Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/21/2009

A Tyranny of Over-Stimulation

The new plan for sanity

The new plan for sanity

Yesterday my psychiatrist (yes, folks, it may come as a surprise, but most of us bipolar folks are in the care of such a person, and some of us epileptic folks are too—fortunately mine and my [funny how we take ownership of them] neurologist are on the faculty of the same medical school and even talk to one another) suggested that I need some time every day without brain stimulation. No computer, no cell phone, no TV, no radio, no conversation, no—

I don’t think that’s possible. What would my poor hypergraphic mind do?

To say nothing of my isolationist psyche that, in a perfect world, would have contact only with the people I want to see, and that only on my terms. How could I possibly screen not only my calls, but my handshakes, hugs, student conferences, colleague interaction, “fun” with friends—

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t filter all of my “interpersonal relationships.” I’m talking about a “perfect world.” But you can ask my friends (I have many) and family (we are a close-knit and loving tribe) how conscientious I am about returning phone calls or how eager I am to go to parties, to spend a quiet evening with friends, or even to go on a date (horrors! at my age?). Sometimes I think I live a vicarious life in which I “let [my] fingers do the walking” and electronics do the talking. And to the extent that’s true, my brain with all of its misfirings and miscommunications is happy. (The truth is that my brain would be happy to have all sorts of closeness if only it could figure out how to do that without terror that some bizarre thing is about to happen over which my brain has no control).

I didn’t tell Dr. B~~ that the day before I heard Diane Rehm’s interview with John Freeman about his new book, The Tyranny of Email. (Diane Rehm is, of course, part of my over-stimulation.) Freeman says, we all need less over-stimulation. He says write letters instead of emails, thank-you cards instead of Tweets (I have yet to experience Twitter; Facebook is bad enough). So, Dr. B~~ is being trendy. Except John Freeman didn’t say we should start the day—before we do anything else, even making the coffee—sitting still in full sunlight for fifteen minutes.

Yikes! My apartment doesn’t have any direct sunlight. I guess I’m doomed to whatever mental incapacities or failings Dr. B~~ thinks sunlight will cure.

Michael Luenig

Michael Luenig

I’ve forgotten now exactly which of the symptoms I present (the online Medical Dictionary—I looked it up because the use of the word by doctors has intrigued me for a long time—says “present” means, “To come before a doctor or nurse, as with a medical problem or condition, or to manifest a symptom.” Dr. B~~ , may I present my suicidal ideation; suicidal ideation, Dr. B~~ But no one ever makes formal introductions any more.)

So over-stimulation is causing some of my problems. Which ones, exactly, I wonder. Hypergraphia? I couldn’t possibly sit for fifteen minutes doing nothing before I write in the morning. I’d be absolutely crazy! Depression? If I did nothing for fifteen minutes, I’d end up crying. Seizures? If that was going to work, wouldn’t someone have told me about it before? Dr. A~~ is a compassionate and forward-looking neurologist. He wouldn’t keep me having seizures just so he could have the fun of operating on my brain, would he?

This is the long way ‘round (did I ever take the short way?) to saying I think Dr. B~~ and John Freeman are probably right. And I’m going to get started at it right away. Tomorrow. I’m mainly going to get started because I told that guy who keeps track of my 12-step work about all of this, and he acted as if he’d thought of it himself, so this is my 10th-step assignment (if you don’t know what the 10th step is, count yourself lucky; it’s on a need-to-know basis).

So now I have a new piece of refrigerator art (Nate Berkus would not approve—clutter, don’t you know). It’s going to end my depression. And if it doesn’t, Dr. B~~’s reputation is on the line.

If I cry tomorrow (I haven’t yet this morning, but the day is young), or have a fit of rage (ditto), we will know not to trust her ideas ever again.

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Over-Stimulation

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Over-Stimulation

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  1. Well, sunlight is not a readily available commodity in England, so I have a special light that has supposedly the same properties. Seems to work, but then I have it next to my computer and as the days gets shorter and shorter, we’ll see if my moods get darker and darker.
    Good luck with it.


    • I get to try one of those lamps. Dr.B~~ is going to order one up for me.

      WOULDN’T YOU KNOW, the day my sunshine program was to start is a rain, cold, clammy, cloudy day in Dallas.


  2. They help a lot; I didn’t use my one last winter and I was so miserable. now I’ve got it started good and promptly, I usually begin to feel brighter after I’ve done my usual email checks and blog reading.
    Yesterday was miserable and wet here in England and I got rained on during my six mile hike with dog. We also had drama with a massive police presence opposite our house when a neighbour went into meltdown, threw his girlfriend and pet dog out, plus things out of windows and then barricaded himself in his flat. This is a quiet little English seaside town so 7 squad cars, a black maria, a van with riot gear, an ambulance and the doghandlers was a tad unusual. Seige ended with the door being bashed down and said neighbour arrested and carted away.



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