Jack Bragen
Friday May 22, 2020 - 12:13:00 PM

If you can withstand having a full-blown psychotic episode, it isn't a giant intellectual stretch to deal with a society instituting massive changes to battle a deadly pathogen. This is not to claim superiority of any kind, nor do I minimize non-afflicted people's bravery or their fortitude. 

However, in my past, my psychotic episodes took me to bizarre places, with imagined danger and actual danger--the latter caused by being psychotic which caused me to be gravely disabled and, at times, a danger to myself and others.  

It takes bravery to get through a psychotic episode. Yet it is also foolish to stop treatment against medical advice. But once someone is in that place of psychosis, they have lost the ability to think normally, and that often makes a person unable or unwilling to accept or seek treatment. 

The psychotic worlds I lived in were even more bizarre than life in the face of coronavirus. And those bizarre, albeit imaginary worlds make life with coronavirus seem almost familiar. 

Fear is a familiar frenemy to me. It notifies me when there is something I must deal with, or it taunts me to tell me of worst-case scenarios that are highly unlikely to happen. Or, sometimes, fear is just there for no apparent reason, like a sadistic bully lurking within.

From seeing reports of first responders on television news, I see that Americans haven't lost their ability to fight. Even if fighting means keeping very ill people alive, if it equals the strength to carry on in the face of fear, and if it doesn't mean the stupidity of war, it is still fighting--good fighting. 

I respect people who can do things that I cannot do. I can come up with a good literary style and get a few things published. But I can't drive an ambulance, I can't resuscitate a person whose heart has stopped, and I couldn't even do a blood test properly, if I tried out for phlebotomist. 

I can endure ostracism while putting on a front of not being affected by it--the disguise is thin. I can not very well go after and attack someone who insults me. I get hurt feelings sometimes, and maybe a reputation for being weak, among some. Others would just say that I'm civilized. 

When psychotic, I would become verbally assaultive but did not attack anyone. When first mentally ill in 1982, I did do some stunts that were violent and other stunts that could have gotten myself or someone killed. It wasn't my proudest time of life. Yet, taking antipsychotic medication every day for more than thirty-five years with some interruptions, takes work. 

Antipsychotics hinder my capabilities. Yet, they have become so much of a part of normal for me, that I would never be able to successfully withdraw from them. If I stopped these medications now, I could die purely from the shock to my brain. If I didn't die of that, the result would still be a permanent wreck of my faculties. 

It takes resolve to continue to be medication compliant. Not everyone with mental illness is able to voluntarily do this. When it is not done voluntarily, it will be done for us involuntarily, if we are fortunate enough that the mental health establishment is willing to intervene and devote those resources to us. 

I could probably not survive the physical stresses of another psychotic episode. The emotions, the stresses on the body, and not taking care of basic needs, could mean death for someone my age. It helps that I am aware of that. 

If I became homeless, it would be a death sentence. I would not have access to the basic needs of someone with compromising physical and mental medical issues. 

In the above, I am facing facts. I've been noncompliant when young and I barely survived it. I was resilient back then. 

More recently, I've dealt with about four major crises at the same time. I've dealt with a mandated move into a downstairs unit in the apartments where I rent with my spouse. I've dealt with Social Security now doing a review on me to determine whether I continue to be disabled--if they decide I'm not, I'm in massive trouble. I've dealt with increased demands in my environment--I can't be more specific than that. And I've dealt with Earth's upheaval because of a pandemic. Also, a great therapist who has helped me for two years is leaving. None of the above might seem challenging to a skeptical person. Yet, if you were to see it from my perspective, it has been rough. 

Some things can turn out not to be awfully hard if I just try. This is where mental plasticity comes into the picture. I am still sometimes able to adapt to new challenges. I do not have the luxury and restrictions of being taken care of and supervised in a group home. I have responsibilities, and by the same token, I am in charge of me. 

I do not have a case manager, and I do not have a ghost writer. The words you read are written by a 55-year-old schizophrenic man with the aid of Microsoft Word. The books I've produced (available on Amazon and elsewhere) are done through the automated self-publishing platform of LULU, and I did not get any help from anyone in producing them. I've also navigated the electronic copyright system at the U.S. Copyright Office--my books are registered there. The fee, up until recently, was $35 for a simple copyright registration. 

My fiction has appeared in science fiction e-zines. I've had guest commentaries appear in East Bay Times. I am a longtime contributor to the Street Spirit Newspaper. The problem is, even while I've done a lot with respect to writing, the pay is usually little or nothing. But I can do it from home with no immediate pressure, and it keeps me out of trouble. 

My resilience is not entirely gone--I have some left. And we may find that the individuals in society, mentally ill or not, who are able to make something work in the face of this crisis, will still be here a few years from now. I can only hope I am one of them.