Friday, July 06, 2012

Independence Day

The Van Gogh in You

Steeps ears in starlight,
fills with freed night,
bathes in dopamine until dawn.
It knits breath
from whispers it collects,
sitting like a sunflower in a corner.
Invisible by day and radiant by night,
it has a flame
that flamingoes in all seasons.
It scars like the rough
of old men's hands,
obscures like
the smoke of opinion,
a cloud of ash
floating from a jagged cone.
When you press your ear to your heart,
there is no note of any night.
And yet it calls you nightly,
the possible oracle of an impossible song.
But song is only the genes of genius.
Your ear gorges itself
on many frequencies.
Your fingers caressing
whatever key depresses.
The lungs drunk themselves
on variant verses.
The brain guzzles a Coda.
It ripples your sea
silent as a breeze
curling and peaking
into pike points.
Your ear tangos with tangents,
scales the sails of silence
and wonders the waves
until it finds
the secret languid of number,
the liquid of Sign.

On the First of July I saw a Tweet from the poet Bassey Ikpi about one of her upcoming projects called The Siwe Project which was declaring July Second "No Shame Day" to help reduce the stigma around mental illness in the global black community. I sent her a message and asked how I could help, she replied and asked me to say something, anything really that could help to get people to begin to reduce the stigma. I knew right away that there was one thing I could definitely do, which was continue what I started here a month ago with my "Making a List" post, only this time doing it on Facebook. Although it seems like a natural progression, outing myself as a sufferer of OCPD on Facebook is a much bigger deal than posting it here. I have 1,290 Friends on FB, there are only 18 followers of my blog. About 50 members of my family are Friends of mine on FB, maybe two or three read this blog or even know it exists. But in the end, it had to be done. I won't lie, it was easy to decide to do it and much harder to actually hit the 'Post' button after I had written the Status Update. As soon as I hit the button, I regretted it, but it was too late. Then a sense of relief came over me, no matter what the outcome, it was done. In some ways I felt like a Knight who had just climbed out of a suit of rusty armor. There was no more reason to hide. I sent a Tweet to Bassey that said "Whew. I just outed myself on FB. If you were here I'd kiss you through my tears. 30 years in the crazy closet. Free now". The truth is that although I have known for a long time that I had a 'Personality Disorder' I never thought of myself as being mentally ill. Because, you know, those folk are crazy and I aint crazy. Weird, quirky, idiosyncratic-Yes, yes and yes. But crazy? Hell Naw, not the kid. But the facts are the facts and 'Personality Disorders' are mental illnesses whether I liked it or not. Whether I liked the cut of the suit or not, the truth was that it fit me. Thus ended a two year journey that started with me trying to get better at communicating with a certain woman by trying to figure out why I have always had so much trouble communicating with people (mostly women) who are primarily indirect communicators. I always thought it was because I was bad at reading faces, but one night I took an online test that measures one's ability to read facial expressions. I stared and stared at the first face, almost completely bewildered, with no real clue. Then I decided to just click on the first thing that popped in my head. I did that for all the pictures and to my surprise I scored a 98%. I have always scored really high on tests of all types, but this result stunned me, so much in fact that I refused to believe it. I took the test again and to my relief it gave me a different set of faces to judge. But the end result was the same, 96% correct. So, if I was actually good at reading faces, why did I have so much trouble dealing with people who communicate using neutral language and relying on facial expressions and voice tone to make up the difference? The answer was simple, that form of communication felt less certain to me (given that it involves more interpretation) and in my quest for super accurate (perfect?) communication I relied on my superior use of language to communicate in a hyper-literal fashion. The need for perfection is a hallmark of OCPD, but could it be true that that was the problem? Searching for the answer to that question had gotten me started. By the time that I accepted that my OCPD was affecting my ability to communicate with her and others, I began to wonder what else it had affected and how pervasive it really was. The answer was tough to bear, my attitude that I had minimized my Personality Disorder was actually making things much, much worse, because it had blinded me to how pervasive my illness really was and in how many ways it affected me. It took me the better part of two years to come to these conclusions, but in my slow-ass walking manner I eventually got there.

I spent most of the Fourth of July outside in 99 degree heat working over a blazing hot grill. Chicken, salmon, ribeyes, mushrooms, green peppers, onions all sizzling in front of me. Hardwood smoke pouring out the top of the grill like a locomotive in a hurry to get where it already was. The grill was shaded by a tree, so I wasn't in the direct sunlight, but it was crazy humid as Julys in the DMV always are. I was surrounded by friends, my son was running around squirting other kids with a garden hose and I was (quietly) celebrating my freedom, doing one of the things I love most. There are two things that really irk me about Atlantic City; there's no bookstore in the city for me to hang out in; and there's nowhere for me to grill. I've asked friends, even offered to buy the food or even a Weber grill. But they don't get it, they're thinking hot dogs and burgers. All I need is one shot to convert them to the Cult of The Right Reverend Renegade, but that shot hasn't come yet. So, I go back to the DMV, where my friends know the good Gospel. And there I was, outside, sweat trickling down the back of my spine, happy as hell. Grilling and chilling. I'm sure the neighbors looked out their windows and thought "That dude must be crazy to be out there in all that heat, grilling." They were right too. But there I was for the first Fourth in a really long time, truly Free.

And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon).
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