While working on the screenplay based on my late-uncle’s life and writings, I can’t help but think: am I headed in the same direction as him? I’m not talking about death, but the obvious undiagnosed mental illness which played a part in his demise. The man was a genius–the archetypal mad writer who almost destroyed every relationship he’s had with family members, friends and spouse.
As I write pages and pages of notes on my legal pad–how he began his writing career, hilarious outbursts, fears, preferred brand of cigarettes, et al.–a notification that I try to ignore blinks in the back of my mind. It tells me, “You might as well be writing your future memoir.”
Uncle Danny has never been diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist. Filipino men of his generation thought that was for pussies. Older Filipino men turned to alcohol, cigarettes, women, fistfights and cockfighting (and occasionally street basketball with money on the line) to keep their minds sane. Why go to a boring therapy session when you can have fun? Psychotherapy was rare in the Philippines, especially in the rural areas, in those days.
But that machismo was just a way to suppress emotions that their fathers taught them never to show. Eventually, the pressure will cause a man to blow up or spiral into a deep hole of alcoholism, or worse, drugs. Uncle Danny did drink a lot, like a lot of men in the country, and he was almost sent to rehab by his priest brother back in the 1990s. However, he was never that type of guy. He was probably more addicted to writing than any other vice.
I like to think I would not reach the extremes of my cyclothymia (a.k.a. “Bipolar Lite”) or graduate on to a higher caliber of psychosis. Despite being a weirdo, I’m pretty average, mostly boring, and I function quite well in society. Yeah, I have many flaws and I’m a bit crazy in the commonly-used sense of the word, but I have not had visual or auditory hallucinations…except this one time.
A decade ago, I wast smoking crystal meth with a friend’s mom for three straight days. I wasn’t eating nor sleeping and I wanted to keep going higher. By the time I was going through the “come-down” phase, the shitty withdrawal part of drugging it up, I was experiencing all sorts of hallucinations:
1. I thought my parents were plotting my murder.
2. I was being framed by my friend’s mom and the police. I inspected every tiny white speck and dust in my car and room, thinking they were cocaine or meth sprinkled by conspirators.
3. I drove around town trying to find a place to hide.
Yeah, it was fucking terrible. The thing about drugs is that it doesn’t inject these illogical thoughts into your mind. Crystal meth does not contain data packets containing hallucinations that are uploaded into your brain. What drugs do is open that bolted seal imprisoning the demons you already have inside you. They have been lying dormant for years, since your birth, waiting to be unleashed. Those psychotic episodes I had during my withdrawal were products of my own mind.
That was one of the worst and best experiences I’ve ever had. Why? Because after those drug-assisted episodes, I discovered the truth about how far my mind can go once the chains and shackles were broken. I am fine now and I’m sure I will be fine for many more years to come, but now I know that all it takes is a tragedy or a trauma to fuck my whole world up. That is my greatest fear. I have a feeling my uncle felt the same way.
Men act like tough guys until something traumatic happens to them. This is because we are so confident in being the captain of our ship that we make ourselves believe that we will always conquer the storm ahead. Once the illusion of control is broken, men become reduced to fragile little boys. We are shown our true reflection in the mirror: the dumb naked animal in the wilderness of God’s universe.
This is to say that I am still partially in denial that a full-on psychosis will ever happen to me. But at least I’m now fully aware of who I am and what I could become.