Stranger Than Fiction

https://mikejay.net/stranger-fiction/

A Visionary Madness: The Case of James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine by Mike Jay

E3BEDF14-ECE3-4202-BF70-1403BBEFF804

“On the Origin of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia” is an article written by psychoanalyst Viktor Tausk. It was first published in 1919 in the journal Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse …. Translated into English: Tausk V (1933) On the origin of the influencing machine in schizophrenia. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2, 519-556.

‘The Truman Show Delusion: Psychosis in the Global Village’, May 2012 issue of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry

A HyperReal Tale Of ARG

Around 1996/97, a Virtual Reality cafe opened in London, ON. (My home town). A first time experience to try VR gaming/simulation. Safe to say, the trend did not stick. The cafe closed soon thereafter. It was ahead of its time but the public did not catch on.

Also in the 1990’s, Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG), seemed to catch on with people such as the musicians, NIN.  Clues would be left in the virtual world and in the real physical world that intertwined for fans to engage with the band. AGR also reminds me of the film The Game. A real-life game based on lies and deceit, where the main character played by Michael Douglas, is led through this surreal mystery of death and consequence. This film can only be watched once. Once you know the ending, you cannot forget it.

Pokemon Go came out and applied geomapping to a new system of alternate gaming in 2016. It also interweaves the virtual world, with the real physical world. Pokemon has created an empire of creativity that has lasted well over two decades. Created by Satoshi Tajiri, who has been linked to living with autism, and who wanted to recreate a game based on his childhood memories of collecting insects. At the time Niantic created Pokemon Go, it caught on like a whirlwind. People were ready and waiting having already been attached to, and comfortable, with the mobile smartphones.

Technology catches up with time. To use the idea of climate change, it caught up with the masses in time, unfortunately when the time is too dire to ignore.

ARG

Alternate Reality Gaming, at times include non-disclosure agreements by those that choose to partake. “The first rule of fight club. You do not talk about fight club.”

I woke up today to find an item I had been searching for online, months ago, in my Amazon shopping cart. I, nor anyone with physical access to my phone, made that action. When I checked my email this morning (okay, afternoon), the MIT tech review I subscribe to posed the question, whether Amazon’s Alexa would be a viable tool as a personal assistant.  Hmm… I don’t have an answer. I do have the answer that these two factors correspond to each other, not as coincidence though. How do I know exactly? I have been at this “psychological virtual game” for too long to ignore action and reaction sequences. I have reached out to a number of “random” individuals,  since I started this “Virtual Quest”.

This situation that I am in poses the dilemma of privacy rights and granted permission through the right , or proper, channels. If the government foresees this and has granted other individuals/professionals to partake in this Virtual “Hacking” Game… am I just a pawn that has given silent consent? Or am I a victim? Am I being delusional?

To understand mental illness, people need to be aware that there are delicate issues about the hardships of personal life that lead to suicide. In nature, I am not a suicidal person. Ideations have occurred before but quite rarely and through channels of my psychosis. Not “my” thoughts but “their” thoughts. Are people aware of the sensitivity behind their online behaviour? What kind of consequences their actions could lead to? [It eats me up inside that young kids today face this kind of harassment on nearly a daily basis, online and offline. That it does lead to tragic consequences. How often do we hear stories of virtually posted suicides, videos of extreme harassment and violence? (That is just a side rant to the impact of social media on young minds that have not developed to know there is a whole other world out there waiting to accept them)]

In my world, I am open to this permission to whomever chooses to participate and engage online. But life is not a game. Virtual worlds are not a game. They all extend into our physical real lives and make an impact far greater than simply being able to “shut it off”.  I felt fear and threatened, the first time this occurred in 2013. As though my personal space had been invaded and exposed. At times I still do, as I know it tends to lead me down the road of psychosis. Each time it happens, paranoia is there, but I no longer feel threatened. It takes time for my mind to regulate real verses fiction of my entire lived-out life, not just that particular single moment. But as always I pull through, a bit wiser and a bit more stable. I am fully aware when my IG newsfeed is “hacked” with people I don’t know followed by names that correlate to my name, and stating they have won a million dollar lottery given to names of people I do know, with a repetition of this post in a series that I can not delete. That is not delusion. That is an invasion of privacy.

We are all pawns in this game of life, but we cannot go through it blindly. We must think about the consequences our actions make, whether our actions do more harm than good. We aren’t robots and haven’t quite reached “cyborg” status yet…

Even when we turn OFF for the night, our minds remain ON.

MLRFs

HyperReal Hypothesis

The HyperReal Hypothesis: Thoughts & Ideas

by Jea Rhee


Maybe to help you understand why I’m so obsessed w mental health and digital age. It’s impacted my life a lot… but I’ve always been interested in technology, especially in art and the future (okay, sci-fi too).

The psychosis thing  in mental health/illness is really important to address for future therapies and diagnosis, because a lot of the common underlying delusions of paranoia between these people have to do with… what was once abstract delusions of surveillance, people watching you, government etc. People reading your thoughts or listening in on you.

And today it is very real in everyday reality that it is less likely just delusion or paranoia. It’s going to become so common and everyday to people who aren’t already in the loop of knowing these things. Like people are surprised FaceBook listens along w any digital app or device. And everyone welcomes this technology into their homes and are then surprised. I mean Universities/Colleges today, and public/private high schools have clubs or courses on hacking, and advanced technology, more-so than from other generations.

So I’m stuck thinking what’s next for people w mental illness. These common beliefs are just accepted to become the norm for everyone who doesn’t live off the grid.

I’m more controlled in my psychosis because I know this is an actuality. AI is used to my online behaviour that it responds accordingly to when I start going down that rabbit hole. I’ve been leaving my digital footprint ever since my psychotic break on Soundcloud, as well as my former FB account. Eventually this process actually helped me heal, but it also played out in its own algorithmic pattern. My delusions, like I said earlier, aren’t traumatizing and disturbingly dark like they once were. My engagement online is normally healthy (for me) but I still do get affected if I start getting a little overwhelmed. It’s the way one can read into everything w a diagnosis such as psychosis… like “reading the code” of language. Which is also a common experience for those w mental illness -the breakdown, interpretation and use of wordplay as though creating a new language pattern of linguistics. The use of algorithms feed positive/negative responses depending on what you do online…. for me, what I do online. That’s the creator of mental illness and when my mind goes there I get addicted in an unhealthy way. And of course the best solution seems to be to get offline. Until healthy “reading” patterns return (which “they”- the AI- recognize).

But AI is based on your usage compared to overall population usage. That’s how algorithms evolve and become tailored to your habits. And of course your tech-devices are listening-that is why when you speak about something out-loud you may come across an advertisement/article for said thing. Just like the coincidental factor of when you think of something, you then see it. It’s happened in my dreams, where out of nowhere something I’ve dreamed about (usually people or representations of such) appear IRL (televised in media) It (and I.T.) seems any input you provide has a reactionary cause and effect, especially on social media. FB is no longer a social media site, it is a form of entertainment that is no longer in the hands of it’s “single player” user, but is contingent upon it’s end users as well. On a mass scale,  the outcome has been creating “trolls/trolling” (cyber-bullying).

That’s what technology is doing to us. Anything w/Internet access, not just social media platforms. It’s this obsession within technology and science to have a connection to everything else. Implants in brains hooked up to FB (what Elon Musk, as one person, is working on), they have already (almost) perfected the algorithm to reader/response based on user experience etc. And all of this is becoming normal “natural” response and action for a large population of the world.

I can get a bit obsessed with this “stuff” because it is interesting to me and at times I get entertained by it. The problem is that this is the problem.

Online gaming addiction is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), recognized  as a mental health disease. Is Internet addiction, next? The issues I’m concerned with is that it is being regulated to become ingrained as part of human “nature/psyche” in so many ways, groups of people aren’t even aware yet. It’s science. It’s math. It’s everything. People have always been obsessed w the future, but hold on too strong to the past. As though, “we’re gonna get better at this human living thing” apart from destruction by evolving in other ways that are just repetitions of the past. The cliché, everything’s already been done before…. has it? We are no longer living in the Information Age, technology and it’s connection to a global network (Internet), which I think now, should have stayed within the limits of providing useful/practical information, has transformed within these times of The Digital Age/Revolution. Pure entertainment media and control. A corporate gaming addiction. A scary place embedded in our society with purveyors that exploit the vulnerable, no longer, just in digital spaces, but in attempts to lure users into “their” simulation of physical space, like the reality we once lived- Once Upon A Time… A Long Time Ago (or so it seems)

Just some of the things I think about. Are users of social media platforms playing the game(a version of SIMS) created by those that interact,create the applications, and are the end users?…. Think about it.

Sincerely Conditioned as YOUR Little Robot Friend.

[artwork:2003]

In my experience, various media has reached out to me in my times of duress which I am now conscious and aware are not part of any “delusion”. It sounds crazy because it is crazy, but that’s the Wild West Worlds [www] we live in during today’s insanely crazy society.

A space is not singular, as a perception is not singular. Those who know, know. Those who believe, believe. I know and I believe because it’s a truth. It is not part of a mapping of psychosis made worse over time, as psychological studies assume. It is not my position to make you believe in any part of my life experiences. Just know, that sometimes, life is not what it seems. A part of living is being vulnerable to change and adapting to the digital (virtual) world.

Diana Hickman

The Good, The Bad, And The Invisible Barrier
By Diana Hickman, 2019

To me, I feel like mental healh was not talked about the same way it is now, than it was when I was a teenager. When I was 15 I had seen multiple friends frequent the youth phsyc ward at the general hospital in one of the Canadian cities I called home. It was a common understanding that if you were truthful about your mental health with the guidence councellor at school, then you would likely be shipped off to the hospital and ‘punished'(in our eyes at the time) for severe depression or suicidal thoughts.  

By this age, I was too busy spending time doing things I shouldnt have been doing to be spending time at home on the internet, for which I’m thankful for. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the overwhelming level of bullying and harrassment online that was so commonplace and unchecked at the time.

From the age of about 19 and onwards, I’ve been battling chronic illness including very painful, physical disabilities, menstrual problems, arthritis, mood swings, the list goes on…
As a result of chronic pain and health problems, depression was a natural side effect that grew in my life. It comes and goes in waves, sometimes a downright storm-nearly capsising all my confidence every time. As I got older, depression’s obscessive friend anxiety reared it’s imposing, ugly head into my life. I don’t think I even knew what living with anxiety meant when I was younger. It is so much more than ‘worrying’. All encompassing, self concious, full of doubt, shame.

As I started to face daily challenges managing my adverse health symptoms, I started digging on the internet for answers. After sifting through all the web MD anxiety flaring, hypocondriach paradise, I started to actually find useful information.
Other women going through similar situations. I was floored to learn how common it is to have adverse menstrual problems, pain, and mood alterations and to have little to no support from medical professionals.

It’s bittersweet. I discovered a whole other world of support, information, studies, experiences. To this day, I’ve felt more support from women online going through similar problems, than any face to face pain support group has ever given me.

Over the last half decade or so, the push to ‘love yourself’ has become more prevelent on the internet. And I think it’s great! However, all the bubble baths, positive self talk and ‘treating yo-self’ can only do so much for self love and acceptance, not to mention mental health support. I am greatful to have emotional support online from women in very similar shoes. I am thankful to be able to find resources, medical studies and reviews about health issues online. But I also know that not everything can be treated by yourself. Sometimes medical professional intervention is required for coping and healing. It’s easy to hide behind funny videos, memes, and social media in gerneral. The stigma is still there.

It’s very difficult to admit you need help, and even more difficult to get that help (especially if you’re female.)

When social media is all about showing and sharing only what you want-it’s so hard to confront your actual problems. It becomes more and more normal to hide what you’re actually feeling.
And why shouldn’t we filter our feeds to display the positive aspects of our lives? When thats what we want to be.

I also find my self hiding deeper behind social media.
Most of my friends connect with me via facebook messenger. Which I have zero issue with, the mobile phone number is no longer a necessity. I’ll still go on facebook often, sharing memes and videos and articles and reading them, commenting on things. But I sometimes struggle to open private messages from even the closest of friends. When Iv’e opened it, a little tiny bubble in the corner signifies that I’ve seen their message. I hesitate. It’s like answering a ringing phone, my anxiety peaks. What if I can’t answer them right away and they think I’m ignoring them? As soon as I open this I feel like I have only so much time before I have to reply… A whole other level of stress that I didn’t expect to be apart of my life in the digital age.

As stigma continues and societal acceptance keeps taking inching steps forward, I am going to keep attempting to break down walls of silence on the matter of mental health. Though getting help is as difficult as ever, and side effects of the internet are only getting more severe, it’s comforting to know that a whole world of information is at our fingertips. We can reach out.

Jen Woltemade

ALL-OR-NOTHING ADDICT

By Jen Woltemade

A year ago, I quit social media and email for six months. Facebook was easy, I’d resisted it for nearly ten years. I’d only just started with Instagram, so no big deal. Twitter has been my everything since 2009, so that took adjusting to, but I’d often gone without tweeting for a month or two, so barely anyone took notice.

My hiatus was glorious, unfortunately scared some friends as my intended two week break (which would have gone largely unnoticed) spanned half a year, but it was simply too enjoyable to re-engage. I was able to free myself from my phone/iPad, got an analog watch, phoned people from our landline, and basically lived as though it were the mid-nineties again (without the pager).

I moved from Ottawa to tiny Bad Soden, Germany five years ago. When I got engaged to my husband André in 2010, I said yes provided he move to Canada, as I’d just started a very meaningful job and didn’t want to leave. André transferred to Toronto, and although I don’t have much love for the city, I have a great number of people there I miss terribly, so if I were to move back to join him down the road, I’d make out fine.

Mental illness runs in both sides of my family the way cancer does in others. Manic depression, suicide, what we would now classify as various narcissistic personality disorders, drug and alcohol abuse. I’m much more comfortable around people affected with these diseases than physical ones, as there’s so many of us in my circles. I’d believed I was largely spared until 2003, when the burden of underemployment, neighbours from hell, a brief relationship with a con man, and failing to get help while pretending everything was ok culminated in my walking out the door to work a video shoot and losing myself in a dissociative fugue state for four days. I have various theories about why my brain and body shut down for that length of time, but they remain theories because I’ve no memory from that period. Once I was found at a movie theatre downtown where a friend had dropped off a missing poster, I experienced a period of amnesia that spanned several months.

Looking back at my twenties, I’d had hypo-mania and -depressive episodes that another person might have considered more serious and deserving of professional care, but I always had work, friends, and family to support me, so I just ‘got over’ those phases and didn’t look back. I am also of the belief that it’s hard to recognize patterns, positive or negative, in our lives until we reach our forties. I’d lived quite a nomadic life, so people close to me that might have flagged behaviours and suggested I get help if I’d stayed put in one place were not aware of my day-to-day situation. And we had no Internet.

I feel lucky to have bridged the Internet generation; that is to say that I grew up without it until I was well into my twenties, and then have reaped its benefits over the last twenty years. For many years, I kept quiet about my dissociative fugue and amnesic period, for I was scared being labelled as crazy would keep me from getting jobs and forging meaningful relationships. It bothered me that I couldn’t be honest and open when meeting new people, but was also appreciative that a Google search of my name didn’t bring up all sorts of information about me that I preferred to keep private at the time.

Were the same situation to happen today, I believe there’s no way I’d have been able to disappear in Toronto for four days. Facebook would have been engaged within a few hours, and I likely would have been found within a day by any one of hundreds of people who would have immediately seen and shared the missing post. Although that would have been much better for my loved ones who went through hell, I’m of the belief that I needed to take a break from my life and brain, so I’m selfishly quite happy to have been able to go ‘walkabout’.

I experienced this selfish feeling again last year when I enjoyed six months Internet-free. I’d experimented with various tame methods of unplugging, limiting my social media to weekends, or taking every third day off, or not taking my chargers with me on holiday. Those efforts were as painful as trying to wean off smoking through similar steps – I’m an all-or-nothing addict.

I wish I were able to replicate my hiatus again this year, however travel, the possibility of work, and certain relationships will force me to be online pretty much constantly. My goal is to get to the point where I can at least drop FB and IG for several weeks or months at a time, if not for good. We’ll see about Twitter, as I’d mentioned, I’m an all-or-nothing addict, and enjoy it way better than smoking.

Epilogue:

2019

Since writing my piece for the anthology, there have been ups and downs regarding both my mental health and online use. We spontaneously rescued a dog, Spencer, from Andalusia. He’s my first pet since being on social media, and his antics are simply too hilarious not to share! Having him with us has done wonders for my mental health, I consider him a therapy dog.

As much as getting out with him has improved my mental and physical health, though, I am listening to podcasts for several hours a day. This isn’t negative on the surface, but I’ve realized that the topics of my faves have drifted from music and comedy to politics and true crime, which can tend to either agitate or anger me depending on the day. I also tend to get hooked on series of the latter, whereas if I miss episodes of lighter shows, no big deal.
As with everything in life, moderation is key to a healthy balance. I aspire to leave the headphones at home more often and enjoy the quiet of the forest until Spencer tears off to chase critters or splash around in the water.

Kim Bauersfeld

F0037586-B51B-4207-AB9B-B56F11A2F980Hanging On By A Thread
by Kim Bauersfeld

I’ve been a sexual assault trauma counsellor for 11 years. When I started I had two clients and it increased at a gradual rate until about three years ago when I noticed an influx in historical abuse survivors suddenly finding themselves in crisis. It wasn’t long after that my own assault, 30 years ago, started to resurface. The “Me Too” movement and the many women coming forth after 30+ years along with the criticism and negative backlash they were receiving triggered something in myself. I found myself awake at night rehearsing Facebook rants in my head. Telling my story from 30 years ago and daring anyone to question my motives and the time lapse from the event to my coming forward with it. I wanted to fight with anyone who dared ask why I waited so long to tell. The thing is I did tell, just like most women have. Just like my clients did. We were threatened, called liars…maybe it was just brushed under the carpet. As for myself, my family knew, the police knew….nothing was done. I got over it. I moved on and thrived for 30 years. Then it was all over the media….women coming forward to prevent their historical  assailants from being put in positions of power. It wasn’t only about them anymore, they had to come forward to prevent these people from gaining more power and hurting others. All of this brought mine back and I googled my assailant. There was a Canada wide warrant out for his arrest. He had travelled west across Canada sexually assaulting women and children after he had assaulted me. Nothing was done 30 years ago so it wasn’t only me. Our anxiety disorders are believed, we are medicated but then throughout the day messages in the media, from faraway places that were silent before, work against the passivity that the medication induces. Flashbacks and triggers work to drive us mad and uncover the trauma. Being bombarded from all sides, online and offline, with conflicting ideas increases anxiety and perhaps a personality disorder. An obsessive compulsive drive to measure up. I’m lucky, I’m strong and take what I need while discarding the rest. I take the stories, issues and images and turn them into art that heals me, but the ones who are more vulnerable are pulled apart by the mixed messages. I do what I can for my ladies, I give advice and believe their stories. I try to help them move on in a world that won’t let them.

 

Dayanti Karunaratne

SUPERHIGHWAY: Searching Online For A Loved One

By Dayanti Karunaratne

My mother’s voice broke through the morning grumbles of my two year old in the backseat. On the radio: a mother talks about a missing son, a body found, questions unanswered. Curiously, she was looking online for answers — she was trying to access her son’s Facebook and Google accounts. She was going to court that day. I remembered the name of her son, Dovie, and Googled him later from my desk.

Of course, that wasn’t my mom — it was another mother looking for her son in the online world. But it brought to mind my own family’s struggle for insight into the life and location of my brother Nagita, and how we search for answers in the world wide web.

Dovie was born and raised in Ottawa and moved to Toronto for university. But shortly after his 23rd birthday, he went missing. His mother notified the authorities but eventually, it seems, they stopped looking. His mother kept up the hunt; one day, about two years after he disappeared, she stumbled upon a page of the Toronto police website that listed unidentified remains. A few details matched, she pursued, and eventually she learned that Dovie’s body had washed ashore in Lake Ontario a few months after he disappeared. By then the body was too decomposed to attempt any real identification (foul play was not suspected). Unconvinced that her boy committed suicide, Dovie’s mother continues to pursue the mystery through his online communications, in hopes they will fill in the blanks about her son’s final days.

My mother has decided to stop looking. She hired a private investigator earlier this year and the PI immediately went online for clues to my brother’s existence, or lack thereof.

My brother Nagita was born in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, and moved to New Zealand shortly after his birth mother died. I guess he is technically my half brother, but we didn’t grow up with such labels. My parents met in New Zealand, where they married and had my sister Kumari. My half-sister Manjula was there, always on the periphery; photos often show her with a pony. I often wonder why they left.

And so did he. My childhood, at least the time I spent at home, involved listening in on a lot of yelling and violent tantrums. I would come home from school to find rooms destroyed. I’d go to sleep, eventually, to the sound of threats and the kind of sorrowful, wild crying that just makes you sad — that is, after you get over the fact that plans for the weekend were over. Pity came after I accepted that life — the food and books and calm that I had almost gotten used to— had been upended.

At least I found sadness, empathy, and pity for him. By writing through the crashing plates and hurtful accusations, I found a bit of calm in the closet of that house. But everyone in my family coped with it differently: my sister Kumari fought, jumping in the middle of matches that saw my brother painting himself as a pathetic, unsuccessful, doomed, black, crazy man. My half-sister flew — to Kenya or Quebec or a high school on the other side of town. My mom was usually in the thick of it, trying to defend herself or calm the situation so we’d all feel safe. My father? He was a psychiatrist, so of course he played the therapist.

But me, I was too small or weak or torn between all sides to be a part of it. So I hugged my journal (and probably my dogs and cats) and just wrote. Of course I listened, but I didn’t want to hear. Of course I would get angry, but mostly I was scared. The paper was so quiet, and all mine.

(Even writing this, using buttons on a machine to open up a vein in my family’s history and let bleed this way seems antithetical. Wrong. For so many years I took to my journal, scrawling while bawling — or maybe not crying at all, because I was releasing the pain through my words. Typing is something I do at work, commandeering multiple projects in a way that I hope is educated and considerate but is a bit more calculated than I’d like to admit.)

On and on it went: the fighting, the suicide threats, the late night talks between my father and brother that no one was allowed to weigh in on. Family members moved across the country and back again. The internet was born, allowing for hatred and pity to come alive in pixels. The scariest part of writing an email to Nagita was waiting for a response, which rarely came.

And then my father died. I was there, so was Nagita. My mother too: all three of us went to the morgue and were civil with each other. I stuck around what we now call my mom’s place for a couple of weeks and I remember the hug from my brother when he left. He said: “You’re hurting too. I know that.” He was always a good hugger — the tallest of my family, he could wrap his arms right around me. They were maybe a little forced, a bit stiff, but I always felt a little leaning in on both sides. As if we shared something, a similarity in our relationship with my father, maybe, or at least something big that we couldn’t put into words.

That was more than 10 years ago. I last heard from him in 2009 when he responded to an email wedding invite — he said he’d be there. I was immediately scared: what if he really shows up? What if he doesn’t? Luckily, enough great things were going on in my life that I wasn’t too surprised, or devastated, when he didn’t show. And when I finally got up the nerve to reach out to him, almost three years after that, to tell him he was an uncle to my little girl, I wasn’t surprised at the bounce-back response. My mother had told me that he cancels email addresses often. So often that she now sends mail — Christmas money, news from Sri Lanka — as registered mail, requiring a signature.

When she first told me about the registered mail process it really hit home. I had trusted that he was alive, doing his thing (that could be called self-pity but is more likely a condition that should be diagnosed, that would provide him with mental and physical support, a government label that aims to prevent him from falling through the cracks). But to truly find out we’d have to look at the one place he was always looking: online.

That’s the first place the private investigator looked. For months, no news. During that time I wallowed in fear, shivering at the possibilities. Death, of course, was always among the fears. Could it be worse? I had just started to let my mind wander down that dark path when I heard that the PI had a positive hit. A chatroom comment. Chatrooms were something I, as a late adopter to the internet, knew very little about. But when it comes to early adopters by brother was a stereotype: a tech-savvy engineer and a loner, he enjoyed long hours in dark rooms, the only light coming from the desktop monitor. It completely made sense that a PI would find him there.

But now what? Should my mother pursue, beg for more of the violence and anger that soaked through our home life?

A few days after I learned this last development I woke with a question that never occurred to me before: maybe he’s better off. Maybe he really doesn’t need us, his family, any connection to his past. Maybe his online community gives him everything.

Without knowing anything else, I can only turn inward, and ask what this says about my own relationship with my brother — and the online world in which he lives. That perhaps I see that world wide web through a lens of fear: because it is where he lives, because he was so quick to flock to it, because it does hold the key to any future relationship I might have with him.

Epilogue:
About six months after this essay was first published my mother let me know that she had made contact with my brother — that he was indeed alive. There was a long pause on both ends of the line as we let this reality set in. I personally observed happiness and relief, confusion and pain, all over again. I read her email correspondence with him, and there was clearly hurt on his side, too. There were searing accusations, but also notes of humility. Mostly there is an articulated desire to be left alone, and yet I can’t help but also pause at his pain and wonder if that really means I should really only contact him in case of emergency. Is it not an emergency when it’s Christmas Eve and I’m afraid he’s alone and no one cares about that? It’s easy to hide online, but now I have an email and street address (and a vow to keep my mother updated of any changes). Now it’s easy for me to find him, too. I keep thinking about something my 7-year-old daughter asked me the other day: “If someone is upset and says they want to be alone, should you really leave them alone, or should you make sure they’re okay?” I didn’t have a good answer, other than to say “if it’s been a long time you should go and check on them.” I think I’ll use that advice myself.

Genevieve Fuoco

Written by Genevieve Fuoco. (Artist-Montreal, 2019) – a purvey into the realm of online-dating in the 21st Century.

On, Online-Dating

I deeply love my friends and I cherish the moments that I spent with them, but I cannot offer more than that. Perhaps more by anxiety or fear of disappointment. I never really understood it. The problem with mental health issues is that in hypomania you feel invincible and you feel like you’re the best. So, you take risks. You meet guys and girls, couples… You want to play with boys, you want to play with girls… Girls and boys at the same time. There is no limit and no censorship. After you regret, you do not recognize yourself. On the other side, when you are in depression, you tend to isolate yourselves, but you always have access to others via social media. For me, it’s not helping. Accessibility to others makes others inaccessible. I do not have the strength to make a phone call, have a coffee for news, but I still connect with my friends while they publish statutes and photos. The day social media became the primary source of communication, I lost my friends. I try to force myself, to get more involved, but it is still not natural. I try to find a balance between what people expect from me and what I can offer. I realize that I miss all my friends, even a lot.

Then I became single, I quickly realized that I had to turn to social media to meet people again. I am looking for, not the truth, but an adventure without banality. I feel on fire, feminine and sensitive and strong. I feel that I dare more, that I should dare even more, to stop being afraid and to do it, imperfectly perhaps, but to do it anyway. The creation of my profile was quotes of two films: Amelie and Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra. Random but well choose. I add a blurred picture of my body in lingerie. I received requests of all kinds: from the simple « hello », to « I would not hurt you » and « here is a picture of my penis » (always without the face). I did not know what to answer to a penis. Maybe, should I send another to him to destabilize him a little and make him understand that it is a little strange all the same. Testosterone in a pure state. A seed well planted, but not in my garden in full bloom. The « Grands crus » here are not necessarily of controlled origin and sometimes lacks maturity. My instinct cries out for me to live intensely, to say things I have never said, and not to censure myself. I decided to go to another site. You have to sort well. Swipe right. A match. It’s even easier than in person. Three spelling errors later I swipe left and it’s gone. It’s a bit like Amazing race. Throw in unknown country, with challenge and whose goal is to win. However, I got tired at browsing photos based solely on appearance, so I deleted the app. Then I met a young man. It was good fun and overnight, but then I understood the meaning of the term “ghosted” … who became a ghost. Without an explanation, he has disappeared, but remains none the less alive and well. No more phone calls, no more SMS, no more emails, no more contact … The ghosting concerns both the conquests of a night, couples, friendships … In one click, we are friends and in one click, we are no longer. If I am no longer the ideal product, that I am not exactly in accordance with what he asked for, he returns the product. Some form of utilitarianism. I am a baited fish, I die, then, once he gets what he wants, he goes away without worrying about the consequences. Everything falls in the water and I am left alone in a glass of water half empty faced with unanswered questions, victim of guilt and remorse unfounded. My first instinct is obviously to try to get in touch with him, but I fall into the vacuum trap. I understood. We were just « fuck friend » Nothing more. Just easy random flow. Let me know. Now or later. Later or now. Whatever. All the same shit. The Merry goes round again and again Then, I re-downloaded the app to swipe and get caught again. Just press « Like » and see where it will go. I have to waltz again from right to left, in my ups and my lows. Let the ball begin.

X:Concessions Surrender

X

So is this a reality? Is this something worth educating people about? Is this something worth de-stigmatizing for people who don’t understand mental illness? In Eastern Afghanistan, people are chained to window frames in centers for the mentally ill. In my experience, I’ve seen people locked down and zipped up into, essentially, an isolating fishnet body bag, strapped to a bed, on display for everybody. Sounds like ancient history to me but I admit there can be dangerous instances involving mentally ill patients, such as violence and disruption. But anyone is capable of being violent and disruptive to others in our society, as well as to themselves, and I would say a majority of those people are not labelled clinically ill.

In my mind it is possible to label the whole world as “not of sound mind”.

X:CONCESSIONS SURRENDER

It had been two weeks, two weeks with these thoughts and accusations. They were not unfamiliar to me. I had spent months with these ideations years ago. I had already used up five of my nine lives. Each moment in this state resonating like a deja vu, each time delving a little deeper into the questions and answers of life’s episodes and chapters. Each time believing that I would uncover the ultimate truth. When the truth was really that each episode had been more self-indulgent than the last, and that this expression is just as self-indulgent as the truth.

Yet I am hopeful in imagining that with my ninth life I will find an answer. My preconception that the number 42 is merely an age will not be sufficient enough. I am hoping that it will be bigger than Douglas Adams, because I already know he is not God.

TheBow

(CYER, 1996)