Transmuting Psychosis into Artistic Inspiration

This post today will resemble more of a personal journal entry.  But there will be an overarching point to take away from…


Let me confide in you one of my greatest challenges regarding psychosis.  In January of 2011, I was employed at a private school in Brooklyn (which had a spiritual foundation), as a classroom music teacher.  I gave classes to scores of rowdy children, and became increasingly tired at their lack of cooperation.  The philosophy of the school also was a burden, because I was expected to treat each child like a little pearl of specialness.  It was exhausting.

My boss at the time criticized my classroom behavioral management skills, and at one point sent me to a training program.  But it was all in vain.  Not that I was beyond help… but rather, I had been doing my absolute best, and that was not good enough.

Halfway through the year, my boss gave me a meditation practice to do, in order to “ground me.”  When preparing myself mentally to do this, I then developed a psychotic notion: I suddenly believed myself to be the reincarnation of Beethoven.  I also then fixated on a male staff member, fancying him to be my soulmate… the “Immortal Beloved” from Beethoven’s famed letters to an unknown soulmate.

I then believed that I had a karmic duty, to unite myself to this soul mate so that we could enter Nirvana, achieve Enlightenment.  I broke down further, and eventually ended up in the hospital.  I was let go from the job, and was reduced to Square Zero, yet again.

I’ve come a long way since then.  I now can work full time, without losing my job.  However… this weekend proved challenging again, regarding Mr. Beethoven.  This past Friday afternoon, I was playing away at my violin, enjoying the process of improving my skill on pieces… Beethoven Violin Sonata Op. 12, No. 1, the Spring Sonata (Op. 12, No. 5), and then some Mendelssohn Violin concerto.  My motor skills have improved, so it was nice to utilize them.

Even though I eventually started thinking of Beethoven, I explored trying to channel those thoughts into my music making.  Maybe, I could channel the psychosis into my playing, maybe transmuting it into inspiration.  In conservatory, I was often told, “Play that part playfully,” or “Come up with a story.”  These suggestions meant bollocks to me, but now I figure, maybe… when I play this passage, I can imagine a memory of Beethoven’s, where he is looking at his fancied love twirling on a dance floor in a lilac poofy dress.  The music would then communicate the happiness in his heart.

But is it dangerous for me to delve deeper into these experiences?  Will I get lost in a false reality, as I fear?  I must tread lightly and tenderly in this explorative quest.  It may not work out in the end, and I must make sure that I do not destroy myself in this process.  My mother remarked today, that it is likely that the sound of the violin under my ear prompts a chemical change in my brain that is distressing.  I agree.  I often get psychotic delusions when I play the instrument, and also I have experiences where it seems as if my violin/viola is talking to me, giving me messages.

Regarding this past weekend, I had some bad backlash after my practice session.  I ventured out to do some Karaoke with friends, and ran into an acquaintance of mine from when I attended music college to get a teaching certificate.  The friend then invited me to play a curious piece written by Beethoven for viola and guitar.  Beethoven incidentally was a violist, and he wrote the piece for a woman who was a guitarist, so that they could play together.

You see the quandary here.

I’ve had many of these “coincidental” experiences over the years.  With all the religious types crawling around these days, many believe that “all things happen for a reason.”  Yet this believe is pure poison in my veins.  What meaning could this invitation have for me?  Only a destructive one.  The man was nice enough in his offer, but the damage was done.  I sat at the bar watching muted sports games, sang a bit, went home.  I overate before bed, due to stress (lentil soup and sweet potatoes).

The next day (today), I woke up after the sun had set, and my body and mind were shaking.  I did some chores with my mom, rationally motivating myself to remain active instead of simply wadding myself into my bed in fetal position.  But I had a pained look on my face, I was ranting about peer specialist political actions and fighting stigma, and my body was shaking.  Upstairs, I popped an Ativan, and drank the lemon water.  Lemon water has truly become my medicine.  I began to normalize again.

What is the meaning of this?  Was I triggered by practicing violin?  The guitarist’s invitation?  Overeating?  Probably a mixture of it all.

I want to play violin again.  Somehow, some way.  But I don’t know if it’s possible anymore.  I want to try though.  I want to get so strong, that I can play violin and collaborate with friends.  I have another friend, a pianist, who I LOVE to meet for reading sessions.  I’d like to try Mozart violin sonatas, etc.

I love classical music terribly, and the notion of giving it up to preserve my mental health saddens me.  It’s a battle, it’s a war, but now… I’m strong.  I’m strong because I know about the peer movement, and about the recovery model.  I’m strong, because I know that my illness is not a death sentence.  I am empowered by my friends who believe in me.  Who support me.

Maybe one day, Beethoven can simply be a wellspring for imagination and inspiration.  But… it is one step back, two steps forward.  And maybe each step will take a week, a month… it is nothing to be rushed.


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