All 3 entries tagged Confessions Of A Pill Popper

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October 25, 2004

Anything for Kicks

I've spent all night in Computer Science again.

I would go home, but some nights, it's just a bit more than you want to put up with. I've stayed overnight with Jonathan, recently I've been spending some quality time absorbing the company of the surrounding first years… This is the second night I've been here all through.

This morning, I'd like to investigate Julian Jaynes, and his theories concerning the origins of consciousness as a product of the breakdown of the bicameral mind. His reasoning is superbly elegant and sublimely controversial. From various historical sources, he concludes that there is little evidence to suggest that humanity was conscious any time before the last six thousand years or so, and that human beings were very much like advanced, functioning schizophrenics who responded to the voices of their 'gods' and (sometimes dead, sometimes imaginary) leaders.

'Human nature,' he reasons, 'was split in two, an executive part called a god, and a follower part called a man.' Neither of these were conscious. The evolution of the human mind and brain is described incrementally in terms of spoken language; consciousness emerged when writing eroded this auditory authority. In this context, schizophrenia is seen as a regression to the primitive preconscious mind.

In his seminal work, Jaynes leads us (by the hand) through philosophy, psychology, neurology, history and linguistics in his quest to convince the reader of his paradigm. By the end of the book, I was left on a mental parapet, looking beyond me and behind me and trying to work out which side I should be on: my old and well-travelled wilderness, or Julian's (some would say Fortean) fortress, grand and sweeping. All through – especially in the final chapters, in which he discusses schizophrenia directly – I was wondering where I might fit in, how to piece together my own jigsaw to ajoin with his, and in the end I'm left squinting at jagged edges.

I wonder, for example, if the early humans experienced the same bewildering weave of concordance that I do, the sense of navigating in a viscous world of accreted allusions, the same promiscuity of semiosis… It's not too hard to imagine that in this mud of meaning the clarifying voices are veritable gods of certainty, all-knowing, all-seeing and omnipotent. (That's at least two-thirds of a triple-O deity!) And it seems that I'm not a particularly advanced case either. The voices I hear are happy to discuss me, they don't actually complete my thoughts or dictate my actions. They do, however, have a degree of control over my thoughts, and (yes, I know it's ridiculous) I'm sure that they 'transmit' my thoughts on occasion.

This needs explaining. I'm not referring to telepathy or anything of the sort; rather, subconsciously projected nuances of behaviour, intonation and movement, that slight watering of the eyes, pheremones – in short, a combination of uncontrolled transmissions replete with information. In the same way that a wink over the table can communicate a volume of information between a husband and wife, the shared experience of humanity evinces certain knowledge about an individual's position in psychological phase-space, which is equivalent to the transmission of thoughts. And whatever separate agency is responsible for the voices is, I feel, influencing this process – rendering layers of protection transparent to reveal secret thoughts.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but until someone has experienced the assured cognizance of a separate consciousness sharing their reality, I dare say they're not equipped to comment.

Back on topic: bicameralism. I wondered previously if my awareness of further tenor is an experience that can be traced to a preconscious civilisation. However, there's a fundamental problem. Jaynes is quite clear that it was the reliance on auditory stimuli that characterises the bicameral mind, and that the acceptance of other methods of communication was the catalyst for its breakdown. Also, he describes consciousness as '[a process which] operates by way of analogy, by way of constructing an analog space with an analog "I" that can observe that space and move metaphorically in it.' Rather than experiencing the breakdown of a bicameral world through the emergence of analogs, I experience the breakdown of consciousness itself from an overload of pseudo-analogs; during a bad period, my world becomes a nightmare of overlayed simulacra, as opposed to an individual experiemental reality.

Perhaps as a low-grade schizotypal, I'm simply experiencing a transitory state – just as the conscious observer collapses the wave function into a single reality, perhaps in the move from preconsciousness to consciousness the multiplicity of realities are pruned away to just one?

It's getting quite hard to keep up a coherent train of thought, so it's probably about time that I go home and get changed in preparation for lectures. Good morning, Vietnam.


October 14, 2004

Onset

I hoped that tonight I might be able to record an incident, properly. I type faster than I write, so it would be far better than trying to write down the experience while it happened.

However, when I got to the Computer Science building I found that plenty of people were there. For some reason the voices are shy of company, and prefer to beset me while I'm alone. I have no doubt that if I had went through the woods I would have experienced an incident proper.

I don't know if anyone else has any idea what it's like, the knowledge that if you go walking by yourself you'll soon hear them, demons, talking about you. For now it will suffice to record the onset.

There's a sort of build up to it, like a dam somewhere is filling and filling. You can feel them clawing their way through to reality, trying to escape whatever spiritual prison they usually occupy… The night around me feels like paper being slowly rended, and – sometimes – I'll see a few tiny sparks or a vague aura, like some sort of discharge. (It's relatively rare for me to actually see anything; usually I'll 'sense' something, like the creeping feeling you get when you're aware someone is watching you.)

It's rather a generalisation to say this is always how it happens. Sometimes – especially when I'm in bed, or ready to go to bed – they'll just be there, whispering and eventually talking.

Some questions the psychiatrist asked me. Do I actually hear them? Yes, most of the time. Sometimes they're quite insidious, these demons, and they can make themselves sound like they're my thoughts; but there's always the knowledge that they're not part of me, that they're something artificial inserted into my consciousness. And other times – their dialogue is perfectly normal, real voices that sometimes confuse me. Sometimes they take the voices of people I know, sometimes of bizarre and miscellaneous characters. Regardless, they have distinct tone and nuance, just like any real voices.

Are the voices a mental phenomenon or an external influence? Well, it's obvious: they're not part of me. Very soon after they started I was painfully aware that this wasn't something I have any control over. If they're the result of some mental processes, they're not my mental processes. They're nothing I own or produce. I conclude, therefore, that either they are an external process or that, if something within me is causing them, that they are a totally alien presence. Sometimes, I'd even regard them as conscious – and a consciousness distinct from my own, therefore a separate consciousness.

There's another reason I write here: I have no one to tell. My friends would be freaked – I observe that the few I've actually informed are skeptical or taken aback, entirely to be expected but not something I want to encourage. Since almost no one reading this blog has any idea that I exist (in fact, I have less evidence for the existence of readers than I have for the existence of these demons) I can be completely anonymous.

I don't mean to be harsh on my friends when, in the last post, I declare any knowledge they gain here to be 'the price of curiosity.' It's simply that I don't think anyone here is particularly interested in me, certainly not enough to go looking for me here, and even if they find me by accident it's unlikely they'll be bothered to look. Perhaps that's my depressed state of mind talking (I hate Warwick, I'm quite miserable here and can't wait to leave), perhaps innocent friends will find their way here and be shocked. Well, I'm sorry if that happens. This is catharsis, and they probably shouldn't be a part of it if they're very distressed. I've dealt with this alone for nearly five years, so no one should worry about trying to help me now. (That about covers any potential readership!)

And I have no worry about someone using this information for anything less than scrupulous. I trust that people are intelligent enough to know when someone's trying to cause trouble, and they'll probably only succeed in making themselves look foolish and underhand. And if anyone does pay them heed, it only confirms my suspicion that people do a lot of gossiping that I'm not privy to.

I'm a very loving person. I don't want to get people involved in my psychosis. Perhaps through here I can find other people who are experiencing similar problems, and that's great, perhaps we can get together, form a support network. Perhaps ordinary people will read it and feel good, in a 'thank goodness I'm not like that psycho' sort of way. We'll see. Most likely no one will read but the excitement of possibility is there, and there's a sort of pleasure in secretly baring yourself to the world. Which is, of course, why so many people of a romantic bent find themselves leaning out of windows expounding poetic laments/praises/wonders.

Tonight I'll see what happens. I'll record it if it does, and I'll type it up as soon as I get back from Blackpool; otherwise, I'll continue in my drawling, introspective kind of way to account trivia concerning my illness.

Heaven knows, I feel a lot better. Perhaps there really is something to be said for cathartic blogging?


Shadows of a Tesseract on the Dark Campus

This is my first entry. I don't expect anyone will ever think of looking here, but if they do, they'll learn a thing or two about the price of curiosity.

Over the Summer holidays, I was diagnosed with schizotypal disorder – a personality disorder which manifests itself in a discomfort within close relationships, unusual patterns of speech, eccentric behaviour and cognitive or perceptual distortions. I could say this is wonderful, if I were particularly given to sarcasm. But at least it now has a name, and there are things that can be done about it. I'm taking Olanzepine, which is an atypical neuroleptic; I've been started on the lowest dosage.

I don't think anyone was quite aware of how I spent last year. Most of it I could smile, laugh, make jokes, complain, hold conversations – in short, almost everything expected of a healthy student. What no one seemed to notice was that a lot of it was put on; that sometimes when I sounded happy, I actually felt absolutely nothing, or that the sounds of laughter were no more than echoed memories of real mirth.

Similarly, no one noticed how I would sit alone, in the darkness, listening to people I knew couldn't exist. No one suspected that I walked around the campus surrounded by spectral voices ready to take up the semblance of position and discuss my behaviour in minute detail, or that I'd sit in my bedroom watching ghostly auras form around me. No one found and read the diaries I kept, recording 'incidents' as they happened.

I often walk through the woods on my way home now out of a compulsion to find darkness, in which vision can evaporate to be replaced by hearing, where whispering trees condense to become hushed and twisted voices. I'll spend an hour or more getting home, compelled to stop and listen to criticisms from hiding phantoms – and arrive home drained, forced to find my mask and interact as though my night was nothing out of the ordinary.

I'd say that I'm not a naturally retiring person, that I'm not 'socially isolated,' but I suppose I am. The very unreality of my experience sets me apart from normal people just as dirt stands out on a white carpet.

And yet, sometimes I wonder. It's accepted that our reality isn't real, but I don't think most people understand the extent to which they manufacture the so-called 'real world'.

Take pattern, for instance. We see patterns between anything and everything, seldom caring that pattern is simply our (often false) observation of structure in incidental stability. And yet, we call this world of order 'reality,' and ignore the world of random caprice over which we weave our patterned webs.

And the patterns I see! At night, connections form furiously in my mind, unfolding like new cross-sections of a four-dimensional image, juxtaposed in rapid succession in an attempt at visualising the whole. My mind is a raving, out-of-control pattern-matcher, insisting that everything is secretly, darkly connected in a grand unifying scheme. If the pitiful shadows of this multiplying complexity can be called reality, surely I'm experiencing some sort of post-reality; if manufactured strands of similarity are sane constructions, I am not simply insane but rather supersane.

And yet, the voices which follow me, insubstantial as a point, belie this possibility. They taunt and jeer and keep me awake by delivering this blinding miasma, descending like malignant thistledown to break me to pieces with individually gentle, but collectively devastating blows.

And once more, no one suspects. I can learn and laugh and play and eat, even while I feel my thoughts being suppressed by hidden demons. It's beautifully duplicitous, to act for all the world like your ordinary, lucid student when I'm staving off a rebellion every few nights.

That is what 'schizotypal personality disorder' means to me. Why am I writing this? An attempt to capture the entirity of my experience when I feel fit. Why here? Simple: it stops people asking questions. If anyone feels in a particularly voyeuristic frame of mind, enough to explore and find this blog, I think they deserve a good dose of truth.

Should anyone actually bother to read this far down, they might still have a few questions. How often am I like that? About two or three nights a week, usually, though it has been getting worse and more frequent. How long have I had problems like this? Since I was sixteen. Am I really always acting when I laugh or talk animatedly or sound upset? No. Sometimes I'm really happy, or really interested, or really upset. Other times, I just be putting in a bit more than I actually feel. And other times, it's a complete charade that I'm putting on out of habit, because it's less effort to pretend than to appear outwardly bizarre. Perhaps I'm not always successful, but no one has brought it up, so I'm assuming it's enough to deflect curiosity.


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