gall and gumption

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hearing Voices

For those of you who don't read the New York Review of Books regularly the current issue online has a great piece by Oliver Sacks on "bipolar disorder." The books under review all sound fascinating, too. I mean, it's not always true that the book that gets a great review written about it is a book you would want to read. But these are.

On the subject of mental illness, via Metafilter I got to, of all things, a schizophrenia simulator. It gives you the experience of being schizophrenic and going to the drugstore to get a refill after losing your meds a week earlier. You should really try it out. It's basically just a video. I recommend using headphones with it. It's really quite creepy.

I've known a couple of people who suffered from it, and one person who developed it almost under my eyes, and saw his parents just stricken with full-on grief. It was intense to know their son (who was about 19 at the time) as this perfectly nice, thoughtful, studious and gentle, rational being, and then to find him just tormented by these voices in his head. It was hard to believe what he said was happening, or to appreciate how deeply it was affecting him. You could see that he was suffering, but it was also hard to understand that he couldn't just switch it off the way you switch off distracting thoughts that beset you at one time another throughout the day. I remember getting him to go for a short walk with me, and the anxiety and fear made him turn back; I understood then that the most ordinary experiences had become an exhausting struggle to reclaim himself from these creepy inner voices that just would not shut up.

If you try the simulator out, I'd be curious to know what you think of it, if anything.

7 Comments:

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was plenty creepy without headphones. I'm still working on switching off distracting thoughts!
PS

 
At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the NYRB site, there's a free 18-minute pod-cast of an interview with Sacks, and I recommend it. He discusses the article as well as a new piece in Musicophilia.
--Bob

 
At 2:08 AM, Blogger Kia said...

PS--

I found it creepy for the first couple of minutes then I found it fatiguing and sort of tuned them out except when some slight bit of action occurred, then I'd hope they would say something interesting.

I knew a guy in Santa Barbara who suffered from schizophrenia and it was interesting how he and the voices in his head got along. For one thing they were really funny and shrewd and somehow inexhaustibly original. He mumbled a lot but when you understood what he said it was always interesting, you could see a clear line of thought but he just had to travel it in a roundabout way sometimes. One of his regular greetings to me was, "You still hanging out with that tall bass player fella?" Where he got the notion the boyfriend was a bass player God only knows. And that just became shorthand for a whole bunch of things that on other occasions he would only address by mumbling, of which you would occasionally catch some fabulous turn of phrase.

 
At 10:47 AM, OpenID kmcleod56 said...

The program, "Mindstorm", was introduced as a training experience for health and law enforcement professionals, but ultimately becomes a commercial for Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

 
At 10:48 AM, OpenID kmcleod56 said...

The program, "Mindstorm", was introduced as a training experience for health and law enforcement professionals, but ultimately becomes a commercial for Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

 
At 10:49 AM, OpenID kmcleod56 said...

sorry about the repeat; was mentally disoriented...

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Thanks for pointing that out, kmcleod; it's one of the creepy voices that I managed to tune out.

 

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