Portrait of a Maniac
Today I did some volunteer work at the school’s art auction. My piece went for 45 dollars. It was a steal of a deal. I actually really liked that piece, I wouldn’t have minded taking it home. It’s was a lomo photo of a bunch of goofy trinkets and knick knacks for sale in a store window. The colors came out really lovely. Plus it’s such a classic manic image, oooh, things to buy that are worthless really!
Anyway, in between doing tasks I surfed online, looking up comparative execution styles (the question: is lethal injection really as humane as we think?), and poverty and mental illness (the question: which came first? The mental illness or poverty?) The answer, according to various studies, is that poverty is a factor in many mental illnesses.
Ever since going crazy I’ve been on a journey to understand why. Why did I go so ravingly psychotic? Me, a generally calm, laid back individual. There’s genetic factors, to be sure. I am far from the first person in my family to go insane. But then as I was leaving school and waiting for the bus, I considered my economic situation when I was running up that hill to fly into cold blue air. I thought in the interests of illuminating the process of going manic, I would explain my lifestyle in the months leading up to my episode.
I was poor, and new to a city where I didn’t speak the language. My apartment had bullet holes in the walls and cracks, I was sleeping on a child’s mattress on the floor in a sleeping bag. Our couch was from the street, the television didn’t have an antenna and you had to tie it to your toe to keep the picture clear. I smoked pot everyday because then I didn’t have to care about the terrible surroundings I was in. We ate kraft dinner and anything else that was cheap and could be cooked in one pot. We had plain muslin curtains and a swiffer. All my belongings fit into two suitcases. I read academic theory a lot, hoping to find some kind of an answer to a question I didn’t fully understand at the time.
The question was about poverty.
I wasn’t eating right, I couldn’t, I didn’t have proper kitchen utensils to cook for myself like I had in Vancouver, and besides that, good food cost money. I was self medicating, I was depressed and for good reason, anyone who had been in that apartment would feel lousy. I felt like urban lichen, hanging on desperately to a life in a big city. But lichen doesn’t really live, it just exists, always hanging on, tenuous, ready to be ripped from it’s moorings at any moment.
Add in an antidepressant at a really high dose, and I was due for trouble.
I think the hardest part of putting my shattered memory of those times back together is seeing all the triggers that were happening for me, and blaming myself for not avoiding them. Too much drinking, too much pot, too much Effexor, not enough soul friends (as in, people you can truly bear your soul to, something I have a hard time doing with people, with some very notable exceptions). I was a car crash waiting to happen, dancing on a razorblade.
My film is now taking a more interesting direction, looking at the crushing poverty of the working poor Urban Indian and her spiral into madness. I think it give my story a much more political bend to it than the themes I’ve been working with thus far.
They didn’t need to do a study to find out poverty causes mental illness, I could have told them that.