new song: “3Jane”

Lyrics

Growing a new philosophy
is it grand design, or subtle folly?
The serpent was anything but…
…but this was an engineered forest,
its fruit a postmodern delight

Recording

Explanation

Wrote this sometime in the late 1990’s while working through my gender dysphoria (and identity and bipolar disorder in general) as a young adult. It is about humanity’s ability to hack everything, including our bodies. Changing one’s sex is a postmodern experience from a certain point of view, and it might be complete folly (but I don’t think so).

Artifact is nature.

I think starting my life as a man and becoming a woman at 39 was by God’s design. Don’t think any serpents are whispering in my ear.

Live Performance

fighting psychosis with psychosis

This method isn’t for the weak-minded:

But I’m not a bit weak-minded and the strategy described below suggested potential when I tested it on myself. (That makes this an n=1 study—hardly scientific—but exploratory research has to start somewhere!).

Background: I carry a long and well-documented case of bipolar disorder, and have become skilled at handling the “lows”. However, the manic “highs” still catch me by surprise. They come fast and full-blown, and I’ve often (until recently) acted recklessly when they occur. The resulting social damage proves costly.

Moreover, a full-blown mania often brings with it some degree of psychosis; realize of course that psychosis lies on a spectrum, it is not binary (sane vs. insane). For my part, I become grandiose and make decisions based on information filtered through that grandiosity, i.e., at some level disconnected from reality.

Now this state is basically a “drug high”, in that it is a chemical situation in my brain causing the mania. As a youth I tried cocaine and the feeling compares.

The psychiatric medicine I take controls the worst of the disease, especially the “lows”, but fails to inoculate me completely against mania. So I still have to learn how to effectively handle these “drug highs” as I don’t expect them to ever go away completely.

It becomes a management game:

So I got to thinking: “Why not intentionally induce manic psychosis in a safe, controlled environment so I learn how to pilot the condition?”. In doing so I’ll develop skill at managing unexpected manic episodes when I experience them in the real world–I’ll strengthen my mental power over them.

This is kind of like becoming well-practiced at meditation when you are relaxed, so that the skill proves easily accessible during an anxiety attack. (For me, the manic episodes impact me far more than anxiety, which also affects me; I’m just trying to draw a useful analogy here. In other words, I’ve ruled out meditation and mindfulness as short-term solutions to my mania challenge, though I’m certainly developing these tools for my long-term repertoire).

So I took a hit of LSD to induce grandiosity, euphoria, and delusional thinking; and then worked diligently and intently through the resulting altered state to learn how to handle the condition effectively, to learn how to take control.

The strategy worked! My recent subsequent manic episode came on quickly and intense, but I was able to recognize the state immediately and take appropriate countermeasures before making any reckless decisions.

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide.

thriving vs. merely surviving

Often I lose sight of my longterm goal (to thrive) to make room in my psyche for my short term survival goals related to preventing self harm. Realized this morning that this behavior only “positively” feedbacks into the distress itself—that giving a measured quantity of attention toward thriving will better dampen the distress in the long run. (We call this dampening “negative” feedback in control engineering—the terms don’t sound intuitive: In engineering, “negative” feedback is the good kind of feedback when you want to keep something stable [1]! See the bottom of this post for pictorial examples of the two types of feedback).

So on that note, here are two ways I’m directing attention toward thriving:

Mindfulness proves a well-known strategy for improving mental health [2]. However, the only mindfulness activity that has ever worked for me so far is live performance, whether music or giving a speech. So to increase my mindfulness time, I plan to increase my stage time.

Moreover, I plan to add a mindfulness component to my instrumental practice time. (This has never worked in the past—I become too distracted, but I’m confident I can substantially improve the skill this time). So I’m going back to basics: Fingering exercises on my sitar and basic stick technique on my new drum set. I’m relatively new to both instruments so think that the activity of building mindfulness skill as part of building my instrumental skills will complement each other well.

Inventory of successes: I’ve always been one to count my blessings, but now I’m adding a weekly inventory of each week’s successes. Writing them down. Makes me feel great. Directs my emotions toward states that permit delivery of energy toward thriving!

An Example of Each Type of Feedback Loop

Just extra credit for ambitious readers…

This image comes from [3]. The top part shows how negative feedback keeps a basic ecological system stable. Similar negative feedback loops regulate serotonin production by the brain [4], a key process in stabilization of mental health.

The second part shows how positive feedback causes both system variables, success and motivation, to feed each other’s growth. A mental health example: Consider a system containing only the two variables “mania” and “lack of sleep”. In a person with bipolar disorder, one will feed expansion of the other. This effect is known as “snowballing” by systems scientists; as a snowball rolls down a hill it gets larger, and as it gets larger, its capacity for adding snow increases so it gets larger still.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feedback
  2. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/mindfulness-based-interventions
  3. https://www.scisnack.com/2015/08/04/why-negative-feedback-is-good-for-the-climate/
  4. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4684-3860-4_26