February 18, 2008 at 10:55 am 3 comments

It is difficult to describe delusions when you’re not experiencing them. The foundation of illogical logic and unreasonable reason on which they stand does not easily translate to the world of sense and reality. Whenever I try to describe them to psychiatrists I’ve seen or to my therapist, I feel kind of embarassed because they sound so stupid. The intensity of belief and the strength of feeling in the moment (or, indeed, the months) is weird to contemplate when the belief is gone.

The earliest delusion I can remember having started when I was 16. This wasn’t a slow descent into madness, but a sudden, sharp break with reality. And it happened when a girl I met on the internet told me that she had been raped. I was in love with her or thought that I was. I’m sure that the anger I felt towards the perpetrator (an ex-boyfriend who’d never faced any consequences) was entirely normal. What wasn’t quite such an understandable response was the way that the idea of rape as a force in the world contaminated everything around me. Everything was twisted into an incomprehensible evil. The world I was in before that instant and the world I was in afterwards was utterly different. I didn’t see things, or hear things, but my perception of the world around me was very far from normal. I don’t remember how long it lasted – at least a week, perhaps more. I was in hell and I wanted to die.

A delusion that I had more recently involved the world being utterly compromised by the casual evils of capitalism. The idea that a moral person could live as a part of society and not be implicated in every corrupt and tawdry aspect of the whole damn thing became incomprehensible. Every transaction carried with it the absolute immorality of the system. There was no conspiracy – a conspiracy would make it all too human – the system was a machine that every person was part of. To exist was to further the status quo; every action, no matter how benevolent was corrupted by the system. Those who could not see it were dumb and docile. Initially I just wanted to escape it, and coincidentally, my debts. I made plans to run away, wander around Europe. But it became clear, with the piercing clarity of a revelation, that I needed to do more. I had to escape the system entirely, live apart from it, give nothing to it and take only what I needed to survive. I would go to Europe. I would walk Eastwards, slowly making my way around the world, a hidden prophet walking among people who would never know I was so much more than them. And maybe some would understand and would gather around me, a beacon of iconoclasm, defeating the system by escaping it entirely…

The frightening thing is that I made it sound much more reasonable than it really was. I have a chat log of me telling Rebecca about my plans a month or so after we broke up:

There’s nothing that I want from this world. I don’t want to achieve power, because the way things work, power is pretty much meaningless. I don’t want to get rich, because all you can spend money on are, at heart, distractions from the way things are actually working and I’m not easily distracted. I don’t even want respect, because there’s very few people I would value that from. So, the question is what exactly is the point ofstaying here? My choices are to change the world, change myself, or leave it. I can’t change the world. I don’t want to capitulate by changing myself and there’s only two ways to leave it. One is suicide and I’m over whatever death trip I may once have been on. The other is to find a different world. And that’s what I want to do. Remaining here, in this country, fitting this place in the working of things, is not bringing me anything I want or need. There is nothing they can take from me here and I have nothing to lose. If I am to find a different world, it must be one where I can find things that matter to me and where I can find something to lose. I have no proof that such a place exists. So I intend to go looking for it. Get on the road. Travel. Work where I can find work just enough to keep moving whenever I feel the need to move on. It may be the only adventure left open today, the only way to own myself. I don’t know if I have the courage to do it yet. I have no idea if I will actually make that leap, but it’s the conclusion I’ve reached.

When I told my psychiatrist about this, I wasn’t anywhere near as verbose. It’s in my notes as something like “…had thoughts about walking East as an iconoclast(?)” I got as far as sorting through my belongings for the few that I’d take with me. I had my clothes in bags, ready to be washed and given to a charity shop or thrown away. I knew the dates that I’d be leaving, where I’d be going and how I’d get the money together for the camping equipment and travel money. I’d told several people that I’d be going. A couple of months before I’d have left, I crashed into a depression that destroyed any beliefs I had.

I don’t really like thinking about these things. It’s much easier writing it here than trying to fit words around it in response to someone’s question. I get embarrassed whenever I talk about it to the therapist or psychiatrist. Being up and hyper and confident and arrogant, or being down and unable to get out of bed and wanting to kill myself – that’s just having different moods sometimes. It’s not mad. It’s not going crazy. Wanting to die because you’re absolutely miserable is a fairly reasonable reaction. Going out and getting drunk and talking to everyone you see is a reasonable way to behave when you’re filled with energy and confidence. But seeing the world twisted into hell, but not seeing it, so that description becomes impossible, is mental. Seeing yourself as some kind of prophet of anti-capitalism, is insane.

And even though my arms are covered with scars and I don’t sleep like most people do and I take an anti-psychotic medication, I don’t really want to admit that I sometimes go crazy. It’s a double standard. I read the blogs of people who sometimes have hallucinations and hear voices and I don’t think of their craziness as their fault or their responsibility. But it’s different when it goes on in your own head.


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I hate you, sleep. Dentistry Into Psychiatry Will Not Fit

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. exactscience  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I struggled with it. I have been manic and depressed and much as when manic I dont feel ill at all and depressed I am not worthy or ill enough I know, in times of insight that they are real.

    Apparently what I get are illusions, which I am told means that it is hallucinating but realising it. It feels odd. I know at the time that what I am experiencing isn’t real but it is…even if it isn’t. My brain has just about untangled that one.

    It is different when it is in your own head, but you’ll reconcile it eventually, just because the things you are thinking aren’t real doesn’t mean the thoughts aren’t.

    Stay safe

  • 2. James  |  February 19, 2008 at 12:18 am

    I had to escape the system entirely, live apart from it, give nothing to it and take only what I needed to survive. I would go to Europe. I would walk Eastwards, slowly making my way around the world, a hidden prophet walking among people who would never know I was so much more than them. And maybe some would understand and would gather around me, a beacon of iconoclasm, defeating the system by escaping it entirely…

    I know this delusion EXACTLY. I have it from time to time as I have a bigger delusion that I struggle with daily that I am not like the rest of humanity–maybe not even human. I often feel like I am some alien visiting Earth to study these strange people.

    I have had the God delusion before too thinking that I was the one behind this whole existence, boy was that stressful!! I have also had times of feeling like I was Satan as If I was the most terrible person ever to walk the planet.

    I often pull into parking slots and right as I go to get out of the car I notice another car pull up next to my car. Or it happens a lot when I get in the car and start the engine I’ll notice a car pulling in next to me or diagonal from me. And so because of this I can’t shake this delusion that I am some sort of magnet that attracts people to me whether they are good for me or not.

    Like I am a powerful flame who attracts all kinds of people, animals and so forth to me like moths attracted to a light bulb.

    Then there are the auditory hallucinations that I have which include thinking that I can hear plants talking…mostly I just hear murmuring or mumbling coming from them. I can sometimes understand that it is irrational but often times not.

    Thankfully I have help from Risperdal and Seroquel but I still fight delusions daily. By the way, my diagnosis is Schizo-affective disorder.

  • 3. experimental chimp  |  February 19, 2008 at 10:00 am

    exactscience: Illusions sound weird. There’s so much about the experience of these mental states that’s difficult to fit into words and ordinary logic.

    James: I’m glad I only have to deal with them on an occasional basis, although I’m often kind of paranoid about being noticed by people. I occasionally have auditory hallucinations of music being played when there is no music.

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Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?


Self-righteous note about smoking

As of 12th September 2008 it has been forty five weeks since I quit smoking. So in another seven weeks it'll have been a whole year.

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