Sunday, 12 October 2008

Emergencies I

Some time ago, a friend told me about an incident on a Danish discussion forum, more precisely: at the forum's chat room. A guy announced, that he would take his life, right there, while being online. Everyone of course got extremely upset, and everything was tried to find out who he was, where he lived. I don't know, if they succeeded. Of course, the idea was to call the police, make them check up on him, and, in case, get him admitted/committed.

Each time I hear about situations like this, if it's about suicide or someone "just" going "manic"/"psychotic", it seems people's first reaction is to call the cops, or get the person to an ER at the rate of knots.

It was the mid-eighties, I was in my twenties, studying at Munich, living downtown where I rented a room at a woman's, G.'s, apartment, at the mezzanine. It was about 11pm. I sat in the kitchen, contemplating a rather early retreat, since I had an early class next day, and I was dog-tired. G. was out that night, and wasn't expected to come home before the next day. The doorbell rang. 'Now?' I thought, 'Nope, sorry.' A few moments later, I heard a woman shout G.'s name in the street, right under the kitchen window. Three times, and I went to the window: "Hey there, what's up? G.'s not home," I reached to say before I realized the confused and terrified expression on the young woman's face, and added: "But you can come in and have a cup of tea, if you like." She liked.

We talked a bit, or, more like: she talked, I listened, before I asked her her name. "S." I'd heard that name mentioned a few times before, in context with the term "schizophrenia". The term didn't mean much to me. I'd read some Jung, some Alice Miller, that kind of stuff. But I had no idea about psychiatry's definition of the term. Actually, I hadn't much of an idea about psychiatry at all. So, basically, the only thing I had at hand to relate to was S. herself.

We sat and talked for about a couple of hours. She was obviously agitated, talked fast, and a little incoherently every now and then, but nonetheless perfectly intelligible. I offered her to stay and crash on G.'s sofa, which she accepted, so I equipped her with a pillow and a blanket, and went to my own room. Mistake. Ten minutes later, she popped up at my bedside - or: mattress side, that is - telling me, she thought, she was the phone, or some kind of medium at least. The word "rubbish" immediately crossed my mind, and although a 'No, not rubbish at all!' also crossed my mind at the same time, I reached to say it: "Rubbish." Second mistake. Luckily, she wasn't offended, and I suggested some more tea and talk. We passed the phone on our way to the kitchen. I gave it a glance, and thought: 'Never. That would be the ultimate betrayal.' No mistake.

We spent about an hour more at the kitchen table, talking. I made my third mistake in asking about her father when talking about her family, which resulted in some "word salad". Obviously the core problem. Her father. I can only guess... Well, I changed subject, and, voilĂ , no more "word salad".

Eventually, we went to sleep again. This time I stayed at her bed- or: sofa side, until I was sure, she was asleep. She was quite all right the next day, and went home.

We kept in touch for a while afterwards, then I moved and lost contact.

What really maddened - and saddened - me, was G.'s reaction, when I told her about what had happened. G. was one of the "enlightened" ones. Reading the Tao, the I Ching, Jung and stuff. And she hardly ever touched as much as an Aspirin herself, since she considered all drugs to be poison. Which they are. Nevertheless, this is what she said: "Oh no! She's such a pain in the behind! She's got pills at home, but won't take them. It's entirely her own fault. I don't want to get involved!" I didn't know anything particular about the "pills" either at that time. What I knew was that pills impossibly could be the right answer to S.'s problems. Especially not when you're oh so enlightened. So much for G. being "enlightened".

And why is it not at all rubbish, if someone thinks s/he's the phone, or a medium of a kind? Because if you've never been allowed to establish a language of your own, if your own emotions and thoughts consequently were denied by others, while you were told what to feel and think by these others, then, at some point, all you feel and think is others' emotions and thoughts, and you become a medium through which these others feel and think. You become the phone, others talk through.

Applies just as well to believing thoughts are put into one's head. They are. In the dim and distant past. Or believing others can read your thoughts. If the person someone was most dependent on, apparently could, why would other people not be able to?

The term "schizophrenia" still doesn't mean a lot to me. I experienced S., a couple of others, and I experienced myself. What I experienced wasn't "schizophrenia", not "insanity". It was, the circumstances taken into account, absolutely reasonable and sane confusion, terror and anger.


Abysmal Musings said...

Fascinating story. Thanks.

Marian said...

I sometimes wonder if she "made it". She had a chance, Big Pharma not being that big yet, back then. And she tried to keep up a healthy life style, looking for alternatives to the frigging pills. Like meditation. I regret a bit that I didn't make a bigger effort to keep in touch.