Maundy Thursday. In the night I wake coughing – side effects I think, but perhaps I also caught a minor cold on the train back on Wednesday. Paracodeine (given to me by Antonio, a couple of years ago – I had the flu in Zürich, missed most of the classes that month; on the last day Antonio, who is also a cardiologist, wanted to meet at a café before he went home to Milan – I kept coughing, he finally threw up his hands and said, Enough!, got up and walked into the pharmacy next door, wrote a prescription for this codeine...) – it helps, the cough gradually winds to a stop, and I sleep...
Good Friday. I wake, only a bit groggy, coughing intermittently; wonder should I cancel my one analysand today... The news mentions a largest bomb, non-nuclear; I make tea. A few minutes before she arrives I am dressed and presentable, the middle room vacuumed. We return to a dream from the previous week, her church and its stresses, old emotions and managing strategies, and I say: it's Good Friday, an interesting day to look deeply into this – getting in touch with the fear seems terrible, like death, descending to hell, but then....
When she leaves, I am steadier but still a bit tired, and so sleep on the sofa for an hour. I wake remembering – something, some dream fragment now evaporated – and I realise – thirty years ago this month, April 1987: I was thirty years old. Diagnosed HIV+ at the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre in Los Angeles. The psych student volunteer who gave me my results was in training to be a Jungian analyst, and I agreed to start analysis with him, which would continue for five years. I gave up on composing forever, after finishing a set of small songs based on Japanese death haiku. And I won a travel grant from UCLA to spend three months in New York, finally meeting some famous composers I'd always wanted to work with... a visit where, walking home from the bars late at night, I saw the black-painted storefront of the Theatre for the Ridiculous covered with flowers and candles and cards, mourning Charles Ludlam after he died of AIDS.
How could I have forgotten all that?...
Back to the Saturday before Easter week. In the middle of the day I am angry, astoundingly grim with M. and D. as we sit having lunch on a lovely sunny day. They put up with me somehow, eyebrows raising as they look at me.
That evening I go to a bar where R. and F. are celebrating R.'s birthday – everyone is there, and glad: glad to see each other, glad to be here. At one point I am euphorically happy, sitting on a bench at the small dyke bar that we pass through later... I go home a bit earlier than the others, and sleep deeply.
Such changing emotions. What charged energies have been appearing, what dominoes falling, in these weeks?...
Palm Sunday. The previous week's analysis session was so charged, so emotional: not because of any story or memory, but because it reached into something... too hard to explain, I'll leave it aside. I'm not surprised when I start to remember intense fragments of dreams, after months of remembering almost nothing – although I am surprised at their elemental incoherence: not stories, but a more basic level, from unexplored distant islands of the unconscious. I record:
At one point I’m looking at myself – that me is facing or looking at something else; from my viewpoint I see myself sideways. Later there is some kind of electronic gate between us; he/I tries to come through it towards me, somehow in a threatening or dangerous way, and is horribly burned: it is an electric fence of some kind – he will be very deformed when he recovers…
I have a sense of seeing myself split off in some way (which seems connected to last week, and to Legion, with its schizoid subpersonalities and possessions.) I’m not upset when he’s burned, I’m relieved that he can’t get at me.
Monday. I wake impatient with myself: email all three editors, apologising – briefly (a couple of weeks ago I got a bit hilarious with an analysand who was apologising, telling him: you can say sorry just once to me, you know, you don't need to take care of me; my impatience folding out across work and life). All three editors respond within an hour, not irritated – kind, but clear: you're still okay, but not for much longer. A sense of easy clarity: anxiety recedes.
Another dream fragment, just as vivid, but from a very different direction.
A recurrent image; comes up twice, as I wake twice on the same morning – some television travelogue about something called a cughol or kughol, something that looks like archaic Korean. The narrator describes pots for fire or for food, or both – they are on pillars, about one and a half to two feet high with a covered bowl on top, all pottery or with wood or reeds beneath – they seem to have been floated on rivers or the sea, weighted to stay upright, with fires burning in them – they are seed, which is obviously both symbolic and physical here.
That morning, I launch into the third article, the one that is the least finished but soonest due: and then there are five pages of... well, stuff: it needs to be made coherent. But there is something being said.
Ash Wednesday. I awake and push myself through the morning, some combination of impatient efficiency and – well, frankly, weakness: my hands are shaking slightly, if I could I would just lie down. Though I am wondering, should I cancel the train to Sheffield for analysis, I keep getting ready – print two copies of the dreams, microwave frittata for the black bento box, shower, even some actual shaving (okay, trimming). I leave, exasperated that I have to get on the train at all –
Table seat, computer. After some reasonable work and email answering, the pad and ebooks. By the time I arrive I am no longer shaky, though I intend to talk about my circumstantial irritation....
In the room, I tell him that I had a doctor's appointment, and was frustrated by my doctor's disinterest in side effects. For nearly a year I'm talked of changing doctors in some oblique way that won't annoy anyone (okay, only one person might be annoyed); as I'm speaking, I think: to hell with it, I'll just do it.
My analyst, who retired from psychiatry in the NHS last year because of his own health, says: you have looked jaundiced at times lately; it would be good to have someone paying attention to that.
Other people keep trying to treat me either as ill, or as not ill: which doesn’t work – I’m partly both, and battling over doing things and not doing things, being energetic or not, is exhausting. B. laughs in recognition: his MS has given him the same experience – people have such an exaggerated capitalist sense of working all the time, or doing nothing, they can't simply... back off, be flexible. I remember first being in Darmstadt, in Berlin, in a villa outside Rome, and seeing that continentals don't feel they have to work all the time... they do far better work, too....
B. is very interested in the dreams. Technical discussions: dissociation, charged emotion. I think of Kime's lecture two years ago, his startling approach to shadow: that it is dissociated fragments of memory and self that have been lost to time and consciousness. Such fragments may not seem dark or dangerous, just... incoherent.
We talk through the first dream, my psychotic self, the electric fence. B.: This is the defense. P.: watching him isn’t connecting emotionally – we are really detached, there is no sense of twinning or anything like that. B.: You’re really frightened of him… You know, it must be terrifying to be a sub-personality: no one else even sees you. P.: It's like the image from Legion: a personality locked in a box, underground. B.: The defense system is so powerful that it burns him. P.: And in Legion, as he tries to marshal his strength, the enemy becomes exactly as strong, because....
B. asks me to feel my way into it.
I do what seems the only thing there is to do: this howling, scarred fragment of rage, that is just like me, that is me: I reach for him – imagined production values recall various television and film images: crackling with power, irregular explosions, amazingly chaotic noise – things exploding off shelves – pull him in to me. (The real and present me is tearing up). I hold him, it’s the only solution and the right thing to do. It’s like holding a horribly wounded animal or child – I don’t expect him to understand, I’m the one who must hold him, because I’m the conscious/human one: he/I is only a lost fragment that doesn't exist in time, or reason.
P.: The abbot’s story was also about dissociation: I am arrogant and careless, not paying attention – it’s not until everyone is dead and I’m sitting bleeding to death, and can’t do anything except remember and understand, that I am forced into awareness. B.: the electric fence – trying to keep out this part of yourself – in the same way the abbot dissociated when talking to the pirates; but there comes that moment where it turns around and you can’t avoid it any more. P.: This is the chunk of raw emotion that stands behind the abbot – raw because thoroughly unconscious, unprocessed.
I am extremely tired, sitting here, in this room. The room is saturated with a sense of recognition: I realise why I have been so impatient with everyone else, for weeks – this is so important that they mustn't distract me.
B.: that is the electric fence.
A sense that both dreams are from the same place – opposite in terms of light and dark, but at the same deep level: and one of them opens up the other. The second, almost Vedic – old rituals, life, fire: I wouldn't have dreamed of that, unless I had dreamed the electric fence, the burning body and raw screaming face....
Legion is a useful source of images: especially because so much of the processes suggest intense dissociation – it does of course add ideas of invasion, magic, superpowers, but the writers are rather casual about all that, and are clearly really going for complexes, dissociation, the schizoid....
After the session, going home on the train, I can still sense that raw pain that isn’t caused by anything – which is what makes it raw, and why reason doesn't touch it: it is a chunk of unaware darkness, unconnected to time or memory.
Good Friday. In the evening, after a relaxed Skype with M. and R. – who have become so comfortable together, and M. is always smiling when we speak these days... I make a mixed rice with smoked salmon and leftover vegetables; it feels like comfort. I sit and write in front of the television.
To bed. The same images arise, as they have for the past three nights:
Then what do you do?
I hold him.
And, as I have been doing, easily, as the most natural thing in the world, I roll onto my side in bed, holding him still... until we sleep....