November 22, 2006

Today is a Dismal Date

Today is a dismal date. Not a dismal day, mind you. It was reasonably cold and sunny here in Connecticut, and it warmed up to around 50 in the late afternoon when clouds furred over the sun just before it set. But today is The Date...And I wish I hadn't been reminded of it. It is the 43rd anniversary of John F Kennedy's assassination and hence of my first symptoms, which if you've read DIVIDED MINDS you know were intimately connected to JFK's death. Usually I would not be aware of this particular date, thank heavens for small blessings, being blissfully unaware most of the time just what day it is, let alone the precise date. In fact, though I could have counted from my recent birthday, I'd already lost track, and was thinking today was around the 24th, as I'd written on a deposit ticket at the bank.

But I receive an e-mail every morning from the Writer's Almanac, sending me the poem of the day, and this morning's literary notes made mention of the salient facts of Nov 22, one of which was obviously what happened to the president in 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Now, I feel guilty, feel sorrowful, feel remorseful for having committed such a heinous act, and I feel certain that I did do so...BUT when I said that to myself, and to the visiting nurse, I had to stop and think. I feel certain? and I feel guilty...for having committed...a heinous act. Shouldn't that tell me something? Shouldn't it trigger--? AAAH -- I said, I have to notice what I'm feeling, the first steps of a reality test. I feel guilty, I feel wrong, and I feel certain I committed a terrible crime, though I do not know how...

Keep going, said Ana, the evening nurse. You're on the right track.

So I feel wrong and certain I did something terrible. I feel certain! That is supposed to tell me to consider the possibility I might be wrong! But that's a paranoia test -- this isn't paranoia is it? Then again, Lynnie said the feeling of certainty came up in any...delusion? This is a delusion?

What's the next step? Ana pressed as she poured my nighttime meds.

To check it out, ask someone. So I guess I have to ask you. Pointblank, so far as you know, did I kill Kennedy?

No. You didn't. Now I wasn't there. I wasn't born yet. But I know for certain that you did not kill him. All right?

And now I'm supposed to believe you...That's the hard part, when every part of me believes ME.


So it is only a delusion that has me in its grip, the notion that I killed Kennedy, even the memory of it is a delusion, or the memory of a delusion. I noticed, I challenged my feeling and I checked it out, and the answer was No, you did not do it, from someone I trust and have no reason to doubt now. So what do I do with that? I have to incorporate it into my poor brain somehow, really incorporate it so this date doesn't throw me again. But I dunno that I know how to do that. Or if it can be done at my age. It may be all I can ask is that I learn to challenge the feeling of certainty about it each and every time it comes up, until it becomes an automatic challenge, so seamless and swift it looks as if I don't actually feel I killed JFK. Even that would be good enough for me!

Stop by tomorrow. I hope to analyze a poem by Emily Dickinson, the famous one about going mad.

Posted by pamwagg at November 22, 2006 05:16 PM


Hey Pam,

I know how it feels to relapse into old delusions. I've been experiencing some of that lately myself. I find I have to challenge those beliefs every day and every night. I write the delusion out to myself and often see how distorted it really is. I also asked my psychiatrist to raise my dosage of Abilify to ward off old, cyclical ideas that have no place in my life. Taking the medicine is, to me, a form of self-love and learning to love yourself can counter even the worst delusions. When you try to love yourself, you take yourself off the hook and get to swim around a bit, no longer hung up on your particular obsession.

For what it's worth, I am positive that you didn't have anything to do with JFK's assasination but I can understand very well how you could firmly believe it yourself. I, too, believed things that were absolutely untrue and I believed these things for years. I think it's important for you (or any schizophrenic) to sit with their delusions and consider the other side of the story where the delusions are untrue. Just to sit there are consider the delusions as illusions and myths is a good form of reality check and helpful therapy. I respect you for bringing it up and asking for reality checks from your readers. I hope more people comment on this.

Kate :)

Posted by: Kate K. at November 23, 2006 11:39 PM

Dear Pam,
You have proven yourself to be a very apt pupil. I believe that if you continue to apply a reality check EVERY time you feel certain about something that you truly believe, but defies all reason and logic, it will become a habit. When you incorporate this habit into your thinking and your perception of yourself, each time it will become easier to loosen your grip on beliefs you have held so strongly. Can you imagine how free you will feel as you peel away each burden you have carried in your subconscious for so long? Your incredible mind will have more and more room for you to store legitimate facts about yourself. Naturally, there is room for improvement in every human being. Now you will be free to examine your life and decide with what you are satisfied and perhaps begin to work on aspects of your personality that you would like to change. It may take some time before this takes place, but surely it will be well worth the wait. I'll be with you every step of the way.
With love and faithful support, Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at November 22, 2006 11:52 PM

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