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A few more thoughts about schizophrenia

Note: I may well decide to flesh out these rudimentary thoughts at some later unspecified date. Most of them were scribbled down on May 23, 2001 as I visited Melbourne Aquarium and the new evolution gallery at the Museum. After some recent email enquiries, I had been mulling over how to describe or indeed explain schizophrenia to those who have not experienced it or known anyone who has.

This initial section is a draft of a reply to somebody on an internet forum ...

I see you said something about a few questions you had. Ask away. My life is an open book. I shall endeavour to answer whatever questions you may have as best I can based on my own experience(s).

Without wishing to pre-empt your enquiries, here's a little potted history. Officially, way back in 1983, I was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This may or may not be the best forum to go into a long and gory explanation of just what that is. Though it does raise several fundamental questions about the nature of human experience and reality itself. I once heard Kay Jamison ask the question, 'What is the reality of any human experience?' (Give a link to An Unquiet Mind)

{As a little aside, most of the people here would be diagnosable! As would most saints and mystics throughout history! }

Already, that seems literally like another lifetime. I suppose my entire website is my feeble attempt to shed a bit of light on some rather puzzling questions about the experience of schizophrenia, based on my own thoughts & experiences, which are after all the only reality I have to base any conclusions on. And yet, the very word 'conclusion' implies an ending. A mind that has stopped exploring itself ...

I have tried to chronicle and describe some of the various experiences I have had and how I have interpreted them at various stages over the course of the last 18 years or so.

Back in 1983, I could never have imagined the perspective I currently have and if someone had attempted to describe such a perspective I would have laughed or scoffed and concluded that such a person must be off-with-the-fairies. Perhaps I am. If so, I have no desire to return to what is known as 'normality'.

But ask away. From my experience in the mental health system, (and BTW, I don't actually WORK in the field, though I do know several who do and it's a devilishly tough job within the existing paradigm of human thought about such experiences and how they should best be treated) mine is hardly a 'typical' case of schizophrenia. If indeed there is such a thing. There is much debate about the causes of schizophrenia and how best to assist those who are experiencing it.

My own views naturally have been heavily coloured by my own personal experiences. Right from the beginning, I have had this vague feeling that the conventional view or interpretation was sadly lacking and for years I could barely articulate or formulate what this might be. A couple of the books which I read revealed that I was far from the only one who was contemplating such unorthodox views -

The Troubled Mind

The Politics of Experience

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti

Not to mention all the sites I have now discovered. Naturally, back in 1983, there was no World Wide Web, so initially I wondered if i was the only one to be thinking such things.

Some interesting/alternative mental health sites

Any questions left? For a long time, I felt that going crazy was the ONLY honest reaction to a world as absurd as this one ...

Along the way, I have discovered many people who have said what I was trying to say better than I ever managed to articulate. Especially over the past couple of years. Of course, at various points I was trying to say a variety of things. Whatever seemed reasonable at the time.

I've come to realise that the mystics are quite right. To cling to anything, whether it is an idea or an explanation or a belief or a philosophy is a sign of insecurity and thus a manifestation of fear. While clinging, you don't actually experience true reality. You experience reality filtered & diluted through the idea you're clinging to ...

I'm reminded of a quote from UG Krishnamurti. {Grab it off his site - here - about ridding your mind of everything human beings have eve 'known' or experienced ...}

If I had to select one word to describe schizophrenia, it would have to be chaos. Chaos of thought. Chaos of emotion. Chaos of spirit really. Chaos of a kind that is quite unimaginable unless you have experienced it personally. {As if some external force or entity is in control of your very thoughts & feelings and is turning them on & off at a whim}

Looking back, it beggars belief that I survived many of the most chaotic 'episodes'. I can't really say how I did in fact survive. However, now that the chaos has largely subsided, I have been transformed in ways I can scarcely describe or explain or believe.

I had always been one of those people who like to have a nice, neat, reasonable explanation of things. Now, I realise that if you truly investigate any human experience at its most fundamental level, all explanations are partial.

Yes, there have been many times I think I should just completely shut up and not say a word. I mean I have no real explanation for how this transformation occurred. I'm unbelievably grateful when I look back at how I used to be but also more than a little perplexed. At first, I asked 'Why me?' in terms of why something as horrible and devastating as schizophrenia had to happen to me (though, at the time I was so negative & cynical, that i would have said normality is NO picnic either - just a marginally less disgusting brand of crap). Now I ask 'Why me?' in terms of why did I experience a transformation I never expected, never dreamed possible, never asked for ... while millions just as cynical and lost as I once was receive no transformation and continue to run around like headless chooks causing themsleves and all around them untold grief ...

... and because nobody's words would have ever shifted me one millimetre, I hesitate to tell anyone about this stuff ... ??

Maybe these chaotic experiences have opened up doorways in my consciousness that would have remained forever tightly shut if I had followed a nice, safe, comfortable, orthodox, conventional and expected lifepath. Who knows. I'm just typing whatever happens to pop into my tiny, little cotton-picking mind. I'm just making it up as I go along.

[Yet, I can fully understand those who opt to take the medication if they feel totally overwhelmed and frightened by the whole experience - or indeed how others will judge them if they continue to depart so radically from normal, accepted human behavioural patterns.]

{If you're not prepared to question absolutely everything you think you know 'for sure', then you have settled on a particular perspective and become attached to it. It can be quite disconcerting to move out of your comfort zone, so most people never do.}

A truly open mind knows that it can never know anything for sure and it rides blissfully on the waves of uncertainty ...

For everything that you
Hold to be certain to you
There is an alternate view
Equally likely to be true
So, whatever you do
Try not to turn blue
You haven't got a clue
This is nothing new
And I bid you adieu

Looking back, it is utterly astonishing that I survived the most dark & chaotic periods without having my brains completely scrambled or doing away with myself one way or another. Some would argue that my brains have indeed been scrambled. I mean I am into stuff which once upon a time I would have assumed you would have to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic to be into. I can take absolutely NO credit for most of it. I honestly have no idea how I managed to navigate the many treacherous psychological landscapes I did. I have no real idea how I continued to resurface from indescribably dark hours and how I re-assembled my scattered thoughts. So, maybe I should shut up.

Schizophrenia, at its most chaotic, is precisely what people have in mind when they use words like 'crazy'. I got through it somehow. I dearly wish I could spell out what that 'somehow' was. Because there are many who never seem to emerge from the experience as I did. They get trapped in the labyrinthine passages of their own consciousness. And many in the mental health field do seem at a loss as to how to truly help them out.

It is generally a very isolating experience, as most people, no matter how fine their intentions, are not adequately prepared to handle the highly chaotic and volatile thoughts and emotions of somebody experiencing such chaos. {That's very clumsy wording but I'll work on it. Trust me. Have I lied to you today?}

The whole experience has expanded my consciousness in ways I could never have imagined. Mainly through pain. Pain which, at the time, I would REALLY rather have transferred to somebody else. Obviously it wasn't unrelenting pain. There were brief glimpses of something indescribably wonderful and equally inexplicable ...

The little voices in my head tell me that the vast majority of presentday psychiatric theory and practice will one day be consigned to the 'flat earth' dustbin of history. How long this may take is anyone's guess and I have no solid proof whatsoever. Nevertheless, my male intuition about such things is hardly ever astray. :)

It may indeed take several centuries but seeing as how we are all eternal beings, time is really not an issue here.

In my case, the experience absolutely forced me to turn my attention inward. It was far from my first choice. I was pretty much dragged kicking and screaming. For some reason, this reminds me of a quote from an article I was reading the other day by Les Mitchell:

"The panic realisation, by yourself, that something 'is rotten in the State of Denmark', triggers a chain reaction of survival techniques which are often negotiated without realising what is unfolding. To me it is apparent that a 'blueprint' exists for your own psyche's evolution and something which you have no control over. I call people who have or are suffering a mental illness, 'the chosen ones'. They have been shocked out of their social comas and are chosen to alter their holistic being for the betterment of their own psyche."

Click here to read the rest of it ...

And if I were asked where most of my thoughts on schizophrenia come from or why I feel they are true ... it's a kind of intuitive knowledge that cannot be accessed via normal thinking or deductive processes. A kind of intuition, if you like. Absolutely unprovable by conventional means. To me, the mind seeking 'proof' is off on a wild goose chase but that's an entire subject on its own ...

Update May 24 -

Here's what I do jot down at the forum off the top of my head (which can often be inspired, but can also be gibberish. Sometimes it's a bit of both) -

Boy, I thought you might just have one or two quick questions. It would take me several pages to even begin to answer them but thanks for asking. I am about to go shopping as my alotted interent time for today has just about expired. I'll get back to you when I've mulled over your enquiries a bit.

BTW, I don't actually work in the mental health field though I know several people who do and its a devilishly tough job. I couldn't actually work under the existing arrangements as I fundamentally disagree with many of the approaches and ways of treating people. I have indeed been one of the lucky ones in that I reacted so adversely to medication it just was never an option. So I just had to 'go within' and it's been an incredible journey. One for which words are barely adequate. Painful beyond description at times. Chaotic beyond belief at other times. That's waht I've attempted to describe at my site but much of it has been 'guided' or scripted by some unseen force which I am not sure I understand even now. The result has been amazing but many people do indeed get 'lost' inside the experience and I honestly don't know why I manged to emerge from it the way I did. So, ultimately, I wouldn't know what to tell anyone who feels trapped or totally lost, as many do.

Hope that makes a little sense. I may write more next time. These are just a few quick thoughts off the top of my head.


This was in response to this particlar set of questions posted -

In the program that I saw about schizophrenics, most of them seemed to be very unhappy. If you are unhappy, it certainly doesn't show. Is your schizophrenia controlled with medication? Was the illness ever painful for you?

Do most people who are schizophrenic know that something is "different" in their brains? In other words, are they aware of their own schizophrenia? Do most of them accept the diagnosis?

Did you ever have auditory or visual hallucinations that were persistent?

One of the things that impressed me on this program was how comforting the patients could be to each other. Like you, some have begun jobs working with patients.

There was also mention of how the part of the brain that is "different" in the schizophrenic is located near the language center of the brain is. Do you know anything about that?

Thanks for being so open.

Peace, merriment and light...

That sure got the old cogs spinning around in my head and here's a little of what I scribbled down as i walked home from the shops. A bit of a trip down memory lane. Now, whether that's entirely healthy is up for debate ...

* I must confess. I was as mad as a cut snake for quite a long time. I honestly thought I'd always be that way. (And that anyone who wasn't mad was kidding - or diluting - themselves)

* Ever since I can remember. I've always had this vague feeling that the conventional way of looking at reality & human experience was lacking in some fundamental way. But for a long, long time I could not put my finger on it or articulate it in any meaningful way.

* My intuition tells me that our current approach to the whole question of illness and healing is extremely primitive and that at some future point, we will look back and gasp or laugh at what we now do. Mind you, this is hardly surprising. Our entire way of living and being is likewise primitive.

{As a little aside, on the whole question of illness, I truly believe that we make ourselves and each other sick, literally. If the world were filled with genuine love of our fellow beings, nobody would get sick. I used to see all illness and aging as subconscious forms of suicide - if human beings were genuinely joyous and loving and not just faking it, they would not get sick or die. I think I was pretty much on the money with that, though I am sure many would say that is sheer poppycock.}

{For one recent little example of the kind of healing which is not-so-primitive, here. Again, it's something I would have laughed my head off just three years ago. }

{Or try this one - the E-group may be worth further investigation on my part }

* Nobody is more staggered than me. Many times, I would have settled for way, way less than what I am currently experiencing. Now, I realise this is just a glimpse of what's possible. (Some would say inevitable)

* I mean it truly is amazing. I have become that which I used to relentlessly & savagely ridicule! :)

I truly wish I could spell out step-by-step in an understandable way just what i did to get from where-I-was to where-I-am today. Honestly, I can take little or no credit for the transformation. It's not like I woke up one morning and said to myself, "Hold on a minute. This atheist caper is a dead-end. I think I'll try some of this spiritual stuff instead."

And if I can't describe or explain just what I did, then it's highly debatable if what I have experienced could be useful or meaningful to anyone else who is as lost as I once was ... (which I will admit is very frustrating at times)

So, I'm extraordinarily grateful but very puzzled at the same time. I mean why should I have been granted what seemed like a get-out-of-jail-free card while others do not?

I have written down literally millions of words over the past 18 years in my attempts to understand and/or describe what was happening. And at a fundamental level, how does one begin to explain how a person like me went from being as rage-filled and cynical and bitter and twisted as I was to how I am today? It defies belief. I still have to pinch myself frequently. But just how did such a transformation happen? It was not the result of any conscious decision on my part.

I mean I was the world's greatest atheist. I totally agreed with Nietzsche's comment that God's only possible excuse is that he does not exist. I absolutely hated with a ferocious passion anyone who had 'faith' or who worshiped God. And this is less than three years ago we are talking about.

Testing ...

The words 'hallucination' & 'delusion' have always fascinated me. Well, at least since my own experiences started to deviate a long, long way from those of normal folk. They raise fundamental questions about the nature of reality. Does belief that you have been abducted by aliens qualify as a 'delusion'? What about channeling or other religious/mystical experiences? If your view of reality is that it begins and ends with the three-dimensional realm then there cannot be 'disembodied entities' for people to be able to 'channel'. So, you would have to conclude it's all just their imagination. But then what is imagination anyway ...

{This line could be further fleshed out at some stage}

If I was in fact burning up past karma by having those psychotic experiences, then I must have been a real arsehole in my previous lives. Perhaps I was very cruel & judgemental towards those who are a bit 'different' or who don't 'fit in'. Now, I have experienced first-hand what it's like to not feel as if you fit in anywhere at all. As if you are a character walking around in somebody else's dream.
(For an excellent description of such a feeling, read this page)

I have heard that if you have no clear recollection of past lives, that is because you did things that you would rather NOT remember!

Apologies for all this rambling. I have made numerous attempts to describe or convey what it has all been like. Maybe it's all to no avail. Maybe there are dimensions of experience that cannot be adequately conveyed using tools as limited as words. There are some things which cannot be realistically imagined without first hand direct experience of them.

But if you're after a simple step-by-step description of what I did and how I did it, I would have to shrug my shoulders and say I DON'T REALLY KNOW. I wish I could spell it out. Then, maybe what I have endured & experienced could be of some conceivable benefit to someone else who is experiencing something similar.

I survived countless dark hours and I have no idea who/what pulled me through. Because at the time I had no desire to survive. I actually wished for the power to stop my own heart from pumping blood and keeping me alive, sustaining the pain ...

At the time, I saw the human race as a pathetic joke and genuinely wished for a nuclear holocaust so that nobody would ever have to endure what I was experiencing, seemingly for no good reason.

So, naturally, I have spent countless hours wrestling with those unanswerable questions. Why do we experience what we do? Why do some people seem to get the rough end of the pineapple? Why are some people overwhelmed by the pain or anger or confusion that they experience while others rise above it? ...

Whether anything I write makes any sense to anyone can be tough to gauge. Sometimes it makes no sense to me.

Maybe Voltaire was right all those years ago when he said that God was a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh ...

Schizophrenia is a furnace in which a person's soul may be purified. Don't ask me how I know. It's intuitive knowledge that cannot be explained ...

There are those who believe (and nowadays I tend to agree with this view) that schizophrenia, and indeed all illness, is a spiritual event. An opportunity for a soul to awaken. For some reason, not all opportunities are seized when they present themselves.

And yet, if you had suggested something like that to me just three years ago I would have laughed in your face!

In the beginning, I had only the vaguest notion of what I was doing or where all this was headed ...

However, I soon discovered that I could create a kind of psychotic ecstasy which is quite unimaginable to those who have never pushed their minds to the very brink of madness. Highly addictive too, like any drug. The only price I had to pay for this drug was the cultivation of a complete contempt for normality. Naturally, this tended to isolate me from most people but since I was learning to regard them as pathetic, boring creeps I didn't mind at all. At the time, it seemed like this was the best avenue down which to venture.

{This could also be fleshed out a bit more - for those who want the gory details?}

And I do have to stop myself regularly and remind myself that I can hardly expect others to see things as I do when they simply have not had the experiences I have had. For better or worse.

I totally understand those who would say most of my views on schizophrenia and reality come straight from the Twilight Zone ...

{Yes, it's not like I (consciously) turned to God or anything. Far from it. I gave up completely. Several times.}

Having another look at the questions raised earlier ...

(a) I can't presume to speak for 'most people with schizophrenia'. From my own experience, well, initially I had NO idea these experiences had a name or that they had ever happened to anyone else in human history. I knew something was terribly wrong but I couldn't even really describe it or explain it.

(b) And one would have to make the distinction between those who remain within the existing 'system' and those who do not. Obviously, the only people I have personally met who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia have been those whose experiences led them into the hospital or the rehab program. This may be a very unrepresentative group. My intuition tells me that the experience will proceed along VERY different pathways depending on whether an individual takes the medication. My gut feeling is that medication is ultimately NO solution at all and the person will be in a kind of limbo state until such times as they go inside the existential pain and resolve it. Now, I realise this is awfully easy for me to sit here and say. If the journey is as treacherous and dangerosu as mine has been I don't know that I could recommend or advise anyone to do what I have done. Maybe if your gut instinct isn't leading you that way then you may not have the inner resources to get through it unassisted. And given that my progress seemed like a mixture of dumb luck and sheer fluke at times, I'd be reluctant to tell anyone how they should proceed. :)

(c) As for auditory hallucinations, I never heard ACTUAL voices inside my head but I often felt as if my thoughts were not my own. It felt as if they originated in some external source. For a long time, I thought there were aliens communicating with me telepathically and to my way of looking at things, this is a possibility that cannot be proved or disproved. I saw this as a perfectly plausible explanation of the experience of schizophrenia. It was just that either we didn't understand what they were saying or their signals were so powerful they 'fried' the brains of most of the recipients. It sure felt like my brain was being fried there for a while. I honestly can't say how I survived many of those experiences which are quite indescribable if you haven't had them personally. I saw aliens as a perfectly plausible, if somewhat scary explanation for schizophrenia. Needles to say, not many mental health professionals shared my views.

{As far as hallucinations & physical reality go, try these links - link 1 - link 2}

(d)As for physical explanations, if the brain is different or the brain chemistry is different that's only a partial explanation. You have to ask what caused the difference. (Unless of course, you have the view that we are merely sophisticated biological machines and it's just rotten luck that some of these machines are a bit faulty)

(e) As for 'accepting the diagnosis' ... looking back, it's a fuzzy kind of recollection that I have. I clearly remember being taken by the police to a locked ward. The strongest memory is one of disbelief that they could actually do this to me. I felt it was completely and utterly unnecessary. Of course, without rewinding time one can never say how things would have gone or what adjustments I would have made had I known that psychiatrists were actually empowered to deprive you of your liberty on the flimsiest evidence. I never really bought their view of what was happening to me. I can't say why I didn't but I had this feeling there was a lot more to it. I know for sure I did not want to take medication but I was in for a rude shock when they said basically bad luck, we can force you to. One thing is indelibly etched in my memory is the effects of the Haloperidol they gave me. I shall not even attempt to describe it. Suffice to say i would not wish it upon any living soul. The ghastly part was that this made me so unsettled and agitated that it appeared to be typical symptoms of 'psychosis'. I had to start regurgitating the pills before I could clear my head enough to say I had no need of their assistance. Looking back, it's a sheer miracle I managed to get out of that one.

{May need to rework this whole section. It's a bit jumbled and all over the place. It makes some kind of sense to me as I reflect on what happened but may make absolutely NO sense to anyone else.}

(f) As for being happy or unhappy, I see a whole lot of joyless faces in this world. If we were to start making lack of joy a criterion, we'd be locking up huge chunks of the population ...

I can now look back on it all with a mixture of bewilderment and disbelief at all that transpired. I can now say with equanimity, 'Forgive them for they know not what they do'. But whether I could be so magnanimous if I was currently under a 'treatment order' and being forced to take medication I had no desire to take is another matter.
{include a link to Myths about psychiatric drugs}

Last Update: May 24th, 2001

Interestingly, this whole line of thinking & mulling starts the day after I start to read bits of The Starseed Transmissions by Ken Carey, having borrowed it from Springvale library ...

... and if you think some of the things I have said are from the 'Twilight Zone', then have a bit of a read of Ken's book! It's the kind of material I would once have been rolling on the floor in response to reading!

Must remember to UPLOAD this Cobb cartoon image I scanned :)

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