concrete thinking, and low stress tolerance make relationships, jobs, and family next to impossible and then impossible. The biggest risk factor in determining whether or not you have a nineteenth psychotic episode is having had the eighteenth.---Mark Vonnegut, again.
When I was ten I told my mother I wanted to kill myself. I was failing at school and sports and fighting every day and studying poisons. My mother told me that bright young idealistic people like myself were going to save the world. It was a successful play for time. Before I killed myself I should at least join forces with all the other suicidal ten year olds and give saving the world a try.---And one more time.
Parts Eight, Nine, and Ten of my series of broken-up posts, Small-towning the government, didn’t get written today. They’ll get written tomorrow. I interrupted myself to start reading a book that arrived in the morning mail.
Guess who wrote it.
Dr Mark Vonnegut is novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s son. The book is called Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So . Vonnegut, the doctor, is a pediatrician. He has a history of being other doctors’ patient. Those other doctors were psychiatrists. Vonnegut, the doctor, has struggled all his adult life with a mental illness that was first diagnosed as schizophrenia but now is seen to be enough like bipolar disorder to be called bipolar disorder except that Vonnegut doesn’t like to call it that because it’s not, quite.
Vonnegut suffered four psychotic breaks. Three in his early twenties, one in his late thirties, when he thought he was long past having to worry about another break. Now in his early sixties, twenty-five years since his last break, he never feels safely and securely and permanently sane.
Break number four, in 1985, came as a complete surprise and taught me once and for all that what I think is and isn’t going to happen doesn’t count for much. My friends and family and psychiatrist all think I’m doing well and won’t go crazy again, and I appreciate their optimism.
Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So is a good-humoredly disjointed memoir of growing up, becoming a doctor, starting a family, growing older, and all the time wondering…again?
I spent the afternoon reading it. I’m going to go back to reading it when I’m done with this post. I’ll let you know if I like it all the way through as much as I’ve liked what I’ve read so far, which is a lot.
Introverts almost never cause me trouble and are usually much better at what they do than extroverts. Extroverts are too busy slapping one another on the back, team building, and making fun of introverts to get much done. Extroverts are amazed and baffled by how much introverts get done and assume they, the extroverts, are somehow actually responsible.---Mark Vonnegut, once more, with feeling.