Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Devil Made Me Do It

     I majored in journalism at UNC and took all the requirements for psychology, too. Journalism was easy because I had been writing for my hometown newspaper since my junior year of high school.
     Feature stories are my favorite, but I have a knack for being where the action is, so I report news, too. Until a few years ago, I never focused on one particular issue.
     After recording page after page of messy notes, I go home and write as soon possible while everything is still fresh on my mind. If I wait too long, it isn't the same and my writing suffers. I'll get back to that later.
    Throughout college, I continued to have "spells," maybe four or five or three or six each month, in no predictable pattern but usually clustered together. There was no change in how long they lasted or the weirdness of the entire experience. It was just something that happened to me. I didn't sit around in my dorm room trying to figure myself out because it didn't stopping me from doing anything. I was too busy out there living!
     My roommates knew because sometimes it happened when I was driving. My instincts told me to slow down or even try pull over, but that wasn't usually possible. By the time I changed lanes or whatever, it had passed and I was completely, mentally back in my car in Chapel Hill again.
     When I'm driving, I try incredibly hard to NOT think about some things, like what I dreamed about the night before or where a song on the radio is taking me in my memory. If I suddenly get a deja vu feeling about ANYTHING, I force myself to snap out of it right away before I get lost in there. (That was a hint.) Letting my mind wander can be dangerous when I'm behind the wheel because I can't always get it back again. 
     Psychology classes were much more interesting than journalism, by the way, especially abnormal psych and childhood development. I was fascinated with Freud and appalled by Skinner.
     My older sister, Grace, gave me a DSM-III for Christmas one year. (It's the book used to diagnose mental illnesses.) I had memorized most of it by the time I graduated but still couldn't find an explanation for what was going on in my head.
     I wasn't even sure if I wanted it to stop happening, but I needed to solve the mystery of what it was to ease my worries that someday one of my trips could take me away to a place I couldn't come back from.
     In my searching for self-diagnosis, I determined that my "spells" were not panic attacks. There's a sense of impending doom in the beginning, sometimes, but then I enjoy the trip...or at least I think I do, from what I can remember.
     When I come back, my body is in worse shape but my mood is elevated. I don't care that I'm sweaty and tired because somewhere deep inside me, I know it was worth it.
     I studied everything I could about schizophrenia and ruled it out, too. At the time, I believed it to be an illness one could  "come down with" in their twenties, like a bad cold that never goes away. It's more complicated than that.
     If what I have described so far isn't mental illness, what's left?

     Halloween Hint:   For centuries, people like me were thought to be possessed by The Devil. Exorcists have tried to force Him out of us, but it doesn't work.
     The only way to get it out of us is to go deep inside our brains and cut it out.
     Do you know what I am yet?
     I'll tell you tomorrow.