The title to this entry indicates that I believe there is some mysterious underlying truth beneath the label and psychiatric diagnosis of schizophrenia; something which is not commonly known, and which exists beyond traditional understanding.
I would imagine that if you are interested in conspiracy theories at all your ears may have pricked up at this point; and perhaps they should have done.
Paranoid and schizophrenia have got to be two of the least understood words in the English language, and when you put them together they become provocative, intimidating and somewhat misleading.
Before I became ill this phrase conjured up ideas surrounding derangement, inhumanity and general intense madness; but the overriding tone I felt these words had was scary.
Paranoid schizophrenia seemed to be the most distant point on the “sane-insane” scale; the furthest point you could travel to from “normal,” an alien plane of existence that was as chilling as it was unknown. We are generally unsettled by the unknown, and that which we do not understand: schizophrenia seemed to be the word to sum this up, denoting the inhumane, and the irrational.
Insanity was another cold, chilling word- until I actually became ill myself and then experienced it first hand.
The one thing I can say for certain is that the impressions I had of insanity, and of paranoid schizophrenia before I became ill, were completely inaccurate, and massively reductive.
The experiences you have with severe mental illness are not cold, chilling or inhuman; in fact most of my early symptoms can be best described as spiritual.
This may sound strange, if you have no personal prior experience of mental illness. I think that I assumed that because it is called mental illness, it sort of existed only in a persons head, and was just, well.. craziness. I thought it was very internal, very 2 dimensional- that people acted strangely without being aware of their strangeness.
It didn’t occur to me that the reason people act crazy is because for them the world has seemed to fundamentally change the way it presents itself. The world seemed to morph when I first became ill- I cannot stress this strongly enough; it felt like an entirely different place, as if the air was somehow denser.
It was spiritual in the sense that I felt a deep connection with nature; I felt massively connected to the natural world, and other people. It was inspiring, and moving; and I became hugely creative when I first went into hospital- all I wanted to do was draw and paint and write.
Everything felt brighter, and more vivid- it was like I had slipped into some new dimension, and I was aware of how bizarre it was, but only a tiny part of me was able to comprehend that. It was so intense, it was like trying to block out the half bottle of vodka you’ve just drunk, or the pill you’ve just taken.
I was hyper sensitive of other people, because I somehow felt much more aware of them, and for every person I passed a new voice would spring up in my head giving me either advice or criticisms which was hugely disconcerting. It seemed like I was suddenly more connected to the people around me, in a different way than I can effectively explain; it was as if I was suddenly hyper aware of all types of non-verbal communication.
My body also felt different, I seemed to lose my centre of gravity when i first developed symptoms; and although this works as a really nice metaphor for mental illness, I actually mean it literally. For the first few weeks I felt like I couldn’t walk properly, and was very aware of the way my posture held and my body moved when I walked, I felt as though I was off balance somehow, and as if I was stumbling constantly.
So Mental Illness does not exist only in a persons mind, only internally so to speak- it is very much an experience of mind and body, and of perception; as if the world has altered somehow and you’re seeing everything kind of off-kilter, as if it has pink and purple filters over it. You feel different, and you are focused on different things.
I know that the psychiatrists currently believe that mental illness is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and I am not working to refute that in this post, not at all.
I am simply trying to illustrate what said chemical imbalances feels like; and suggest that there is a lot more to severe conditions such as schizophrenia and bi-polar than I think is commonly understood.
I am trying to make clear that when people develop mental illness, it is often a much more multi-layered and multi faceted than it may outwardly appear. In my opinion, the term mental illness is a lot less helpful than something along the lines of “spiritual upheaval,” or “spiritual turmoil.”
It may be chemical imbalances in the brain that cause the illness, but the actual experience of it is something much deeper and more complex than that- it is a full mind and body alteration or shift in perception and awareness.
I know now, that the impression I had of mental illness before I actually developed it myself, was completely inaccurate. The term paranoid schizophrenia, with all of it’s chilling, unsettling connotations is simply misleading, because the reality of the condition is actually rich and moving on a very human level!
Perhaps there is meaning there which we simply don’t understand or grasp yet- perhaps there is a reason the experiences are so intense, and feel so profoundly meaningful. I hope to explore these ideas in further posts, and hopefully shed a bit of light on the reality behind the big scary words- insanity, paranoid schizophrenia and bi polar.