fear

Early intervention for psychosis

FEP

Relatability

In a previous post, “I Think I’ll Forego Exposure Therapy,” I wrote about my fear of garbage disposals and hinted at my wobbly relationship with retaining walls. While these fears mean little in any world other than my own (and certainly mean less-than-little when compared with genuine life-and-death fears so many people endure day in and day out around the globe), I was trying, in my own adorably sardonic way, to get at something larger, deeper — and more relatable: that we all of us are inhabited by irrational fears that arise and withdraw seemingly of their own volition.

Where they reside when they are not making mischief is a great mystery. And even more interesting is why we have ended up with our unique configurations of fears in the first place. (Granted, though, that dread of being eaten alive seems a very reasonable terror if you happen to live in close proximity to tigers that enter your village at night in search of food.)

And/or

But fear of clowns? Or fear of parakeets, trees, rain, the color yellow, belly buttons, the pope, the number 13, beards, and holes — all well-documented phobias. From whence do these come? And what purpose do they serve individually and collectively?

Although my irrational fear of garbage disposals tilts in the direction of delusion because mine is clearly a false belief about the power these gadgets have over me, I actually live outside this belief and can laugh at myself whenever the fear tries to take hold.

Psychosis

For those who live with psychosis, however, these fears and delusions are all too real and intractable. Without early intervention and treatment, they daily live with what can be debilitating delusions, hallucinations, thought disorders, and other symptoms — with the onset of these symptoms typically occurring in those who are between ages 16 and 25.

Hope

Having worked since last summer with young adults in this age range who have experienced their first episode of psychosis, I have seen firsthand that, if treatment begins early, there is every hope they can be spared a lifetime of disability and can go on to live fulfilling, healthy lives.

For resources about first-episode psychosis programs, click HERE.

“I decline to accept the end of man.” (William Faulkner)

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award [the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1949] was not made to me as a man, but to my work — a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed — love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

From Nobel Lectures1969