Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

"Therapists use cognitive behavior therapy techniques to help individuals challenge their patterns and beliefs and replace "errors in thinking such as overgeneralizing, magnifying negatives, minimizing positives and catastrophizing" with "more realistic and effective thoughts, thus decreasing emotional distress and self-defeating behavior"

The element of this passage that stand out is "catastrophizing". I don't know if I overgeneralize much...I'm acutely aware that I can do this to defend my pitiful ideals. I do magnify negatives, but I wonder if it's justified when those negatives include the decimation of all natural forms of life to be replaced by Apple Corporation robots....yes? Same goes for turning things into a catastrophe.

I've definitely met a few people who were classic examples of this trait. I rented a room to a dying artist in Los Angeles. He had AIDS, all his friends and lovers had died. Judging by the porn he left behind, I guess he was gay once. He had lost his job, all his savings...his health...he had a dog and some old model train sets. I actually wrote a full length stage play with him as a character. He had stories to tell that made himself out to be the victim of the most insane catastrophes ever. And I was indifferent mostly to his past; he had a piano and was interesting and pathetic so I rented him the room. What followed could fill a book of crazy tales that I don't want to deal with right now. Suffice to say it did not work out and I'm certain he's dead now. The highlight was his crashing a full size moving truck into the house.

Anyway, I'm sure he felt that his life was, in fact, a catastrophe. But the way the stories were told made him to be the victim...and I think that's the symptom therapists look for. It is true that getting a fatal disease IS a catastrophe. Who can argue with that? But the victimization syndrome is a separate issue and this guy took it to an extreme.
I remember laughing because everyone kept saying, "Oggy, why did you rent a room to a dying, hysterical, unemployed gay artist?"
My answer was defensive, "Right, so it's MY fault he shit in his pants and threw the pants into the corner of his room to rot. I'm responsible for that."

I think my point was that I don't take any responsibility for his action. None. He was fucked up, not me. I made a bad decision based on what followed but I did not personally drive his moving truck into the side of the house or hang 200 pounds of cooking pots over the sink on a rack that eventually broke in half and fell onto the faucet, breaking it off and flooding the kitchen. He did that. He glued a bookshelf to the wall. He put Christmas decorations all over the front fence and then lit them on fire. I'm not going to victimize myself and you aren't going to hold me responsible for him being fucked up.



The other person was in Corpus Christi, when the roles had reversed and I was the broke, unemployed artist, starving in a Walmart parking lot and actually dying from heat and exhaustion while the police closed their net around me. I posted a desperate plea on Craigslist for help...any help...a place to park the van...a water hose...in exchange for any of my skills. I'm unconventional because I see the conventional path as totally destructive. It's actually been scientifically proven to be driving the planet toward decimation. So, sorry if I remove my sheep's clothing and walk around naked.

So, who answers my desperate plea? A schizophrenic woman in the final suicidal stages of hoarding and self abuse...her stories were honestly better than the gay artist in Los Angeles. She was the most insane person I've ever associated with. I've seen dozens of David Lynch movies and dramatizations of insane people, hoarders, demented lunatics, criminally insane, but none of them approach the reality of the situation. I recently watched "Silver Linings Playbook" and it was such a complete joke. The pretty main couple are supposedly depressed and bi-polar and unbalanced and maladjusted. HAHAHAHA. What that movie presented as crazy and OCD did not remotely compare to what this woman was capable of. She actually saved cat shit on the premise that throwing it away was introducing poison into the waste stream...and she had a dozen cats. The three toothbrushes she had on her repulsive kitchen windowsill were coated with cockroach shit. I gagged when I threw them into the trashbag. AND SHE PUSHED ME ASIDE AND DOVE INTO THE TRASH BAG TO RETRIEVE THEM.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING, OGGY? I USE THOSE TOOTHBRUSHES TO CLEAN THE SINK."

Clean the sink? When? In 1980? The kitchen hadn't been cleaned since Jimmy Carter was president. I couldn't see the bottom of the sink because it was filled to the brim with roach shit and dirty dishes and cat shit...and the entire time she would vacillate between a completely berserk hoarder shuffling old newspapers and wrapping dirty plates in triple bubble wrap so they wouldn't get broken...and this dreamy hippie girl who listened to Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow AT TOP VOLUME and danced and yelled, "LISTEN TO THIS PART, OGGY! REALLY LISTEN!"
Those were only two of her personalities. Another personality was the "Woman in therapy" and this was where the "catastrophizing" entered. The husband who had broken her neck. The boyfriend of he stripper daughter who burned her car up. The cat who got run over by a garbage truck. The still births...the electric company conspiracy...aliens...environmental catastrophe...Republicans...God. She had an imaginary arch nemesis she called "Murphy" as in Murphy's Law.
"So I got in my car to go to my first day on the job and, wouldn't you know it, Murphy had been messing with my ignition and the car wouldn't start. Then it broke down on the bridge and I got rear-ended by a septic tank vacuum truck. MURPHY!"
She actually would yell "MURPHY!" and shake her fist at the ceiling...all while getting an inch from my face and sweating and smoking Pall Mall unfiltered cigarettes and throwing old mismatched shoes into a box marked "Donate" which she would immediately empty again and start all over again...then back to Jorma Kaukonen's loud guitar work...then back to the kitchen to empty the trash bag I'd filled with broken glass, "This can still be used!!"...then outside to feed the stray cats...then an arguing match with the neighbor over rats...then 5 minutes on a broken 1970 lawnmower she thought needed a tune up...then shrieking "MURPHY!" when a rusted bolt stripped. She had a macrame noose hanging from nails on the wall. She had turned the main water off because a single bathtub faucet gasket needed to be replaced...thus nothing got washed.

Mental illness movies are ruined permanently for me because I've seen it right in my face, I've smelled it, I know it, and no movie is going to capture it. I would've been scared but honestly, I had recently lost my eyesight to the Gulf Coast oil pollution syndrome and had no money or prospects...so I was indifferent...."It wasn't a good match" I like to say in polite company. If I want to be unconventional then I'm going to meet unconventional people, including the mentally ill. Ikea-buying fuckwads who manage Target panty departments aren't going to mingle with my freakish kind.

Maybe the real motives behind my cognitive illness is the understanding that writing requires some kind of drama. So I've concentrated on the dramatic, and ignored the mundane. Drama is the conflict between the ideal and the reality...and I concentrate on the conflict because that's my bread and butter. I've sacrificed contentment for a never-ending source of material. No writer tells happy tales with no problems. The bigger the problem the more deft the writer has to be in dealing with it. I've chose big game and it's taken a long time to develop the technique to tango with the devil.

The main reason I researched cognitive behavior therapy is because it's a treatment for Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, which is causing all kinds of problems in my life right now. I think I've reached the warranty limit on my knee and joints and it's all falling apart. But I'm not bitter. I've cultivated the memories and experiences I wanted. There are no more mountains to climb. I've got a conventional job that doesn't require too much labor. I've even got health insurance and might use it to get my knee worked on. TMJ is horrible but it'll pass or I'll die with it. It's not a catastrophe. This fragile body is worn out.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.