Why does everybody hate me?
September 11, 2008 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Imagine if you were the only person on earth; if no one else could understand you except yourself. No matter how hard you tried, you could never make contact with the outside world, not for long at least. This is the life of a Schizophrenic. Here, in a simulation created to understand what a typical trip to the pharmacy is for a patient suffering from Schizophrenia [previously], you will experience for a few minutes what life is all about for people afflicted with this disease. (via)

Related articles on Schizophrenia.

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posted by hadjiboy (53 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
...I'm not sure where the simulation part kicks in -- I keep getting a whole lot of text that looks like someone's dissertation and I skimmed. Should I have actually read?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 PM on September 11, 2008

(The simulation is in the "previously" link.)
posted by bonobo at 7:18 PM on September 11, 2008

Took me a while to find the "simulation." I found it after going back to the link after I had already read the article. It's at the top of the article and it says "View a multimedia slideshow of highlights of one Janssen Pharmaceutica simulation of a schizophrenic episode."
posted by Deflagro at 7:21 PM on September 11, 2008

i've already tried a similar simulation, but seriously i'm sure the real thing is a million times more terrifying. unfortunately, scary enough to make you kill yourself. if you or a friend or family member has serious mental illness try not to be afraid of the stigma. the more open you are with friends and family the more people there are to keep an eye out and lend a hand if things get bad. until people can accept mental illness the way we accept physical illness it's better to be a little embarrassed than regretting it when it is too late.
posted by snofoam at 7:25 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

My son was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago. Until that time, I knew nothing about it. Since then, I've spent countless hours learning as much as I can. There is reasonable disagreement about what it is, what causes it, and how to "treat" it. I have my own incomplete ideas, based on my personal experience, but I won't write about them here. The only thing I would like to contribute is the following: Forget about the idea of "madness" we're used to in movies and on TV; those are usually extreme examples. When you interact with that creepy or strange or belligerent cashier at your favorite fast-food restaurant or corner convenience store (or wherever), try to be kind.
posted by sluglicker at 7:30 PM on September 11, 2008 [16 favorites]

View a multimedia slideshow of highlights of the pharmacy simulation
You need a Real Player to view this. Download the player.

Real Player?? You're kidding. Screw that.
posted by crapmatic at 7:43 PM on September 11, 2008 [8 favorites]

My mom teaches psych-mental health nursing, and I showed her the previously-linked simulation. She thought it was pretty good. One thing she does to try to show her students what it's like is to give them a prepared text to read in front of the class. She then stands behind the speaker, whispering in her ear, telling her how fat she looks and how stupid she is and what a bad job she's doing reading the text and how everyone hates her for being so fucking BORING and how she should tell her teacher to fuck OFF...you get the picture.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2008 [18 favorites]

so i tried to load the video, but media player crashed. so i went through the agony of downloading and installing real player, and then it crashed. and then firefox crashed. and then chrome crashed, and i had to reboot. then windows gave me a lecture and asked me if i had been in the middle of doing anything important. i said eh.

so yes, that's kind of like being schizophrenic.
posted by mr_book at 8:17 PM on September 11, 2008 [9 favorites]

I can't decide which was more terrifying -- watching the simulation, or downloading RealPlayer.

But seriously, that was really freaky. It made me sad for the homeless guys who used to while away the hours mumbling to themselves and emptying the office supply bins at Kinko's, where I once worked a college semester of weekend night shifts
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:17 PM on September 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

The main "problem" I see in schizophrenic worldviews is the inability to decisively supercede or "outrank" environmental challenges; "they" always hold the upper hand.

When I first began studying schizophrenia, I imagined how excellent it would be to be able to enter the illusion and assist in escaping it. Unfortunately, as I know understand it, the illusion to be undone is that it (the ill-fated illusion) is inescapable.

Subsequently, I did come up with two conceptual tools for sufferers of schizophrenia to utilize to "weather" emotional storms incited by delusion. As succinctly as I can put it, it is utter faith in the reliability AS TRUTH of the ideas, "Everything always works out," and "The truth makes me laugh."

The mental effort to make the trick work is to accept everything always working out even in the face of evidence to the contrary (the illusion); and as the voices (or "impressions") actively arguing to the contrary are do not make one laugh, they are not "the truth"/true.

Lastly, when I spent time living in Canada, it amazed the difference in which schizophrenia is portrayed. There are regular radio campaigns which promote humane understanding of schizophrenia as treatable and manageable mental disease. In the States, schizophrenia continues to be confused with multiple personality disorder at the best, and demonized at the worst. This is in in no small part has been due to a scarcity of public health services.

When mental disease goes untreated, or resources for treatment are kept out of the hands of those in need, it seems apparent that—as with most diseases—it spreads to affect the rest of us. It is my hope that along with a reinvestment in education and art, that public health services will be invested in and prosperous in the US in the coming decade, as they have (and to the betterment of our entire world's quality of life) throughout many society's of the US' international peers.

In the 20th Century, a Reagan-minded government dismantled the US' national mental health services, perpetrating in my eyes a massive but moreover unacknowledged epic of mental illness. It is my dream that in the 21st Century, an Obama-minded government will first resuscitate a National Mental Health Services and Well-Being Program, and then invigorate said Services & Program with an intelligent vitality so as to insure its continued strength and vitality in order to serve the US—and the world—for many generations to come.
posted by humannaire at 8:28 PM on September 11, 2008 [23 favorites]

In the States, schizophrenia continues to be confused with multiple personality disorder at the best

Why is that though?

They're just so different, aren't they? I've got Bipolar Disorder, and the symptoms which I experience whenever I'm not on my meds are very similar to the ones portrayed in the simulation video. But never have I ever experienced a total transformation of my personality as people who might be uninformed believe.
posted by hadjiboy at 9:01 PM on September 11, 2008

The Differences Between Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder/DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder)
posted by hadjiboy at 9:07 PM on September 11, 2008

When you interact with that creepy or strange or belligerent cashier at your favorite fast-food restaurant or corner convenience store (or wherever), try to be kind.

In all fairness and, of course, complete deference to your personal experience, there are less schizophrenics than there are pulsating assholes, so it's a real Occam's Razor sorta deal.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:38 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here, in a simulation created to understand what a typical trip to the pharmacy is for a patient suffering from Schizophrenia

Connection to server has been lost. You may be experiencing network problems.

To be honest, I was expecting something more exciting than this...
posted by c13 at 9:43 PM on September 11, 2008

Connection to server has been lost. You may be experiencing network problems.

There's no problem with the network at all, c13.

Are you...feeling okay?
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:47 PM on September 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Are you...feeling okay?

Oh, I'm fine. It's just those god damned Illuminati-controlled CIA agents that keep fucking with my network connection. Installing all those listening devices.

I'm used to that, though.
posted by c13 at 9:50 PM on September 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Sorry about that. I just mailed Jessamyn to add this link to the fpp.
posted by hadjiboy at 9:50 PM on September 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

" 'In the States, schizophrenia continues to be confused with multiple personality disorder at the best'
'Why is that though?' "

It's an effort borne mostly by law enforcement. Which, I can see being a real nightmare for folks unable to shut out certain sensation, much less feelings of persecution.
Cops, and I don't mean this in the pejorative, have to approach the job with the ability to suppress empathy.

Not a good mix.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:57 PM on September 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was diagnosed several years ago with a personality disorder on the so-called 'schizophrenia spectrum.' Leaving aside the fact that I tend to feel that any psychological irregularities that fall short of false sensory input (i.e. hallucinations) are more a matter of divergent viewpoints than of mental illness, on occasion I can become gripped by a paranoid certainty that usually runs along these lines: everything in the world is an illusion constructed around me for some unknowable purpose, either by benevolent or neutral forces to protect me from a reality that is (for whatever reason) Too Awful to Bear, or as part of some sort of experiment, or by malevolent forces seeking to keep me incapacitated for some sinister purpose. But I can't let myself think about it--even as I am thinking about it--or my thoughts will be read, and Something will know that I know. Maybe it will become angry, or maybe something else. But I know something Very Bad will happen to me, and I get a mixed feeling of panic and dread in the pit of my stomach, like something just outside my realm of perception is coming to hurt me. (I blame The Matrix and my own uninspired writing style if this seems more yawn-inducing than potentially terrifying.)

This happens to me maybe for a few hours every couple months, usually when circumstances result in my being isolated from human contact for several days. I spend a few hours working myself into a tizzy and then a few more bringing myself back down again. I mention it because I've always imagined, rightly or wrongly, that schizophrenia would be an episode like that, except that I'd see and hear things instead of only imagining them, and it would never really end.
posted by Makoto at 10:01 PM on September 11, 2008 [14 favorites]

I actually liked acid. And hallucinations. Kind of got me away from myself.

I remember I was parachuting and someone had lit the DZ on fire (or it caught on fire). I landed completely wrong (for a number of reasons) and pitched forward on my face. Helmet shot off. I was out cold. When I came to - I'm looking at burning flames and in the distance - figures moving in the flames. I concluded: I was in Hell. So, I sat there and adjusted to that reality. I'm going to burn for eternity. And actually, the prospect wasn't so bad really. I was pretty comfortable being angry all the time.

After a bit I got medicked up and got out of the hospital.

That's when this wave of unreality hit me. That all this stuff was artifice and if I didn't go along with it, if I resisted enough, ultimately, they'd kill me.
Hell wasn't the reality either.

That time in the hospital, people caring for me, for each other, just doing nice stuff and keeping it all together - that was reality. And I'd lost touch with it and was locked into myself again.

I'm not, and never been diagnosed as schizophrenic. But I can see the getting freaked part. Scary enough to kill yourself. Yeah.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:06 PM on September 11, 2008 [7 favorites]

Thanks for the simulation. I had no idea that people living with schizophrenia had to put up with Realplayer.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:14 PM on September 11, 2008 [10 favorites]

One of my sisters suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. And that sentence is true -- she does suffer from it. And so did each and every one of us siblings, and my parents, and anyone else whose life touched hers.

And for so many years we were in denial, we just saw her as an asshole, a rude and crude jerk, unbelievably intertwined with my parents, psychologically, financially, in just about every way, really. She also has epilepsy, and has suffered from seizures, big-time, and also from the heavy medications which helped/helps her controls those seizures. But the fact is that we weren't in denial, as denial has in it, implicitly, the idea that what is going on is known but just not looked at honestly, that the truth of the matter is known but not acknowledged.

We didn't know what was going on. Truly. We had her as a jerk. We all loved her, we were all enmeshed in her life, entwined, and her in ours, but we didn't realize what was going on, we didn't realize that she had schizophrenia.

I met a guy, here in Austin, who has the same illness. Jeff. A good enough young guy, we became sortof friends, and he began to describe to me how he could feel his brain flexing in his skull, and how he could smell feelings, etc and etc. And I knew that he wasn't lying to me, that this was life as he experienced it, this was his truth. And it gave me the key to helping my sister, it helped me to see what was going on all these years, right under our noses.

It's not called paranoid schizophrenia because they wanted to toss an extraneous word in their naming process; my sister was damn sure paranoid. Is. And it was becoming worse and worse, as her illness 'progressed', as it deepened; she was becoming more and more paranoid, to the point where she was barely eating (her food was poisoned) and barely staying at home (the cameras all over her home drove her batshit), spending her days (daze) riding the buses around the Phoenix metroplex, sun-tanned so, so dark, skinny and fragile as a bird. Though she didn't seem so fragile when she was violent -- man.

I had some time, some money. I flew out there, open-ended, tried to get her to seek help. Ha ha. She trusted me, deeply, on some level she knew/knows that I am with her, but she wouldn't let me get her any help. Which led to us entering into the horrors of the US mental health system. Which I am now able to write volumes about, but I'm not going to, not here anyways; suffice to say that it is set up (most especially in large cities) it is set up to NOT help you, and to not help your family members. And if a person tries to get help themselves, they run into a horrific quandary: They have to be sick enough to need help, yet well enough to walk through the mazes upon mazes thrown down in their path on the way to getting the needed help. (Aside: Currently, here in Austin, if/when a person walks into the local emergency psych clinic seeking help, if they are not suicidal they are given an appointment three months out. THREE MONTHS OUT. Consider that one. They can be delusional. In denial about the depth of their depression, perhaps unwilling to tell anyone that they are suicidal. Three months out. An outrage.) Some of this is actually for the good, it prevents the state from just tossing anyone into whatever institution, and it prevents the state from colluding with family members in getting anyone tossed into whatever institution. Okay, good enough. But how about if you need help, or your sister does? A long, hard road.

Probably among most peoples least popular early morning activities is opening your door and having people who are colluding with those who torture you day and night slap handcuffs on you and take you to a city mental hospital. (Picture: An Iraqi, headed toward Abu Gharib. They didn't hood my sister, no. But the horror to her was as strong, of that I am certain.) But that is what happened to my sister; the Phoenix police showed up at her door and took her, barefoot, handcuffed, howliing, to the mental hospital in downtown Phoenix.

I have been in dangerous places, in the wrong places or at the wrong times or both, in places where the potential of violence is almost palpable, where confusion and fear is the order of the day, where there is, quite simply, no sanity. (Marriage, etc.) In my experience, the lockdown ward in any big-city psych hospital is one of the most dangerous places on the planet, and one of the scariest, and filled, overflowing, truth be told, with dangerous people. This is where my sister was taken.

She sure was mad at me.

When I would go to visit her, I soon learned the drill -- I would get screamed at for fifteen minutes, and then we could talk to one another, play dice games (she is KILLER at Yahtzee) or whatever, yuk it up. We did get to spend time together, as the medications began to take hold, as they began the long search toward medicinal armistice with this son of a bitching illness. Paranoid schizophrenia got the first fifteen minutes though; she'd rant and rave and I'd say "Yeah, that's your illness." and god did that ever set her off some more, on and on, but never longer than twenty minutes, and usually fifteen. Then, Yahtzee.

As confusing as this is to the outsider, the illness, the delusions are seductive, even if they are terrifying. That's probably the largest reason that people who are lucky enough to find help through medications quit taking them, it's almost as if they miss the show. Though there are also side effects to most of this stuff; we're talking big guns, we're talking heavy anti-psychotics here, and while the latest and greatest are nowhere near as heavy as the old-line anti-psychotics were/are, they are still pretty gruesome, or can be. And no person reacts the same as the other person, what helps one person won't touch the next, and it takes time to sort it all out, to find the right medications to help these people.

The golden word? Insight. Insight. The person, if they are to find comfort in being treated for their illness, must have some insight into it, into what is happening to them. This can take months, for some it never happens, and their road is a much more difficult one. Here's how it works: If the person can see, if even only partially, if even only a little bit, that perhaps maybe sortof they really do have an illness, if they get insight into their situation, then they will be more amenable toward the treatment of it, they will be more willing to continue on the medications. Imagine being in a room with a radio blasting, full volume, it's all you can hear, and there are people talking to you or at you on that dang radio, or screaming to you or at you on that dang radio, going on and on maybe, and telling you things. Now imagine one day that the radio is not playing. It's all gone silent. And all that you've been living with, all of the reactions you've had to all of this nightmare are no longer needed, and you begin to think maybe it was just not true, that this IS just an illness, after all.

Not everybody gets there. Some, like my sister, do not get the radio turned off. But the volume is lowered considerably, there is more open space in her life, there is potential for peace.

I wonder if I post this? A long post. I don't know that I've ever written it out before, all at once. And even though I've written long here, even this is not the whole of it, not by a long shot, there's more to say, and maybe I'll say it. But not now.

Don't make fun of people you don't understand. It's cruel. If you do it, you are a jerk, and that is a fact. These are people, they deserve respect, dignity in their sufferings. If there was a heaven, I'd bet dollars to dimes that there'd be huge parades honoring these folks when they pass from the scene, as god knows they've walked through hell here. As it is, it's for us to help them, and treat them well, here and now, as we can, when we can.


posted by dancestoblue at 10:15 PM on September 11, 2008 [310 favorites]

Insightful and courageous post, dancestoblue. Flagged as fantastic.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:39 PM on September 11, 2008

As confusing as this is to the outsider, the illness, the delusions are seductive, even if they are terrifying

Terribly so. Its a double edged sword. You may feel you are anointed with powers. Or you feel that you are being watched. Another garden variety delusion is that you think you are the President. Huh? And then there are the voices, which happen to people at different levels of severity.

You are drawn in to these delusions; but without treatment, something terrible may happen. You can become the victim of a crime; commit a crime yourself, or end up in the psyche ward or the morgue.

You also need to consider that many of the homeless population in your area are mentally ill and have an addiction problem. Many people who are mentally ill, self- medicate with substances to quell the symptoms.

Three members of my family suffer(ed) from a form of Schizophrenia.

Please, take the time and brush up on the main points of mental illness. You never know when a severe biological brain disorder may strike you or someone you love.

What you spent a lifetime building, can be destroyed in a day. Build anyway.
posted by captainsohler at 10:55 PM on September 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

After reading dancestoblue's experience, I guess I feel grateful to experience only interstitial blasts from the "radio" that appear when I've got nothing else to occupy my own mind. Self-doubt and after-the-fact questioning of events and motives are horrible things; to live with them as constant companions must be maddening. The degree to which we humans have the capacity to beat ourselves up is nothing short of amazing. Despite that the empathy and understanding such feelings engender must have had an important impact on our social evolution, hypersensitivity's truly a bitch.
posted by Graygorey at 11:04 PM on September 11, 2008

I turned off the radio eight months ago or so. They were- get this- transmissions through time, mostly from psychics in the 1950s, 70s and also Benjamin Franklin. It was something I never thought twice about, since I had been receiving these 'transmissions' as long as I could remember. A couple of years ago, I started reading Robert Anton Wilson's books regarding his experiments with perception and hallucinogens. His advice for keeping sane through the whole thing was to remember that it was all bunk, but to make yourself believe it temporarily for the sake of the psychodrama.

While mired in RAW and other disinformation-type counterculture, I had an immensely enlightening trip on psilocybin mushrooms, and it all kind of fell into place then. The radio shut off, and I realized what it was. I had an immense feeling of connectivity with society that I have retained, though not to the same degree. I got a full-time job (I had been virtually unemployed for a year and a half) and started acting with confidence and perceiving the people around me as people.

This sudden change in my personality caused my wife to fall out of love with me, as she describes it, and I'm finding myself backsliding. I still don't believe that these 'voices' are actually coming from anywhere but my own head; I've banished them, turned the radio off. I've become very good at identifying stray thoughts as potential delusions and dismissing them. But I can't quite muster the ease of conversation and social activity with strangers that I had.

It's not horrifically bad, and I've heard that similar symptoms are present in people like me with untreated thyroid problems, so it may be more physiological than psychological. Anyway, I really appreciate posts like these on MeFi for giving me something to reflect upon.
posted by maus at 1:28 AM on September 12, 2008 [10 favorites]

Real Audio? That is madness!!!
posted by sourwookie at 1:32 AM on September 12, 2008

I originally saw the NPR "simulation" on Something Awful in a thread posted by a schizophrenic. It was pretty crazy, he described the simulation as being extremely authentic, which forced me to watch it again. I could not live like that.
posted by Clamwacker at 1:38 AM on September 12, 2008

> they're not always all horribly frightening, or an all the time thing.

Yep. Or even an inevitable feature; it can involve just weird interpretation of ordinary events. Years back I knew someone with paranoid schizophrenia. Perfectly normal in everyday discourse - quiet and polite elderly lady - except that "they" were monitoring her when she was driving. (and only then). She gave me a lift into town a couple of times, and it was terrifying; typically the delusion focused on young women driving small cars. If she saw one, she'd say "Marker car!" and make some evasive and dangerous turn to get out of sight of it.
posted by raygirvan at 4:11 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

the horrors of the US mental health system
Future generations will look on us with the same confused pity for our treatment of the mentally ill as we look on the icepick lobotomists of the past. The level of stigma, antipathy and outright hatred towards the mentally ill in American society is disgusting from the outside, it must be nightmarish from within.
posted by Skorgu at 5:49 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

dancestoblue: favorited, flagged as fantastic, and if at all possible I would beg of you to write it all down somewhere.

I can't watch the simulation at work, but I've occationally wondered how much of my self-doubt is me and how much is the result of unaddressed issues. (Well, I know I have unaddressed issues.)

I just kind of wonder if it's possible, ever, to relate to what we laughably call 'reality' the same way other 'normal' people do after living in this sort of mental place. Is it a permanent damage to your worldview, or can you put it aside?

maus: thank you for your tale as well.
posted by mephron at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

In the States, schizophrenia continues to be confused with multiple personality disorder at the best

Why is that though?

There's a long history of confusion. The word 'Schizophrenia' actually means 'split mind' in Greek. It was introduced by Bleuler as a replacement for the term used earlier 'dementia praecox'. Bleuler rightly thought the old term was misleading since it represented the disease as a juvenile version of senile dementia.

Unfortunately, the term he proposed was also confusing. He did not mean 'split personality' in the popular sense (he meant an abnormal, disrupted pattern of associations), but that was how it was often construed. In fact, it's possible that in the past this misinterpretation influenced perceptions and perhaps even the incidence of Multiple Personality Disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder, the term preferred now) - patients with DID convinced they had 'schizophrenia'. There is certainly no shaking the popular usage of terms like 'schizophrenic' to mean 'in two minds'.

Schizophrenia is a confusing disease, in any case: my understanding is that the symptoms vary so widely that some argue it is not, properly speaking, a single disease at all, just a term we can't find a good way of replacing.
posted by Phanx at 7:37 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's an effort borne mostly by law enforcement. Which, I can see being a real nightmare for folks unable to shut out certain sensation, much less feelings of persecution.
Cops, and I don't mean this in the pejorative, have to approach the job with the ability to suppress empathy.

Smedleyman-you are so right on this: to date, my schizophrenic son has been tasered, beaten, had his glasses pushed into his eyes, and dragged naked from his appartment. Granted that he was drunk in all these occasions because he uses alcohol and tobacco as self-medication, a common trait of schizophrenics. Since the first episode with cops he has learned to go limp and offer no resistance, except he does not seem to be able to keep his mouth from saying:
"To serve and protect, to serve and protect"

The best thing I have ever done to learn how to deal with his disease was take the family to family class offered by Nami.
posted by francesca too at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Lastly, when I spent time living in Canada, it amazed the difference in which schizophrenia is portrayed. There are regular radio campaigns which promote humane understanding of schizophrenia as treatable and manageable mental disease. In the States, schizophrenia continues to be confused with multiple personality disorder at the best, and demonized at the worst.

A bunch of us were sitting around a conference table waiting for the remaining committee members to arrive when the BC Minister of Health wandered in and, said as they sat down, "I feel quite schizophrenic today."

I wish it was the utopia that you paint it to be humannaire, but sadly it really isn't. The fact that the federal government created The Canadian Mental Health Commission to reduce the stigma of mental illness (among other things) is a testament that we definitely don't have our shit together. It's embarrassing.
posted by squeak at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2008

Thanks hadjiboy, your interesting post inspired an awesome thread.

Some years ago my former boyfriend from Montenegro told me about his elder brother's paranoia issues. This was not something that seemed to be able to be discussed with friends or family, who were basically simple countryfolk, too shameful and beyond their comprehension. He got his elder brother a ticket to NYC to see if he or I could help his brother. This was before I went on the web and knew almost nothing about paranoid personality disorder and just assumed the term paranoid schizophrenic was an hysterical insult that self-righteous idiots flung at a person they didn't like.

One day I convinced my boyfriend to come with me to Beth Israel mental illness clinic to talk with professionals and try and get answers about his brother's illness. Were there any practical answers or way to help him? We walked in to what was obviously a madhouse. It immediately felt scary. The administrator wouldn't let my boyfriend come into the office because they incorrectly assumed he was the paranoiac, lol, and were scared for their safety. They basically said the only way to help was like what happened to dancestoblue's sister, involuntary commitment, but they said the cops wouldn't assist. They were really quite unhelpful and the last place I would take anybody dealing with a mental illness.

My ex and I decided this would be so traumatizing to his brother and that his brother would be so upset he wouldn't take his meds if they were imposed on him, that we opted out of doing anything. His brother's gone back to live in Germany, taken care of by the state, living on his own. That's always troubled me, knowing that such an ill person may well endanger his own and others' lives.

Another person I met recently disclosed their paranoid delusions to me while we were having an otherwise civil conversation. It was so painful to hear this gentle, intelligent, decent person drift into delusional paranoia. I assumed they suffer from paranoid personality disorder but now, after reading this thread, realize that they are more likely to be struggling with paranoid schizophrenia.

I felt very alone worrying about these people until I read this thread.

dancestoblue, what a great comment, thank you so much for so honestly, forthrightly, sharing your experience here. I don't know you but after reading your comment I feel love for you, feel awed by the suffering you must have gone through trying to get help to your sister, your amazing patience through this whole ordeal. My sincere good wishes for your sister to be able to heal as much as she is able and that her life be less full of suffering. Major respect for your being such an incredibly loving brother.
posted by nickyskye at 10:38 AM on September 12, 2008

For whatever reason, I've known several people who have suffered from schizophrenia, from a family friend who lived in my house when I was 6-7 years old to one of my best friends from high school (it developed later, as it usually does, and I was the primary subject of her paranoia for a while) and her mother, to my ex-brother-in-law, with a few others scattered in along the way. All but one of these people have been nonviolent sufferers of a frightening disease that complicated their lives and the lives of those who cared for them, but through the support of family and public and private health services, they have managed to find some sort of stasis that is not generally miserable and sometimes can laugh at their situations (such as the time Tara's mom had a racoon in her kitchen and no one believed her because they were sure he was an hallucination).

But then there is the exception.

The one exception, my ex-brother-in-law, is 34 years old. He was 11 when I first met him, the youngest of 3 boys of a single-again mother. His dad (different from the older boys' dad) was schizophrenic and apparently he inherited it. At 11, he wasn't showing symptoms yet, but he'd always been different. That was the year he first went to juvie. His mother sought help. He's been in and out of juvie, mental institutions, jail, and prison ever since. His mother sought help numerous times, finally getting him consistently medicated when she resorted to harassing our senator.

A year ago last May, he was released from prison. He seemed to be doing well for a time, taking his meds and living with mom, staying out of trouble. He spent a lot of time with my kids because they were going to Grandma's on the weekends for visitation with their dad. When their dad moved out in August, it became clear Buzz was off his meds and escalating. His mother filed charges against him for theft. I filed charges against him for an incident involving one of my kids. We made clear to the detectives and his parole officer that he was escalating and dangerous. We told them he was off his meds and doing drugs. We told them where to find him, and provided updates to his whereabouts when we got them. The warrants were out, but neither the county police nor the feds (he had federal parole) went looking for him. They didn't consider him a priority. They told us not to worry, he'd get picked up eventually. We told them eventually wasn't good enough. We pursued this for months, not out of anger, but out of concern.

Eventually, his girlfriend, an older woman with a checkered past, filed charges against him for stealing her car, in a different county, a county that took it a bit more seriously. The police went to serve the warrant on him and found him at her house, the car he'd stolen in her driveway. They also found her dead inside the home. He'd become an axe-murderer. Her 21 year old daughter was orphaned; her special-needs brother left without the person who'd been his primary caregiver for decades.

All because we have such a fucked-up approach to mental health care and a laissez-faire attitude among certain law enforcement agencies.
posted by notashroom at 10:38 AM on September 12, 2008 [10 favorites]

I thought the 'video' would be better done- the slideshow was somewhat disconcerting, but only because of the poor image quality.
posted by arnicae at 10:45 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

notashroom, omg, what a horrifying story. How incredibly sad for the woman who was murdered and her kids. oh no. So glad you, your own kids and family are safe. yikes.

A few short years ago the police were not aware of how to deal with domestic violence, spousal battering, child abuse and treated it as something out of their domain. I'm not sure what changed the cops' attitude in dealing with this. This was true as well for the issue stalking until high profile stalking-murder cases hit the press..

The forensic science part of the police force (as contrasted with the FBI, who have put a focus on malignant personality disorders for some time) have only been able to just begin getting a handle on the behaviors of people with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) who commit violent crimes and criminals (mostly those committing fraud, conning) with pathological narcissism (NPD).

It seems time for the police to work on getting another aspect of their forensic science together, broadening their psychological database dealing with those who might commit violence on themselves or others, who have other kinds of mental/emotional health issues, such as Paranoid Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia.
posted by nickyskye at 11:16 AM on September 12, 2008

the poor image quality is on purpose. Things can take on a plastic effect when one is moderately hallucinating. A cheapening of quality, if you will.
posted by captainsohler at 11:23 AM on September 12, 2008

Thanks for the post and thanks to dancestoblue for the comment. My family have been stuck trying to navigate the mental health system for years, with my mom and my brother and now my niece. It's impossible to get help and when you finally do -- if you're lucky enough -- I swear it's like some siren goes off in some distant insurance or government decision-makers room and they find some way to undo it all. I completely loved what dancestoblue said about the Yahtzee -- those little details, daggum they can make all the difference, not that they can make anybody involved transcend the situation but more like hollering across a ravine to somebody on the other side. Sometimes the only comfort has been just hearing other people sharing their experience.
posted by frances1972 at 11:25 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

notashroom, taking a look at the woman who was murdered, she appears to have the facial features of hypothyroid [nsfw], which can itself cause mental confusion.
posted by nickyskye at 11:43 AM on September 12, 2008

nickyskye, it is incredibly sad, especially for her daughter (her only child) and her special-needs brother (who, by the way, has been living with and being cared for by my ex-mother-in-law since the incident). I am incredibly thankful that it wasn't my daughter he killed. It could have been, too easily.

And because I didn't mention this in my previous post but should have, Buzz was violating parole just by being off his meds. Not living in his mother's house was another parole violation. Missing his mandatory drug tests and a meeting with his parole officer were additional violations. It shouldn't have taken warrants for three separate additional criminal acts to have him locked up when he was already in violation of parole, which would have prolonged Trish's life.

Trish didn't suffer from hypothyroidism, but she did suffer from chronic alcoholism, which can also cause mental confusion and impaired judgement. She was introduced to the family and social circle when she met my then-husband in DUI school 16 years ago.
posted by notashroom at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2008

The only thing I can say from my own personal experience is that I found the video simulation quite disappointing. (literally my first reactions were: "whats scary about that?.. I've had worse"). I dont think its anywhere near an accurate representation of what actually happens during that general type of psychotic breakdown.

Video really only gets across a mild representation of the visual/auditory portion (and personally I think this simulation video does a poor job of that). The real experience is much more multi-sensory (hallucinatory input coming from visual, auditory, sensation, smell,etc all simultaneously). The experience of feeling like you've lost grip on reality is very very frightening and powerless sensation.
posted by jmnugent at 12:28 PM on September 12, 2008

“It seems time for the police to work on getting another aspect of their forensic science together, broadening their psychological database dealing with those who might commit violence on themselves or others,”

Y’know, they should. But with the caviat that the justice system - especially the prison system - shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden for what is essentially a health issue.
So - solid, but with cops getting a bit of training, and the main support for care coming from folks who know what they’re doing and helping law enforcement out.

I mean, you can have a well-trained cop in that they follow the procedure properly. But empathy and understanding is a bit of a job hazard for them. So, better off with someone in that field.

What pisses me off - and this is from me as a fiscal conservative talking with other fiscal ‘conservatives’ - is that many folks don’t get they’re going to pay for something like this one way or the other.

The budget is not the real world picture.
Just because you cut, say, mental health programs, doesn’t mean the fiscal burden will just vanish. The people don’t go away.

So it’s far more likely that costs will be borne by other systems not equpped to deal with them - and so the problem gets dealt with in a less efficient, and less proper way.

Know what the largest shelter housing mentally ill folks in Illinois is?
Cook County Jail.

So instead of paying doctors, nurses, social case workers, etc. to maybe keep folks with mental illnesses off the streets - and maybe even cure them (!) such that they’re off the streets - my tax money goes to pay cops to put them in jail.

Until the problem gets worse and worse and worse until it’s ubiquitous enough that now I have to pay cops - who aren’t actually supposed to be dealing with folks who are ill - for training in how to deal with them.

Same deal with homeless folks cooping up in the libraries. (Oh, gee, they want to be somewhere warm? Never saw that coming when we shutdown the shelters. - So now instead of paying for proper shelters, help, all that, you’re paying extra maintainance at the library, extra police patrol, food and board at the local cooler when they ‘trespass’, etc. etc. etc.)

Now, we could just kill them all. But I suspect more folks will show up with mental illness, and perhaps some folks (their families) might not like the, er, finality in that solution.
So it’s not going to go away. So why the hell not deal with it properly?

Apparently, and I’ve found no other logical reason, it’s because social programs are too ‘touchy feely’ or bleeding heart. (’Well, they just don’t want to get jobs. They can’t deal with reality.’ - Of course not! They’re seeing things. Of course they can’t deal with reality - that’s the f’ing point)

As a cold realist, those mental health programs are the best, most efficient solution.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:28 PM on September 12, 2008 [9 favorites]

I wish it was the utopia that you paint it to be humannaire, but sadly it really isn't. The fact that the federal government created The Canadian Mental Health Commission to reduce the stigma of mental illness (among other things) is a testament that we definitely don't have our shit together. It's embarrassing.

Your point is taken, squeak, as I understand Canada is no Utopia. It is what it is. But comparing what it is to what the US certainly would give one impression that Canada is ahead of the game in a number of important regards.

For instance, the "problem" in Canada you bring attention to just does not exist in the US.

So, you think you're embarrassed? Trust me: Don't be.
posted by humannaire at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2008

But comparing what it is to what the US certainly would give one impression that Canada is ahead of the game in a number of important regards.

But it isn't in terms of the publics perception. Which, unless I totally misread you, was the comparison? We're ahead of the game in regards to access to treatment, no doubt about it. But if people are too scared to seek treatment (about 20% of us), won't hire someone who's been mentally ill (about half of us), think mental illness is an excuse for bad behaviour (about half), &c. then Canadians are not ahead of the game by all that much. Especially, if the fear of being stigmatized prevents people from seeking treatment and/or, being able to have a support system ala friends and family because, guess what? About 40% of us are unsure whether we'd still have a relationship with someone who came out as a lunatik.

And btw thanks, hadjiboy. My uncle couldn't stand it if we sang to the music, he never explained why ... now I sooo get it.
posted by squeak at 9:03 PM on September 12, 2008

Now, we could just kill them all. But I suspect more folks will show up with mental illness, and perhaps some folks (their families) might not like the, er, finality in that solution.

Yeah Smedleyman, that's a thought that has plagued me many times and has often been hard to extinguish; the 'final solution' is always out there (and in here) lurking in the darkest shadows somewhere:

... If I had my way I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a cinematograph working brightly; then I'd go out in the back streets and the main streets and bring them in; all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the 'Hallelujah Chorus'.

[From a letter written by D. H. Lawrence to his girlfriend in October of 1908, more than a quarter century before Hitler's camps.]
posted by jamjam at 12:04 AM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Uhh.. so this is totally random, but if anyone's still reading this thread and in the Boston area, Mass General Hospital is having a "Schizophrenia: Addressing Changes of Daily Life" seminar on October 4th (it's a Saturday), for the 6th annual Schizophrenia Education Day. It's free and open to the public.

You have to pre-register, but the last time I went to one of these things (it was about anxiety disorders), there was free food and it was actually really interesting.
posted by giraffe at 6:48 AM on September 13, 2008

jamjam, Excellent to find out about D.H. Lawrence's letters. Thank you.
posted by nickyskye at 9:19 AM on September 13, 2008

Another, better video, linked to in the comments of the "Here" link in the FPP.
posted by granted at 4:00 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're welcome, nickyskye!

I think his letters are Lawrence's greatest work; they are playful, endlessly dazzlingly inventive, effortlessly profound, and the turgid sententious proselytizing for very questionable political, social, and sexual causes that mars almost all the prose he intended for publication is nearly absent from them. As his editor says:

Pope believed the letter should convey ' thoughts just warm from the brain without any polishing or dress, the very deshabille of the understanding ': Lawrence achieved this to a degree that Pope could not have begun to imagine or desire.

And they can be extremely powerful. Bertrand Russell (as I recall) claims in his autobiography that a letter Lawrence sent to him when Russell was 21 came very close to making him commit suicide. I believe it may be the only significant letter Russell mentions there that he does not reproduce for inspection by his readers.
posted by jamjam at 12:12 AM on September 14, 2008

I missed this post originally due to having a hurricane in my backyard, but I'm very grateful for it.

What pisses me off - and this is from me as a fiscal conservative talking with other fiscal ‘conservatives’ - is that many folks don’t get they’re going to pay for something like this one way or the other.

Exactly. I work in the public mental health system. I'm front line here. (Actually I'm the one and only person in my county. I'm the go-to for the mentally ill.) And what can I tell peple who want help? "Sorry, we have a waiting list." We put them on a waiting list until their illness gets bad enough that they require psychiatric hospitalization (very expensive), or they get thrown in jail (also expensive), or they disappear (and we hope they only moved.)

The system sucks. The answer is more money. Period. Money for doctors and caseworkers and medication to prevent the government paying even more money later for hospitals and incarceration. I can't stress this enough.
posted by threeturtles at 8:04 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

And here a illuminating AskMe that convey the general population feelings toward schizophrenia.
posted by francesca too at 5:20 AM on September 21, 2008

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