Friday, November 13, 2009


We sometimes eat lunch at the Promenade, usually pasta from Xocolat. Yesterday I was at Promenade again, eating pesto pasta and leafing through a magazine. I read an article about a woman who battled schizophrenia. She is now in her thirties, but she was diagnosed with the mental illness sometime in college, when she had been nineteen, a budding writer working with the University paper and with a bright future ahead of her. Somehow things went to a downward spiral when the disease took control of her life. She had parents, friends, and a community who accepts her, but when the voices became insistent, they all left and she was left alone.

Today at Digg I again saw an article on Schizophrenia. It described the same symptoms, and a woman who has battled the disease, albeit not the same woman described in the magazine article. The experience was likewise the same: a person who seemingly has everything and who loses everything all because of the voices in their heads.
It might not be understandable who those who never had the disease, but the descriptions were common. Having schizophrenia is like having your head receive radio signals from various stations broadcasting voices into your thoughts. Some voices are patient and kind, other voices are mean and insistent and can kill you. The Digg article mentioned that the voices told the schizophrenic that food and water were the Devil's, and that she fasted for a week because of this. The magazine article woman said that the voices in her head were clear, convincing and elaborate, that she began to think they were real; after all, a plain person would not be able to make these voices up. Sometimes, the voices were that of a group or even a multitude of people, a legion - like the voices of evil spirits banished by Jesus in the bible.

The symptoms remind me of the Bene Gesserit rite of passage for Reverend Mothers in Dune. In this science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, a Reverend Mother, sort of like a leader, of the female school of espionage - the Bene Gesserits, drinks a sort of liquid drug which enables them to listen to the voices from within, voices of past Reverend Mothers who guide them and give them advice. However, only female voices must be heard. Once, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the ultimate villain in the novel series, haunted with his voice the sister of the hero of the story: Alia Artreides. She became obese (like the Baron) and began to perform the Baron's evil deeds.

Because of Dune, the concept of hearing voices in one's head became a sort of positive concept, to me especially that I adore the concept of the Bene Gesserit school of fighting and espionage, where girls are trained to become expert fighters and spies and learn the power of controlling a person's subconscious by means of the Voice; that is, knowing the specific timbre of voice which would make a command irresistible to any individual.

However, unlike the Bene Gesserits, the concept of Schizophrenia is as real as here and now. It may be that some people are born with a gene that makes them more susceptible of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. This same gene, the doctors said, is the reason why my own little sister hears voices in her head.

I never talk about it much, because its been hard for the rest of the family, but Joy has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and mild schizophrenia. (Aside: A lot has been said about bipolar disorder as well. It  is a mental disease found in a large number of people involved with the arts.) She was born when my mother was thirty nine. She began exhibiting symptoms of manic-depressive behavior when my parents separated - she was nine. We lived apart, I with my dad and she with my mom. During the course of our communication, she always confesses listening to "fairies" which visit her and tell her what to do - not to go to school, to defy my mother, and other things. I simply tell her that there's no such thing as fairies, that there are no voices and that they should forget them. Today, she is taking medication, undergoes therapy and tries to live her life normally.

The disease can be very scary. As the human mind is a very complex thing, it creates all sorts of complex things. In the two articles that I've read on people battling schizophrenia, one thing is common: the disease blurs the line between reality to unreality to them. This is where the scary part comes in: when you have the disease, you will have no idea of what is real and what is not, anymore.

Read the Daily Telegraph article that I found on Digg here.