Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Best Interests

I really wanted to be attempting to sleep no later than 11:30. It seems like I'm always just 15-25 minutes away from my goal. Like, that actual increment, for things related to time, and that metaphorical increment, for life things.

Or something. I don't know. I'm being pretentious.

Let's make this a quick one. A brief observation.

I just made another attempt at bathtub-hair-untangling mediation. It didn't feel as successful this time, probably because of my awareness of time passing as I tried to get to my bed-by-right-NOW goal. The very non-figurative ticking of the bathroom clock did not help that matter, I assure you.

I think, back when I wrote more regularly and was less concerned with mediation as formal practice, what I substituted for actual mediation were these meandering thoughts that I would have when I was alone, which would become the outlines for blog posts I wrote later. Sometimes, it would be like free association, a journey of wherever my mind chose to go, at least until I honed in on something I found interesting. Other times, it would be a careful editing process. I'd stumble upon some phrasing I thought was perfect, than carefully add to that, starting over and over obsessively, to be sure I didn't lose the initial inspiration.

One way or another, when I took a bath, I would usually come out with this very clear sense in my mind of what I was going to write about.

It doesn't really work that way anymore, possibly because I'm out of practice as a writer, possibly because I'm trying to take the somewhat meditative practice that worked for me in the past, and stick into a mold that more closely resembles what everyone else thinks meditation should be. I don't know what I believe in all that-- was I getting enough benefit out of letting my mind instinctively figure out what it needed, or was I missing out on something key? Perhaps the enhanced ability to focus that's supposed to come out of the sustained practice of formal mediation.

It bothers me that I have to use the words "meditation" and "meditative" so many times.

Either way, I came out of the tub today with just the vaguest hint of the point I want to make in my "very brief" post tonight. And that is this:

On my lunch break, today, I was listening to an episode of This American Life where they described a condition called "Delusional Disorder." Delusional Disorder is like many mental impairments, such as schizophrenia, in that the victim tends to believe, deeply, in things that are not true. Unlike schizophrenia, however, there is a insidious problem with Delusional Disorder: the delusions are generally fairly plausible.

We're not talking about people who believe that the government planted slow-hatching alien eggs in their anus or that Oprah Winfrey is being controlled by a talking dog, people who are clearly crazy. We're talking about people who very vehemently believe that their wife is cheating on them, or that they are related to a celebrity, or that they invented the world's first egg dying kit.

While these kinds of delusions may seem easier to live with, they're often incredibly destructive to the victims' lives, and the lives of everyone else around them. The show focused on this woman whose marriage ended because, after five years, when under a great deal of stress from work, her husband became completely and utterly convinced that she was cheating on him to nymphomaniac degrees.

Eventually, after it became suitably problematic in their life, and she spent many long hours googling what might be wrong with him, she read about the diagnosis which was later confirmed by a therapist. But that didn't get them very far as a couple, it turns out.

The trouble is that Delusional Disorder is very hard to treat. As the story said, antipsychotic medications are helpful with schizophrenia because they help prevent hallucinations, but the lies that a person with Delusional Disorder are convinced is true are from a very different place. There hasn't been much success in the therapeutic practice of convincing them that their delusions are wrong, either.

Instead, the story explained, what's considered to be the best practice is to get the patient to admit that, even though he or she fully believes in his delusion, it's not in his or her best interest to act on that. Okay, sure: Chuck Norris is really your father. But since he has a restraining order against you, for whatever reason that may be, it's probably best if you stop trying to reconnect with him.

And yes, the reporter telling the story acknowledged how utterly unsatisfying that is, for all involved.

There was something about this idea that resonated with me, but I didn't get what until now. The thing is...I think, to an extent, I have Delusional Disorder. It honestly struck me, while I was listening, that I probably did, in some way, in some facet of my life, but I couldn't figure out what that facet may be. But now it seems pretty clear.

The post last night was about not having enough conviction to make my relationship with Dan work, and part of that is based on the leftover conviction that I have that Zack and I are meant to be. That idea was what I based my whole adult life on until recently, after all. The goal of keeping my marriage together was the driving force of my life, and it was inspired, on some, totally irrational level, by my faith in it's pure righteousness. It was tautological: He and I were going to make it because he and I were going to make it.

I built a whole life off of the questionable truth-- I can't even bring myself to call it a "delusion"-- that he and I were meant to be. It was my guiding tenant. And then, one day, it was gone.

Okay, there's a lot to be written, and I'm sure a lot I have written, about what that does to a person. But, for the sake of getting to bed before midnight, let's just fast forward to now.

Most of me may be a fairly reasonable person. But part of me is still completely stuck on what turns out to have been more delusional that I'd like to admit: that Zack and I were fated, somehow.  I know that, on some level, I still believe that. A very large part of me that I do not keep secret believes the Zack and I will get back together some day down the line, whether it be five or fifty years from now-- and fifty seems a lot more likely, to be frank.

But then, there is the rest of me, that has to continue living, as a normal, rational person. A normal, rational person who currently has a totally different life, with completely separate person, who is also the father of my child.

And I, most of the time, act as my own therapist in all of this. Except, I don't even try the things that have failed for sufferers of Delusional Disorder, not any more. I really have no interest, at this point, in the vain exercise of convincing my star-crossed lover self that I am wrong.

Instead, I ground myself in this life by merely convincing myself, one day at a time, that it's not in my best interest to act on my delusion.

And yes. I can tell you right now, it's an utterly unsatisfying way to live, for all involved.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to expand on all of these themes at a later date. For now, it's 11:59....oh shit. Midnight.

It's Day Seven. On with it.