I journaled my last psychotic episode.
There I was, surrounded by invisible philosophers, some well-known. They were smooth, evil creatures revealing their true nature to me. They flayed me alive.
How did I get here? Why were philosophers flaying me?
It starts in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Or maybe it began in 1993, when I fell in love with a Choctaw. Either way, I got caught up in Native Studies and philosophical questions related to historical and contemporary Native issues.
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on decolonization. Back then, my mind was wide open. I wasn’t afraid. Why would I be? The conclusion to my thesis was that the United States should decolonize. I would spend the next few years trying to imagine what that looks like. I still try to imagine it.
Treaties. There are over 500 of them, all of which have been broken. What would it look like if we honored them? Much different, I suspect. And that’s just one aspect of possible decolonization. We’re talking about a different looking United States. We are talking about tribal sovereignty.
These are the kinds of things that can get one in trouble. In real trouble, not just psychotic trouble. It’s akin to writing your undergrad thesis on overthrowing the U.S. government. And that’s what I did. I even, probably, imagined a sort of inequality with Native nations more deserving of things due to, in part, hundreds of years of colonialism.
Of course, this is all academic. The only thing I’ve ever done is be the sole participant of a #NoDAPL protest. That’s as close to decolonizing as I ever got. Still, word spreads. My undergrad work turned into my former professor teaching about Native issues to other students. Ideas, they say, are dangerous. And whether they are bullet proof depends on whether one lives to tell the tale. Is my work protected by academic freedom—that wonderful subset of free speech? Perhaps. But does the government still honor that anymore?
If one were to try to organize to decolonize, one might be regarded as a terrorist under the Patriot Act, they say. I’m no terrorist, but I know the government does not care whether I am or not.
So when my psychosis creeps in, my mind turns into a war zone. I fight the U.S. military. I fight the FBI. I fight, even, philosophers who, in my psychotic mind, wouldn’t stand with me in either decolonization or academic freedom. Whether they would in real life remains to be seen.
This is the rationality of my psychosis. It’s rooted in reality. This is contrary to what many believe is the nature of psychosis: the irrational.
My psychosis is rooted in the fact that our government has indeed done unjust things to its citizens. Count how many times you’ve read about an FBI file on someone who was just doing their own thing. Not even MLK Jr. I mean people like Dorothy Parker—who famously told the FBI she couldn’t even keep her dogs in line so how could she overthrow the government.
My mind gets distorted, though. These possibilities turn into realities to me when I am psychotic. When I’m not psychotic, I live my life pretty carefree because I know I’m doing nothing wrong and I still believe in justice. But when I am sick, my mind goes a bit haywire. It’s still, however, rooted in reality because it’s based on the real possibility that I or someone like me could be targeted by our own government.
So, there I am, laying in my bed, after having been tortured by the military, only to be flayed by philosophers of ill repute. And this is my reality. To live with these hauntings because I wrote my undergrad thesis on colonialism. No. That’s not true. I live with these hauntings because my government is shady and shifty. My writing about colonialism should simply be protected speech and leave it at that. My worries, my conscious, should be clear. I shouldn’t have to deal with psychosis. But I do. And some of it, I hope you’ll understand, is based on reason.
See, I try to understand my psychosis. And never did I or anyone else think it could be somewhat rational. Never did I think that my own government’s history of thwarting “subversion” would seep into the depths of my mind and haunt me.
I’m not saying the government causes psychosis. For me, at least, it’s probably caused by stress, sleep deprivation and overwork. But perhaps psychosis is just a distortion, sometimes, of reality. The way a straw looks like it’s bent when you place half of it in water. That, at least, is where I am now in understanding my own psychosis.