The past couple days I spent some time researching insane asylums, mental illness, institutionalization, and the history of psychology (to name a few). It started with my previous post, Insanely Complex Mental Health, and morphed into a lot of information. I had ideas and theories and I had questions. The first question I had was simply put: schizophrenia. The truth is, I knew nothing about it. I’ve heard some horror stories and have a media-listic idea of schizophrenia, but I wanted more understanding before I could proceed. I had come across some YouTube videos and then started some reading of “confessions”.
I had come to a particular confession of a schizophrenic that threw many of my former assumptions of schizophrenia out the window. I was captivated at the honesty and self awareness of this woman’s writing. I believe her theory and practice is solid, but I wish she had dug slightly deeper and beyond her initial theory.
In reading the other “confessions”, I saw a consistent pattern among those who were admitted schizophrenics: they all began by stating, “I’ve been diagnosed…” This meant someone else told them that is who they are and that is who they will be for their lifetime. There is no room for a schizophrenic to have hope of something they are told to believe isn’t attainable- that they could live a different life, if only given the tools to change their minds.
Several months ago, I watched a very raw, honest documentary of a modern day mental institution (though they are now formally called “rehab” facilities or “community mental health”) in the United States. It is a very popular facility in NYC. There was a woman there diagnosed schizophrenic. She was given pills to keep her in a compliant stupor. She was to receive a new pair of glasses, and didn’t want to give up her taped pair. During her later interview, she cried intensely, and said, “I just want to be normal!” It was heartbreaking to me that this woman never imagines “normal” in her future.
The beginning of the theory of the above confessions states the following:
To you who so generously tried to help me when I came to you as a patient, I confess I did not really want your help. In truth I wanted to be mad–not ‘mad’ mad–but ‘angry’ mad. When abusive parents force their children to suppress justifiable anger, a toxicosis develops in the brain consisting of noradrenaline, adrenaline, and other neurochemicals that store repressed anger and grief. The excitatory nervous symptoms of most mental disorders are periodic detoxification crises, which are usually followed by depression (Van Winkle 2000). During these detoxification crises repressed anger–now rage–is released, and because neural pathways are clogged up where memories of early trauma are stored, the rage is often misdirected inward or toward others rather than toward the original abusers. Because neural pathways are askew, thinking becomes distorted and the mind is prone to fantasies, delusions, hallucinations, and psychoses. The afflicted person is likely to act in bizarre and unintended ways. But the symptoms, which are detoxification crises, are healing events. If the person can be guided to redirect anger toward all past abusers during these symptoms, the mind can heal.
Again, I agree with that theory to an extent. What I would also add is that suppression of crying (the tool babies use to communicate our first social existence in the world) or the needs of infant/toddler cries not being met and, therefore, suppressed at least until a child is able to verbally communicate his/her needs also leads to a change in neural pathways and a comfort in isolation. It is rather ingrained in our human survival for socialization. Humans are uniquely vulnerable in that our survival rests on another human until we can walk and talk, at the very least, and that comes much later in life than with other mammals. The process of a human entering into society on his/her own is also much longer than any other mammal.
I don’t have a degree in psychology, psychiatry or any doctorate of any kind. I just think. A lot. I try to think deeper than what’s on the surface. I think about myself and my own experiences, I think about the experiences of others and their stories, I think about my own children, and I think about the interactions I’ve had with others and the interactions I’ve witnessed. What I lack on paper, I exceed with life experience.
It is my belief that not only do we need socialization for survival, but we need it to thrive in life. I believe our brain needs other people to feel “normal”. Through long-term isolation, the comfort of others begins in our minds and extends when our lack of human interaction decreases our success to function in society at a “normal” level. It then reassures our fears and anxieties within our minds and we outwardly project what appears as “not normal” or schizophrenic.
I have young children who have played with dolls, blocks, stuffed animals, clothes, sheets, boxes and other inanimate objects. Their stuffed animals talked to them and they talked back. Their blocks were giant castles. They put dresses on and went to parties. They made tents and forts and camped at all hours of the day. They built and flew planes and cars and drove around. They did all these things in their mind. They aren’t schizophrenic. They used their imaginations. As they grew older, and they were able to talk and play with others and grasp reality, the play changed. Their imaginations remain, but the grasp of reality pulls them back from continuing the same play. It then seems rather obvious that there was a point in the “schizophrenic mind” that reality didn’t quite sink in like a “normal mind”.