On Mental Health

Some truths about paranoid schizophrenia

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Some truths about paranoid schizophrenia

  1. My goodness, what a post!

    Firstly, a huge thankyou for being so brave as to express yourself with such clarity – and compassion. It’s not only guts it takes to put this kind of thing to paper, it’s the strength that comes with insight – the power to reflect on the things you have experienced. That in itself speaks of your ‘illness’ as being more of a challenge than something that would swallow a weaker soul without even a burp.

    Conceptually, I can grasp paranoia; the schizophrenia is beyond me. My own understanding of paranoia is a reversal of my understanding of our ‘comfort zone’, which is something we all need. We all need a place to feel comfortable in, with friends and warmth that don’t challenge one. But it is there so that we might meet our challenges during the day – and from what you say, those challenges were amplified and distorted in some way. Quite why is another matter altogether!

    But then, that’s what fascinates me about your writing – and I’ve only read three of your posts so far. It’s the clarity with which you express yourself that tells me you have deeper, stronger roots than the illnesses.

    As to the poor psychiatrists with their mumbo-jumbo chemical explanations; they’re not wrong about the bio-chemistry. They are wrong about its causing what is going on. Saying that a chemical moves the human mind is like saying a pretty girl excites the young man… that pretty girl wouldn’t excite the young man if he hadn’t seen her. Where the psychiatrists do have a limited amount of truth is the resulting effect of those chemicals on a very sensitive part of your being. This brings about a cascade of resulting ‘happenings’ (I can’t describe it any better) – but the important thing to note is that the starting ‘seed’ is and cannot be chemical. Just as the boy needs to see the girl to be affected by her. Even so, how much is true emotion and how much is chemistry is hard to discern.

    For the psychiatrist, it’s easy: you can’t measure emotions with a ruler, so they can’t exist. But then, you can’t measure the soul that way either, and their job – psychiatry – is based on the knowledge of psyche, the soul. They want it both ways: to nail a butterfly to the floor and still have it beat its wings.

    I look forward to your future posts, perhaps I will understand what is going on a little better?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Gemma. It means so much to read your thoughtful, insightful and encouraging post- in fact it has really made my day! I am currently writing a self-help book on “how to recover from serious mental illness,” and your compliments about my ability to express myself mean a lot right now!!.. Writing has been tough, but I really want to get my ideas out there, so motivating messages are very gratefully received. I absolutely love and agree with your comments on the psychiatrists- they are looking at an experience from a one-sided, absolute point of view, and missing the other sides which as you have said are emotional and spiritual, and deeply so at that. It is like looking at a beautiful painting and only focusing on the colour red! I do hope to use this blog to explore my experiences, and what they seem to mean; whilst I carry on with my book! I look forward to more of your posts, and have also followed you. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If there is anybody who is going to help people with anything, leave alone the tortous and paradoxical business of mental illness, it is someone who can describe it clearly and with empathy.

      In fact, it is what the psychiatrists lack… almost in its entirety. My father was an academic, a professor, and whilst he loved his job and his subject, lacked the true empathy that brings anything to life in the ears of the listener. One facet of my own blog deals with what it is that academics lack, and why – if for the only reason that it lives within us all. It is in reality, a very serious mental illness in its own right, yet unrecognized because it cannot be measured. I discussed this – albeit tangentially – in one of my posts exploring dementia, entitled ‘The Evidence For Dementia’.

      It’s heartening to know that I was able to help. I love writing myself, but do need encouragement – so know where you’re coming from. The most important thing is that you have allowed others to review what you have done, which shows courage and the attitude that marks a person who is able to make the best of their life, wherever it leads.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, this means a lot 🙂 And yes, empathy is something that is so natural i think, and so important. Yet I think people sometimes struggle with it because it shifts you onto a different level? And if that level doesn’t help them feel normal in the moment, if they are not so naturally inclined towards emotion and feelings, they will move back away from it quickly because it hurts! Take care.

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      2. The truth does hurt.

        I’ll put it the other way around: if someone learns something new that fits in with their way of thinking, it’s not going to be noticed because it ‘fits’. In fitting their comfort zone, it sneaks in unnoticed.

        Anything that is truly different will upset their apple cart. Upset their stability of mind. That’s why they don’t like new ideas – and self expression usually flings one or two of them up. Just once in a while – and I’ve done it myself to know – but for most people, once is enough. It hurt enough that they didn’t want to do it ever, ever again!!!

        In the fixed world of the comfort zone, everything is known. The problem with emotions is that they cannot be examined in the same way as the numbers in one’s account book. That makes them scary, because they don’t do as they’re told.

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      3. Yes! I have never considered the idea of the emotional comfort zone, and what it means to move beyond it. I never thought of my experiences in that way- although I think that was because they were not all bad. Some of the emotions and sensations that I experienced were so stong, but so profound in nature. That is what makes it so mind boggling, because half the time you feel as though you’ve fallen asleep and woken up in heaven. It is very disturbing, on a level that it makes reconnecting with ‘reality’ very diffecult. ‘Reality’ can feel very flat, very bland at times.
        But I know what you mean about people who struggle with new ideas, or new feelings- I think they are often scared they will be affected and changed in some way, they’re maybe not as confident in their abiltiy to shift between emotional states… ??

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You say that “‘Reality’ can feel very flat, very bland at times.” It is, and that is one of the challenges we must meet. That is for an upcoming post to explore, though; because when one has the contentment to allow oneself not to be bored with nature, it begins to flower in ways you cannot even begin to describe in words.

        “I know what you mean about people who struggle with new ideas, or new feelings- I think they are often scared they will be affected and changed in some way, they’re maybe not as confident in their abiltiy to shift between emotional states… ??”

        Confidence? What is to be afraid of in the things one feels within ones own self??? I do know it exists, albeit that I only experienced it at odd moments. We all bear these fears within us; my reasonings are explained here:

        https://gemmasponderings.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/subconscious-7-milena-sees-witchcraft-everywhere

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      5. Hmm, I guess maybe it isn’t confidence. I think people shy away from feeling guilty or hurt.. for obvious reasons. But I sometimes feel like people miss the forest for the trees here. We are all human, and make mistakes; avoiding these negative feelings mean you don’t grasp situations and people honestly and completely. Obviously I am not suggesting wallowing in said negative feeling, just that if you turn the other way the moment you feel something which might make them feel bad, you’re missing out on insight. I think people are sometimes scared of feeling things deeply, because they may be moved, and this can be unsettling.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I agree about the trees, and the wallowing.

        The part that really interests me is that a person who is confined to their comfort zone will always see the things that come at them from outside as threats. It really is ‘either-or’. Either it’s nice, or it’s nasty. The problem is that they’re unaware of their sympathies or their antipathies.

        You are speaking as someone who has the self-confidence to make mistakes. Most people are too afraid to because of what it might bring down on them – that is to say, they imagine consequences that evoke their fears. To me, the issue really does hinge on how conscious one is, and in being conscious, confident.

        But not in the way that is overbearing.

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  3. Loving this Alex. It’s not that often you seem to hear about the positive sides of having Schizophrenia and this really shreds light on them. It sounds like you are almost describing extra sences. It certainly sounds like you were describing having a good time. Do you ever look back over the writing/art you created then?

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    1. Yes..! I have a sketch book which I used when I first went into hospital, lol it looks like the typical crazy persons book, lots of scribling and drawing- but some of it is good, and it will always mean a lot to me. I discovered spirituality when I became ill, and I was lucky enough to not have entirely negative experiences yes. What do you mean by extra scenes? Thanks for the comment 🙂

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      1. In all likelihood, he’s thinking the same.

        That doesn’t stop him being him, and it doesn’t stop you being you… it does mean that for all the negativity, the delight in each other is worth far more.

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  4. OOPS! Can you delete that last comment, it’s still early!

    You can edit this one to say:

    There are times when a picture can help the words, and the words explain a picture. In a world that is so utterly different from our own, any kind of description helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe other comment deleted! Yes, the idea of including pictures isn’t something i had thought about, but is a nice idea.. i have a couple of ideas for ‘crazy’ related compositions 🙂

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  5. Awsome post and very greatly appreciated. I am everyday confronted ny the fact that nobody at all understands how destrructive schizophrenia can be until they unfortuantely experience it. SOcial isolation is one of the awfully challenging symptoms, and it is impossible to even convey its impact to trained medical experts. It is astounding, but it took me nearly 22 years to figure out why that is. If I hallucinate (auditory verbal hallucinations – schizophrenia voices) for 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, and I see my psychiatrist every 4 months (now), then if I try to articulate what I have been thorugh, I am attempting to summarise 1344 hours of information into a 20 – 30 second statement! And that is before I might attempt to explain the visceral anomalies I have discovered accompany the psoitive symptoms. Thank you for your conviction and bravery in discussing the battle publicly.

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