Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Mike's Story Part 40 - Dangerous Books

By Jenna Orkin    

January 15, 2007
  "I'm going to need help today," Mike said this morning at breakfast. I already knew that, from his silence and the resoluteness with which he chewed his toast, revealing no pleasure, just grim determination.
  A couple of hours later he couldn't take it anymore and called his outpatient psychiatrist.

  "She said what I already knew. I'm only on 600 mg of Lithium. I can take another one!"

  This simple knowledge so cheered him, he didn't even seem to need the pill anymore. But he took it just in case and remained sanguine until this afternoon when he cracked his Nutrition for Bi-Polar book, read a page and threw the book down in disgust.

  I read the passage which described a man escorting the single casket containing the bodies of his late wife and their seven-year-old son.

  "I didn't need to read that," Mike said, crying. "Damn it!" 

  He paced the floor. "That's not uplifting. I wanted to read about what foods to eat to avoid depression.

  "What it is, is... I'd been holding out the thought of suicide as a possibility. But this makes it impossible. There are too many people who love me. They'd be left with questions. For the rest of their lives, they'd wonder if there was something they could have done.

  'You'd understand and forgive me but..."

  The book had thrown him off balance. But if he was so quickly able to dispense with me as an obstacle, he'd probably be able to talk himself out of the others too.

  Another piece of unpleasant news arrived via email: Barry Silverthorn has checked the inventory FTW sent him; 260 items are missing.

  "Out of how many?" I asked.

  "I don't know!" Mike wailed. It's always a gamble asking him anything. He takes the question as an assault, just as he took the anecdote in the nutrition book. I've told him he has porous boundaries.

  "I think a lot of the problem is honor," I said.

  "No kidding! My honor's been compromised and I have no control. The Japanese call it..." I can't remember the name, which sounds like "Hoboken."

  "I thought it was harikiri."

  "That's the act. And sepuku."

  "It's as though you'd be saying, 'Look, I'm suffering too. Forgive me. You've lost some money but just to show you I'm honorable, I'll give up my life.'"
   He dealt with the email, the only immediate task on his agenda, and turned to the subject of his novel.  Why was he finding it so hard?

   "Traditionally in fiction, a writer's first book is a loosely disguised memoir of his or her youth," I said.  "What does she do for an encore? It's sometimes hard to decide on a subject.

   'Rubicon was the product of the first thirty years of your adult life. You're now facing that same 'blank slate' problem."

   He seems more chipper now but it's known that suicidal people may become more lighthearted just before killing themselves; they've planned their exit.
   "Libby's wife is a real lefty," I remark, reading an article about the jury-selection process in the Scooter Libby trial.

   "If you read his background about his anti-Vietnam protests," answers Mike, "it reads like he was CIA spying on the left."

   That makes sense. But then, is he spying on his wife or is she a spy too? I don't ask.

   Mike's outpatient psychiatrist is not sure about his diagnosis: Apart from the fact that the onset of his "illness" wasn't until age 55, he's suffered so much trauma this year that all his symptoms may be attributable to PTSD.

  Mike's thrilled and has metaphorically thrown out the two books he was assiduously, if with macabre interest, engrossed in for the past two days: One called something like "Manic Depression and You," the other, which was supposed to be about nutritional antidotes, depressed him even more because it grew out of the author's family history.
c. January 20, 2007
"There was a horse, Baron.  Maybe if I’d groomed him more, I’d have been more balanced and none of this would have happened.  But it played the way it played.

   'I only went to see him three times.  The bond was so close, it was scary." 

   We watched CNN.  "They’re going to impeach Bush," Mike said.  "That could mean Cheney too.  That’s why the Libby trial is important.  Maybe this is why it was delayed.  This is some kind of step in setting up a new world order. Who’s in line after Bush and Cheney?"


   “Right.” He looked at me in disbelief at the notion.  “This could be a step in setting up a military dictatorship.”

   Jay Rockefeller came on, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

   “I wonder how much the Intelligence Committee is told,” I said.

   “A lot.  They sign an agreement not to disclose anything about what they hear to anyone, with draconian measures if they don’t adhere.  They can go to jail for the rest of their lives with no pension."

   The New Yorker cover features a cartoon of Bush fiddling while Rome burns.

   Mike observes, “I’m having the thought – and if I have it two more times when sober, it could become a reality – that if this goes on, my time may not be over, I could be back in the game.”

   “You’d only do that if you had hope it could do some good.”

   “If I thought it would be worth the risk.” 

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