My wife and I went to see this year’s big reboot, “Blade Runner 2049”, 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. Physical, emotional, 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?