Monday, May 23, 2005

Headsets: Unterweg Zur normalization

Today, I took daddy and mommy to the airport. They are going to Costa Rica to visit my uncle.

After I sent them off, I got onto the bus. There was a guy talking on the phone, with one of those hands-free headsets on.

This reminds me of a scenario I encountered the first time I came out of the coocoo’s nest.

At that time, the hands-free headsets were just starting to become popular.

One day, as I was strolling down the street, I saw this well-dressed gentleman engaging in some pretty serious conversation with no one else.

When I saw him conversing with no one so very enthusiastically, I thought to myself, “He needs medication.” It was not until I walked past by did I realize that he had the headset on and was talking on the phone.

Through out the years, the hands-free headsets and cell phones have gradually turned into commodity. It is very seldom, nowadays, to walk down the block without noticing people in the cell-phone nation.

In other words, it has become a norm to see people engage in discussions, quarrels, and story-telling about their entire life while no discussants are in present.

I came up with this brilliant idea after I encountered that well-dressed gentleman on headset, whom was misdiagnosed by me as someone with positive symptoms in partial remission.

What is that brilliant idea?

Let me go side track a bit first (As you might have realized, my writing sometimes goes all different directions. It is my dream to become Marcel Proust II... just don't have his SES to live his kind of life lol).

When I was volunteering in the psychiatric ward in the hospital, I was told that the duty of the volunteers was to engage in normal conversations with the patients. Essentially, the volunteers are instrumental in reshaping the patients’ modus operandis in how they interact with the “greater population.”

This is partially done by ignoring patients’ discourse about topics such as religion, politics, and their mental health conditions. At the same time, neutral topics such as the weather conditions and sports are promoted.

It is hoped that, eventually, the patients will be conditioned to engage in conversations with “normal” topics, rather than the more controversial ones.

However, it was very unfortunate that this tactic did not always work. How long could a discussion about the weather last? How many times could you engage in weather-related conversations with the same person?

The icebreaker might work for the patient with amnesia, whom struggled to remind himself of who he is by stacks of pictures. However, such a topic might turn to be too old for the narcoleptic patient, who used to be a professional baseball player and ended in the bed because his body could not stay away for more than a few seconds.

Also, since I am not a big sports fan, it was sort of difficult for me to talk about sports.

Moreover, a lot of times, patients would get released from mental health institutes while positive symptoms are still actively present. Some get released because of financial issues. Others try to be released because they yarn to get out of the confinement of the hospital. This could be done by trying their best to be normal, to cooperate with the staffs, and, to let the staff members believe that they no longer experience positive symptoms or the severity has turned minimal.

How do I know? Because I am one of them and I do not believe I am the only one.

What about the staff members in the hospital? I believe they know it, too. I figure their role is to keep the patients till they are stable enough to go and live at large.

It took me months after I was released from the hospital to come to the realization that what I believed was going on in this world was but my delusions.

I recall that weeks if not months after I was released from my first hospitalization, one day, I finally was able to tell my psychiatrist that I was feeling depressed. It was because I did not know how to deal with all the things I was promised and lost due to my hospitalization. These included a scholarship to complete my study, a job offer from Microsoft (Don't ask me why it was Microsoft but not Intel or Cisco lol), an honorary degree from some department, and, the sponsorship for a green card. The only thing I did not think about was finding myself a rich and handsome husband (Let’s call it teenage rebellion lol). I felt sad because people have forgotten about me and nobody cared anymore.

My psychiatrist looked at me and told me, “It was your delusion.” Just like what he told me before I institutionalized myself.

It took me some more time to finally accept the fact that it was my delusion because it was my belief and it was my mental model about the world surrounding me. I even went into depression for my delusions (Yet, I hope it was my premonition because I did get a grant to sponsor my psychotic dissertation after all lol).

Based on my naïve theory about how things work, I believe that, a lot of times, patients are released from institutions while positive symptoms are still actively present. It is the hallucinations and the delusions that make people screaming and yelling at the pedestrians, or talking to themselves.

When people encounter these fellow coocoos of mine, it is inevitable for them to regard them differently. How people react to the abnormal behavior, unfortunately, will impose extra amount of stress and will further reinforce the build-up of these patients’ hallucinations and delusions.

Yours truly, thus, came up with this quixotic idea.

What about giving the coocoos a headset before letting them out? In this case, their self-talking would be normalized and it might help to off set the stress induced by how the outside world views them. If there is enough funding, we should even give them a CD player so that they could focus their attention on the music rather than the hallucinations and delusions(lol).

Will this work or not?

I don’t know and it is but a hypothesis of mine. One thing I know is that, even if it might work for some, it will not work for all.

By the way, there was something I learned from the whole 9 yards. The road to accept the fact that nobody really cares because it was my delusion is the same as handling the fading of the novelty effect. As a result, my psychotic experiences help me to deal with the fact that visitors to my blog site has gone from 25 hits per day to 0 hits (lol).

More specifically, what I learned was, today’s news is tomorrow’s history. The only thing we could hold on to is our life because, as long as we are still kicking, life goes on and I continue to write.

This leads to the second positive impact of mental health problems—providing a secure environment for learning and exploration while there is nothing to loose (lol).

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