An Unreliable Narrator

In high school, my literature class was assigned to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I hated the class, and had a bad case of “senioritis,” which resulted in me doing a lot of doodles on my assignments rather than reading the actual material. I had, however, read this particular book a few times before the assignment.

The class was set up as a Socratic seminar and participation points were part of the grade, which led to a lot of my classmates spouting nonsense just to get their points for talking about the book. Ultimately, the discussion led to the question of whether Chief Bromden, the protagonist, was a “reliable narrator.”

Chief Bromden pretends to be “deaf and dumb,” in the novel and is suggested to be a paranoid schizophrenic. The novel is told in the first-person through his perspective. My class finally concluded that Bromden was not a reliable narrator as his perception of reality was skewed. Basically, he was “crazy.”

Recently, someone pointed out to me that I had misrepresented them. I was so sure that what I had written was accurate, but this is not the first time I have shown someone in an unflattering light. When I wrote the story of the best friend who turned me onto drugs, this friend wasn’t happy with me and asked me to take the article down, which I did.

So now I’m wondering: am I a reliable narrator? I realize that I pretty much always operate on the assumption that people hate me, want to change me, and are mad at me. This colors the way I perceive my interactions. What I remember from past conversations may not always be accurate.

I was so sure that I remembered what happened with this person. I replayed their words (or at least, what I thought their words were) over and over in my head, taking it as confirmation of my own negative beliefs about myself, like a mantra.

Then, I was told that this was not true, that it never happened, which left me questioning myself. Perhaps part of the reason I may have heard something that wasn’t actually said was because I’d been up for nearly 30 hours and was in the middle of a manic episode unlike anything I’d ever experienced before when this conversation took place.

When meeting a new psychiatrist, it is best not to yell at him.

I cannot say I am thrilled to be back in treatment. I feel like a “revolving door patient,” never staying out of a hospital or other mental health center for long. I know this is what’s best for me right now, but I’d still rather be living a normal life.

The first day of treatment was overwhelming. The program is an intensive outpatient program; we meet three nights a week for three hours. I missed the meat of the group the first night because I got pulled out to see the psychiatrist. He was cold, brusque, and generally unpleasant. I also did not like being put in a windowless room with a man I did not know.

I wonder if my doctor at home telling me I need treatment has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It seems my symptoms have worsened since being told I’m “too sick” for my previous level of care.

Regardless, by the time I saw this new doctor, I was an anxious mess. He wasted no time, barely even said hello, before plunging right into the nitty-gritty of my mental health. “Tell me about your delusions,” he said.

I am so tired of people referring to my truths as delusions. I’m tired of playing nice and going along with condescending doctors who tell me that my reality is “impossible.” I’m tired of saying, “Yes, of course I know it’s not real,” when doctors weasel their way into the corners of my brain, corners I’d rather keep private, spaces that are mine and mine alone.

At this point, I just completely lost my mind. “I don’t know you!” I shouted at the doctor. “How am I supposed to talk to you?”

He seemed nonplussed by this and said, “How am I supposed to treat you if I don’t know what your symptoms are?”

Still, I couldn’t tell him the “weird” stuff. I mumbled something about seeing ghosts, which is a recent development for me. He wanted to know what they look like. How does one describe a ghost?

Eventually he switched gears and started lecturing me about sleep hygiene. I hate trying to fall asleep because lying alone in bed feels to vulnerable. So, I stay up until I simply can’t anymore. I sleep with a night light or leave the fish tank light on, which the doctor advised against. When I really can’t fall asleep, I listen to “Myriad Creatures” by Pulsar47 (a band that I’ve never been able to find any information on, save for that one song), and breathe along with the beat. The doctor also said this was a bad idea.

Finally, a tech walked me back to the group. We watched an incredibly creepy video that is still tugging at my mind. As we discussed it, someone brought up the inner child, and I completely shut down.

I suppose it can only go up from here.

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