On Mental Health

Personal filters for reality (1)

Life is strange.

Does anyone else agree with me on this? That life can be mind-bendingly, jaw-achingly strange at times.

I consider myself, to most intents and purposes, sane- and yet there are days when things happen which leave me baffled and somewhat in awe of this crazy occurrence called Life. I’m not sure if this is a universal experience, or whether the fourteen years I have spent living with schizophrenia, living the strange, have left an imprint.

On some days the irony of this is enough to make me laugh out loud. I make it through all the madness of the mind to eventually discover that life is madder- life is where the true mystery resides.

This series of posts are going to be about the idea that Life (our conception of and interaction with external reality) is affected by the mind: the way we think affects the way we experience and perceive the world. It also affects the way we interact with it.

It’s like we all have a kind of filter, which is generated by the individual’s mind and subsequently by their personal history, personality, psychology etc. We view the world through this filter: we do, ultimately, create our own reality but this is not a conscious process.

If shitty things happen to us we might find it hard to see the good in the world; if we have lived a life of luxury we may not be able to understand why other people are always “so negative.” We didn’t choose to have these perspectives- they are just built up over time.

The things which have happened to us, and the way we have responded to those things- everything which has ever happened to us makes up this filter- and we experience the world through it.

I have started to ponder the idea that when I first broke down, experienced my psychotic break; this was because my previous filter broke down. Something inside me broke, under some kind of pressure.

The reasons for my filter breaking down are best left for another post because they are multiple and complicated- but what’s important to say here is that when my filter broke down I was left with no context or set of internal standards or comparisons to order the world and relate to it.

My filter had been what directed my conception of the world, and in the gap which was left after is broke down instinct, imagination and emotion flooded in to take over.

My base perception of reality became very instinctual and very impulsive- my fight/flight responses went into overdrive and other people became collections of impulses and stimuli. I lost the ability to rely upon friendship- people were other forces to be treated warily and I couldn’t remember how to relate to anybody or anything in the way which I had done before.

It was terrifying at first; before I was hospitalised I spent a month living with my uni friends in a state of constant dread and confusion. Everything had triple, quadruple meaning and I couldn’t find anything stable or secure enough to hold onto. Once I was hospitalised this became better, I stopped trying to keep up appearances and let myself run with the madness- it was clearly too strong to be resisted at that point.

Over the course of the next few years I think my mind started scrambling to rebuild- this meant rebuilding meaning, rebuilding sense and reason and framing things so that they made some basic kind of sense.

The madness saw my mind spin stories, frantically weaving allegory and story and fantasy to try and contain all the strange things which had happened. All my previous meaning and context had been undermined and lost, and so I needed to find ways of internalising all that again- ways of making my previous context feel real to me again.

It took a long time, a very long time but slowly my mind remembered the things which it had lost, and came to terms with a lot of new stuff it learnt in the process and along the way.

Over time I generated a new filter- via the schizophrenic experiences and the numerous stories it was made up of. Over the course of a decade this filter became thicker, denser and more complex- the way I viewed the world was distorted again and in such an intense and unusual way that the ‘real world’ became harder and harder to perceive and relate to.

I have fought hard, over the last ten years, to rarefy this new filter because my ultimate goal and destination was always life– rather than the labyrinth of the mind- but what schizophrenia made me realise is that there are vastly different ways of relating to and experiencing the world.

All that needs to happen is a slight chemical shift in the brain and suddenly boom- the tree’s become alive and one can spend an entire day sitting staring at a rock communicating with the deep earth vibrations.

These things felt realer to me than nearly everything I experienced before and after- if love, and emotion are deemed to be real then who can say exactly what is and isn’t madness or sanity. If we do create our own reality, then perhaps we miss out on a lot, depending on how strong our filter is and what it lets us acknowledge or filters out. Perhaps madness shows us more- or lets us view things in different ways than we have done previously.

I’m planning a few more articles, which will go into more depth about some of the ideas and concepts brought up here. I’ll try and keep them short, but I’m terrible at being concise- so thanks a lot if you’ve made it this far.


One thought on “Personal filters for reality (1)

  1. Very interesting – and how strange that ones own mind can be so difficult to live with – its as if the real is unreal, and the unreal simply another opportunity, how complex and incredible we all are – I like to leave a sign out most of the time with “Please do not disturb” on it, then when I’m feeling very confident, I remove it, then almost instantly put it back! 😀


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