Journal of a Schizophrenic
By fsh in Culture
Fri Feb 13, 2004 at 09:48:43 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Schizophrenia is one of the most widely spread psychological disorders around, and its sufferers show a wide assortment of symptoms, sometimes easily coped with, sometimes not. Studies have shown that in any given hospital as many as 1 in 5 patients suffer from some form of schizophrenia.
Nationwide, approximately 1% of the US population is schizophrenic.
Here's a breakdown of the main symptoms. Most people will suffer from a few of these, while the bad cases involve many.
1) Social Dysfunction - lack of interest in social groups, friendships
2) Sexual Dysfunction - lack of interest in sexual relationships
3) Emotional Dysfunction - lack of expression, monotone voice
4) Hallucination - most commonly auditory, ie hearing voices (very rarely visual)
5) Inappropriate Responses - laughing at bad news, or crying at a joke
6) Delusions - of grandeur, or more commonly of persecution.
I first started hearing voices when I lived in Chapel Hill, NC, right beside the UNC campus (up the hill from the Dean Dome for any basketball afficianados). I lived in a great big house with 6 other people, and there was a pool table in the garage. No one else was around - I'd always liked being by myself a little - when I heard someone call my name. I looked around and didn't see anyone; I walked outside and couldn't find anyone. I chalked it up to overactive imagination and went back to the table.
Over the next several days I heard my name called out several more times. This isn't terribly unusual for me, as my name is very common. The unusual part is that it only happened when I knew I was alone, never when other people were around.
A week went by, and I was again practicing at the pool table, when I heard the voice.
It: I can help
Now I've read many science fiction and fantasy books where the lead character has a mental companion, a voice in his head, and I always thought that it would be so incredibly cool. The reality was terrifying. When this exchange was done, I was breathing like I had just run a marathon, and for the rest of the day, as my roommates began to come home, I couldn't help but think they were somehow the cause of it, maybe a speaker in the garage, a candid camera moment.
Me: Who the fuck are you anyway?
It: We are the same, we are together
Me: I am me. I don't know what you are.
It: Trust is important
Me: Trust and respect are earned.
It: At least we have a chance. Perhaps we will talk again
It: Can we talk?
The house was old, and my closet wall showed the pencil marks where the original owners had marked the heights of their children, dating back to 1942. Two sets of marks went up to over three feet over ten years, but one set stopped early. I became convinced that the voice was a ghost of the house, and, coming to terms with that, I resolved to contact it again.
Me: I'm a little busy right now.
It: Of course.
Me: Are you real?
I didn't hear the voice for almost a week, and had chalked it up to a bored mind, or an overactive imagination. Out in the garage one day, I heard my name again.
Me: Are you even there?
Me: Jesus H. Christ, I need to see a shrink.
There is no way for me to describe the fear I felt when I heard the voice offer to play pool with me. Until that point, I was sure that it was just some subconscious part of my imagination toying with me, but when I heard that, I was *sure*, absolutely one hundred percent positive that I was talking to something outside of myself. I was mortified, and so I ignored it.
It: That's not necessary. We could play some pool, and talk. Not out loud, please.
Me: .... Are you really there? Prove it - tell me something I don't know.
It: That's not how it works. We share the same physical body, we have the same hippocampus, the same brain; the same memories. We think differently, act differently.
Me: Then how can we play a game of pool?
It: It will be very difficult. Set up the table, take a shot, and then step back. I promise that I will step back after the game.
Me: No way. This is insane.
Over the next several weeks I heard the voice every once in a while, but always in the house, when I was by myself. I became used to it, looked forward to it on occasion. I started playing pool with it. We would play a regular game of eight ball, me with the right hand and the voice with the left. I had never shot with my left hand before, but the voice won as often as not. I thought the voice was a house ghost at one point, which explained why I never heard it outside the house. Listening to Harry Chapin (Cat's in the Cradle) one night, I was convinced the voice was Harry Chapin's ghost, and over the next few months worked out a theory of ghosts.
The Mechanism of Soul Tranfer
This is an excerpt from the spiral notebook, about halfway through. I had pages and pages of this, all my arguments hinged together and linked like a Faberge Egg, beautiful and soft and glowing. Except that it made no sense whatsoever. I also quit my job as store manager for a local retail computer store, convinced that the management hated me. I began working at a Waldenbooks, barely paying the bills, eating into my savings for alcohol and marijuana.
An Executive Summary
When you die, you detatch from your body, but bodies have strong pulls for ghosts. Many people are voyeurs, so they would be keen to watch other people making love. If there was a conception when that happened, the newly formed body would pull the ghost in. If you managed to avoid that pitfall, however, you could zoom wherever you wanted, all over the world, to the moon, through the universe. Limited only by your own conception of speed. This, then is the second pitfall; once you've checked out the black hole at the center of the galaxy, how could you possibly find your way back home? The third pitfall is, of course, evil ghosts intent on enslaving you or destroying you.
*crack*, tick tick tick
I never completely finished the Mechanism, but while I worked on it, I didn't hear the voice. Once I stopped working on it, though, I started to become more interested in the voice, trying to get it to come back. Finally, one day at the pool table, I decided to let the 'ghost' take control of my body. I closed my eyes, and took a step back from the pool table. The tension flowed out of my shoulders, and the pool stick switched from the right to the left hand.
Me: Hey, it's your shot....
Me: Oh, well.
Me: Are you left-handed?
I grew more and more interested in the voice, to the extent that I had almost no dealings with other people, rarely talking to my roommates or coworkers.
It: We are mostly ambi-dextrous. But it will simplify matters, help us separate, if one shoots right handed and the other shoots left.
Me: But you know how to play? Did you play in a past life or something?
It: .... We share our memories. We play pool about the same.
Me: Prove it.
It: 1 ball off the 4, side pocket, left handed.
*crack* tick, drop
Me: Hey, are you there?
Alcohol and other mind altering drugs tend to exacerbate mental problems, and schizophrenia is no exception. I was in my room playing video games one evening, smoking marijuana from a little glass bong.
Me: Do you have a name?
It: Ahh, this is nice. This place, it's easier to talk.
At this point my eyes closed, and I went slack. I tried to scream, but it echoed in the back of my head. I wanted to control my body, but the voice told me not to. My arms stayed straight out in front of me, holding the controller. The voice commanded me to let go of the controller, and I did. The noise of the plastic clattering on the hard wood floor broke the spell; I jumped out of the chair and ran out of the house, into the woods. I went straight into the university, down to Franklin Street, with people everywhere. I found a corner seat at the Groundhog Inn, crawled in, and drank and drank and drank.
Me: Hey, you're back! This place? You mean my room?
It: No, it's something else....
Me: Probably the reefer.
It: Ahh.... What are we doing?
Me: Playing GoldenEye. I've been trying to beat this level for days.
It: May I try?
Me: How do I know you won't take over my body?
It: Like you're doing?
Me: It's *my* body!
It: It's our body. And I can take over if I want to.
I did everything I could over the next several days to keep people around me, and stay out of the house. Mostly drank at the Groundhog. I kept thinking about what happened, though, and finally resolved to try to talk to the voice again, see if we could work things out between us. I went back to the pool table.
Me: Are you there?
Soon after this exchange, I quit my job at the book store, just walked out. I moved out of Chapel Hill a week later, just up and left everything behind, my roommates, my coworkers. Running away from a voice in my head. I moved in with my brother and found a job at a restaurant, a bar and grill where I was paid enough to cover my bills, and got half price on food and liquor. I never heard the voice again, although I still hear my name called out from time to time.
Me: I want to talk about what happened the other night. If people notice that there's two people inside my head, we could hit some trouble. Maybe we could figure out some way to work this, lay down some rules.
It: We could see a psychologist
Me: But if they diagnose us with something, they might lock us up. Or try to fix us. Who knows if the end result will be me, you, or something else. I'd prefer to fix this so you and I can live 'normal' lives.
It: Agreed. But why do we need rules?
Me: Because this terrifies me. I can't help but think someday you'll take over, or something else will move in and take over, and I'll never be heard from again.
It: How do you know that this isn't part of the normal human experience? Maybe you're growing, and the young you is dying, and the old you is moving in to take over.
Me: I don't believe that for a second. I think we're both mature, and stable in our own ways. This just scares the piss out of me.
It: Everything scares you
Me: I know.
Me: But why?
It: Lack of center. Lack of statistical normal, the center around which everything turns. We are so abnormal that there is no place to start from, no way to lead a normal life when you can't point a finger and say, 'Now that's normal'.
I say I hear a voice calling my name, but that's not quite what it is. It's more like that spark of recognition in your head just after someone calls your name, the realization that someone is talking to you. It's like you're reading a book or playing a game, and someone calls your name two or three times before you realize. You heard them the first two times, but the spark of realization hits the third time. That's what I mean when I say I hear my name from time to time.
Looking back on my journal these days is quite frankly disturbing. I've managed to detect these thought patterns now, see when I'm starting to steer toward delusion, but it's just so easy sometimes. One year ago I was convinced that I was embroiled in a vicious turf war at work, how everything everyone said there was precisely calculated to incriminate someone else to greater or lesser degree. I even convinced myself that someone had broken into my bookbag, which has a tiny keylock on it, and read through my journal. They had discovered all my most private thoughts, even those I hadn't written down, so they could use them against me. And it all started because someone said something that sounded a little bit like something I had written the day before in my journal.
Sometimes, I confess, I do miss the voice. I suppose it's difficult to have a more meaningful metaphysical conversation than with someone in your own head. And true: I don't have very many friends; I spend very little time with my family; I've never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. But the thing is, I wouldn't have it any other way. I live in my books, through my writing, and because of my ideas. While I am often alone, I am very rarely lonely.