The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The above quote is one I’ve carried with me my entire life. It was on a framed poster in our home for years and it continued to speak to me as I lived and grew up. I could have the best mind with new ideas & experiences. Exploration was the name of the game. Much of my younger years involved me reading books: Clan of the Cave Bear, the Dragonriders of Pern, a gigantic book on Cleopatra that I wish I could find now, and so many others.
After books, I moved on to places and experiences. I loved it when we traveled and opted to spend a year and a half on exchange in another country. Boarding school was helpful in my quest, both of them. I met different people, learned of different cultures, practices, and achieved new dimensions. All of this gave me a different perspective on what I encountered, willing to give it a chance and see what came of it. While this attitude didn’t leave me the most popular, as time went on many conversations sounded inane and uninteresting, but it did prepare me for my life.
I didn’t know I had bipolar when I was younger. A psychiatrist did but didn’t share it with me, bastard, and I found out after my break that I had extreme emotional shifts since I was a child. During the more manic ones, my Dad stayed up with me in the night, from about 2am until he had to get ready for work at 5am. (Go Dad!) So only 30+ some odd years of untreated fun and games. That may have been a part of behaviors & openness to experience everything I could: white water rafting, bungee, volunteering, skydiving, scuba, is it new? Let’s do it.
There’s one thing I know expanded my mind, perspective, and understanding. My psychotic break. At first, I noticed that I lived in fear of my brain every going back & a sense of unease knowing at least some of what I did while in delusions. I’ve had many more meds since then, but the fear is still there but much lessened. I’ve also done a lot of research into the illness, psychosis, medications, hospital laws, and the like.
All of that became of use this last May. One of my good friends was descending into psychosis, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was hesitant to push meds or reality too hard, or he might stop listening; the same as I had done on quite a few occasions. He hadn’t gotten to the point of danger, so we continued our journey until the day it was too much. We spent hours together where I witnessed him be in delusions with moments of clarity only to go back in. I felt that his mind was spinning and my logic brain was trying to help, but it wasn’t as strong as the psychosis. Help was found within days and from an unlikely place. I haven’t seen him yet, he’s not ready, but he is on the mend, something I am grateful for every single day.
What I noticed about me in this situation was that I was utterly calm. My Whoop even showed a perfectly steady heartbeat in the 70s. My body & mind had an instinct now, how to be there and help, with or without words. My mind expanded into the dimension of psychosis, and it’s opened possibilities, maybe even for a future occupation (future post). Mind you, I’m not educated beyond my own research in any of this, but sometimes that isn’t what matters.
It hasn’t only been him. My new understanding & knowledge was called on again last month. We were having a meal with family when my family member & his wife asked me for help. Her sister & brother-in-law were in a crisis of bipolar 1 mania with psychosis proportions and they needed perspective & solutions. They told us (Miles & I) that he had been getting increasingly worse for months and that no one knew since her “family is of a culture that doesn’t believe in mental illness” (future post promise again). The first thing I asked was if he would be willing to go to hospital and the answer was no. His wife was exhausted, the couples even traded spouses for a weekend to give her a break. Thanks to therapy I was able to talk openly about my conditions & experiences (except for Senfi, that’s another level), but of other psychotic episodes. The fact that I could do so without getting emotional gave more relief than my recommendations. He did go to hospital and is working on himself now. A relief for all around.
These are two occasions that, before meds & therapy, and definitely before the break, I would not have been able to help. With my friend, I could sit & witness without having it affect me beyond calm and concern. I had been there, seen it, gotten the T-Shirt. This would not have been the case a year ago, I was still in it and it felt like everything went straight through my skin into my being.
I am continuing to grow, maybe not in the way I expected, but I appreciate it none the less.
Experiment: Think about your opinions & assumptions of people with Schizophrenia. Then do the experience that Anderson Cooper tried and see if anything’s changed now that you have experienced the voices aspect of the illness. It’s definitely interesting and a chance to increase your dimensions.
The Sciencey Stuff