By that time I was already in full-blown psychosis, but when you are in this state, you don’t really notice. And why should you, especially when you feel happy and complete at the same time? Psychosis as such is a culturally misunderstood concept, but I feel like I could share a few insights on the phenomenon.
My psychosis was the result of ten nights of insomnia, which was more of an effect rather than cause. It was waiting to manifest itself, I guess, under the right circumstances.
My circumstances couldn’t be more benign as it turned out. Six months earlier I had stopped smoking cold turkey (bad decision in the end), had fallen in love (more on this later), and decided to treat my stomach, which until then was surviving with the terrible pain of long-term gastritis. It could be related to stress, or maybe it was provoked by me moving from my native Russia to Western Europe, but the end result was that I was constantly in pain.
Regarding cigarettes, before going cold turkey, I made at least ten attempts to stop smoking. But as the doctor from the Chinese centre, where I went on a regular basis for an anti-smoking acupuncture treatment, once said: ‘Your case is hopeless.’ He meant it as a joke, probably in order to cheer me up after seeing my face for a sixth time in a row, but every joke has some truth in it. After every acupuncture treatment the first thing I did once out of the premises of the Chinese centre was to go to the nearest cigarette shop, buy a packet of Barclay, light up a cigarette and smoke it like two very happy lovers kissing for the first time.
Acupuncture was not the only thing I had tried. I had also been hypnotised.
“Ekaterina, imagine yourself in the room of your dreams,” said the hypnotist in a very deep and melodic voice. “This room is near the sea, full of nice fresh air, your favourite things, and filled with wonderful music.”
The problem was that, among the favourite things, I would consistently imagine a packet of cigarettes. “This room is a non-smoking room. This is your new reality. The reality of a non-smoker. You choose this reality. You are a non-smoker.”
The man was reminding me of another hypnotist, once very popular in Russia. The General secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev, once at the helm of power, allowed spiritualism to develop along with communism, and a professor with a mysterious name Kashpirovski was healing the whole Russian nation and adjacent republics every Monday from seven until nine in the evening. Provided that you had a television and a bottle of water in front of it, you were supposed to be healed of all your troubles, both physical and spiritual, after following two hours of televised hypnosis from the professor. Kashpirovski disappeared from Russian television after numerous complaints from unsatisfied viewers, but according to some news he tried to come back with a new modernized programme. According to one newspaper, Moscow’s psychiatric hospitals got ready for this event by buying extra beds.
“And you will stay in this reality, Ekaterina. It is a non-smoker reality. Without cigarettes, ashtrays or matches.”
The hypnosis worked for half an hour. I made the mistake of staying in the proximity of the hypnotist’s house. Sitting in a nearby café and reflecting on what I could replace a packet of cigarettes in my non-smoking room with, I saw my ‘doctor’ emerging from his house. The first thing he did was to light up a cigarette.
Nicotine replacement therapy turned out to be even a bigger disaster. I ended up wearing a patch containing twenty milligrams of nicotine and still smoking a packet of cigarettes per day.
In the end I just went cold turkey, but once you deny yourself something you so deeply enjoy, you always end up in trouble. I never wanted to stop smoking but as usual was driven by what society wanted from me. Nowadays if you are a smoker, you are almost a criminal, or soon will be, considering the glances you get on the street once you light up what surely most smokers consider as their best friend.
(I switched to vaping since then.)
But the real problem lay with the Chinese. It was them to whom I went in order to get rid of the pain in my stomach.
The Chinese doctor to whom I went for help was very kind to me when I complained about my gastritis. He transferred my thoughts from the abdominal section right into my head with the help of a special herb he added in my cure. “Drink this tea for three weeks in a row and your stomach problems will be gone and for good.” The only thing the doctor forgot to mention was that my sleep would disappear as well.
And it’s how I ended up drinking a bottle of champagne in a bar in the middle of the day when I was supposed to be sitting behind my desk doing the analysis of banks.