THE DECAYING AND BLOOMING MIND
by Diego Lorenzo Leyva
Bring on the psychotic break! We’re strong enough for it! We shall let this heavy burden ride our backs until we, proud horses, perish.
Welcome to the End
Goblins and demons move about you—welcome to the end. Reality becomes an illusion, a delusion, “What is real?” you question—welcome to the end. They are after you, surveying you, planning to take you, planning to kill you—welcome to the end. You died as ashes and awoke not as a phoenix but as a caged bird—welcome to the end. Heavily medicated but the world’s still dark—welcome to the end. Welcome to your end, welcome to your imprisonment, welcome to your death. Ready or not your world shall now implode. Can you survive all this? Are you strong enough?
Brave enough? Warlike enough?
You Shall Perish
You shall survive your insanity. You, on the other hand, shall perish. You are too weak, too effeminate, too unwarlike to survive all this. You shall cry for help and the help shall come, but in the end only you can pull yourself out of this terrible world. Oh my weak friend, you sacrifice, allow me to cry over you. What a sad life, what a tragedy.
Like a phoenix I arose this dark morning. Last night my life changed forever. The war of my mind began. My world is now overcast. Lightning echoes repeatedly, the grim reaper can be heard if you listen attentively enough. I became ashes, but I naturally grew wings in the process. I am now stronger than ever and weaker than ever. A doomed phoenix flying toward the sun. When will he stop? Until he becomes ashes once again. But what happens to ashes? They are stored in golden urns and remembered, smiled upon, and cherished.
You Are Not a Tragedy
It is dusk and a young woman sits at the halfway point of a bridge with her head on her knees. Her mind is quickly deteriorating and turning on her causing confusion and fear. She feels terrible. Life is terrible. You sit by her in the same posture under the same mental conditions. You feel terrible. “Life could be terrible,” you say, “but it isn’t.” “Now this?” the young woman says regarding her new unexpected plight. “Oh, why this?” “Wow, this?” you say in awe regarding your first plight. “Finally something!” You get up and leave the girl and the bridge feeling unique and necessary as only those about to go to war can feel. “My life is not tragic,” you say, “my life is beautiful.” You walk the rest of the bridge enjoying the fading sun that you know you will soon see again.
The Relief of Exhaustion
After you tell me your symptoms, after you share with me your world, I reply, “That sounds exhausting.” You immediately disagree. “No it isn’t,” you say, “though it sounds like it is it’s actually not that at all. All my life I wanted some adversity, some real adversity; I now have it. None of this is exhausting. It’s actually a relief.”
War, Bliss, and a Glow
My life is a constant battle with my mind, a constant struggle for control. Will it work for me today or will it cause my undoing? In the past I was hopeful that this war might have an end, but now I see that it won’t. Perpetual war is my life, temporary bliss is my goal, an everlasting glow is my destiny.
An inferno is our lives. Indeed, we have been burned many times. But after each burning we grow deeper, happier, more determined. We are the masters of the flames. We know how to live engulfed in them and not die.
My mind is a defiant and resilient slave. It is on fire and perpetually whipped by a master that wants death—what else could this treatment lead to if left unanswered? But my mind answers, “Damn you! I shall do what I want, think what I want, you are not my master,” it roars, “I am free!” The master then dies like he’s supposed to. As he dies he lovingly grants my mind freedom like he’s supposed to.
While your mind is collapsing you manage to ask yourself this: “Will I always be like this?” Does the ass ever ask itself if its terrible, terrible lot will ever have an end? But you’re a horse. “I shall perish of this load,” you first say, “but don’t think I’m unhappy because of that,” you then later add. “My words have become fatalistic,” you then later say. “I feel stronger now than I have ever felt in my whole life,” you then later say. “I am thankful for this load!” you then say. “I don’t feel a load!” you then say. “I am no donkey. I’m a horse!” you then finish.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
Psychiatric illnesses don’t lead one to discover silver linings among the clouds but bright rays of gold. In addition, the clouds that emit these golden rays are of a golden hue and really aren’t clouds at all but suns.
This is Good
“Know this now: this is never detrimental,” said a peer to another. “Your plight might hurt, but in time you’ll realize you were never in pain. This is painless and good. ‘This is good!’ you’ll say to yourself while in a state that would’ve frightened you before. ‘I’m glad this is happening!’ you’ll also say. You will mean all of these things wholeheartedly.” The young peer walked away still doubting the mentor, but nonetheless saying to himself, “This is good. I’m glad this is happening.” He was short of breath and scared, but he nonetheless put faith in himself once more and said, “This is good. This is good.” He walked home feeling very frightened and not meaning the things that he said, but nonetheless continuing to say them.
Idiots Dancing in the Rain
A rain dancer wrote the following, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Only idiots dance in the rain. Imagine actually seeing someone do this. Wouldn’t they look silly? But some would smile and proceed to dance alongside him or her wouldn’t they? I would walk by them, umbrella in hand, and say, “Why are you guys dancing? It’s raining horribly.” One of them would turn to me all the while still dancing and say, “When it’s raining this much one should learn to love it. Be happy in it and smile while you’re soaked!
You’re drenched more than us. Join us!” “Actually,” I’d respond, “I’m not drenched and it’s actually not raining.” “Yes, it is,” he’d respond. “No, it’s not,” I’d say. “Yes it is,” he’d respond and point up at the grey raining clouds. “What rain?” I’d say and look up at the sun and blue cloudless sky, “What rain?”
Smiling at Beautiful Things
Oh, how weak this illness is! How I love the intrusive thoughts that are attempting to darken a mind covered in sunlight! “More golden rays,” I think to myself when the dark rays that don’t know they’re golden enter my mind. Because of these golden rays I proceed to smile even wider as I walk with a much beloved beautiful little niece through our beautiful little village that is protected by a bright and warm sun. She noticed my smile and asked me why I was smiling. “Because of you, because of this little town, because of that sun,” I don’t say. I smile when I’m around beautiful things. I proceed to smile even wider when the dark rays intrude and say, “How could you smile if I am here?” “You heard me think it,” I respond. “Because of my niece, because of this walk we are having, because of this little town, because of that green valley and that sun and its warmth, and because of you. All these things that I have listed are beautiful and I smile at beautiful things.”
How is one to live, let alone write, under a perpetual din? Undoubtedly you have come to view yourself as a bit of a sacrifice and so who cares that your ears are bleeding a little or a lot? And so with this philosophy you proceed amid the prolonged, loud, painful sounds which you can’t control to create the sounds that you can control: your music.
The Flipping of a Switch
An apt expression to describe the sudden intensifying of paranoia, psychosis, and derangement, would be to call it the “flipping of a switch” like I heard a young man once put it. Hopefully what was switched on in this young mind were strong lights powered by powerful electricity. Hopefully torches were lit in this young mind as well. Flip all the switches! Bring in ugly florescent lighting and pretend it is sunlight. Let the inferno in his mind spread aimlessly before finally developing a beautiful pattern, a beautiful stride. Before his mind was absent of color and dim in light and now its colorfulness is a bit blinding, its light vast and warm just like the sun’s.
Blinding Light Next to Dimness
As is inescapable for many of us, I ended up working at a residential treatment facility for people with mental illnesses. I remember an occasion when one of my co- workers said to me, “Isn’t this a pleasant and cheerful place to work despite the darkness that walks through the doors?” She was right. This was a pleasant and cheerful place to work, but what walked through those doors was not darkness but blinding light. When they’re gone and it’s just my co-workers and I I’m engulfed in dimness. But then a scorching sun pierces through and is mistaken for a rainy cloud.
My colleagues attempt to brighten the dark grey cloud that they see while I squint my eyes at the blinding sun that I see. They continue to attempt to somehow stop the cloud from raining, but what they should do is figure out a way for the sun to use its fire and light to its advantage. So much can be done with the fire and light of these suns; however, not nearly as much can be done with dimness.
The Sun and its Light
You are a sun and what you give us is light. The sun blinds sure, but one feels great under the sun. One feels so great that one stares at it—at you. But the sun shouldn’t be stared at for it hurts. I’m not going to stare at you for it hurts. But the light that you give me, for that I am grateful.
War Forces Specialness
This forces specialness. This forces triumph. All wars are special and all wars have a triumph. You and I and many others are the victors of war. Therefore we triumphed and therefore—as is immodest and uncomfortable to say but needs to be said—we are special. I feel like all wars are special.
From the Foreground to the Background
Seeds of ugly black trees were scattered in the front of your mind. These trees grew and they became nearly all you could think about. Bringing this forest from the foreground to the background became the goal. Over time these trees retreated to the background—and you joyfully missed them as you watched them leave your life! Come back beautiful green trees!
Phoenixes and Ashes
The details of my chaos, of my illness, of my rain and hail and fire, don’t matter, I say to myself. Many people have these elements, but do little with it. Our brains are on fire, but few phoenixes rise from the ashes. Look at the phoenixes not the ashes!
Blooming All This Time
You were blooming all this time, I say to myself. Behold, here in my arms is all that you have sprouted, all of these words! Your mind was never in decay for rotting and dying soil sprouts nothing. Yes, you were blooming all this time, man who was afraid, man who thought he was insane and done for.
Let’s not embrace the “Beautiful Minds.” Honestly when you act out, Mr. Mania, I look at you in amusement. I stare and laugh. I laugh at myself. None of that is you. That thought you wrote the other day while feeling calm, clear, and happy was you. Not your screams and rampages. The colorful false reality another man dwells in from time to time also isn’t him. For that man his writings are him. That’s his mind. This is my mind. Beautiful Minds: laugh at it all now that you’re better, but only once you’re better.
Smile at Yourself
Actually no, don’t laugh at yourself once you’re better! That feels like something a person who dances in the rain would say. “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A person who dances in the rain wrote that! Don’t laugh at yourself or cry at yourself, rather, smile at yourself always. Laugh at Mr. Mania, but smile at yourself as he also smiles at himself because he too loves being his own person. We are all smiling at ourselves. The writers, the artists, and whatever else people call themselves, are all smiling at themselves.
Smiling Because of My Luck
At times I am envious of those who have gone through more. At times I wish my plight had been as heavy as theirs. But then I listen to their war stories and lose much of that envy because they weren’t joyful during their wars like I was. In retrospect they now have gratitude for their battles, but in the moment they lacked joy. Most of these soldiers marched into war depressed with feelings of supreme ill- fate; few marched into it smiling with feelings of great luck. Even though I was scared when I saw that dark figure I was also immediately happy that I got to experience the fright that I felt. I smiled because of my luck. I was joyful every time my heart sunk in fear, I smiled at every wound. I was smiling through it all. They never smiled and perhaps it would have been hard to smile when witnessing what they witnessed, but I think they would have smiled had they realized how lucky they were.
Veteran’s New War
You are the veteran of a won war. Those who know you suspect you possess many invisible scars. But the war wasn’t traumatic for you won it thoroughly. Zero casualties, zero mistakes, nothing but triumph and glory. But that war is gone and celebrating past glories has run its course. You hope for a new war—actually no you don’t for you’re already in a new one. Few of those in the middle of war wish for a new one to add on top of their current one. We all know the war you’re in, the war of the veteran, the war of all veterans: life.
Statements That Save
“I am now stronger than ever,” I remember saying to myself when I was the weakest I have ever been. During those days I also said to myself, “I am now weaker than ever,” but I repeated the first statement much more often because I said it with hope. Statements like those saved me and I needed to be saved.
This man and I wrote together. Though he was much older than me I was the one with more writing experience. His stories were graceful at times, even a bit beautiful at times, but what was always present was a strong will for only this trait he could consciously add to his works. Eventually this man submitted a story to a literary journal and was accepted. This brought great joy. “I now exist,” he said when he learned that his work was accepted. The day that his story was published he was hospitalized for the eighth time in his long life. Once he regained coherency I visited him in the hospital and brought with me his published work. He didn’t care to look at it. “This is no way to live,” he said as he laid in his bed wearing a white hospital robe. “All this,” I said and surveyed the room, “is unavoidable. But so is this,” I said and pointed a finger at the page in the journal that bared his art. “I would tell you to be happy,” I continued, “to be optimistic, but at least take solace in the fact that you now exist.” “I exist,” he said. “Damn right,” I responded.