54. This is madness!

January 27, 2018 Sticky Thoughts No Comments

I have to confess. I have spent 2 years in psychiatric hospitals… in acute care (acute delirium, psychosis etc.) as well as in long-term psychiatric wards (chronic schizophrenia, dementia…). I have direct experience in how it is to be there, the ups and downs, the longings, the treatments. All of it.

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If you haven’t guessed already, I was an intern in psychiatry. Actually my goal to start studying medicine in the first place was to become a psychiatrist and to learn ‘all about the deepest depths of human psyche’. I was 17 years old. My big example was Carl Gustav Jung. So, while studying general medicine, I was studying more beside the courses (all about Jung of course and much much more depth psychology and related things) than the courses themselves (all about the human body and diseases in a purely materialistic way). Then, when finally arriving at the gates of grand psychiatry, I saw that my dreams didn’t quite fit this reality. But enough about me.

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I won’t go into a general attack on biological psychiatry now. There are other sticky thoughts for that. This one is about a view on madness itself. Forget the ‘treatment’. Imagine you are a young schizophrenic having his first attack of out-of-this-worldliness.

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Imagine.

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There is a specific case I always remember and that can serve as a role model, making it easier to you. It’s a young man, very artistically gifted, coming from what is nicely called a ‘dysfunctional family’. Meaning that the family is a mess: anorexia, drunkenness, suicide, self-mutilation, etc. So this day, this bluest of all days for him, he is (you are?) brought to the hospital in complete disarray. He’s sitting in a small room. People in white coats come and go. One of them is me. He starts telling me that he’s fine. Hmm. At the same time he’s very disordered, clearly in a state of huge mental confusion. Among other things, he tells me of a pure, white light that is following him wherever he goes. It started a few days ago. ‘And now it’s there. Don’t you see it? It’s so obvious. It’s so beautiful. It’s so bright. It’s so radiant. It’s so God. It’s so white.’ Away goes attention to something else. Again comes attention to the light.

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This man has seen the light. No, he’s seeing it right now.

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I have never had any doubt about this. This man has seen the light. It was real. Not only to him. It was real. He was right in every respect… except one. He was, one can say, ‘inside the poem’, but did not realize it. The reality he saw, was a symbolic one, not a material one. But he mistook completely. In addition to this, the reality he saw was such a powerful one (remember in his words: ‘God’!) that with the little to no support that he had, he was swept away completely. In other words: he was raving mad.

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I only saw him twice and on both occasions spoke with him in a very comprehending way, for which I was more or less reprimanded because ‘one should always forcefully contradict such thoughts, proving the wrongness, bringing rationality to the madmen.’

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Still . what . he . saw . was . real!

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Madness is not in the seeing. Madness is in how one handles what one sees, or is handled by it. What did you expect? You’re at the border of the ocean, enjoying the waves. Here comes a tsunami. You have no protection. You’re gone. Still, the tsunami is real and valuable. It may even contain the most valuable that one can ‘imagine’. Closing the doors as if nothing is there, is not the right way.

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This is madness indeed.

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