Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Beautiful Mind



I just started reading A Beautiful Mind by Silvia Nasar. Most of you are probably familiar with the movie starring Russell Crowe as John Nash. If you haven't seen it...I highly recommend it.

Here is a link to his autobiography:
http://nobelprize.org/economics/laureates/1994/nash-autobio.html

This movie, and now the book, have both been a huge eye-opener to me. It is so much easier to understand the reality of a schizophrenic's delusions after seeing scenes with people in them that didn't really exist. The first time I saw the movie, I was dumfounded when I realized that John's best friend and roommate through college was all a delusion. This helped me to understand the fact that you can't reason with someone when the things they see are just as real to them as anything a healthy-minded person sees.

I've often mentioned to people that I think I'm going crazy...the answer I've gotten from several people is the same.....crazy people don't know they're going crazy. That makes me feel a little better, but John Nash was eventually able to differentiate between his delusions and reality. Of course, he was a genius, and well....I'm not!!!


Within the first three pages, I came across these words that remind me so much of my mom, who is a paranoid schizophrenic.

Some creative people...of predominantely schizoid or depressive temperaments...use their creative capacities in a defensive way. If creative work protects a man from mental illness, it is small wonder that he pursues it with avidity. The schizoid state...is characterized by a sense of meaninglessness and futility. For most people, interaction with others provides most of what they require to find meaning and significance in life. For the schizoid person, however, this is not the case. Creative activity is a particularly apt way to express himself...the activity is solitary...but the ability to create, and the productions which result from such ability, are generally regarded as possessing value by our society.

Before the actual diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, my mother divulged herself in many artistic activites. Sometimes, she wouldn't speak for days, but she would practice her belly dancing for hours on end, and then go paint two or three paintings each day. Her art was so expressive that somehow it seemed OK that she didn't have anything to say. Her art spoke for her. She is a terrific artist. She married Will a couple years ago (also a paranoid schizophrenic) and because of his interest in art, she has become more involved in painting again.

When either one of them go through a couple of their "bad days" as I call them, they tend to bury themselves in artwork. Sometimes they will get on a kick where they have no room left on their walls due to the huge amounts of artwork they have displayed. I'm not sure what has happened to all the work they have both done. It seems to disappear from time to time.

This book has brought a lot of awareness to me about how to deal with Mom and her delusions. One of her delusions consists of talking with a Belgian soldier. Luckily, she hasn't heard from him for awhile. When she does, however, I know now that reasoning with her is not really an option. There's no possible way for her to realize he's not there. It's a hard thing to deal with sometimes, but I have learned over the years that it's best just to listen and let her live out the delusions. She has not been violent in any way for a long time, and that is the only time I think I will ever find it necessary to step in and try to control a situation with her again. Unforunately, violence comes along with the territory sometimes, but I feel better prepared for anything like that after having seen things from a little different perspective.


6 comments:

Andrea said...

Very interesting. I guess if I had things to do all over again, I might go into studying mental patients. Though it's frustrating and annoying and sometimes scary, the mind is completely facinating to me, especially when it's not functioning "normally".

Your mom has played a big part in that. I was always interested to ask her questions when she was having a good day - and seemed willing to talk about it.

I love my Aunt Helga - so remember to tell her that, ok AlliGal?

s-hooks said...

Oh yeah, I saw that movie.

I think seeing it really helped me to understand a little more what it's like to have delusions. I always thought schizophrenia was about hearing voices. I didn't know there was so much more to it.

Is John Nash still alive and on that campus today?

I was wondering if he was really able to finally ignore his delusions or if that was more or less exaggerated in the movie. I remember them showing John walking on campus and his delusions walking along next to him, but farther away like they were waiting for him to notice them. I wonder if this is really what it's like for him now. It was like they're still there, but they're not in his face all the time because he doesn't let them get that close to him.

allison said...

Yes, I believe Joh Nash is still alive. I haven't reached the point in the book where he is able to ignore his hallucinations, but from what I have read about him, it sounds like the movie depicted things pretty well.

allison said...

Andrea...my mom loves you dearly!! She asks about you a lot and remembers that you were always very kind to her.

It is very interesting to talk to my mom about her illness when she is doing well. She realizes that she is sick, and doesn't always make a lot of sense. That must be a very difficult thing to deal with when she's thinking straight.

I'm very proud of my mom. She has come a long way. Wouldn't Dad be so proud of her???

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