Preface: This text was originally published on my danish Facebook author page as ten individual texts in the days from 17 October to 24 October 2022. They are still available there. Below, they are published as a compilation, slightly edited and including an epilogue written exclusively for this collected edition.
This is how I experience schizophrenia:
Like a slow, internal explosion over the years, and then having to live with it for decades.
If I commit suicide, it will be even worse according to my religious beliefs.
An actual psychotic breakdown brings no relief or alleviation either, but would instead be a turn for the worse.
The medicine I take makes me aware of every single moment of this hell I am in.
That is how I experience schizophrenia.
I think it was Goethe who once wrote that: He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.
I have turned this around and declare that my present life; this entire difficult and hard incarnation as mentally ill, will be the soil in which I will plant the joy of centuries to come.
The mind is ploughed during suffering, and in this soil I will sow a golden seed that will remain once the cinders of darkness are burnt away by the fire of pain, and I water the seed I have sown with, well, tears.
I think that the tree growing here one day will be in a class of its own!
Having a mental illness, I often experience aggression and anger; Which I expect is only natural when suffering. Incidentally, this also to a great extent explains the evil of the eldest (in terms of “the eldest”; see Toward the Light):
When one’s soul is in pain, and you are suffering in general, anger flares up easily because of the suffering, and with anger destructive behaviour may follow.
I find that the anger – perhaps even the hatred – can either be turned outwards or inwards. The best of us may be inclined to do the latter and may develop actual self-loathing.
But there is a third option:
Which is neither turning the anger inwards nor outwards – but simply observing it; staying in the room with it, seeing it as it is without letting it affect anyone else or yourself.
I then experience it as a kind of mental smoke that clears after a while; it dissolves, blows away, disappears if it is not nourished by actions.
I have also heard the author Peter Høeg describe this.
If you let the anger boil over – either through actions directed at others or yourself – you will spiral into a suffering, mental underworld, where the agony is intensified, which may lead to new destructive behaviour and more suffering and so on, in a negative, downward spiral or vicious circle.
Being in the same room as your anger without acting on it, but merely observing it, is a way to develop a mental, inner distance to it and a way to avoid the vicious circle that may be born from anger.
Do not suppress it, do not explain it away, or gloss over it; just acknowledge it and feel it as it is.
This is not an easy, universal solution, and it is certainly not a way in which we can once and for all solve our anger issues, but, in my experience, it constitutes a constructive approach to difficult emotions and psychological phenomena, by which you can also develop your self-control.
I once heard a woman say: The more one seeks to drive away the devil, the more he sticks out his hoof.
As the high-ranking Danish policeman Bent Isager once said:
The difference between the good and the bad is not whether we have dark impulses – everyone does – but whether we act on them.
Perhaps this is true.
On days when there are bats in the belfry, I smell a rat:
I see enemies where there are friends and friends where there are enemies. To my eye, the world becomes a photo negative. Light becomes dark and dark becomes light. And that’s how it is to see through darkness.
Man can carry and betray, support or overthrow, see or blind, the power of man is great. For better or worse.
But I would say one thing: Thank you for the hearts you readers are sending me. They provide more joy than you might think.
Once it was believed that the mentally ill lack a substance in the brain, which they need to take as medicine for the disease, just as, for example, diabetics have to take insulin.
It may be true. And if it is, then what? How do we deal with people like my wife, who suffers terribly from more or less chronic depression (interrupted by rare and short-lived manic episodes), and with someone like me, who suffers from schizophrenia?
Are you going to tell us that we are lazy and should just get our act together? Will we be told to get our act together and be happy and stop having delusions and hallucinations?
But … would you tell a diabetic to get his act together and stop being diabetic, or would you tell a cancer patient that he should just pull himself together and stop having cancer?
Perhaps some things may simply not be changed. Maybe some things and conditions are just as they are?
Or maybe things can change if we give up changing them. Perhaps we would come to accept ourselves if we stop trying to change who we are; if we believe we are good enough.
I promise – if it were possible, if I could, I would rush out with the mop tomorrow and clean the whole town – I would clean all the toilets in town. If I could, I would take part in social events without anxiety, unrestrained and happy, and without this inner, gnawing feeling of oppression, which is forcing me to the ground.
I promise you, if I could, I would be like you; a busy, normal citizen of society and not constantly living on the edge of society and existence.
If only it were possible, if only everything were different, if only…
How should I deal with the illness?
Should I cast a spell on it, evade it, hope it goes away if I write about it, for instance by these words, or should I accept it, accept that it might be incurable, chronic, accept being caught between a rock and a hard place, which is squeezing me until I scream?
I try to find words which will find their way; words that are not only beautiful but also real, words that are not only stars, twinkling in the crushing, all-encompassing darkness of the black sky, but also the connection, a path between them, a road, a pattern, meaning, an image.
My life and mind are broken mirrors only reflecting light in confused diffraction. I try to put them back together at any cost, the cost of life. What will it show once it’s complete?
I travel towards life, the dead one says, I may be born sometime, and preferably before it is too late. I am born late, but I am born?
I travel with life, the hopeful one says, the one happy in his suffering, I see what it brings. I make no wishes, no conditions, only that.
I walk towards peace, but it’s noisy in here, perhaps to drown the silence slowly entering my heart like a golden egg before I realise what has happened.
Before I realise what has happened, I feel tranquility and a peace of mind that is not of death, but of life? Whatever that means.
Two swans are flying in the sky: One white and one black. They are twins hatched from the same nest.
What if that which is hurled to the sky in giddy mania or psychosis or euphoria or ecstasy and that which falls to the ground with the weight of death are two sides of the same coin: That of darkness?
A stone, death weighing on me – and exploding under ample pressure; that is to say suffering?
What would be the equilibrium between the two extremes? This insight?
In a way, to me, schizophrenia is like being in the world without a filter, without a defense and always facing an accusation.
It also means that I am so preoccupied with my own pain and suffering that I may become blind to that of others.
And that means a deep sense of inferiority, combined with galloping megalomania; but I guess it is once again the story of the white and the black swan from the same brood.
And the world? Well, we just went through a worldwide pandemic, and the moment it seemed to die down, there is talk of a nuclear war.
China might invade Taiwan any time soon. The climate, well, and what else…? Inflation, people being evicted, blatant racism without shame and as part of mainstream politics…
You don’t have to be crazy to be here, but it helps – as they say.
The clock is ticking, the heart is beating, beating the whole world senseless…
I am the storm and silence. In the midst of a storm, there is silence. In the midst of a matter of life.
I find these words, they find me. I am the silent point of the words, words that weather the storm, make it visible, manageable.
But first, it breaks through from unknown sources and depths. I must stay standing, not fall over.
I am the anger and the grief. I am the bright point, I am the one who sees. I am the one who perseveres and the one who will give up.
I am a rare joy. I carefully wrap it in my thoughts. Protect it. The golden seed I am planting now, to be harvested later.
I am words to the heart from the mind. A thousand eyes, each looking for its own way. I am looking for mine. I am quiet. In the midst of a matter of time. Now.
Come, come dance with me.
X – the final cut
To me, suffering from schizophrenia is to live in the heart of darkness; with a small candle that must not go out.
It’s the long walk from death to life, it is hearing Sauron’s cruel call out to all evil forces from the black tower of Baradhur in Mordor the moment he knows he will die. And it’s the momentary doubt as to whether it is me or him shouting, and whether he is me or I am him.
It’s the last minute doubt. In one hand I hold the candle, in the other the ring. Both are shining in the suffocating darkness. What’s what, which one should I throw?
It is the ring that is gently lowered into the volcano, and the great shadow leaping forward; Sauron’s shadow of death, terrible but powerless.
It is love set free from its shadow; to be able to love without fear and without dying and being destroyed.
It is carrying that little candle into the heart of death, and here, too, by the little candle, to say yes.
It is the hour and the judgement. And the acquittal. I am not guilty.
It is standing in the ruins and the floods and in broken forests and cities after the fury and exertion of suppressed forces in a world that is slowly reborn in pain, redeemed, it is God, love, the tree of life, who gently, and with strength and patience, extend their hands and carry me.
It is the next step. And the next. All the time one more step, go a little further. Yes.
I want to find peace. So badly. Maybe because I’m so far from it. My next thought: Only the living can feel at peace. And one more thought: Because I’m so far from it, I’m tempted to leap into it, taking giant strides.
But those taking too long strides will tear their pants, break their spirit.
I see peace as a goal. But what if there is no goal, no end, but only a constant beginning. Like now. This moment.
To live is to walk, and to walk is constantly to avert a fall? One step, one temptation at a time. The fall remains a possibility if, for example, I want to take too long strides, or win the peace in next to no time.
What if an eternal beginning, an eternal birth, with the fall as a constant possibility, is all there is, well, but also peace, fullness. Does a weightless life pave the way for fullness and spiritual personal strength? Or does it require work, sometimes hard work, sometimes very hard work?
Does spiritual strength not require spiritual work, just as physical strength requires physical training, or should we sleep until eternity, Paradise?
Does happiness and peace begin today, now, with this step, yours and mine, not giant strides, but one small, careful, vulnerable step the length of a human step and in human time?
Isn’t that what we have to accept? Isn’t that just the way it is? Isn’t it for the best? Isn’t that how it is and should be?
Therefore, I will conclude with a beginning: Once upon a time there was a man…no, there is a man, a life, hope, certainty, love, a princess and half a kingdom. Right now. Right here. Where everything begins. Again.