My Dearest Mack and Tosh,
I hope this finds you well. I’m writing to catch you up in more detail on some of what has been going on here with me over the past few months. I’m going to dive right in. There’s some candid content here, be forewarned.
As you know, this past April I had a major mental health emergency, and was hospitalized in a voluntary inpatient unit for several days. I was discharged quickly, with a new meds regimen, which everyone, including me, thought would solve the issues recurrent prior to my admission. Unfortunately it did the opposite, amplifying my symptoms to the point where I was basically existing in what I might describe as high-crazy mode most of the time. Long story short, the situation culminated with my readmitting myself into hospital, and spending another stint in a mental health inpatient unit.
I was, eventually, discharged again, with a different meds regimen, a different therapeutic model, and a different, more fitting, diagnosis. I am, clinically speaking, more or less stable, but the combination of symptoms make it difficult to take anything for granted. Along with the bipolar disorder, which I still have, I meet sufficient criteria to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which, as we know, is simply delightful—in addition to which, I have a combination of anxiety symptoms, which express themselves most frequently in the form of panic attacks, which are severe and can strike at any time, as well as something residing in a ballpark very nearby to obsessive compulsive disorder. Together, it’s a tricky situation to manage, to say the least.
Even as I’ve recovered considerably over the past two and a half months, I still experience my symptoms considerably, especially those related to OCD. I’ll be going about my business, when suddenly I start noticing something, for example, a spot on the wall. Then, I cannot stop noticing it. I t takes up all my attention. If I try to fight—in order to stop noticing it—the symptom (i.e. the obsession about the spot) only gets worse. The only way to stop noticing it is to somehow “accept” that my mind is obsession about the spot, but this is not always easy, or possible, to do.
In these moments it’s very easy to be overwhelmed be feelings of hopelessness and darkness. The other day I had some intense dark thoughts, as a bi-product of unprocessed symptomatology. Before long I found myself questioning why I was alive, and wondering if the alternative might not be a more preferable state of affairs: a chilling place, indeed. Thankfully, with even my meager practice of coping skills, plus some help from the new meds regimen, I was able to get through these thoughts, and make it safely to the other side.
I’m realizing how important it is for me to find a way to stay connect to people, and avoid isolatory situations as far as is possible (barring writing, which, for better or worse, is typically done alone). Feelings of hopelessness can metastasize in isolation (for me, anyway). I’m looking to stay on the side of light and lightness.
If you’ve read this far, thank you, and I appreciate it. Will look forward to when our paths next cross.
Travel safe. Talk soon.
This year, on April 30th, I had what’s commonly referred to nowadays as a mental health crisis. This sterilized, sanitary term has—in true Carlin-esque fashion—sounded at once more dramatic and more serious in days past, with the phrase “nervous breakdown” warranting (and justifiably so, I can now attest, have been through one) the terrifying vision of a mental *snap*, followed by a period of complete inability to keep up with normal day-to-day activities: work, family care, relationships, and so forth. The brain is fried, or deep-friend, rather, and no amount of coaxing can get it to see itself as otherwise, at least at first.
(This first paragraph took me two weeks to write, thirteen days of which were preparation, and failed attempts.)
Because I am human and prone to distorted thinking (not saying those are necessarily linked… necessarily) my initial thought was that of: Why? (Truthfully there are days when I still think this.) Why did this happen? Was I being punished for something? Was there something I had forgotten that I had done wrong, that I still needed to atone for? And for that matter, did my life still work that way—pinned, inexorable, to the wheel of karma? Where were grace and compassion? Where was enlightened equanimity?
Thankfully this “control fallacy,” when it lasts, doesn’t last long. *Phew*—as it were. The bottom line is that it happened because, well, it happened. At least, so far as goes the philosophy of it all. As for the logistics, bridgestorecovery.com speaks of a nervous breakdown occuring: “when a person is no longer able to cope with stress or pressure. Stressful like events may trigger a breakdown, but underlying mental illness may also cause it.”
(Again, I can attest to this. I’ll spare you in detail as to all of what the stress was; notwithstanding, it was a combination of work and personal factors.)
I spent a little over a week in an inpatient unit, under close watch for safety as well as diagnosis. I graduated to what is known as a “partial program,” living out in the “real world” while attending a bevvy of a groups and classes, on tools and information generally designed to help the subject remain both in the real world and living. Now, it’s more or less back to reality.
Except, the way I remember it, reality was once a collaborative adventure, not a cruel exercise in smackdown economics, featuring humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat, as I struggle merely to remember vocabulary and simple items on a to-do list. I’ve been told that the real recovery, the one that begins well after the groups, well after the classes, can take months, if not months upon months, a grueling Everestian climb, which, if these first weeks are to be judged by, I can once again attest to.
But enough about that. What concerns me now is recovery. How do I get better, so that I can cease being a burden on my lovely wife, a true dedicated superhero if ever there was one, and start getting out there back to the world of creative badassery and cosmic avenging that so much more suits me than passive victimhood ever could.
I am forcing myself to write this blog. The mental strain is near unbearable. With each word search the side of my brain feels like it’s being seared on a skillet. But I will persevere, and I will complete it. Because if there is any sense of give-uppery in me, lingering, lurking, what better way to find it, and show it exactly how it can go fuck itself, whenceforth will I move myself into a space—bulldozing my way there if I have to—where things are the way they should be: where my creativity is back in charge.
AF Thoughts from May 5th 2019.
We discuss guilt and shame. Rich, the facilitator (real name altered), wears casual jeans and an open flannel shirt, wearing his grey head of hardly receding hair neither short nor unkempt. He has one of those faces where when he is gone you are unsure whether or not he has a mustache and beard, or rather, you are absolutely certain he does, but would hate to have to stake your life on it. He is friendly, but more to the point in this case he embodies a state of gentle authority: knowledgable, and firm in his understanding of how to convey said knowledge. We begin:
Guilt and shame are established as two forms of conscience, developed specifically to determine scope of behavior, or, in other words, to limit it. Don’t go outside the cave after dark! is the rule and you are to follow it. Whereas in reality, the reason for this rule is both sound and based in logic i.e. you will in all likelihood be eaten by a large, long-toothed prehistoric feline if you do (go outside the cave), the forces of peril employed in teaching this lesson are far more immediate, and, in many respects, far more threatening i.e. because I, your parent, told you so, and if you disobey me I will become angry!
Shame can be understood as the fear of disconnection. It develops at a relatively young age. Children are conditioned to join the herd, and to do so no matter what it takes—it is often said that children will take bad attention over no attention at all, such is the pull of the herd. Shame intersects with a fear of abandonment, or exile, two of the most basic disconnection-based consequences a tribe can put on individuals.
Guilt is slightly different. Guilt develops at a later stage, when the mind can abstract, particularly when it can create for itself its own set of personal rules—its personal code. When an individual violates their own personal code, a feeling of guilt may be the result.
3) The Brain(s)
We can consider the various “brains” i.e. the various stages of human cognitive development, and how they relate to guilt and shame.
First, the “reptile” brain. This part of the human brain deal with the basic functions: eating, sleeping, defacating, etc.
Next, we can observe the “mammal” brain. Via the mammal brain, babies learn to label their emotions. They learn how to express, and how to connect. Also, it is worth noting, shame lives here.
FInally, there is the “human” brain. The human brain begins to come into play at around 3 years of age, developing from 3 years until about 6 years old. The human brain, a marvel, can share information, thoughts, ideas, and opinions. It can read Aristotle and Shakespeare. It is worth noting that most herd animals will, at most, join three (3) herds, whereas humans will join hundreds of "herds" in one lifetime (i.e. social circles, professional circles, and so forth).
It is this—the human—part of the brain that learns to navigate all of these different rules. Often times, rules which apply in one place, do not apply in another. Humans can navigate this, humans can modify the rules at will. Rules, for humans, are what we create, and rules are negotiable.
Rich now leans back in his chair. We are given space to wander and explore.
It is easy to see in the world how children who are treated differently can become children who are wired differently. The question is asked: why do some children have such a large shame conscience? We ponder. Nature? Nurture? Excess punishment... child neglect... bad treatment? If a child is aggressively punished every time they are taught a "lesson," do they learn the underlying lesson, or is the lesson they learn that their parents will get mad and will yell at them?
To the group, it stands to reason that any and all of these factors would have an impact on the developing mind, teaching it how to move through the world.
The discussion segues briefly onto the subject of depression. Depression: it is different from sadness, it is a pane of glass between you and your life, that get thicker and darker as its power grows. You know they're out there (your supports, your *tribe*) but you just don't feel them.
After a few more minutes of discussion, Rich interjects, with some grist for the mill. A too-high shame-o-meter can, he proposed, can elicit the feeling of “I am pretending” in children: “I feel like I am pretending all the time.”
He goes on to say: We accept the love we think we deserve.
For those with too high shame-o-meter, the beliefs are often:
They WILL remember the criticisms.
And they will disconnect from the good things.
As the session winds down, Rich offers us some some final impressions to mull over.
There is a watchtower, he says, in the upper mind, whose purpose is to ask: “What do I think about my feelings?” Guilt lives up here. It's a rational place.
As for shame? Just because a feeling is real, he says, doesn't mean it is true.
He leaves us, as the minute-hand on the clock passes ten signifying the end of the period, with the following, on the off chance, he says, that it is useful. It is a set of questions that one might ask oneself during the guilt/shame response process, as follows:
We all carry around guilt, as well as shame, he concludes. Hopefully this mode of inquiry during periods of distress might free us from some of the toxic effects of our unprocessed shame, and allow us a greater sense freedom, to know that we are writing our own rules, and charting our own course.
Travel safe. Talk soon. -AF
AF Thoughts from April 8th 2019.
My Dearest Mack and Tosh,
Thought it would do to be back in touch. These are in all likelihood going to look a little different moving forward. How? No clue. Just a hunch. In any case, the end (i.e. the entirety) of last year was quite hectic, what with the worsening health issues, and also the move. We’re settled now, here in Concord MA, where, fingers crossed, we’ve found ourselves in a situation with a little more stability. (*spoiler alert*: We did not.)
BlueDorian continues its step-by-step march to bringing new and awesome things into the world, its current focus being steeled on the Daughters of Time story project, which mostly involves a lot of typing. I never thought the notion of tens-of-thousands of words would be appealing as an aspect of professional practice, but the reality of it has very much grown on me, and, until we find adequate means of creating anything more complex, say an illustrated novel, comic book, or animated series, it seems that eBooks are an honest and smart bed for successful project completion, at least in a way that is manageable and satisfying, in addition to feasible, for the team.
- Daughters of Time -
I do miss the creative jamming that comes with ensemble work (AFO went on medical leave (mine, not theirs) starting September of last year. To that end, one of our goals is to reform one or more version of a “new” AFO, later this year. Last year the ensemble repertoire diverged into two distinct sets: a more “traditional” rock-pop set, and an experimental electro-pop one, which was very exciting, but also tricky to sustain, as, being an entirely new type of beast, no one knew exactly how to communicate with it—with only a handful of songs (pieces, really) in the repertoire, and no scores per se, there was scarce material with which to populate rehearsals, leading to feelings of positivity, but, when it came down to it, very little productivity.
Still, I in many ways preferred performing in such an ensemble, as it side-stepped the aspect(s) of performance that give me greatest pause, which is lead vocal work—which has always been a source of great anxiety and ongoing trauma, and to which I find great peace and satisfaction in my recent decision to adopt of a stance of acceptance towards it, rather than continuing to spend the rest of my life trying to fight through. Also, the AFO, being a “rock band” in the more traditional sense, requires of it a “front-man” approach, to which I find myself more and more ill-suited (as can be judged by the style of this writing, which, frankly, is much more “me” than, to wit, “Hellooo Cincinatti!!!”).
As a point of nostalgia—if you can call it that—I was made to give a lot of speeches when I was younger, suffice it to say I grew accustomed to the “talkie-talkie” that being a singer-songwriter, and then, later, front a band, necessitated. But I’ve always hated it lol; I much prefer the role of playmaker and occasional featured soloist—preferably keyboards, my first love—to anything else.
Anyway, the thing that holds me/us back is the fact that we will not realistically be able to embark on any such project without at least two additional members of personnel, one to be the project’s manager (coordination of various aspects and logistics), and the other to be its artistic director (facilitating rehearsals and coordinating audio/visuals). Not having these roles filled while trying to produce the scope of project worthy of the time it would take to do it (might be a bit circular there—getting up earlier and, while perfectly alert, still not entirely used to it) will without a doubt result in major burnout for all parties in the current team; none of us are willing to put both health or the quality and success of any at such risk ever again.
So, we’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for people who are able and willing to do this sort of project in those capacities. And I suppose, my dear friends, if any one you know might fit the bill, or if you yourself are motivated by life and ready to be part of something awesome, I believe there’s probably a contact form somewhere around this site—you are most welcome to employ it to that and any other worthwhile purpose: you never know what conversations can lead to what.
In the meantime, our to-do list remains full and fulfilling, with a happy dose of self-competitive pressure as we intensify and accelerate towards our first eBook release for Daughters of Time (DoT). Yes, did I forget to mention that earlier? I probably intended to ;) I am so, so excited about sharing these characters, this universe, and the opening steps of this story, with you; after four years of development (granted, not just of this story, but pretty much the entire universe and cadre of easily a dozen stories that go with it—see, I’m tantalizing, sorry, marketing) and what has felt like eons of chasing away demons, it finds fixed form in the magic of .epub. This is the culmination of years of people telling me I would never achieve anything in this field, that, as a musician, I should know my place and leave the writing to the writers, and me, somehow, finding either the will or sheer bolshery to summon the words of everyone’s favorite “Dude” and say:
From the twisted weirdness of my warped mind, to you lovely people. Enjoy.
And a final shout-out to the fine musicians, artists, and practitioners who made up last year’s AFO. Please check out their links and show them some love; they are just brilliant people and fantastic musicians to boot: Tom Appleman (bass, vocals); Renée Dupuis (keys, vocals); Andrew Jones (drums); Dave Lieb (guitars, vocals); Elizabeth Lorrey (management & coordination); Elizabeth Geuss (producer).
Travel safe and talk soon.
at a glance
Adam Farouk (born April 6, 1978) is a Malaysian musician, producer, writer, and entrepreneur, currently based in the United States. He is known for his integrative approach to the creative arts, and frequently infuses his works with unlikely combinations of style, influence, and genre.
Learn more about Adam's other creative projects at bluedorian.com!
adamfarouk.com © 2004-2016 Adam Ismail Farouk / BlueDorian® Media Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.