Divination, Art Creation, and Schizophrenia: A Personal Essay On Craft

Xuan Nyugen
Content Warnings
There comes a time when you have no choice but to turn towards divination as a way of understanding the world for certain folks...
Dec 29, 2021 7:37 PM

There comes a time when you have no choice but to turn towards divination as a way of understanding the world for certain folks, I among them, and many millennials and gen-x among me. The particular trend of Twitter astrology, for instance, points to a desire to understand an unfathomable world. I, too, have this desire, but the world is stranger to me than most. My friend with an interest in philosophy once brought up the concept of consensus reality, which is what a culture determines is the real world through tacit collective agreement. You could say I have never had a place in this world, and while the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood for many folks introduces them to the wonders and cruelties of (Consensus) Reality, I found myself entangled, enchanted by a different dimension.

I must preface with this: I am a schizo success story. My mind came out of an abusive psychiatric system with minimal damage, a brilliant therapist, and the ideal medication that, quite simply, makes my brain work good. I am remarkably articulate, and my creative intuition leaves me unusually successful in my design work, my hybrid prose-poetry narratives, and my music. But this same medication has disabled me and is the prime suspect as to the cause of my chronic illness, which has in a very literal fashion closed me off from the rest of the world.

I am often too weak to stand for longer than it takes to shower as a chained side effect from medication I take to manage a condition caused by my psych medication, which also makes it so that being in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit leaves me extremely ill. This is the only psych medication that manages my schizophrenia to an acceptable degree, and beyond that, leaves me feeling like I am the best I can be. By far, most schizos aren’t so lucky. Most of us die on the streets or in poverty, and I may still yet end up the same due to being physically disabled from my medication.

But while I have the power to speak, I will. The purpose of this preface is to say, I live a life that has led me far, far away from most people’s realities, and I want especially to say this: Just because you are on an antipsychotic doesn’t mean that you are no longer schizophrenic. It just means that your psychosis, if treated, is no longer active in a hostile way. Everything else stays the same.

By that I mean, for instance, I still exist in a schizophrenic atemporality. Long story short, I cannot experience the passage of time. Events outside of a certain window that I consider “THE PRESENT” are all equidistant from one another. What happened yesterday is the same temporal distance away as what happened two years ago is the same temporal distance away as what happened ten years ago. Time, which is fundamental to how most people experience the consensus reality, does pass in the same way for me. Memory does not process in the same way. (As an aside, I also have DID, which adds a whole nother layer to the MEMORY STRANGE TIMES.)

What happens when you do not live in the same reality that nearly everyone else has all somehow secretly agreed to live in while you were busy trying to keep your feet from being tangled by the threads of heaven’s net? (And No, Christians, I do not speak of Christ when I speak of heaven. I am not your brethren.) What happens is that you must construct an internal world to survive and thrive because otherwise you will die. And telling tales of the beautiful and the strange and the holy and the fey is how I do it.

I do it through art and design and music and a vast range of narrative poetry. The stereotype of a schizophrenic creative is that ~Madness breeds creativity~ which I think is reductive and ableist. But how can I deny that schizophrenic clanging, which describes the way that words are organized by sound in my little head, rather than meaning, is one of the biggest reasons why I’m such a successful poet? My brain on my current antipsychotic has switched on to VERY FUNCTIONAL which means that I can make my way through the clouds and sing tunes of the fey using an internal metronome and an invisible, nearly effortless, intuitive meter and rhyme that non-schizos could spend their entire lives looking for, and never keep time.

YES the reason why my art is so uniquely, inimitably successful is because I’m schizo. But also, another reason is that I am not “just telling a story,” I am divining the future. My own future. The fate of my own world, and my own selves, and selves borne from my selves, who are and are not me, and cannot be read anything but ambiguously. The reason why my work is so successful in a way that can never be replicated is because I write them to construct my internal world, which is where I live, when I have been denied the kingdom of earth.

I have been denied it through disability, through severely stigmatized neurodivergence, through transphobia, homophobia, and racism. But I want to focus on my schizophrenia. I do not and cannot understand the folk who live on the kingdom of earth. My body may live there, and it needs to be fed and watered, but it is a vessel for a mind that cannot tell time, and one who dreams only of an unknown--but not unreachable--divine. I do not live in the same reality as most people do, and because of that, because I have no access to the kingdom of earth. Because the kingdom of earth has denied me entry, it wants to leave me with nothing but my own skin.

And a clever mind is not enough to survive in a capitalist society that values conformity and ultimately prioritizes the hyper-privileged, of which I belong to none except for my parental middle class status that they will take with them when they die because I am not well enough to make enough money for my body to stay alive, much less in enough time to leave me my explorations of the sublime, which I require to have any desire to stay alive.

My point is: I have nothing. I have no future. The only thing I have is the divine, and my divinations which are becoming my body of publications. My body of work is more real to me than the one in 3d. The stakes are high for someone like me in a way that someone with the access to the kingdom of earth will never understand, regardless of whether they can see what the gods have planned for me.

It is a common trend for young adults now to look to divination to understand the world, how it may unfurl for them. It gives them control. Astrology for many young adults provides a paradigm of understanding how to walk the world, how to navigate its winding whirls. So, too, do I look towards my own heart, my own divination, in my own gods and my own creations.