Tuesday, July 27, 2010

how intelligent people come to believe in absurd things

A while back, I was writing a piece for a fiction class about the children of a mother with schizophrenia. At some point in the story, I was working through a way of describing what schizophrenia must be like, inspired in part by a throwaway comment in Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind: "The nightmare of schizophrenia is not knowing what’s true. Imagine if you had suddenly learned that the people, places, and moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse – had never been. What kind of hell would that be?"

Anyway, in the story I was trying to inject some of this truth -- the hell of not knowing, the gap between objective reality and personally experienced "reality". I wound up cutting the scene because it was sub-par (I am a proudly ruthless self-editor), but in writing it I found what remains my working layperson's definition of mental illness and disease:

Believing in untrue things that make your life hellish.

Simplistic? Oh hells yes. Simplistic enough that I've never mentioned this theory to any psychology major or psychotherapist or anything like that. But to me, it tends to encompass a lot of different mental disorders, eating disorders of course included.

For example, something that came up yesterday: I have a specific weight in my mind that I would like to reach -- a number far below what is medically or personally healthy. After a couple of weeks of zero appetite and lessened caloric intake, I am now closer to that weight than I've been in while. (Well, relatively speaking. I'm talking about a rather sizable loss, here. Because I'm nuts.)

Anyway, even now -- even before I reach that number -- it is already inadequate. It is already not enough. I am acutely aware of the pointlessness of losing weight. I know it will not take me anywhere worth going, and I know that it will never satisfy me. I know that it will cause me incredible anguish and isolation and sadness, because it will involve diving back into ED.

At the same time that I know this fact, I also believe its logical contradiction: I will feel better at this weight and I will look better at this weight; ergo, I must reach this weight. I will be able to reach this weight and maintain it without spiraling into an eating disorder frenzy. Once I reach this weight, it will be enough.

Both of these ideas are constantly yapping around in my brain, shrill and shrieking, jockeying for position, and I tell them to shut up because I don't care any more, don't have the energy or will, but the sheer fucking loudness of it all is enough to drive you crazy.

The only thing I knew how to do was keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew, tangled up in blue. Thanks, Bob. You've got my back.

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