- photo by Mitch Waxman
Would that I never opened that hated letter. Oh, unhappy act.
A cloak of comfortable ignorance would still drape your humble narrator, and this existential terror would not subsume every moment of my days. In no uncertain terms, a large and shadowy cabal has taken notice of this- your Newtown Pentacle- and focused their attentions upon me. Vast machinations, whose byzantine splendor indicates a guiding master hand, closes about my throat. Proof of it arrived just the other day…
I’m all ‘effed up.
Schizophrenia is often described in terms of positive and negative (or deficit) symptoms. The term positive symptoms refers to symptoms that most individuals do not normally experience but are present in schizophrenia. They include delusions, auditory hallucinations, and thought disorder, and are typically regarded as manifestations of psychosis. Negative symptoms are things that are not present in schizophrenic persons but are normally found in healthy persons, that is, symptoms that reflect the loss or absence of normal traits or abilities. Common negative symptoms include flat or blunted affect and emotion, poverty of speech (alogia), inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia), lack of desire to form relationships (asociality), and lack of motivation (avolition). Research suggests that negative symptoms contribute more to poor quality of life, functional disability, and the burden on others than do positive symptoms.
A third symptom grouping, the disorganization syndrome, is sometimes described, and includes chaotic speech, thought, and behavior. There is evidence for a number of other symptom classifications.
- photo by Mitch Waxman
Upon receipt of that malign missive, delivered by a sturdy Postal Employee who claims his name is “Mr. Lee”, a fugue state came over me and solace was sought in sanguine familiarity.
Often, when subsumed by malignity in my thought process, your humble narrator seeks out the familiar- something quantifiable, knowable, and grand. Strapping on my camera, and setting my iPhone to a playlist heavy on early Patti Smith, I descended from the densely populated hills of Astoria and set off for the Newtown Creek.
Persecutory delusions, also known as querulant delusions, are the most common type of delusions.
The affected person believes they are being persecuted. Specifically, they have been defined as containing two central elements:
- The individual thinks that harm is occurring, or is going to occur,
- The individual thinks that the persecutor has the intention to cause harm.
- The perceived persecution may involve the theme of being followed, harassed, cheated, poisoned or drugged, conspired against, spied on, attacked, or obstructed in the pursuit of goals.
Sometimes the delusion is isolated and fragmented, but sometimes are well-organized belief systems involving a complex set of delusions (“systematized delusions”). People with a set of persecutory delusions may believe, for example, they are being followed by government organizations because the “persecuted” person has been falsely identified as a spy. These systems of beliefs can be so broad and complex that they can explain everything that happens to the person.
- photo by Mitch Waxman
The roaring silence of the place, which normally enhances the wonders observed in this forgotten and lonely angle between Long Island City and Greenpoint, did not comfort me. Suddenly, I was pulling the ear buds from my sense organs, as I perceived an antiphonal muttering that sounded like the hebraic ritual name assigned to me by prelates at the coming of age ceremonies well known to even Gentile readers.
Of course, it was just the coincidence of aural background sounds, the vast traffic flow and heavy infrastructure all around DUPBO causes everything around to vibrate slightly creating a sustained field of infrasound that is just beyond the limits of human auditory capabilities. I’m sure an Elephant or Cetacean could tell us what it sounds like, if only we could understand their languages.
The ancient world viewed hallucinations as it did most of the natural world, with awe and superstition. As such, it was viewed as either a gift or curse by God, or the gods (depending on the specific culture). The oracles of ancient Greece were known to experience auditory hallucinations while breathing in certain neurologically active vapors, while the more pervasive delusions and symptomology were often viewed as possession by demonic forces as punishment for misdeeds.
Treatment in the ancient world is ill documented, but there are some cases of therapeutics being used to attempt treatment, while the common treatment was sacrifice and prayer in an attempt to placate the gods. The Dark Ages saw the most horrific accounts where the suffered of auditory hallucinations were subjected to trepanning or trial as a witch. In other cases of extreme symptomology individuals were seen as being reduced to animals by a curse, these individuals were either left on the streets or imprisoned in insane asylums. It was the latter response that eventually led to modern psychiatric hospitals.
- photo by Mitch Waxman
Looking around me, only the poetry of the street stood, and I experienced goose bumps despite the sultry climes suffered by all New Yorkers that day. I imagined that… it must have been an imagining… a mind fever brought on by dehydration or thermal exhaustion… I imagined, damn it- imagined- that I heard a heavy splash in the waters of Newtown Creek, just over the wall separating DUPBO from its waterline…
I will not admit to it, running, except to say that I scuttled away… quickly, and set my iPhone to periodically email my location to Our Lady of the Pentacle should the need arise for her to attempt to find my remains.
Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms include: abnormally increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli and a constant scanning of the environment for threats. Hypervigilance can be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder and various types of anxiety disorder. It is distinguished from paranoia. Paranoid states, such as those in schizophrenia can seem superficially similar, but are in fact characteristically different.
Hypervigilance is differentiated from dysphoric hyperarousal in that the person remains cogent and aware of his surroundings. In dysphoric hyperarousal the PTSD victim may lose contact with reality and re-experience the traumatic event verbatim. Where there have been multiple traumas, a person may become hypervigilant and suffer severe anxiety attacks intense enough to induce a delusional state where the effect of the traumas overlap: e.g. one remembered firefight may seem too much like another for the person to maintain calm. This can result in the thousand yard stare.