Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Hypergraphia

I think I've been here before.  If so, here I am again.

One of the big, influential things which has happened in my life is when a close family friend began to acquire and become fixated on what I am fond of referring to as "unpopular beliefs".  Most people would say she was suffering from paranoia.  For some reason unknown to me, we're not supposed to call it paranoia any more, but "delusional disorder", which to my ears sounds annoyingly non-specific.

Our friend was clearly suffering terribly.  She was constantly stressed, constantly afraid and there was also a tendency for her to return to a state where she would start believing things which most people would be sceptical of when she discontinued her medication.  When this happened, each time she was convinced it was true this time even though she was then convinced that previously she had been mistaken and that it was part of a mental illness.

We tried to get help for her but found that every group of people you might expect to be able to turn to considered it to be someone else's problem, and when we went to somebody else, they considered it to be somebody else's again, and so forth.

It was awful for her, totally unbearable, and it's horrible to think of how she must have lived in constant fear and stress.  I also feel a bit disloyal setting this down here because it was her own private hell, but circumstances mean I need to mention this situation and I think the people who knew about the situation will know who I'm talking about and will be thinking of her sympathetically as they read this.  I mean no disrespect to anyone.

Due to her being passed around between various professionals, all of whom claimed it was not their remit to help, it fell to us and her other friends to try to help given limited resources and experience (and a lot of prayer for some of us).  One of the things which emerged as helpful, and I can't remember how we stumbled upon this, was that none of us should say or do anything likely to confirm the beliefs which were frightening her.  This was difficult but I hope we managed it.  It would only make it worse for someone who was so afraid to have the people around her to agree with her, and the beliefs would become more entrenched.

Someone who is paranoid, if our friend is at all typical, has painted themselves into a mental corner through jumping to conclusions, but is crucially not hugely different from anyone else in the way they think.  What seems to have happened, at least with her, is that she became more attached to a feeling of certainty than one of happiness, and very attached, like the rest of us, to her views of how her life situation  was.  In fact, if she stopped believing what she believed, it would be very threatening because she would not then be taking steps to avoid the impending disaster and danger to herself and everyone she loved.  Given that situation, well, why the heck would you stop believing all those things?  If it's going to get you killed if you stop believing them, well, you're just going to carry on.

You may have noticed that I've now written over five hundred words without making my main point, and that these five hundred-odd words could easily have been winnowed down to a hundred or so without losing anything except verbosity.  These aren't words which go together well.  More of that in a bit, probably a very long bit.

That attachment is the problem.  Very often in mental illness, and I am open to various interpretations of abnormal behaviour but let's just call it that for the sake of much needed brevity, the problem is the "overvalued idea".  In other words, one could be said to have become addicted to an idea.  Doing something to confirm a paranoid's belief is like handing an alcoholic a glass of vodka.  It's similar in some ways to an addiction.

Some addiction is of course self-medication, but it would be better to remove the cause of the problem which has led the person to self-medicate in that way than simply to give them a syringe, ultimately.  That said, it is very hard to be cruel enough to be kind and they will often draw you into their world and do anything to get their fix.  My only substance abuse is caffeine though, so I don't know this from the inside so much as some other people might.  I don't generally feel driven to make my life more bearable with recreational substances because I'm not particularly keen on it being bearable in the first place.

To get back to the fact that I'm going on and on, this is what I do and it's a problem.  Some people feel the need to check whether they've turned the gas off or locked the door over and over again, and that happens with me and some of my patients - I feel the need to reassure myself they haven't got a brain tumour or something when all they have is a tension headache, but usually I manage to restrain myself from intruding too much.  Obsession of that nature isn't that big a problem for me.

No, my problem is hypergraphia.  I write too much and can't stop myself from writing, or rather, I find it difficult to stop myself from writing, in the same way as some people find it difficult to stop picking their noses, pulling hairs out or biting their nails.  It's a sign of a temporal lobe lesion along with some other things I do, the most important of which went away when I did the thing which is the subject of the other blog, which in a way is unfortunate.

A lot of hypergraphia looks something like this:

blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe blue ulbe


Mine has occasionally looked exactly like that, but I was only about seventeen at the time and nowadays it looks more like coherent sentences.  I say, it "looks like" coherent sentences.  In fact it isn't at all.  Like many other people nowadays, I'm afflicted by the ability to say nothing very much in thousands of words.

NaNoWriMo is an annual project where you write a 50 000 word first draft of a novella in a month.  It would be really nice if it was hard for me to do this, but what would be hard for me to do would be NaNONoWriMo - to reduce my output by fifty thousand words in a month.  There unfortunately doesn't seem to be anything out there like that.  Not a problem for many people, but for me it's a major one.

It may be very unclear to people why I hate the fact that I write a lot.  The reason would be clearer to you when you realise that I frequently find it hard to scrape together enough money to buy a tin of baked beans to feed our son because instead of trying to find a job I've been writing all day, or not bothering to listen to Sarada because I can't stop myself from incessant scribbling about Sumerian cuneiform or some such irrelevant nonsense.

This is why when 'Here Be Dragons' arrived in the post a couple of days ago I reacted with such despair.  This is not a triumph.  It's three hundred and fifty pages of stuff which represents my failure to engage with real life, provide for my family or prevent us all from being chucked out on the streets.  For those of you who have congratulated me on its completion, I don't want to appear ungrateful, but I could be working in a pizza place or stacking shelves by now, i.e. earning enough money to prevent starvation and homelessness for the three of us, if I'd been able to tear myself free of this compulsion for long enough to do something worthwhile with my time instead.  What you don't seem to appreciate is that you are feeding this, and that's one reason I can't feed my family.

It was very difficult to  sit there with my psychotic friend and know what to say which wouldn't confirm her beliefs and I probably didn't manage all the time, but some of the time I hope I did manage to minimise the damage I was doing to her mental well-being.  Yes, it was hard, a lot of the time it didn't feel like I was helping to do that, and it's difficult to stand firm in this kind of situation, just as it would be to resist the pleadings, and even more so the rationalisations, of an addict, but it was what I owed her.

Therefore, whereas you may think you would be helping me earn an honest crust by buying the book, you would in fact be doing the opposite.  We're really close to disaster now, and we need people to stop providing the smack or we're going to be in deep doodoo.  I understand you're well-intentioned, but for God's sake please just stop.  It isn't helping anyone.  Do not buy my book.  It's a manifestation of serious mental illness and that mustn't be fed.

OK?