CNF: The Blue Devil

by Kimberly Moulos

I can’t help but look for my eyes when I pass reflective surfaces, but I see the dormant psychosis gnashing at my brain, eager to scramble my dark and foul self—I’ve got crazy eyes. It strains them to hold eye contact with the other, because I know the other can see it: how I feel the emptiness and chaos of not just our “civilization,” but of being itself. Everything is made of cardboard; it’s real, but not real in the sense of society’s collective delusions of legitimacy and authority in the face of systematized aggressive pressures on people who see the way I do. [Enter Anxiety:] The violence is coming, and it’s going to hurt and be more disfiguring then getting my thumb jammed into a nightmarish door in a psych ward seclusion room. There’s only fear because I do not want to miss what the psychosis is going to do next to that festering self-hood I navigate with half-assed and begrudging commitment.

When I was on the psych ward, I was swimming in a large blue and shiny hooded sweatshirt. As I emerged in it for the first time in the common area, a weathered old woman shouted at me, “Blue Devil! Blue Devil.” It might not have had anything to do with the garment. There was no surprise on my part, but what I’m trying to figure out, is am I the Blue Devil or is the psychosis the Blue Devil? Screw it; I am the psychosis, too! Awash with guilt for not playing along with feigned seriousness in the cardboard cities, the cardboard villages, playing the narrowly-defined role of girl dodging womanhood, when my heart’s not in any of it, the Blue Devil lets out a psychotic, carnival laugh of transgression—they’ll take me away again and again for my gnosis. I hope to find my counterparts, and with para-gnosis we can play with the unreality of it all. It’s all a Dirty Joke, but I’m structurally filthy. No dose of lithium bludgeoning the truth within me like a blunt object in the hands of a drunken strongman can stop me from seeing the cheapness of it and cackling. I am one Wyrd Sister, cackling away as forbidden colors and emotions bubble up from the hidden depths of my expansive psyche.

Kimberly Moulos was born and raised in the Chicagoland area, where she attended North Central College for undergraduate studies and Chicago Theological Seminary as well as the University of Chicago for graduate studies. After teaching humanities, philosophy, and religious studies courses for two and a half years in Chicago, she moved to Pittsburgh in 2016. In her short time in Pittsburgh, she has been a union organizer, (a maniacal) cheese counter specialist, (depressed) deli counter worker, and now is a (balanced and stable) part-time faculty member at Penn State’s satellite campus in Beaver, PA where she continues to teach religious studies and humanities courses. Despite her ongoing battle with Bipolar 1 Disorder, she maintains a love of teaching and continues to pursue “the life of the mind” with her partner, Dan McClymonds who is completing a PhD in Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Blue Devil”?

    “Blue Devil” attempts to capture into words both the social and existential alienation experienced by a subject of lapsed madness, me. Having read a lot of critical theory in graduate school, I often indulge in the idea that my bipolar psychosis has a sort of political dimension, that even when it appears dormant it gives a peculiar flavor to life, which coats experience in a sense of unreality. One is tempted to believe this unreality paradoxically might unlock a more expansive view of reality. Perhaps madness is an involuntarily anti-establishment psychical breakthrough as much as a rupture of the sane self. This piece is peppered with jarring moments from my hospitalization for bipolar 1 manic psychosis in the summer of 2016; I was 29, and had not experienced an episode since I was 20. The written expression of these memories provided an expected and intended catharsis, but also serve to potentially disturb the reader into a curiosity. Perhaps there is a more real way to perceive and process reality than the conventional ways required by our civilization. One might consider our notion of legitimacy and authority are shared delusions of power in our society. “Para-gnosis” plays with the etymology of the word “paranoid,” suggesting the pathological paranoia of the insane is dangerous to societal illusions if the questionable insights of madness could be united across subjectivities.
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