Twenty aspirin, a little slit alongside the veins of the arm, maybe even a bad half hour standing on a roof: We've all had those. And somewhat more dangerous things, like putting a gun in your mouth. But you put it there, you taste it, it's cold and greasy, your finger is on the trigger, and you find that a whole world lies between this moment and the moment you've been planning, when you'll pull the trigger. That world defeats you. You put the gun back in the drawer. You'll have to find another way.
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In the parallel universe the laws of physics are suspended. What goes up does not necessarily come down, a body at rest does not tend to stay at rest and not every action can be counted on to provoke an equal and opposite reaction. Time, 'too, is different. It may run in circles, flow backward, skip about from now to then. The very arrangement of molecules is fluid: Tables can be clocks, faces, flowers.
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Viscosity and velocity are opposites, yet they can look the same. Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination, velocity causes the stillness of fascination. An observer can't tell if a person is silent and still because inner life has stalled or because inner life is transfixingly busy.
It's important to cultivate detachment. One way to do this is to practice imagining yourself dead, or in the process of dying. If there's a window, you must imagine your body falling out of that window. If there's a knife, you must imagine the knife piercing your skin. If there's a train coming, you must imagine your torso flattened under its wheels. These excercises are necessary to achieving the proper distance.
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Suicide is a form of murder- premeditated murder. It isn't something you do the first time you think of doing it. It takes some getting used to. And you need the means, the opportunity, the motive. A successful suicide demands good organization and a cool head, both of which are usually incompatible with the suicidal state of mind. It's important to cultivate detachment. One way to do this is to practice imagining yourself dead, or in the process of dying. If there's a window, you must imagine your body falling out the window. If there's a knife, you must imagine the knife piercing your skin. If there's a train coming, you must imagine your torso flattened under its wheels. These exercises are necessary to achieving the proper distance. The debate was wearing me out. Once you've posed that question, it won't go away. I think many people kill themselves simply to stop the debate about whether they will or they won't. Anything I thought or did was immediately drawn into the debate. Made a stupid remark-why not kill myself? Missed the bus-better put an end to it all. Even the good got in there. I liked that movie-maybe I shouldn't kill myself. In reality, it was only part of myself I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself, that dragged me into the suicide debate and made every window, kitchen implement, and subway station a rehearsal for tragedy.
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Viscosity occurs on a cellular level. And so does velocity.In contrast to viscosity's cellular coma, velocity endows every platelet and muscle fiber with a mind of its own, a means of knowing and commenting on its own behavior. There is too much perception, and beyond the plethora of perceptions, a plethora of thoughts about the perceptions and about the fact of having perceptions. Digestion could kill you! What I mean is the unceasing awareness of the processes of digestion could exhaust you to death. And digestion is just an involuntary sideline to thinking, which is where the real trouble begins
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Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can't go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside. Then, depending on how the rest of the family is feeling that person is kept inside or snatched out, to prove something about the family's mental health.
Kaysen elaborates through parts of the book on her thoughts about how mental illness is treated. She explains that families who are willing to pay the rather high costs of hospitalization do so to prove their own sanity. Once one member of the family is hospitalized, it becomes easier for the rest of the family to distance themselves from the problem and to create a clear boundary between the sane and the insane. Recognizing a family member or friend as insane makes others around them, says Kaysen, compare themselves to that individual. Hospitalization allows for distance from this questioning of self that makes us so uncomfortable. Her view that mental illness often includes the entire family means the hospitalized family member becomes an excuse for other family members not to look at their own problems. This explains the willingness to pay the high financial costs of hospitalization.
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The debate was wearing me out. Once you've posed that question, it won't go away. I think many people kill themselves simply to stop the debate about whether they will or they won't. Anything I thought or did was immediately drawn into the debate. Made a stupid remark-why not kill myself? Missed the bus-better put an end to it all. Even the good got in there. I liked that movie-maybe I shouldn't kill myself.
Now, I would say to myself, you are feeling alienated from people and unlike other people, therefore you are projecting your discomfort onto them. When you look at a face, you see a blob of rubber because you are worried that your face is a blob of rubber. This clarity made me able to behave normally, which posed some interesting questions. Was everybody seeing this stuff and acting as though they weren't? Was insanity just a matter of dropping the act? If some people didn't see these things, what was the matter with them? Were they blind or something? These questions had me unsettled.
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Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast... Viscosity and Velocity are opposites, yet they can look the same. Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination; velocity causes the stillness of fascination. An observer can't tell if a person is silent and still because inner life has stalled, or because inner life is transfixingly busy.
This time I read the title of the painting: Girl Interrupted at Her Music. Interrupted at her music: as my life had been, interrupted in the music of being seventeen, as her life had been, snatched and fixed on canvas: one moment made to stand still and to stand for all the other moments, whatever they would be or might have been. What life can recover from that?
Suicide is a form of murder - premeditated murder. It isn't something you do the first time you think of doing it. It takes getting used to. And you need the means, the opportunity, the motive. A successful suicide demands good organization and a cool head, both of which are usually incompatible with the suicidal state of mind.
Why did she do it? Nobody dared to ask. Because - what courage! Who had the courage to burn herself? Twenty aspirin, a little slit alongside the veins of the arm, maybe even a bad half hour standing on a roof: We've all had those. And somewhat more dangerous things, like putting a gun in your mouth. But you put it there, you taste it, it's cold and greasy, your finger is on the trigger, and you find that a whole world lies between this moment and the moment you've been planning, when you'll pull the trigger. That world defeats you. You put the gun back in the drawer. You'll have to find another way. What was that moment like for her? The moment she lit the match. Had she already tried roofs and guns and aspirins? Or was it just an inspiration? I had an inspiration once. I woke up one morning and I knew that today I had to swallow fifty aspirin. It was my task: my job for the day. I lined them up on my desk and took them one by one, counting. But it's not the same as what she did. I could have stopped, at ten, or at thirty. And I could have done what I did do, which was go onto the street and faint. Fifty aspirin is a lot of aspirin, but going onto the street and fainting is like putting the gun back in the drawer. She lit the match.
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Don't ask me those questions! Don't ask me what life means or how we know reality or why we have to suffer so much. Don't talk about how nothing feels real, how everything is coated with gelatin and shining like oil in the sun. I don't want to hear about the tiger in the corner or the Angel of Death or the phone calls from John the Baptist.
For nearly a century the psychoanalysts have been writing op-ed pieces about the workings of a country they've never traveled to, a place that, like China, has been off-limits. Suddenly, the country has opened its borders and is crawling with foreign correspondents, neurobiologists are filing ten stories a week, filled with new data. These two groups of writers, however, don't seem to read each other's work. That's because the analysts are writing about a country they call Mind and the neuroscientists are reporting from a country they call Brain.
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I was trying to explain my situation to myself. My situation was that I was in pain and nobody knew it, even I had trouble knowing it. So I told myself, over and over, You are in pain. It was the only way I could get through to myself. I was demonstrating externally and irrefutably an inward condition.
Don't separate the mind from the body. Don't separate even character - you can't. Our unit of existence is a body, a physical, tangible, sensate entity with perceptions and reactions that express it and form it simultaneously. Disease is one of our languages. Doctors understand what disease has to say about itself. It's up to the person with the disease to understand what the disease has to say to her.
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The floor of ice cream parlor bothered me. It was black-and-white checkboard tile, bigger than supermarket checkboard. If I looked only at a white square, I would be all right, but it was hard to ignore the black squares that surrounded the white ones. The contrast got under my skin. The floor meant yes, no, this, that, up, down, day, night -all the indecisions and opposites that were bad enough in life without having them spelled out for you on the floor.
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Which is worse, overload or underload? Luckily, I never had to choose. One or Pass on to where? Back into my cells to lurk like a virus waiting for the next opportunity? Out into the ether of the world to wait for the circumstances that would provoke its reappearance? Endogenous or exogenous, nature or nurture - it's the great mystery of mental illness.
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The debate was wearing me out. Once you've posed that question, it won't go away. I think many people kill themselves simply to stop the debate about whether they will or they won't. Anything I thought or did was immediately drawn into the debate. Made a stupid remark--why not kill myself? Missed the bus--better put an end to it all. Even the good got in there. I liked that movie--maybe I shouldn't kill myself.
Emptiness and boredom: what an understatement. What I felt was complete desolation. Desolation, despair, and depression. Isn't there some other way to look at this? After all, angst of these dimensions is a luxury item. You need to be well fed, clothes, and housed to have time for this much self-pity.
Light like this does not exist, but we wish it did. We wish the sun could make us young and beautiful, we wish our clothes could glisten and ripple against our skins, most of all, we wish that everyone we knew could be brightened simply by our looking at them, as are the maid with the letter and the soldier with the hat.
For many of us, the hospital was as much a refuge as it was a prison. Though we were cut off from the world and all the trouble we enjoyed stirring up out there, we were also cut off from the demands and expectations that had driven us crazy. What could be expected of us now that we were stowed away in a loony bin?
You could also "request" to be locked into the seclusion room. Not many people made that request. You had to "request" to get out too. A nurse would look through the chicken wire and decide if you were ready to come out. Somewhat like looking at a cake through the glass of the oven door.
This clarity made me able to behave normally, which posed some interesting questions. Was everybody seeing this stuff and acting as though they weren't? Was insanity just a matter of dropping the act? If some people didn't see these things, what was the matter with them? Were they blind or something? These questions had me unsettled.