Patient Power

A schizophrenic patient assumes, of course, a subservient or somehow complicit role with their psychiatrist, and with other medical professionals. This is important, it is necessary. It has helped me to seek treatment, and to remain on my prescribed medication.

There have been other benefits of treatment, as well as case-management. My psychiatrist helped to convince me to quit smoking. I am very grateful to her for that, and glad that I did. Several of my case managers suggested that I seek employment, which I did– and years later, I am happily and gainfully working.

Just the same, as a patient, I feel I need to meet the doctors and caseworkers halfway. At least halfway. I have to put forth an effort, too. It is wrong to expect others to spoon feed me everything I need in life and all I need to know.

Although I am schizophrenic, I still need to work hard, pay my bills and taxes, and live up to my various obligations. I recognize that there may be patients so incapacitated that they are unable to do these things, but I would recommend that mid- to high- functioning mentally ill people try to push their boundaries to see if they can handle more responsibility.

I would suggest that many people are capable of more than they realize.

It’s ok to hope for a miracle, but it takes effort, experience, and understanding to make things happen in the “real” world. Mentally ill people need to be more– gulp– self-reliant.

Serotonin

The pill I take, the only one for my schizophrenia, is Risperdol. I have taken it for many years. Lately, I have been gradually reducing my dosage, which is small anyway.

What does Risperdol do? It is a Serotonin inhibitor. It reduces the flow of Serotonin in my brain. Some may know that Serotonin has a lot to do with a person’s experience with pleasure.

It seems that, for whatever reason, the way I experience pleasure has a negative effect on my mental health, generally, and my concentration specifically. When I go off of the medication (which I have tried, but don’t recommend), I slip into a state of unfocused confusion.

I wonder if I am the only one, if schizophrenics are the only people, to notice that unhealthy relationships with pleasure, pleasure-seeking and the way the mind experiences these things, have a negative effect on one’s emotional and/or mental life?

Perfection

In today’s fast-paced world, there is at times a sense that people should seem “perfect”– they should be virtually omniscient. They should look great, at all times. Never stutter. Never show weakness.

These are impossibly high standards. A mentally ill person must certainly come to terms with imperfection. Keeping this flaw secret for years was very stressful for me– and this became more and more awkward until I felt I was positively insincere.

Meditating on Christianity, it is believed that Christ was perfect, and without sin. That being said, we mortals are imperfect, and can never be without flaw.

Of course, to complicate, we try to achieve perfection. It is in our nature to do so. But we are always reminded that only Christ was perfect, and that His life and suffering are meant to free us from this tendency (and from sin in general).

Perhaps one key to actual ability would be for us all, schizophrenic or no, to admit to our imperfections, to realize them, and then to work from there, with the assumption that, of course, we all try to help.

As my mother shared with me years ago, “We are all wounded healers”.

“Blade Runner 2049”

My wife and I went to see this year’s big reboot, “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), last night. There is a new director (Denis Villeneuve), a new musician doing the score, yet many of the same original actors and actresses. The setting, main premise and other elements were created by Philip K. Dick, the writer mentioned in an earlier post who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

An interesting resonance, not to give too much away, was the lead character’s (“Joe’s”) confusion over his identity. Though it was suggested from the beginning that he was a “replicant”, (a genetically engineered android), certain developments complicate this description, and this becomes a profound issue for the character.

This resembles a problem that schizophrenics often deal with. Terrible to say, but when a person has a debilitating mental illness, it can be quite a blow to self-esteem. The patient may wonder if he is like others– up to par– even fully human. There are those who, publicly or privately, might judge or treat disabled people like they are less than normal, less than human.

This is complicated. Not only is it painful for the patient (who may more than anything want to be construed as able and normative), it is complicated for those who judge. If they know there is a mental health issue, this becomes a trait that is hard not to consider. In fact, though schizophrenic myself, I have found it is nearly impossible not to be at least somewhat critical or distrusting of other schizophrenics, due to their conditions(s).

One of the more powerful scenes in “Blade Runner 2049” is when Joe discovers that a memory of his, which he considered to be fake, “implanted”, seems to have actually happened. The idea that he might be born of man and woman, “human”, causes a dramatic emotional reaction, and leads him to question how he views himself, and how he is treated by others.

I would suggest that, in many ways, schizophrenia can be more of a difference than simply a weakness, and can assure you that I feel as fully human now as I did when I was considered healthy. I am probably better at some things now that I have this diagnosis, and certainly still have feelings, a spiritual life, relationships, and the various components that make a person whole.

I used to see a psychologist, and I asked him what makes a person healthy. Wholeness was his answer– that a person has a complete and nuanced life. A whole person is physical, emotional, and spiritual. I can confirm that a whole life can be achieved by a person who has a mental illness.

Can others view a schizophrenic person as being wholly human? Can the patient him or herself adapt this view, as well?

“Fake News”

Not long ago, my wife and I were watching a local news broadcast. It covered a meeting that was held locally, which my wife attended in person, concerning a topic many find to be relevant. When she watched the news coverage, she was angered that it did not reflect her experience with the meeting– only certain people were interviewed, and the report was very much presented from a particular and abbreviated point of view.

The news media communicates with what seems to be an “objective” voice. If a report or story is not called an “editorial”, then it is to be taken as truth.

Yet, increasingly, I wonder, what is truth? What is objective? Can we know and trust what we hear?

The schizophrenic is asked to throw doubt towards their impressions and hallucinations, in order to deduce what is healthy and true. Sadly, I feel that we find ourselves in a state as an entire society that we must do the same.

Paranoid, perhaps, of me, but I suspect that the main movements and tidings on a global scale have been largely shrouded in secrecy for decades. Few people know the “actual” truth– I feel that we are not meant to know, not trusted to, as citizens– sane or mentally ill. I write this, not really being into conspiracy theories, as I find most of them to be false.

The question remains– who makes a claim to an objective voice? Many have tried, many have made that claim. How many have achieved this with due sincerity?

Has The World Gone Crazy?

Looking around at the world today, events in the news, and so forth, a person might wonder, “Has the world gone crazy?”

Well, from my point of view, I would say there is good and bad. On a positive note, the world will never consider itself insane– the majority of people will always accept their own perspective(s) as being real and legitimate. I believe that mental illness will continue to be perceived as a peripheral phenomenon– that schizophrenics, for example, will be seen as sick or maladjusted, at least to some degree. Reality is somewhat democratic. It will be defined by what most people suggest, and therefore what most suggest will be construed as being healthy.

On the other hand, the bad– modernity, with its accelerating pace, frightening feedback loops and other phenomena, may indeed be stressful and challenging enough that it is causing “normal” people to increasingly have symptoms of mental illness. At this point, it seems that there are more people in therapy than out, and it is suggested that anti-depressants and related medications are so prevalent that they have started to pollute our drinking water. Stress is a killer, and few are exempt from it– those who are seem not to grasp things.

So, paradoxically, the world is not going crazy. But it seems like a lot of the people in it are beginning to act crazy themselves.

Time, Perspective, Madness

I once borrowed a friend’s copy of Habermas’ The Philosophical Discourse Of Modernity (1985)— a book of contemporary philosophy. I was a literature major, not philosophy, and I really struggled with the book. But there were a few ideas that resonated with me.

One was that of a modern reality of time. Habermas puts forward the notion of “Jetzeit”. The idea is that time moves in a particular manner, as experienced by people, in this modern world. We generally encounter a kind of “low” or “empty” time- filled with everyday commerce, interactions and events. On occasion, we come to experience a “sacred” or “holy” time– our profane lives are punctuated by these kinds of Messianic interventions.

A theory of mental illness might be, what if this experience with time is misinterpreted? What if a patient either applies the Messianic time to nearly all events, or refuses to apply it to any? That would result in the development of false ideas.

If you are sane, experiencing most of your life as this low time, and a mentally ill person tries to impress on you that every moment is extremely important, ardently sacred, that would seem strange to you, inaccurate, unreal– unhealthy.

A person who never has encounters with the sacred misunderstands peak events when they occur– again seeming unhealthy, missing important aspects of a whole existence.

Would it be possible for schizophrenics to learn of and accept Habermas’ model? I am sure it was his view that “Jetzeit” was reality, not just an opinion. It described our current modern mode. Therefore it would be helpful to be aware of this experience of time, and to try to share it with one another, and to accept it.

Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick is a writer who is getting a lot of press lately. Among other things, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. There is a lot you could say about him, especially concerning certain ideas he put forward in his writings.

One major idea was that of subjectivity. PKD suggests that each person has their own point of view– which is legitimized by their unique experience(s). For example, in Maze Of Death (1970 Doubleday), he demonstrates that, in a small group of people, each person lives in their own reality, dictated by particular rules and traits.

A result of my own schizophrenia is that I am aware of this view, and often tempted to adopt it. The purer the subjectivity I accept, the more I can put forward my own perspective. Though it is said that I have a mental illness, a subjective view rather suggests that my reality is still my own and is therefore genuine, as much as anyone else’s.

What is the problem? There is such a thing as a social fabric. I can say that, for example, I am having an aural hallucination, or “hearing a voice”. If no one else can hear it, it would likely be dismissed as not being “real”. This preserves the social order. And, I am one to admit, as I work with the public, that listening to people talk to themselves, especially in any volume, can be quite disturbing. It’s all real to them, sure, but what about everyone else, and the things they have to do?

You might say that reality is democratic. If most people accept it, then it is seen as the case. I can claim subjectivity, but my view might be eclipsed by the majority, dismissed as being incorrect.

Some people I dialogue with suggest that we are moving towards an era where subjectivity will be the ultimate guideline. I am not so sure. If we are, I wonder if we can also keep peace and order.

The issue of subjectivity never really resolves for me, but can only be reduced to a dialectic, shifting between poles of value.

That being said, I think I can understand why PKD would think of things in a subjective way, and I do appreciate his many contributions to the world of thought, which are seemingly so relevant today– including his idea that the world itself, or environment, is like a character, and is subject to changing traits and qualities.

PhilipDick

Drone Music And Schizophrenia

Drone music is a genre that is an interest of mine. As the musical act, “mystified“, I composed literally thousands of pieces of drone music. The smooth, steady tones of this kind of music emerged with a purpose to bring on a state of calm– to soothe listeners, and perhaps even to induce trance states.

Pushed beyond a certain point, and drone can also resemble the “Flattening Of Affect” symptom– simulating cold, emotionless modes, even ushering them in.

Where to draw the line between a healthy sense of peace and an unhealthy lack of emotion?

Symptoms

I wanted to write a short post about 3 symptoms of schizophrenia. It interesting, because they sound oddly like coping skills.

“A Change In Sense Of Self”– the patient adopts a new and different view of him or herself, at the onset of the illness. True– and true, too, that we all tend to regard ourselves differently in different situations. In this life, we may define ourselves, as, say, a husband at home, and a technician at work. Further, to the degree that we allow others’ opinions of ourselves to dictate our identities, we might adapt all kinds of fragmented or inconsistent views of ourselves. Nowadays, our sense of self changes, it can be quite fluid, whether healthy or not.

“Racing Thoughts”– the patient expresses that his or her thought patterns move more quickly than they should, and perhaps sporadically. That being considered, life in this consumerist, technologically advanced reality can very easily bring on and even to some degree necessitate thoughts that “race”. I would even suggest that many people have racing thoughts– but that schizophrenics may find them harder to deal with.

“Flattening Of Affect”– the patient responds to stimuli in flattened and / or soft monotones. This symptom reminds me of trying to deal with crises in public, or any kind of escalating situation. Even healthy people have to step back, take a deep breath– and address things in level, calm ways.

Taken one way, these are symptoms of mental illness. In other ways, they are attributes of most peoples’ psyches in this changeable modern life.