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Do you know what insanity is truly like?

  1. May 7, 2004 #1
    I've been given a psychiatric diagnosis, but that does not begin to describe some of the hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, depression, obsession, euphoria, and anxiety I've experienced.

    If you want to witness firsthand what mental illnesses are like, PCP may be the drug that most accurately mimics their symptoms. I warn you, though, if you do survive it, you may have to take pills to prevent psychoses thereafter.

    40% of the homeless have a serious mental illness, 30% of inmates and about 7% of the general population. Half of those affected have abused drugs, and around half are unemployed, existing on below poverty welfare of <$700 a month. Half deny that they are ill, refuse medication and decline to see a doctor - not surprising considering their experiences with and perceptions of the "system." States are starting to deny dispensation of psychiatric medication through Medicaid, insuring that many will take their own lives as a result. The largest de facto mental institution in the US is either the Los Angeles county jail or Riker's Island in New York.

    You may wish to visit NAMI for comprehensive information on mental illness.

    If you are related to mental illness, let folks out there know how you, a family member or a friend has suffered. Here is your opportunity...
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2004 #2
    I'm friends with a guy who lives in my building who was diagnosed a schizophrenic when I first moved in. Later his diagnosis was changed to schizoaffective. When I first moved in he was the victim of "command" voices, voices that ordered him to do pointless things. One of the things they told him to do was paint things white. He painted everything he owned white. Sometimes they told him to paint things he didn't own white. He was arrested when a neighbor saw him out front painting the fire hydrant white. He protested that it wasn't his idea and that he had no desire to do it.

    I read that voices like this keep people doing what they tell them to do by threatening to create some disaster in the world if they aren't obeyed. The person is then told they they are responsible for whatever disaster is reported next day on the news, if they haven't obeyed.

    Sometimes the voices let up on him and he became quite giddy and manic. He used to make peculiar, crude furniture out of two by fours and plywood at times like this. One day he cut his thumb off with a circular saw while making something. He didn't realize it because he seems to have almost no ability to feel physical pain in most of his body. He told me later all he felt was the intense vibration. Someone got him to the hospital and they got his thumb back on in time. It works now, but feels almost completely numb. This is an odd thing that some people diagnosed with schizophrenia have: lack of a sensation of physical pain. I don't know why this hasn't been studied in depth because it surely points to some organic neurological basis for the condition.

    After the thumb incident he agreed to have shots of prolyxin, which is an extremely powerful anti-psychotic med, in lieu of the pills he wasn't really taking. This hasn'y stopped the voices, it has changed them to pleasant friendly ones. Unfortunately, it has removed all his motivation to do anything but eat. He sleeps about 16 hours a day now. While he is awake he paces around his room and watches TV. He goes out twice a week, once to shop, and once to a group meeting. He does laundry about once a year on special occasions, like if a relative is coming to visit.
     
  4. May 7, 2004 #3

    hypnagogue

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    I believe I have some insight into the first person phenomenology of insanity. Some time ago, being a bit experimental, I took a generous dose of dextromethorphan, a dissociative with effects similar to ketamine and PCP. During the resulting experience, my perceptions of time, body, and self became profoundly and uncomfortably distorted and I felt as if I was literally losing my mind, that I was literally insane.

    Below is an excerpt from a short story I wrote based on the experience. It goes into better detail about the phenomenology of the experience than I could recount now.

    ****
    Gradually I noticed the change. The world took on an increasingly strange and subtly detached quality, as if I were seeing everything through an omnipresent and invisible haze, through a new filtering mechanism erected behind my eyes. Objects retained much of their familiar character in the most objective sense of form and color-- it was rather some attendant and implicit perception of their quality of being and interconnectedness that was becoming increasingly warped well beyond any semblance of familiarity. Where once I took for granted the seamless integrations and distinctions effected by my normally functioning visual faculties, I now appreciated the profound sense in which my mind tacitly constructed the unseen ground that every perception rested upon, the sense in which it made objects appear implicitly natural or absurd, aesthetic or mundane, real or phantasmal-- indeed, the very way it distinguished and demarcated the disorganized stimuli of the visual field as discrete, bounded, independent entities to begin with. I tested my vision upon a shoe lying on my floor and it seemed inordinately small, but not in the sense of being in the far distance. It lay before me with the same size and shape as ever, subtended the same visual angle on my retina as ever; nonetheless, it gave the distinct impression of being smaller than it actually was, a qualitative sense of size in blatantly simultaneous contradiction to how large I knew it should have appeared, and some part of me laughed uneasily as the rest looked on, unmoved. I stared at the paradox in dull disbelief, waiting for it to resolve itself back into logical coherence, but it persisted defiantly, impossibly.

    It was not long before my sense of time began to suffer a similar deterioration at the roots. The extended sense of time dilation I experienced was overpowered forcibly by a more troubling apprehension that time itself was beginning to come unglued at the seams, splintering jagged fragments into the mist. I lurched from one temporal island of awareness to the next, as if my brain had forgotten how to reconcile the present as a smooth, flowing continuation of the immediate past. I was shocked to discover that it ever needed to do so in the first place, that perhaps the subjective continuity of time was merely an internal construction, an illusion telling nothing of the true nature of time itself-- if such a thing even existed.

    Reality crumbled in my hand like a stale cracker the more desperately I tried to grasp hold of it. I extended my arms out before me and looked at my hands in an effort to remind myself of the order of things, to re-establish some firm footing before I drifted too far off. But I found no solace even in the familiar context of my own embodiment. I had difficulty recognizing my limbs as belonging to myself-- they appeared instead as grotesque mechanical appendages floating disconnected in space, lifeless, no more an extension of my being than the room around me. My body, I now keenly perceived, was no different from the bed I lay upon, or the shoe I had gazed upon; it was a miserable lump of nervous matter, an inert mass to which I was inextricably bounded.

    I rose from my bed to see myself in the mirror, to see what I had become, what I was becoming to become. I perceived with intense discomfort the uneasy disorientation of merely standing upright, for it scarcely felt as if I were standing at all, as if any sense of kinesthesia that was not lost to me altogether had been hopelessly distorted. But the act of walking was infinitely worse. Each step was horrifyingly dead and mechanical, zombie-like; I remained capable enough for autonomous movement, but the specific motoric response of my gait was beyond my control, my feet falling with robotic fixedness and rigidity, like clockwork. I was reduced to an infinitesimal jailor shouting orders at the detached and burdensome apparatus of his own deadweight prison.

    When I came to the mirror I did not recognize my face. It was only a plastic mask, a false shell that had calcified over me through time, encrusting me, suffocating-- how oddly it hung there, distended and drooping like a leaden curtain from my thoughts, how utterly strange that I could have ever conceived of this thing as ‘me.’ My eyes were huge and blank as if they had undergone shock, seeing themselves to be doorways to an empty husk, showing nothing of what remained of myself. I became possessed by an intense, overbearing feeling that my life to this point, now so utterly and unfathomably remote, had been leading me inexorably to this particular moment, a prolonged string of trivialities and deceptions culminating spectacularly in the violent and inevitable act of their own systematic deconstruction. I felt no connection with my former self, my name, my memories-- they had all been exposed as mere fabrications and illusions, smoke and mirrors devised by the alien I once pretended to be, peddling as truth its vain comedic tragedies so well that it came to believe them, even to defend them with sycophantic guardedness. But I now saw the arbitrariness of it all, that even those things that had once been so concrete that they assumed the guise of an independent and absolute reality were at their heart only contingent, subjective creations. Every notion that is construed in such a way by the mind can thus be construed differently by the mind-- nothing is sacred, no great immutable Truths reveal themselves from outside to the frail evanescent fiction of life-- there is only the convergence of relativities, artificial impositions generating the illusion of coherence, of false unity.

    But what, then, was it that remained of me? What was that incompressible core which nonetheless persisted to function and carry on at least this most rudimentary and atomic sense of self, microscopic and constricted as it was? I did not have time to ponder this final mystery-- suddenly I felt the menacing onset of what could only be described as the impending encroachment upon me of death, if I had not died already, a seeping darkness bleeding from the haze and snuffing out the last vestiges of consciousness--
    ****

    (I didn't really pass out like that, I just wrote it in. I did make a conscientious effort to fall asleep, though, to sleep off the experience and wake up 'normal,' as it was so uncomfortable. And I did feel as if I was literally dying.)

    The above account doesn't quite capture everything. When I pondered my own self identity, not only did it seem completely false and fabricated and remote, there was actually some element of humor to it. It was so ridiculous as to be funny that I associated anything about me before that time-- name, memories, etc.-- with 'me.' All of that had nothing to do with 'me' during this experience, as if I had shed a costume that I become so accustomed to wearing that I entirely forgot that I was ever wearing it in the first place.

    I also at one point dimly felt some sort of massive and imminent presence about me, as if I felt the presence of God dwelling about me, but it was distinctly un-Godlike in its complete dispassionate impersonalness. In retrospect I think this feeling of some dissociated 'presence' must have been related to my own personal dissociation of identity. Whatever part of my brain that is responsible for 'sensing' self-hood and otherness was being thrown for a loop.
     
  5. May 7, 2004 #4
    Both of you paint important portraits of insanity, one pitiably "objective" and the other terribly "subjective." For most it is hard to understand how they could be interlinked, except for the bizarre behavior of the former and even more bizarre thinking of the latter.

    hypnagogue, I am glad you found the rocks of humor and God to cling onto. I hope presently you benefit from your reflections of this experience without unpleasant flashbacks or the need for antipsychotics.

    zoobyshoe, your friend is fortunate to have people who care about him, and that he now receives the lifesaving regimen he requires. The "voices" are often the last symptom to go - maybe some good can come of them medicated. (My diagnosis too, schizoaffective disorder.)
     
  6. May 7, 2004 #5

    hypnagogue

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    I wouldn't quite call them things I could cling to. Even the humor was uncomfortable and terribly strange. And I only used the word 'God' because that's a word that occurred to me during the experience, although a better phrasing would just be 'a generic sense of a discarnate presence/entity.' But thankfully there have been no long term repurcussions with regards to persisting mental problems.

    Although I would never want to relive that sort of experience, I do find it quite insightful as to the constructed nature of subjective experience. Our minds can run so smoothly that it may be difficult (or impossible) to realize just how much goes into their construction from a strictly 'normal' or average perspective. We get our best insights into the gears behind it all in instances where things systematically change, either objectively by studying brain lesion cases and the like, or subjectively by undergoing experiences where normally 'invisible' processes vary drastically. While anyone can read reports about the former, it's relatively rare but potentially extremely valuable to experience the latter. One really gets a powerful sense of these things rather than a comparitively sterile abstract understanding, and also gets better insight into to the minds of others.

    To that end I feel as if I can sympathize with schizophrenic-type illnesses better than the 'average' person with little to no variance in personally experienced states of consciousness, having had a somewhat related if not identical taste of it. I really can't imagine having to live with something like that for the duration of one's life-- something that in its worst instances can rightfully be called a living hell in a more profound and terrible sense than most can possibly dream of. Loren, I hope you're having good luck living an enjoyable life and coping with the difficulties of the hand that's been dealt to you.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2004
  7. May 7, 2004 #6
    The trouble in his case is that the prolyxin has robbed him of all motivation beyond the base enjoyment of eating and sleeping. He is not like you, he could not work up any interest in physics, or anything requiring sustained attention. He wouldn't think to try out the web, or post in a forum. He is essentially "warehoused" in his room, living a minimum possible life. He has no interest in changing this. He has gained about 70 pounds since going on the prolyxin, and worse, he has developed pronounced tardive diskinesia as a side effect of the medication: he now has a repertoire of tics and perseverative behaviours.

    I've talked to him several times trying to convince him to ask his doc to try a different med. He doesn't want to. He says the prolyxin makes him feel "peaceful". I actually became so alarmed at how his lifestyle degenerated along with his health that I wrote to his doctor, urging him to try a different med. There was no reply. My guess is that they feel as long as he isn't being arrested for low grade vandalism or inadvertantly injuring himself, that the treatment is successful. I think they also don't believe he will stick to any med that he has to take himself.

    He used to be quite a clean person when he was not on the prolyxin. Now he is amazingly filthy. His room is caked with dust except for the path on the floor where he paces during TV commercials.

    There are at least five other meds that I know of which might have the same palliative effects on his tormenting voices that don't have the side effects of prolyxin. The prolyxin removes his concern about its side effects. His tics and inertia and uncleanliness don't bother him, and he is now the only person who could get a med change tried.

    He used to be into electronics and music. He was quite a versatile guitarist. Now he does absolutely nothing.
     
  8. May 7, 2004 #7
    I have first hand experience with insanity. My girlfriend is freaking nuts.
    How deep do I need to bury the body to be sure no dogs dig it up?
    Although there are some things even a dog won't eat.
     
  9. May 7, 2004 #8

    jimmy p

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    I find that the "usual" 6ft is fine by me. Actually dogs would be a good way of disguising the evidence. If they wouldnt eat your girlfriend, just wrap her in bacon... problem solved.
     
  10. May 7, 2004 #9
    You think I'm made of money or something? You have any ideas how many pigs I'd have to slaughter to get that much bacon?
     
  11. May 7, 2004 #10

    jimmy p

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    ok, kill a coupla pigs, and then while the dogs are feasting on the bacon wrapped parts, shave some slices off them and make....DACON. It's almost like a perpetual motion device... but different.
     
  12. May 7, 2004 #11

    chroot

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    jimmy p & tribdog,

    Please show some respect.

    - Warren
     
  13. May 7, 2004 #12
    That's the problem with perpetual motion devices they take, like...forever to make.
    I said I gotta go dammit!
     
  14. May 7, 2004 #13
    Show some respect? Us? What are you? Crazy? whoops forgot what thread I was in
     
  15. May 7, 2004 #14

    jimmy p

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    I'm sorry, I did think we were hijacking the thread a little.
     
  16. May 7, 2004 #15

    chroot

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    It's okay guys.. it just happens that Loren is trying to share something that is probably very difficult to share, and we should show our respect.

    - Warren
     
  17. May 7, 2004 #16
    Laughter is the best medicine ~ F. Nightengale
     
  18. May 7, 2004 #17

    chroot

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    Many people would find discussion about killing and burying one's girlfriend to be disturbing, not amusing. Please, take the witless banter to another thread.

    - Warren
     
  19. May 7, 2004 #18
    you don't know my girlfriend, but okay
     
  20. May 7, 2004 #19

    Tsu

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    Thanks, Warren. I was finding this a very interesting thread. I really appreciate the insights which Loren, Hyp and Zooby have offered. Mental illness is confusing and difficult to live with for the people who have it and their loved ones. Any understanding that can be passed along is always appreciated.
     
  21. May 7, 2004 #20
    When the general (relatively well) population claims to know the experience of mental illness, it is like my claiming to know what it is to be black by having a few dark moles on my body. The best one can do toward people having mental illness may be to practice empathy with anyone we have dismissed before as crazy. Tolerating, even enjoying, the company of folks with mental illness brings out a self-therapeutic attitude and reveals mutual psychological mysteries. Remember your accepting approach may save lives by exercising a modicum of appropriate effort.
     
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