Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: seeing things [or hearing, or feeling or smelling...]

if you had to pick one symptom that most western-world dwellers could agree is a sure sign of having the crazies, it would be hallucinating- a sensory perception or response in the absence of a real-world stimulus. "hearing voices" or being instructed to do things by voices is one of the most common cultural tropes about insanity in the contemporary world, since david berkowitz decided to try to implicate his neighbour's dog...

hundreds of years ago, people who had hallucinations were heralded as religious leaders. or condemned as being possessed by demons and then killed. it was kind of political. the point is that up until relatively recently, society approached hallucinations from a relatively humble perspective, assuming that if a person could detect sights, sounds, or other stimuli that weren't immediately evident that what they reported was probably important. with the rise of science, the pendulum shifted to the other extreme and now, when someone insistently speaks about something that isn't present, we assume that what they have to say is automatically irrelevant and untrustworthy. we have become happily convinced that we know it all.

ARE YOU HALLUCINATING? ARE YOU SURE?



in fact, hallucinations are almost uncomfortably common [even discounting those that are drug-induced], it's just that the majority of people who get them have them in certain specific circumstances and are able to contextualise them. for instance, many people experience hypnogogic hallucinations- distortions of sensory reality that occur in the transition period from wakefulness to sleep. many, many people experience hallucinations that are often quite vivid and can last for minutes as we're lying in bed, trying to drift off. those of us who have experienced them [and will admit to doing so] will know that they are very different from dreams, so there isn't much danger of confusing them. likewise, many of us think that we hear things when we don't, or believe that we smell something "funny" when others can't, or show some other propensity towards an imaginary stimulus at different points in our daily lives. now, most of you are going to react to that by thinking that those don't count. that's silly. of course they count, we just like to categorise them as different from the guy who yells at an unseen companion walking down the street because that's them and we're us.

ok, ok, there is a difference, but the difference isn't in the hallucinations themselves, but in their frequency and in our self-consciousness about indulging them. many of us mutter to ourselves [or to our pets, or plants, or whatever we choose as a listener to hide the fact that we're really talking to ourselves] on a regular basis, but we severely curb that tendency when others can see us [when we can], because we know that such behaviour is suspect. by that definition, "crazy" is more about a loss of self-consciousness than anything else.

certainly, hallucinations are still a key indicator of serious mental illness, but doctors are also encouraged to discount other conditions, like certain forms of epilepsy or, quite commonly, sleep disorders. they look into possible other causes because, despite the fact that we're convinced our world has lost its mystery and that everything about our bodies has been categorised, rationalised, measured, tested and accounted for, medical professionals still have pretty much no idea why people hallucinate.

fruedian theorists posit ideas on why people might hallucinate the specific things they do [it's about your mom] and there is general agreement that hallucinations and mental disorders are often linked, no one seems to be able to figure out the science of why your brain sets about convincing itself that it senses something that isn't there. particularly mysterious are hallucinations that aren't triggered by things like drugs or alcohol. so many different people have so many different kinds of hallucinations under so many different circumstances that it's become like trying to say with certainty what makes us yawn. it just happens and no one's quite sure why.

in many ways, we're still back in the dark ages, waiting to be persuaded that it really is god talking to us.

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

eat the cup 2018 :: welcome, comrades!

even regular followers of this blog might be surprised to learn that the longest-standing tradition on more like space is not tied to politics, makeup, mental health or even writing, but sport. i started the quadrennial eat the cup "challenge" [in quotes because i'm not actually challenging anyone but myself] way back in 2006 as a way of combining my growing love of soccer, my love for cooking and my still-new blogging habit. i determined that, as i followed the world cup, i would cook dinners to honour the winners of different games, meaning that the meal would, as far as possible, feature traditional dishes from those nations. in subsequent iterations, i started to do dishes that were combinations of different winners from the same day or, as the competition wore on, combinations of the different combatants.

finding certain ingredients can be a challenge, even in a diverse city like montreal [and i live on the cusp of some of its most diverse neighbourhoods], but what…

mental health mondays :: alarming

we have a huge mental health problem. it can be solved and that will take work on a lot of different fronts. people are killing themselves in astounding numbers. people are killing themselves at a greater rate than at any time in the last twenty years and the situation is getting worse. relationship problems, financial struggles and [or course] mental health issues all contribute to the staggering rise, along with a number of other factors. there are no rules about who kills themselves, although there are some groups where the risk is higher.

improving mental health care, reducing the desperation that financial struggles can cause, and finding effective ways to deal with problems like substance abuse take time because they require larger scale action, but relationship-building is something that is built from the ground up. so while we're all calling for change on a larger scale, it is at least somewhat mollifying to know that we can do some things that make a difference without h…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…