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Re: Thank You, Lunatic!

Posted by Mark H. on April 20, 2000, at 11:21:21

In reply to Re: Lunatic, posted by Lunatic on April 20, 2000, at 0:55:41

Dear Lunatic (is there another name you'd prefer I use?),

What a beautiful, sensitive and intelligent response to my awkward questions. That's just the sort of information that helps to deepen my understanding, respect and compassion for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

For the record, I'm supposedly not schizophrenic, yet I have seen and experienced my share of what some call demons. I dealt with multiple voices and personalities in myself by seeking assistance from spiritual counselors instead of medical doctors, beginning about 21 years ago. I had several years of highly disciplined training under two excellent and responsible teachers, the primary focus of which (for me) was to have "just me" in my body and to be able to "turn on" and "turn off" at will my then-random ability to see and sense things that most people are not aware of. Eventually I offered intuitive counseling for seven years, and even made my living at it for a couple of years, using these skills and abilities to assist others. I mention this because if I presented the same symptoms and perceptions to my excellent psychiatrist today afresh -- without years of training and practice with which to provide a context -- he would probably find them delusional.

My disorder is called bipolar II, which means I have mild, pleasant highs and black-hole lows, and I'm helped greatly by medication and cognitive therapies. Manic depressive illnesses, including mine, often involve increased religiosity, and I'm no exception.

After studying Buddhism for almost 30 years, I finally settled on Tibetan Buddhism, which is the most elaborate, formal, demon-and-god-filled, "high church" sort of Buddhism there is. Experts in manic-depressive disorders would say, "Of course Mark chose Tibetan Buddhism!"

But I also fell into another, darker form of "religion" seven years ago when my first fully debilitating depression hit with such fury. Instead of turning to a spiritual practice for help, I read and absorbed "Listening to Prozac," which sent me into reading all sorts of other technical references on the bio-mechanical model of mental illness. This model, as compelling as it is, reminds me of the post-war existentialism I read when I was very young -- by making it all a matter of neurotransmitters and irreversible brain damage, it's very difficult not to become cynical and doubtful about the meaning of everything we experience, including the most exalted feelings and perceptions we have.

In Buddhism, we believe that within this "relative reality" that is the sham we call samsara, there are relatively better and relatively worse feelings, thoughts, words and deeds. It may all be an illusion, but within this illusion all of us experience profound suffering. Whatever we can do to relieve that suffering is good. Positive, virtuous thoughts and actions are better than negative, harmful thoughts and actions.

There is one person on this list, my respected friend boB, who is trying to save me from my blind acceptance of the medical/biomechanical/psychopharmaceutical religion I embraced with such "scientific" certainty. He never claims there isn't value to the help I'm receiving, he just begs and prods me in every way he can to begin thinking outside of this box I've put myself in. Slowly, slowly, I'm beginning to open to additional possibilities.

Empirically speaking, trust is probably foolish, as you say. However, one of the illusions I choose, is to trust a great deal more than I feel comfortable with. I live in a basically safe world of basically good people, some of whom have suffered so much that their minds have become almost totally non-virtuous, but who can be helped by our prayers, kindness and positive thoughts for them. Am I kidding myself? Perhaps. But over time this particular delusion is more positive and useful (to me) than giving in to my fears, anger and projected negativity.

Thank you so much for engaging me in a dialog. I am learning a lot from you. If you decide to change your list-name, please let me know so I can still follow your posts. You may be schizophrenic, but you are no lunatic to me!

With warm regards,

Mark H.




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