“Let me ask you this,” I said to my former psychologist, who is religious.
“What if I’m here telling you all about the angels and talking with God and the ancient Egyptian spirits teaching me mystical stuff people tell me is found in Kaballah that I experienced in psychosis – what if I’m here to challenge you because in 10 years someone will sit across from you and say, quite normally, and without any psychotic or disruptive behavior, ‘I’m a prophet and I speak with God,’ and you as a religious man who sings to angels every Friday night will have to decide whether or not to speak to the psychiatrist and recommend institutionalizing him?
“And what if he actually is one. Would you be responsible for institutionalizing the first admitted prophet in thousands of years?”
I asked to make a point after asking for weeks by what right do psychiatry and psychology determine and define what is and is not an acceptable perception of reality. So I asked about the prophet. His answer might surprise you. I was saying that in Israel people claiming certain spiritual experiences are routinely institutionalized. No spiritual figure visits to speak with them about it. They are medicated.
I’m schizo. My medication locks up parts of my personality, sense of humor, ambition, creativity, causes depression, can kill the libido, cause weight gain, exhaustion and affects memory. It’s a monthly injection. But with that shot I do not hear or see, like Tommy at the mirror, and society is pleased and I am allowed to walk around freely. Schizo. I like my mind.
The psychologist answered me, “I believe there is no prophecy today. There won’t be. There are ways God behaves. It’s written in texts. He does not deviate from that behavior.” I, as a secular person, believe God is infinite and not bound by text. I also think he’s pretty cool. But on we go…
I asked the shrink what he would do if he woke up tomorrow in a hospital and was told everything he says about being a psychologist is not real. It’s in his mind. The past year of his life is the lie of an illness. Accept this as truth or never leave this hospital. You are not to determine what is real. We do. He said the thought of that scared him immensely.
I get a chemical lobotomy once a month. I am required to by a court order due to a minor infraction during my year of happy fun time psychosis. I one day while on a secret mission picked up and walked away with someone’s car keys at a coffee shop. I was arrested by Yassam counter-terror cops. There was a video of me walking away with the keys. I did not steal a car. I thought I was in a different reality – I had not yet learned how to understand what I was hearing and seeing – and thought I was in some kind of intelligence exercise and I picked up someone’s keys. I thought I was in the Shin Beit or Mossad.
I only spoke English to the police. I told them I was a tourist from Canada. I ignored everything in Hebrew. Ignoring a language you understand is an incredible challenge. I never ‘blew my cover.’ I was an agent who’d been caught. So I thought. So I made up a story. Just like the movie…
I was interrogated a number of times. I told the police I got a ride to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. They asked with who. From the corner of my eye I saw a police roster and one of the names was Yuri. “Yuri,” I said. Another question and I stole a last name from a different poster on the wall. I was asked where I’d been and took the name off a poster on a second wall, behind the detective. And I kept going and taking things from posters and making it all up, my story of being a Canadian tourist and who I’d met and where I was going — from the posters.
Yes, I Keyser Soze’d the Israel Police and they never noticed.
I spent six days in jail. My brother filed a missing persons report and they found out who I was. So I experienced that. Good experience to write about sometime. Jail is far preferable to the mental hospitals. Far preferable. And then I was charged and had to go to court. That took a while. I was medicated and went to the regional psychiatrist, who has enormous power, and told him what had happened. He reported to the court.
I was found not guilty due to being schizo or some reason and then the prosecutor requested mandatory psychiatric supervision. I was never violent. The judge sentenced me, after finding me not guilty, to three years supervision. Funny, huh?
During this period I must receive an injection every month, among other things. If I stop taking the injection, they tell the regional psychiatrist who can order me picked up. I could be incarcerated in a hospital even if a-symptomatic.
Wipe the mind — don’t teach it.
I saw a Ted Talk with an anthropologist who travelled from Afghanistan to Africa and around the world, interviewing shaymen in tribal communities. They repeated similar stories. At a certain age, they began seeing and hearing things. They were taken by their family to their shayman. He or she understood what it was and taught them how to live with their reality. They did not become psychotic. They became important to their people.
Certain parts of the world value people like me. Others call us sick. It’s simply how are minds work. The older world seems to know how to teach people to live with it and not medicate away the personality, the soul in the mind. The West apparently has no interest in learning teaching rather than medication as a method to live with schizophrenia. I include all Jewish spiritual leadership in that categorization. They cannot afford to allow someone like me to be even investigated as special in some way — even if some kabbalists say we schizos see and hear the hidden — because I, personally, haven’t 40 years of Torah study to justify God choosing me to talk to angels and the like. A Breslover guy I know thinks every one of my experiences was real including talking with God and he is not part of their system. Different strokes for different folks.
My mind gets wiped once a month with an injection and I’m allowed to walk around free. I manage to work a few shifts a week, live in poverty and have very little opportunity due to the stigma schizos receive. I served in the infantry. I did around 15 years of miluim, reserves. I used to write news before I developed schizoaffective disorder, including for The Times of Israel.
I guess my skill is writing and it’s hard to find work in that. I cannot work in news, obviously. And I need to make more money; the state disability is barely enough. I have weeks day to day figuring out how to buy food or smokes. Then it’s easier, then it’s harder. I used to hear God say to me, “I’m working on something, Shmuel, it’s going to be big. I can’t tell you. But I’m working on something.” So it’s hard now; at some point, it’ll get better. But the injection kills ambition. I’m forcing myself to write this piece this morning because I haven’t written in a while. We’ll see how it’s received.
I write short novels inspired by my experiences and have no way to network and try to find someone to read them because I do not exist in professional circles. I’m not good with professional behavior. I may appear different or weird or a bit manic or down. I could cold-email what I wrote to someone, sure. A few people who have read one of my novels were blown away when understanding the mind it came from, a year in psychosis in Jerusalem. I think Etgar Keret might appreciate it if he’d like to chill with a Jerusalem schizo Keyser Soze for an hour, or grab a beer and talk shop. Who knows. I like how he thinks. He wrote one of the best things I ever read. Dark, true, hilarious. Like psychosis.
I haven’t written in months. The meds got me depressed last few weeks. This is the first I’ve put down in a while.
One day, I’ll go off the injection. No more imprisoning my personality and making life grey and boring, but without hallucinations. I’ll stop the meds like in the movie, A Beautiful Mind, and see what happens. Of course, after the period of supervision I was sentenced to after being found not guilty.
Then I will be myself. Until then, to stay free, I will continue to feel my mind dissected, caged and erased once a month. Court order. After being found not guilty. Nice win, prosecution. I have a good psychiatrist. She understood immediately what I was describing when I told her why I hate the meds.
But Allah hu’Akbar. God is infinite. Maybe better is ahead. And when I’m between shots I’m me. I remember so much. I brighten up. I feel.
Then the shot, the lobotomy. Wipe the mind.
Maybe Israel could learn from the shayman. We have none at the rabbinate or hospital.
I Keyser Soze’d the cops and they still have no idea. Don’t call me ill. Ill feels like what the shot does to me. I’m not sick nor was I ever. My mind just works differently.
I Keyser Soze’d the cops. I have a beautiful mind.