Double Bookkeeping and “Psychosis”

January 4, 2021 – UPDATE

About once a week, someone comes across this post.

Despite this blog being a backwater rambleground here on the interwebs, apparently this particular post has a specific enough title to have launched it into the first page of search results.

People who are searching for information on ‘double-bookkeeping and psychosis’ are likely to be:

a) experiencing some sort of mental health difficulties that have spurred a curiosity about the cognitive and experiential orientations of people who are going through something that may clinically be described as ‘psychosis’

b) a friend or family member of someone who is experiencing a mental health difficulty related to psychosis

c) a student of the psychological sciences or a student of social work

d) an accounting student who is worried that learning about double bookkeeping is going to make them lose their f*cking minds

In any event, because people actually visit this post, I have decided to update it with some actual information beyond my own first-draft personal experience and half-formulated musings on the conundrums of multiplicity in human experience.

I personally find my writing style and tone from this original post to be cringe-worthy and am strongly inclined to edit it heavily. The airy exclamations and smug faux-cryptic stylings are deeply unappealing to me.

However, I am going to leave this embarrassment intact for the time being because part of this project is to show that people can have really dumb ideas and can express themselves poorly and yet still be a person with something to say and can learn to be undaunted by the potential humiliation of saying something in an obnoxious or inarticulate way or recognizing in hindsight that something one said was ill-conceived.

It’s okay to say dumb things on the internet. People do it all the time.

It is nonetheless important to honor and respect the fact that someone who is looking at this post might really be in need of good information on coping with psychosis and strategies for improving the cognitive organization of disparate realities.


I made this list of resources when I was working for a large nonprofit behavioral health organization and found that most staff were ill-equipped to ‘work with’ people who were experiencing extreme or altered states. I was encouraging a in-house training on different ways to support people who were struggling with their experience of reality orientation. I also wanted to be able to offer people with direct lived experience information to help them develop a useful personal understanding of what they were going through, to equip them with perspectives beyond the ultra-pathologized narratives of brain diseases and mental illness symptoms.

This list is still in development. People are able to comment on the sheet linked above. Any suggestions of additional resources are appreciated.

ORIGINAL POST (with especially cringe-evoking phrasing struck through)

I came across the phrase double bookkeeping recently. The term describes the state of simultaneously maintaining disparate realities, and orienting oneself between them.

I thought, “Double? Must be nice.”

Then I gave myself a moment of appreciation for holding as much as I do in my head and heart. It really is a wondrous feat. One might be inclined to ascribe the term ‘grandiose’ to this claim, but – objectively speaking – it’s not exactly a cake walk, this life.

I once won a carrot cake in a cake walk. I was quietly delighted. Last Tuesday, I enjoyed some carrot cake that had been donated to BeLoved. I was talking to a fellow who said he had found a fair number of glaring contradictions in the Bible and that he had “lost faith in The Book.”

“That’s okay,” I told him, enjoying my cake,”it was written by men.”

“What do you live by then, with no book?”

I waved my arm at the world outside of the closed window behind the couch. “All that,” gesturing to the trees and the blue sky.

He was telling me that his dog had died recently, but that he knew that the dog was still in the world, that he had felt the old dog’s breath on his knee, as he was snacking in the mid-morning. He said he left a piece of popcorn on the floor, an offering of sorts.

“They say I’m psychotic,” he explained, “and I have to take the medication.”

“That’s not an uncommon situation,” I told him. “They say I’m psychotic, too.”

I paused, “I’m actually very sane.”

It was never really a goal of mine to “get over” my psychosis, let go of my so-called delusions. Why in the world would I want to do something like that, especially when my so-called delusions really are just a shade or two away from very plausible story that, longstanding rumor has it, is quite real?

Still, it’s a big story, more than a little audacious. Then again, what isn’t?

I recall sitting at my doctor’s office, and him saying, “So, you’ve given up the documenting, sort of let up with the whole cloud thing?”

I looked out the window. My hair was falling out from Depakote. I felt nothing on risperidone, other than a dull bludgeoning of loss, a gnawing anxiety, the need for a nap. I had gained 30 pounds in one month. I felt vaguely suicidal.

I looked out the window. “Well, sorta…” That was all I’d commit to.

Why in the world would I, or anyone with an ounce of faith or grace or imagination, want to wreck and invalidate such a fantastic story?

It breaks my heart to even think about it.

True, there are choices that must be made and there are lines that need to be held, and held fast. There are endless complications and implications, but what story worth telling doesn’t have these elements?

This is my life, and it’s real.

It is completely possible to hold multiple realities in mind. Most people do it. For example, one is different with the mistress than they are the wife. A hundred million little deals go down every day, all based on conjecture and inside knowledge of variables that affect outcome. People kiss their babies and smile at the newsstand man and use toilet paper and sign off on bombs in the late afternoon. People brace themselves on the bus, near panic and yet smiling stiffly, knowing that there is nothing to be afraid of…except there is.

We’re all in our own little worlds and yet out in the big world, watching it work, keeping in line.

To me, there is something scary about the fact that we are all ultimately alone in the totality of our experiences, other people being privy to only a glimpse of who we are and what we think about.


(UPDATE: Brace oneself for insufferable prose.)

Returning to our exchange about communication and so-called psychosis, I remember saying to an acquaintance: “I want to tell them, ‘What! You cued me to this and you didn’t tell me? You didn’t tell these people, you didn’t explain anything!’

I was reflecting on the time I begged someone to at least explain to my family what was happening with the whole situation, the transformative situation, the body of research.

“I mean, what the fXck!?”

Who is this ‘them’?

I don’t know, but I know that they exist and that they gave me a mighty big story. So much of this so-called psychosis is just a big experiment…a big, important experiment.

Like I said, people are paying attention. I find all the la-la secrecy a little mid-century modern, a little hoity-toity. I guess that’s part of the story though.

From the perspective of Lives #1 and #2 this all sounds mad.

In Life #1, I am an underpaid low level worker in a mental health center, who is in “recovery” from “bipolar 1, severe with psychotic features.” I am a weirdo woman with cool tattoos and a scar on my arm. I have two children that are amazing and wise and whom I love dearly. I want them to be okay. I want them to be happy in a way that is free. I am a moderately well-respected community member, who has many friends and allies and acquaintances, but who is locally known for being a little peculiar, inconsistent-yet- earnest. There are some that think that I am a spy of sorts. I have been sporadically rumored to be both an infiltratror and Anonymous. Bwahaahahaha.


I try to help people. I try to listen and respond as I am able. That’s all I do. I mess up a lot.

In Life #2, I am a clumsy and inconsistent-but-earnest advocate, a clumsy and inconsistent-but-earnest keeper of documentation, a developing storyteller with some moderate potential in the world of ideas and explanation. I am open about my madness and I am going to California. In Life #2, I have a lot of work to do. I have a few books in development, that I have no time to develop. This is unfortunate because said books could be most helpful in many regards. Ah, such is life…

…so much to do.

From the perspectives of these two lives, #1 and #2, the things I’ve thought of and heard and realized most heavily over the past years are completely mad. In Life #1, they would be considered deeply delusional, possibly to the extent that I could be stigmatized and brought down hard, in spite of the fact that I am not negligent, nor am I remotely dangerous.

In fact, I am pretty damned amazing and wonderful. Heh. That’s a nice little entendre. Damned and Blessed. A classic.

It’s a shame that in Life #1, a person can’t even think about some things without being made to be crazy.

That’s why, in Life #2, I have made an effort to align myself with allies and experts and compassionate advocates.

Life #3 has been heavy on my mind. In Life #3, I am a story. I am the great-great niece of a man who once drew Liberty being hung by the state of Georgia’s laws, a man who understood the fidelity of line and angle. My uncle, Marcus, wanted to be an architect.

I was just thinking about his dark eyes, and wondering if I got mine from the same genes he did, or if mine came from my mother, who is the great granddaughter of a marriage between a Christian name and a Muslim name way back in Lebanon. al-Shehadi. al-Khoury.

…or something like that.

In Life #3, my brown eyes have a bit of green in them. The green showed up in 2000, and I first noticed it while sitting in my car in the late afternoon, facing West and I-5, parked on a street in North Portland, about to go knock on the door (for the first time) of the house where the kids’ father was living. I happened to glance in the sideview mirror, because I am vain and nervous.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that my eyes looked green around the edges.

I couldn’t believe it, but I did.

I guess I was a little crazy then, too. I’ve been 1/2 mad for a long, long time.

In Life #3, I am a person who sent out a signal and found a current. I am a person who was given a gift. I am a person who lost her mind and who believes that it was possibly the best thing that ever happened to her.

In Life #3, I tried to join the Illuminati so that the Real Illuminati might find me. In Life #3, I pray hard and the radio answered back.

In Life #3, I really did sort of prove God with pictures of clouds and there a few people who know this. Just a few.

In Life #3, I am something of a phenom. I’m clumsy and inconsistent-yet-earnest in that, too. People know this. They know there are a few issues to work out. If they consider the circumstances, they know also that these issues can be worked out, with just a little help around the edges.

I am grateful and they know it.

Even in Life #3, this sounds a little mad. However, I have to remind myself that Life #3 is a mad, mad world. I also have to remind myself that it is very real, this mad, mad world.

Last night, I was thinking about how much of madness is in reading between the lines and picking up the relevance. So much of it is in what one pays attention to. Some conversations are more important than others.

I know this. You do, too.

There is a certain cadence and innuendo and sometimes people understand the weight of the little talks, about this and that. Sometimes they understand the implications. Other times they have no idea that the world is speaking through them and with them.

“Whoa, what the fxck!?”

Wait. I can explain. Really. I can.

Some things I won’t explain though. Some things aren’t mine to explain and there is a lot that I don’t know.

I held my hands out to my right, “There is this whole world here,” I made a shape like a bowl or a bubble with my hands. It felt good, to find that I could hold it all in a 3×3 area.

“This world is real,” I said. “It makes sense to me. It is plausible. Yeah, I might be a little off here, or a missing a piece there, but this is all fairly solid.”

The outrage rose up a little at the thought that something so wonderful and storied and FXCKING BRILLIANT could be wrecked and relegated to the bins of loony and irrelevant.

Speaking of, the sun’s come up some and I’m going to go get moving with the day. I am not really sure what I’m doing and that’s a nice feeling. I’ll need to take some excerpts from this email and make a little account of double bookkeeping, though really my life is more of a triumverate and Life #3 has many off-branches – like Life #4, in which I am very probably under surveillance of some form. Oh, to be able to tell the psychiatrists-in-my-head to can it with the paranoiac pathologizing.

“I’m transparent.”

How mortifying in some ways, freeing in others.

I’m only transparent about my own life. I usually keep my friends and personal correspondences anonymous.

Related Links: 

3 thoughts on “Double Bookkeeping and “Psychosis”

  1. I happened to see that someone searched “double bookkeeping and psychosis” and came across this. I re-read this post and really appreciated my life.

  2. Pingback: Occupational Double-Binding and What I Am Mad About | PROOF OF GOD! ...and other tragedies.

  3. Pingback: Occupational Double-Binding and What Makes Me Mad | PROOF OF GOD! ...and other tragedies.

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