It's been a long time since my last post of this series, but I never considered it quite done, there was one thing I kept thinking I still need to talk about. So here it is, the last part of the schizophrenia ward series. After all previous parts dealt with all the crap I had to deal with in that place, this part will deal with the one positive aspect: The people I've met. If anything can be seen as a redeeming factor in a place that is so out of touch with reality, fellow patients I've spent my time with in that ward would definitely be it.
Hanging out with paranoid schizophrenics really is a blast sometimes. The thing is that very few of them are the type of crazies the layman would picture when imagining people with the illness. The people I've met were really normal people, and we had very normal conversations, sometimes serious, a lot of times a lot of fun. What really is the icing on the cake though is when they break into schizophrenic mode out of nowhere and say things that no person would seriously say, but that they themselves perceive as indisputable reality. At that point you don't laugh at them, because I never got the feeling that they're making asses of themselves, but instead it is very interesting to hear entirely different viewpoints on what is reality than you're used to from talking to your obviously non-schizophrenic friends and family.
Like the first day. There was a guy who immediately talked to me because he liked my long hair and death metal attire, because he listens to some metal himself. So that was a good conversation starter, and in clinics it's great to have people you get along with. So in the evening of my first day, we sit in the smokers room like we did a lot, and somehow the conversation shifted to some of the bizarre conspiracy theories I've ever heard. I mean, I knew of chemtrails, how they're supposedly used to make the population docile and controllable. What I didn't know was that there's no secret cabal behind them, but that it is Obama himself who is in charge of it all, because Obama is the incarnation of the antichrist. However, the guy went on to make all sorts of astrological connections to his conspiracy theories, that this stuff happened because of something in that constellation, and something about the black hole in the constellation of Sagittarius, and the Ophiuchus between Sagittarius and Scorpio. And it kind of all became a weird mishmash. Some will think it's ridiculous and laugh, but I thought it was really interesting how convinced he was that that's the nature of reality, and I respected it, because it was his genuine perception.
Another time he was in the room with the couches where we liked to hang out, and a young girl from another ward was with him, a deaf girl who was scared of everything. She told him she was feeling a strange chill, and he told her that's because she's sitting in the same armchair as his dead uncle that he's been talking to along with a few other deceased relatives. She really freaked out. Another girl, her friend, got really mad at the guy and cursed at him for disturbing the rest of the dead. Not for freaking out the girl, but for bothering the dead. They're fighting over ghosts. In fact they used to get along really well to that point, but fell out because of that fight. Of course I was troubled by the fight, because they were both friends of mine, and I also don't believe in any sort of life after death. But the conviction with which they argued after ghosts and how to treat them was impressive in its own, weird way. I just genuinely enjoy being confronted with entirely different perceptions of reality, and I honestly believe since my time at the ward that more people should talk to paranoid schizophrenics. It's a unique experience. And you're not taking advantage of their illness by listening to them. They're normal people like you and me, most of them social like the average person. They just perceive things differently.
One girl was kind of weird, but in an interesting way. She came to the ward late during my stay there, so I only got to talk to her for a short time. She was one of the typical textbook schizophrenics who hear voices. One of them was her first boyfriend from years ago who was constantly criticising her. And she was talking to him aloud. Obviously no one could hear what he said, since that only happened in her head, but she talked to him like he was there. It really led to everyone overhearing some strange "conversations". Again, it was interesting how real it was to her. And how, despite everyone calling schizophrenia a grave illness, she seemed to not be bothered by it at all. It was just how things were to her, how reality was, and she wasn't suffering at all. Almost none of the people I met were. They were supposed to be really ill, and the staff treated them accordingly, but to them the realities they perceived were perfectly normal, and they felt perfectly normal. Very interesting experience being around these people. You get a whole new view of how the world can be to someone. Oh yeah, the other main voice she heard was herself. It was not actually her conscious self, so it was not like a monologue, it was more like a clone of herself was talking to her. Sometimes giving advice, sometimes arguing. Now that's gotta be weird. But she didn't seem to be bothered by it at all. And aside from talking to people that weren't there, she was perfectly normal like any other person you'd meet on the streets.
What really took the cake was the neo-Nazi. A semi-notorious Nazi asshole from my home town, who left the scene and changed his political views when he realised how violent and fanatic his comrades were. He wanted nothing to do with killing people or carrying out terrorist attacks, which he said they planned, so he left that world behind and tried to start a new life. Problem was that he was a massive paranoid schizophrenic who was completely messed up. Very friendly guy, very personable, fun to hang around with and talk to, but sometimes he'd say and do things so bizarre your jaw just dropped an arm's length. Like the time he talked to a Hungarian Roma girl about how he was a neo-Nazi for years, then began to hit on her, and invited her to his birthday party, and promised only one or two friends of his dark past would be invited, too. Do you see anything wrong in that situation? What was going through his head? Or the time he talked about his past in the scene, and mentioned that at some point he had sex with a black girl and it was the best sex he ever had. Did you tell her that you are a...? Oh yeah and he always loved Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of the German socialist party "The Left". Hope you didn't mention that to your friends. One time deep in his Nazi phase he met a few punks and decided it would be great to have a few drinks with them, and he came with them to the place with the freight containers in which a few of them lived and where a lot of them met to drink and party. Eventually one of the punks recognised him and freaked out and threatened to kill him. Well, what did you think would happen? Man, what a weird guy. But it all made perfect sense to him. It all made perfect sense to him.
There are more stories, but I think the ones I mentioned are enough to describe the kind of experience it was to spend eight weeks with a group of paranoid schizophrenics. A lot of them were great people, and a lot of times we talked and joked about perfectly normal things and had a great time. And then out of nowhere they'd break into their other reality and all sorts of weird things happened, and we still had a great time. I loved it. It was the experience of a lifetime. For all the shit I've talked about in the first five installments of this series, this was, like I said, the one major redeeming factor. I've been to psych wards again since then, but they were all mixed with all sorts of weird people. Something like the schizophrenia ward never happened to me again. And for all the bad things I experienced there, I will cherish the memory of those great, funny and a little bizarre people.