Monday, June 20, 2011

Meaning and Madness: Is Schizophrenia Real?

 Rossa F (not real name) asks in the comment on my previous post some fantastic questions, which just happen to be of particular interest to me at the moment. The link to the fascinating interview with Gail Hornstein below is an introduction to other ways of thinking about the subject of madness-not-as-a-mental-illness or at least not-as-a-chemical-imbalance. That last has always puzzled me: how on earth could anyone tell me that I suffered from a "chemical imbalance" when 1) they do not even know what chemicals are actually out of balance, if they are, in "schizophrenia," and 2) they do not really know what a truly normal level is in the first place. 

I have long argued that "schizophrenia" from all my observations, close and rather not so, can hardly be called an illness. I believe it can only be termed a syndrome, as in a collection of similar, by far not, identical symptoms, but not a single, or singular illness with specific core signs and symptoms. The very fact that out of dozens of medications it remains a set of symptoms that is treated largely hit or miss, and by trial and error, a med that is a miracle for one person, being useless for another. Moreover, I have known dozens of people, many of them friends, who have been dx'd with this "illness" and every single of one of them was singular, "uniquely unique" and shared almost no symptom or trait or characteristic of the illness with anyone else. 

Oh, sure, we may have been dx'd paranoid, some of us, but none was paranoid in the same way. One guy who believed he wrote a certain famous rock groups' music (a delusion) was certain that people were out to steal his music manuscripts, even though these looked to us like nonsense written on scraps of scratch paper. Not to him, to him they were pure gold and he was terrified...The "paranoid" delusion of another person with this same illness schizophrenia had to do with something entirely different and took an entirely different form:  Witches were out to get him and he had to confuse them so they could not get into his mouth...The fact that he could not speak without confusing everyone, that he scarcely said a sentence that made sense, makes all too much sense now.

But the fact that all of us were stuck with the same diagnosis struck me as rather bizarre even then, since logically we ought to have had more in common than the fact that we took the same class of medications: anti-psychotic drugs which we more or less hated in common, and which many to most of us either cheeked or refused outright. But I could discern very little that bound us together, beyond the label and the unpleasant, and undesirable class of meds they -- the medical establishment -- plied us with.

I want to continue this later, but I need to finish a speech that I am giving tomorrow evening at a meeting at the State Hospital in this state. So I need to leave this unfinished for now. I hope you get a chance to listen to the interview, and will return here to read and maybe contribute a comment to the discussion.

Gail Hornstein Interview on Madness and Meaning

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