Velocity vs. Viscosity

Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast.

I’m not talking about onset or duration. I mean the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts.

There are a lot of names: depression, catatonia, mania, anxiety, agitation. They don’t tell you much.

The predominant quality of the slow form is viscosity.

Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled. Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception. The body temperature is low. The pulse is sluggish. The immune system is half-asleep. The organism is torpid and brackish. Even the reflexes are diminished, as if the lower leg couldn’t be bothered to jerk itself out of its stupor when the knee is tapped.

Viscosity occurs on a cellular level. And so does velocity…”

This is one of my favorite memoirs. Susanna Kaysen spent time in a mental institution when she was younger and her biting sense of humor, self-deprecating in nature,her truthfulness, and her resolve to name and interpret and show you the neuro-divergent places in her brain, the things that do not make her heroic, grant the reader permission to be flawed and declared crazy without fear or shame or self-loathing. I’m quite partial to this approach.

There are more straight forward approaches though that hit the mark. Michelle Obama’s wildly popular memoir is straight forward. She is precise and unsentimental but deeply human. She is very First lady-like in the approach. Dignified and stitched up. I didn’t expect anything else from her though, so I was not disappointed. Some folks write to be understood. Some write to be seen. Some write to confess. Some write to condemn. Some write to convince. Why do you do it? It’s a question worth asking and answering often since the answer can change. How can you use your own memories to offer something cathartic and necessary to yourself and perhaps to a larger audience? What belongs to you that, if shared, might be a road opener for someone else? Or maybe the interrogation is simply, what can only be said by you? What stories do you carry that could use another holding place? What memories do you keep that you wish you didn’t? What if you could manage them with greater competency in the writing? What if your story is the medicine? Let’s do some more writing.