THE STRAIGHT STORY

circa 2005

Prevention Of Early Psychosis Prevention (PEPP) : ‘Putting The Puzzle Pieces Together’

My FIRST experience with meeting the psychiatrist assigned to me; he just wanted to shoot the shit and talk about himself, his career achievements, his life… conversational familiarity? Nothing about mental illness and what we are trying to achieve here. Like, hmm, maybe you can talk about things?

  1. A) What would I talk about anyway?
  2. B) I am not familiar with talking about “problems” or “issues” that could be beneficial, yet alone “regular” shoot the shit personal conversation with a professional psychiatrist.
  3. C) Why am I here?
  4. D) All Of The Above: Why is there so much judgement based on my Asian ethnicity?

[He created my prejudice against him because of his South-West Asian ethnicity of Ego-flexing – a common stereotype of systemic racism, as he created a stereotypical version of an Asian female brought up from assumed place of privilege]

[2013]image

THE STRAIGHT STORY (reVISITed)

[Common thread in psychosis]

Did you think you were Jesus?” – nurse
No(Yes)”- me

Psychiatric Ward:

[What does the scale mean to you, as it pertains to what it means to me?]

Dr: “On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel ?
Me:” What do you mean?

Out of Ward:

[Common thread with mental illness is ceasing to take medication]

Back ‘n’ Ward:
[Give all the medication needed to cease the ideations.]

Ward:

[Judgement from nurse: Why did you stop taking your medication? This is not a joke]

Assigned Nurse visits: “They have given you too much Risperidol, it exceeds any amount within the limited range.”

Me: How does medication ‘solve’ my problems?

– continued to play with medication for years to come [Common thread from Mentally Ill patients- What is it good for? You feel better momentarily, so you start to believe you no longer need the medication or there are other alternatives – diet, supplements, exercise]

PEPP

[Common thread, mental illness only impacts low income people – Asians can have mental illness too]

Doctor: “You know University graduates have mental illness too
Me: [Uh, I never said otherwise, why the hell you bringing  that up?]

PEPP

Doctor: “We are holding our annual charity event for Mental Health Care, can your parents by tickets to the fundraiser?
Me:”Oh,they probably wouldn’t be interested in attending
Doctor:”Why? It’s for a good cause. They can meet other people in the field and impacted by mental illness. It’s only $100

HAPPY CLEANERS

Doctor appears at my parents business

I see him and walk out, ignoring him

[He was never a previous customer]

PEPP

Doctor: “Why do your parents not accept credit cards? BC they’re [cheap], it costs money?
Doctor:”I only go to your parents dry cleaners because they are the best in the business, I wasn’t checking on you

[Bing et Wife @ L’Acadie Cleaners, 2013] – last formal place of employment, full circle.

image

PEPP

Me:”I’m taking a trip to MTL. Can I get my prescription?

Phone

Nurse:”There’s been an adjustment, take x amount of this, x amount of that
Me:”OK

MTL

Me:”Shit my vision is getting really blurry
Me:”I better cut my trip short, bc I’m also out of money

LO

Me:”I took the medication like this and was getting side effects
Nurse:”No your prescription says this, you took the opposite amounts of what I told you to take
Me:”No, you told me this
Nurse:”No I did not, it says right here on the prescription
Me:”Yes, you did
Nurse:”No I didn’t. Why would I tell you otherwise?

[Humans make mistakes. You listen to what you heard and trust it at times, instead of double checking your own prescription guidelines]

Me:”I came back also because I was broke” [Colloquial Speech]
Doctor:”You aren’t ‘broke’. You have money don’t you??? That does not mean you are broke, other people are broke.
Me:[wtf]

PEPP

Visit…

Doctor:”Would you like to get an injection of Risperidol? It will be free and you won’t have to pay for your medication
Me:”No thanks

Next Visit…

Doctor:”You should try this injection, it’s for a trial of Risperidol
Me: “No thanks

Next Next Visit….

Doctor: “Are you scared of needles?
Me: “No
Doctor: “Why won’t you try this injection? What are you scared of?
Me: “Uhm, I just don’t want to try trial injection of medication not approved
Doctor:”Are you scared of needles?
Me: [OMG STOP!!!!]

Years Later: Advertisment of Class Action Suit against Risperidol Injections

[2003]Pictures2 019

[too be cont’d…]

Umberto Eco

The World According to Eco

by LEE MARSHALL
Italian novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco expounds upon the Net, writing, The Osteria, libraries, the continental divide, Marshall Mcluhan,and, well, God.__so you didn’t know what a feat Umberto Eco pulled off in writing The Name of the Rose, that postmodern bestseller (17 million copies and counting) set in a 12th-century monastery. You didn’t know that Eco wrote the novel while holding down a day job as a university professor – following student theses, writing academic texts, attending any number of international conferences, and penning a column for Italy’s weekly newsmagazine L’Espresso. Or that the portly 65-year-old semiotician is also a literary critic, a satirist, and a political pundit.

But you did know – didn’t you? – that Eco was the guy behind that unforgettable Mac versus DOS metaphor. That in one of his weekly columns he first mused upon the “software schism” dividing users of Macintosh and DOS operating systems. Mac, he posited, is Catholic, with “sumptuous icons” and the promise of offering everybody the chance to reach the Kingdom of Heaven (“or at least the moment when your document is printed”) by following a series of easy steps. DOS, on the other hand, is Protestant: “it allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions … and takes for granted that not all can reach salvation.” Following this logic, Windows becomes “an Anglican-style schism – big ceremonies in the cathedral, but with the possibility of going back secretly to DOS in order to modify just about anything you like.” (Asked to embellish the metaphor, Eco calls Windows 95 “pure unadulterated Catholicism. Already Windows 3.1 was more than Anglican – it was Anglo-Catholic, keeping a foot in both camps. But Windows 95 goes all the way: six Hail Marys and how about a little something for the Mother Church in Seattle.”)

Eco first rose to fame in Italy as a parodist in the early ’60s. Like all the best satirists, he oscillates between exasperation at the depths of human dumbness, and the benign indulgence of a grandfather. Don’t let that grandfatherly look fool you, though. Eco was taking apart striptease and TV anchormen back in the late ’50s, before anyone had even heard of Roland Barthes, and way before taking modern culture seriously (deconstructing The Simpsons, psychoanalyzing Tintin) became everybody’s favorite pomo sport. Then there’s his idea that any text is created as much by the reader as by the author, a dogma that invaded the lit crit departments of American universities in the mid-’70s and that underlies thinking about text in cyberspace and who it belongs to. Eco, mind you, got his flag in first, with his 1962 manifesto Opera aperta (The Open Work).

Eco continues to wrap his intellect around the information revolution, but he’s turning his attention from the spirit of software to technology’s political implications. Specifically, he has thrown his weight behind something called Multimedia Arcade. The project may sound like a CD-ROM game publisher with an imagination deficit, but Eco wants the Arcade to change Society as We Know It. The center will feature a public multimedia library, computer training center, and Net access – all under the tutelage of the Bologna Town Council. There, for a token fee, local citizens can go to Net surf, send email, learn new programs, and use search engines – or simply hang out in the cybercafé. Set to open in late 1997, Multimedia Arcade will offer around 50 state-of-the-art terminals linked together in a local network with a fast Net connection.It will feature a large multimedia, software, and print library, as well as a staff of teachers, technicians, and librarians.

The premise is simple: if Net literacy is a basic right, then it should be guaranteed for all citizens by the state. We don’t rely on the free market to teach our children to read, so why should we rely on it to teach our children to Net surf? Eco sees the Bologna center as the pilot for a nationwide and – why not? – even worldwide chain of high tech public libraries. Remember, this is a man with that old-fashioned European humanist faith in the library as a model of good society and spiritual regeneration – a man who once went so far as to declare that “libraries can take the place of God.”__

Marshall: You say that the new Multimedia Arcade project is all about ensuring that cybersociety is a democratic place to live –

Eco: There is a risk that we might be heading toward an online 1984, in which Orwell’s “proles” are represented by the passive, television-fed masses that have no access to this new tool, and wouldn’t know how to use it if they did. Above them, of course, there’ll be a petite bourgeoisie of passive users – office workers, airline clerks. And finally we’ll see the masters of the game, the nomenklatura – in the Soviet sense of the term. This has nothing to do with class in the traditional, Marxist sense – the nomenklatura are just as likely to be inner-city hackers as rich executives. But they will have one thing in common: the knowledge that brings control. We have to create a nomenklatura of the masses. We know that state-of-the art modems, an ISDN connection, and up-to-date hardware are beyond the means of most potential users – especially when you need to upgrade every six months. So let’s give people access free, or at least for the price of the necessary phone connection.

Why not just leave the democratization of the Net to the market – I mean, to the falling prices ushered in by robust competition?

Look at it this way: when Benz and others invented the automobile, they had no idea that one day the mass market would be opened up by Henry Ford’s Model T – that came only 40 years later. So how do you persuade people to start using a means of transport that was beyond the means of all but the very rich? Easy: you rent by the minute, with a driver, and you call the result a taxi. It was this which gave people access to the new technology, but it was also this which allowed the industry to expand to the point where the Model T Ford was conceivable. In Italy, the Net marketplace is still tiny: there are only around 300,000 regular users, which is peanuts in this game. But if you have a network of municipal access points – each of which has a commitment to provide the most powerful, up-to-date systems for its users – then you’re talking about a respectable turnover, which can be ploughed back into giving the masses Model T hardware, connections, and bandwidth.

Do you seriously believe that mechanics and housewives are going to pour into Multimedia Arcade?

No, not straight away. When Gutenberg invented his printing press, the working classes did not immediately sign up for copies of the 42-Line Bible; but they were reading it a century later. And don’t forget Luther. Despite widespread illiteracy, his translation of the New Testament circulated through all sections of 16th-century German society. What we need is a Luther of the Net.

But what’s so special about Multimedia Arcade? Isn’t it just a state-run cybercafé?

You don’t want to turn the whole thing into the waiting room of an Italian government ministry, that’s for sure. But we have the advantage here of being in a Mediterranean culture. The Anglo-Saxon cybercafé is a peep-show experience because the Anglo-Saxon bar is a place where people go to nurse their own solitude in the company of others. In New York, you might say “Hi – lovely day!” to the person on the next barstool – but then you go back to brooding over the woman who just left you. The model for Multimedia Arcade, on the other hand, is that of the Mediterranean osteria. This should be reflected by the structure of the place – it would be nice to have a giant communal screen, for example, where the individual navigators could post interesting sites that they’ve just discovered.

Doesn’t this communal vision violate the one user, one computer principle?

I’m a user and I own eight computers. So you see that there are exceptions to the rule. In Leonardo’s day, remember, the rule was one user, one painting. Ditto when the first gramophones were produced. Are we short of communal opportunities to look at paintings today, or to listen to recorded music? Give it time.

Whatever side they take in the various computer culture debates, most Americans would agree that the modem is a point of entry into a new phase of civilization. Europeans seem to see it more as a desirable household appliance, on a level with the dishwasher or the electric razor. There seems to be an “enthusiasm gap” between the two continents. Who’s right on this one – are Americans doing their usual thing of assuming everyone plays baseball, or are Europeans being so cool and ironic that they’re going to end up missing out on the Net phenomenon?

The same thing happened with television, which reached a critical mass in the States a good few years before it took off over here. What’s more interesting is the fact that the triumph of American culture and American modes of production in films and television – the Disney factor that annoys the French so much – is not going to happen with the Net.

As for the “enthusiasm gap” – I’m not even sure there is one. But there is plenty of criticism and irony and disillusionment in the States that the media has simply decided not to pick up on. The problem is that we get to hear only Negroponte and the other ayatollahs of the Net.

You publicly supported Italy’s new center-left coalition government when it was campaigning for election in April 1996. After the victory, it was rumored in the Italian press that your payoff was the new post of Minister of Culture – but you turned down the job before it was even offered. Why?

Because before you start talking about a Minister of Culture you have to decide what you mean by “culture.” If it refers to the aesthetic products of the past – beautiful paintings, old buildings, medieval manuscripts – then I’m all in favor of state protection; but that job is already taken care of by the Heritage Ministry. So that leaves “culture” in the sense of ongoing creative work – and I’m afraid that I can’t support a body that attempts to encourage and subsidize this. Creativity can only be anarchic, capitalist, Darwinian.

In 1967 you wrote an influential essay called “Towards a Semiological Guerrilla Warfare” in which you argued that the important objective for any committed cultural guerrilla was not the TV studio, but the armchairs of the people watching. In other words: if you can give people tools that help them to criticize the messages they are receiving, these messages lose their potency as subliminal political levers.

We’re talking about a range of simple skills. After years of practice,
I can walk into a bookstore and understand its layout in a few seconds. I can glance at the spine of a book and make a good guess at its content from a number of signs. If I see the words Harvard University Press, I know it’s probably not going to be a cheap romance. I go onto the Net and I don’t have those skills.

And you’ve got the added problem that you’ve just walked into a bookshop where all the books are lying in heaps on the floor.

Exactly. So how do I make sense of the mess? I try to learn some basic labels. But there are problems here too: if I click on a URL that ends with .indiana.edu I think, Ah – this must have something to do with the University of Indiana. Like hell it does: the signpost is deceptive, since there are people using that domain to post all kinds of stuff, most of which has little or nothing to do with education. You have to grope your way through the signs. You have to recycle the semiological skills that allow you to distinguish a pastoral poem from a satirical skit, and apply them to the problem, for example, of weeding out the serious philosophical sites from the lunatic ravings.

I was looking through neo-Nazi sites the other day. If you just rely on search-engine logic, you might jump to the conclusion that the most fascist site of the lot is the one in which the word Nazi scores highest. But in fact this turns out to belong to an antifascist watchdog group.

Modernism seems to have ground to a halt – in the novel at least. Are people getting their experimental kicks from other sources, such as the Net? Maybe if Joyce had been able to surf the Web he would have written Gone with the Wind rather than Finnegans Wake?

No – I see it the other way round. If Margaret Mitchell had been able to surf the Web, she would probably have written Finnegans Wake. And in any case, Joyce was always online. He never came off.

But hasn’t the experience of writing changed in the age of hypertext? Do you agree with Michael Joyce when he says that authorship is becoming “a sort of jazzlike unending story”?

Not really. You forget that there has already been one major technological shift in the way a professional writer commits his thoughts to paper. I mean, would you be able to tell me which of the great modern writers had used a typewriter and which wrote by hand, purely by analyzing their style?

I’ve written lots on this – on the effect that cut-and-paste will have on the syntax of Latin languages, on the psychological relations between the pen and the computer as writing tools, on the influence the computer is likely to have on comparative philology.

Well, if you were to use a computer to generate your next novel, how would you go about it?

The best way to answer that is to quote from an essay I wrote recently for the anthology Come si scrive un romanzo (How to write a novel), published by Bompiani: “I would scan into the computer around a hundred novels, as many scientific texts, the Bible, the Koran, a few telephone directories (great for names). Say around a hundred, a hundred and twenty thousand pages. Then I’d use a simple, random program to mix them all up, and make a few changes – such as taking all the A’s out. That way I’d have a novel which was also a lipogram. Next step would be to print it all out and read it through carefully a few times, underlining the important passages. Then I’d load it all onto a truck and take it to the nearest incinerator. While it was burning I’d sit under a tree with a pencil and a piece of paper and let my thoughts wander until I’d come up with a couple of lines, for example: ‘The moon rides high in the sky – the forest rustles.'”

At first, of course, it wouldn’t be a novel so much as a haiku. But that doesn’t matter. The important thing is to make a start.

McLuhan wasn’t a philosopher – he was a sociologist with a flair for trend-spotting. If he were alive today he would probably be writing books contradicting what he said 30 or 40 years ago. As it was, he came up with the global village prophecy, which has turned out to be at least partly true, the “end of the book” prophecy, which has turned out to be totally false, and a great slogan – “The medium is the message” – which works a lot better for television than it does for the Internet.

OK, maybe at the beginning you play around, you use your search engine to look for “shit” and then for “Aquinas” and then for “shit AND Aquinas,” and in that case the medium certainly is the message. But when you start to use the Net seriously, it does not reduce everything to the fact of its own existence, as television tends to. There is an objective difference between downloading the works of Chaucer and goggling at the Playmate of the Month.

It comes down to a question of attention: it’s difficult to use the Net distractedly, unlike the television or the radio. I can zap among Web sites, but I’m not going to do it as casually as I do with the television, simply because it takes a lot longer to get back to where I was before, and I’m paying for the delay.

In your closing address to a recent symposium on the future of the book, you pointed out that McLuhan’s “end of the Gutenberg galaxy” is a restatement of the doom-laden prophecy in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, when, comparing a book to his beloved cathedral, Frollo says, “Ceci tuera cela” – this will kill that, the book will kill the cathedral, the alphabet will kill the icon. Did it?

Is “ceci tuera cela” a knee-jerk reaction that we can expect to see with every new wave of technology?

It’s a bad habit that people will probably never shake. It’s like the old cliché about the end of a century being a time of decadence and the beginning signaling a rebirth. It’s just a way of organizing history to fit a story we want to tell.

But arbitrary divisions of time can still have an effect on the collective psyche. You’ve studied the fear of the end that pervaded the 10th century. Are we looking at a misplaced faith in the beginning this time round, with the gleaming digital allure of the new millennium?

Centuries and millennia are always arbitrary: you don’t need to be a medievalist to know that. However, it’s true that syndromes of decadence or rebirth can form around such symbolic divisions of time. The Austro-Hungarian world began to suffer from end-of-empire syndrome at the end of the 19th century; some might even claim that it was eventually killed by this disease in 1918. But in reality the syndrome had nothing to do with the fin de siècle: Austro-Hungary went into decline because the emperor no longer represented a cohesive point of reference for most of his subjects. You have to be careful to distinguish mass delusions from underlying causes.

And how about your own sense of time? If you had the chance to travel in time, would you go backward or forward – and by how many years?

And you, sir, if you had the chance to ask someone else that question, who would you ask? Joking aside, I already travel in the past: haven’t you read my novels? And as for the future – haven’t you read this interview?

 

Stranger Than Fiction

https://mikejay.net/stranger-fiction/

A Visionary Madness: The Case of James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine by Mike Jay

E3BEDF14-ECE3-4202-BF70-1403BBEFF804

“On the Origin of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia” is an article written by psychoanalyst Viktor Tausk. It was first published in 1919 in the journal Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse …. Translated into English: Tausk V (1933) On the origin of the influencing machine in schizophrenia. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2, 519-556.

‘The Truman Show Delusion: Psychosis in the Global Village’, May 2012 issue of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry

A HyperReal Tale Of ARG

Around 1996/97, a Virtual Reality cafe opened in London, ON. (My home town). A first time experience to try VR gaming/simulation. Safe to say, the trend did not stick. The cafe closed soon thereafter. It was ahead of its time but the public did not catch on.

Also in the 1990’s, Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG), seemed to catch on with people such as the musicians, NIN.  Clues would be left in the virtual world and in the real physical world that intertwined for fans to engage with the band. AGR also reminds me of the film The Game. A real-life game based on lies and deceit, where the main character played by Michael Douglas, is led through this surreal mystery of death and consequence. This film can only be watched once. Once you know the ending, you cannot forget it.

Pokemon Go came out and applied geomapping to a new system of alternate gaming in 2016. It also interweaves the virtual world, with the real physical world. Pokemon has created an empire of creativity that has lasted well over two decades. Created by Satoshi Tajiri, who has been linked to living with autism, and who wanted to recreate a game based on his childhood memories of collecting insects. At the time Niantic created Pokemon Go, it caught on like a whirlwind. People were ready and waiting having already been attached to, and comfortable, with the mobile smartphones.

Technology catches up with time. To use the idea of climate change, it caught up with the masses in time, unfortunately when the time is too dire to ignore.

ARG

Alternate Reality Gaming, at times include non-disclosure agreements by those that choose to partake. “The first rule of fight club. You do not talk about fight club.”

I woke up today to find an item I had been searching for online, months ago, in my Amazon shopping cart. I, nor anyone with physical access to my phone, made that action. When I checked my email this morning (okay, afternoon), the MIT tech review I subscribe to posed the question, whether Amazon’s Alexa would be a viable tool as a personal assistant.  Hmm… I don’t have an answer. I do have the answer that these two factors correspond to each other, not as coincidence though. How do I know exactly? I have been at this “psychological virtual game” for too long to ignore action and reaction sequences. I have reached out to a number of “random” individuals,  since I started this “Virtual Quest”.

This situation that I am in poses the dilemma of privacy rights and granted permission through the right , or proper, channels. If the government foresees this and has granted other individuals/professionals to partake in this Virtual “Hacking” Game… am I just a pawn that has given silent consent? Or am I a victim? Am I being delusional?

To understand mental illness, people need to be aware that there are delicate issues about the hardships of personal life that lead to suicide. In nature, I am not a suicidal person. Ideations have occurred before but quite rarely and through channels of my psychosis. Not “my” thoughts but “their” thoughts. Are people aware of the sensitivity behind their online behaviour? What kind of consequences their actions could lead to? [It eats me up inside that young kids today face this kind of harassment on nearly a daily basis, online and offline. That it does lead to tragic consequences. How often do we hear stories of virtually posted suicides, videos of extreme harassment and violence? (That is just a side rant to the impact of social media on young minds that have not developed to know there is a whole other world out there waiting to accept them)]

In my world, I am open to this permission to whomever chooses to participate and engage online. But life is not a game. Virtual worlds are not a game. They all extend into our physical real lives and make an impact far greater than simply being able to “shut it off”.  I felt fear and threatened, the first time this occurred in 2013. As though my personal space had been invaded and exposed. At times I still do, as I know it tends to lead me down the road of psychosis. Each time it happens, paranoia is there, but I no longer feel threatened. It takes time for my mind to regulate real verses fiction of my entire lived-out life, not just that particular single moment. But as always I pull through, a bit wiser and a bit more stable. I am fully aware when my IG newsfeed is “hacked” with people I don’t know followed by names that correlate to my name, and stating they have won a million dollar lottery given to names of people I do know, with a repetition of this post in a series that I can not delete. That is not delusion. That is an invasion of privacy.

We are all pawns in this game of life, but we cannot go through it blindly. We must think about the consequences our actions make, whether our actions do more harm than good. We aren’t robots and haven’t quite reached “cyborg” status yet…

Even when we turn OFF for the night, our minds remain ON.

MLRFs

HyperReal Hypothesis

The HyperReal Hypothesis: Thoughts & Ideas

by Jea Rhee


Maybe to help you understand why I’m so obsessed w mental health and digital age. It’s impacted my life a lot… but I’ve always been interested in technology, especially in art and the future (okay, sci-fi too).

The psychosis thing  in mental health/illness is really important to address for future therapies and diagnosis, because a lot of the common underlying delusions of paranoia between these people have to do with… what was once abstract delusions of surveillance, people watching you, government etc. People reading your thoughts or listening in on you.

And today it is very real in everyday reality that it is less likely just delusion or paranoia. It’s going to become so common and everyday to people who aren’t already in the loop of knowing these things. Like people are surprised FaceBook listens along w any digital app or device. And everyone welcomes this technology into their homes and are then surprised. I mean Universities/Colleges today, and public/private high schools have clubs or courses on hacking, and advanced technology, more-so than from other generations.

So I’m stuck thinking what’s next for people w mental illness. These common beliefs are just accepted to become the norm for everyone who doesn’t live off the grid.

I’m more controlled in my psychosis because I know this is an actuality. AI is used to my online behaviour that it responds accordingly to when I start going down that rabbit hole. I’ve been leaving my digital footprint ever since my psychotic break on Soundcloud, as well as my former FB account. Eventually this process actually helped me heal, but it also played out in its own algorithmic pattern. My delusions, like I said earlier, aren’t traumatizing and disturbingly dark like they once were. My engagement online is normally healthy (for me) but I still do get affected if I start getting a little overwhelmed. It’s the way one can read into everything w a diagnosis such as psychosis… like “reading the code” of language. Which is also a common experience for those w mental illness -the breakdown, interpretation and use of wordplay as though creating a new language pattern of linguistics. The use of algorithms feed positive/negative responses depending on what you do online…. for me, what I do online. That’s the creator of mental illness and when my mind goes there I get addicted in an unhealthy way. And of course the best solution seems to be to get offline. Until healthy “reading” patterns return (which “they”- the AI- recognize).

But AI is based on your usage compared to overall population usage. That’s how algorithms evolve and become tailored to your habits. And of course your tech-devices are listening-that is why when you speak about something out-loud you may come across an advertisement/article for said thing. Just like the coincidental factor of when you think of something, you then see it. It’s happened in my dreams, where out of nowhere something I’ve dreamed about (usually people or representations of such) appear IRL (televised in media) It (and I.T.) seems any input you provide has a reactionary cause and effect, especially on social media. FB is no longer a social media site, it is a form of entertainment that is no longer in the hands of it’s “single player” user, but is contingent upon it’s end users as well. On a mass scale,  the outcome has been creating “trolls/trolling” (cyber-bullying).

That’s what technology is doing to us. Anything w/Internet access, not just social media platforms. It’s this obsession within technology and science to have a connection to everything else. Implants in brains hooked up to FB (what Elon Musk, as one person, is working on), they have already (almost) perfected the algorithm to reader/response based on user experience etc. And all of this is becoming normal “natural” response and action for a large population of the world.

I can get a bit obsessed with this “stuff” because it is interesting to me and at times I get entertained by it. The problem is that this is the problem.

Online gaming addiction is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), recognized  as a mental health disease. Is Internet addiction, next? The issues I’m concerned with is that it is being regulated to become ingrained as part of human “nature/psyche” in so many ways, groups of people aren’t even aware yet. It’s science. It’s math. It’s everything. People have always been obsessed w the future, but hold on too strong to the past. As though, “we’re gonna get better at this human living thing” apart from destruction by evolving in other ways that are just repetitions of the past. The cliché, everything’s already been done before…. has it? We are no longer living in the Information Age, technology and it’s connection to a global network (Internet), which I think now, should have stayed within the limits of providing useful/practical information, has transformed within these times of The Digital Age/Revolution. Pure entertainment media and control. A corporate gaming addiction. A scary place embedded in our society with purveyors that exploit the vulnerable, no longer, just in digital spaces, but in attempts to lure users into “their” simulation of physical space, like the reality we once lived- Once Upon A Time… A Long Time Ago (or so it seems)

Just some of the things I think about. Are users of social media platforms playing the game(a version of SIMS) created by those that interact,create the applications, and are the end users?…. Think about it.

Sincerely Conditioned as YOUR Little Robot Friend.

[artwork:2003]

In my experience, various media has reached out to me in my times of duress which I am now conscious and aware are not part of any “delusion”. It sounds crazy because it is crazy, but that’s the Wild West Worlds [www] we live in during today’s insanely crazy society.

A space is not singular, as a perception is not singular. Those who know, know. Those who believe, believe. I know and I believe because it’s a truth. It is not part of a mapping of psychosis made worse over time, as psychological studies assume. It is not my position to make you believe in any part of my life experiences. Just know, that sometimes, life is not what it seems. A part of living is being vulnerable to change and adapting to the digital (virtual) world.

Diana Hickman

The Good, The Bad, And The Invisible Barrier
By Diana Hickman, 2019

To me, I feel like mental healh was not talked about the same way it is now, than it was when I was a teenager. When I was 15 I had seen multiple friends frequent the youth phsyc ward at the general hospital in one of the Canadian cities I called home. It was a common understanding that if you were truthful about your mental health with the guidence councellor at school, then you would likely be shipped off to the hospital and ‘punished'(in our eyes at the time) for severe depression or suicidal thoughts.  

By this age, I was too busy spending time doing things I shouldnt have been doing to be spending time at home on the internet, for which I’m thankful for. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the overwhelming level of bullying and harrassment online that was so commonplace and unchecked at the time.

From the age of about 19 and onwards, I’ve been battling chronic illness including very painful, physical disabilities, menstrual problems, arthritis, mood swings, the list goes on…
As a result of chronic pain and health problems, depression was a natural side effect that grew in my life. It comes and goes in waves, sometimes a downright storm-nearly capsising all my confidence every time. As I got older, depression’s obscessive friend anxiety reared it’s imposing, ugly head into my life. I don’t think I even knew what living with anxiety meant when I was younger. It is so much more than ‘worrying’. All encompassing, self concious, full of doubt, shame.

As I started to face daily challenges managing my adverse health symptoms, I started digging on the internet for answers. After sifting through all the web MD anxiety flaring, hypocondriach paradise, I started to actually find useful information.
Other women going through similar situations. I was floored to learn how common it is to have adverse menstrual problems, pain, and mood alterations and to have little to no support from medical professionals.

It’s bittersweet. I discovered a whole other world of support, information, studies, experiences. To this day, I’ve felt more support from women online going through similar problems, than any face to face pain support group has ever given me.

Over the last half decade or so, the push to ‘love yourself’ has become more prevelent on the internet. And I think it’s great! However, all the bubble baths, positive self talk and ‘treating yo-self’ can only do so much for self love and acceptance, not to mention mental health support. I am greatful to have emotional support online from women in very similar shoes. I am thankful to be able to find resources, medical studies and reviews about health issues online. But I also know that not everything can be treated by yourself. Sometimes medical professional intervention is required for coping and healing. It’s easy to hide behind funny videos, memes, and social media in gerneral. The stigma is still there.

It’s very difficult to admit you need help, and even more difficult to get that help (especially if you’re female.)

When social media is all about showing and sharing only what you want-it’s so hard to confront your actual problems. It becomes more and more normal to hide what you’re actually feeling.
And why shouldn’t we filter our feeds to display the positive aspects of our lives? When thats what we want to be.

I also find my self hiding deeper behind social media.
Most of my friends connect with me via facebook messenger. Which I have zero issue with, the mobile phone number is no longer a necessity. I’ll still go on facebook often, sharing memes and videos and articles and reading them, commenting on things. But I sometimes struggle to open private messages from even the closest of friends. When Iv’e opened it, a little tiny bubble in the corner signifies that I’ve seen their message. I hesitate. It’s like answering a ringing phone, my anxiety peaks. What if I can’t answer them right away and they think I’m ignoring them? As soon as I open this I feel like I have only so much time before I have to reply… A whole other level of stress that I didn’t expect to be apart of my life in the digital age.

As stigma continues and societal acceptance keeps taking inching steps forward, I am going to keep attempting to break down walls of silence on the matter of mental health. Though getting help is as difficult as ever, and side effects of the internet are only getting more severe, it’s comforting to know that a whole world of information is at our fingertips. We can reach out.

Jen Woltemade

ALL-OR-NOTHING ADDICT

By Jen Woltemade

A year ago, I quit social media and email for six months. Facebook was easy, I’d resisted it for nearly ten years. I’d only just started with Instagram, so no big deal. Twitter has been my everything since 2009, so that took adjusting to, but I’d often gone without tweeting for a month or two, so barely anyone took notice.

My hiatus was glorious, unfortunately scared some friends as my intended two week break (which would have gone largely unnoticed) spanned half a year, but it was simply too enjoyable to re-engage. I was able to free myself from my phone/iPad, got an analog watch, phoned people from our landline, and basically lived as though it were the mid-nineties again (without the pager).

I moved from Ottawa to tiny Bad Soden, Germany five years ago. When I got engaged to my husband André in 2010, I said yes provided he move to Canada, as I’d just started a very meaningful job and didn’t want to leave. André transferred to Toronto, and although I don’t have much love for the city, I have a great number of people there I miss terribly, so if I were to move back to join him down the road, I’d make out fine.

Mental illness runs in both sides of my family the way cancer does in others. Manic depression, suicide, what we would now classify as various narcissistic personality disorders, drug and alcohol abuse. I’m much more comfortable around people affected with these diseases than physical ones, as there’s so many of us in my circles. I’d believed I was largely spared until 2003, when the burden of underemployment, neighbours from hell, a brief relationship with a con man, and failing to get help while pretending everything was ok culminated in my walking out the door to work a video shoot and losing myself in a dissociative fugue state for four days. I have various theories about why my brain and body shut down for that length of time, but they remain theories because I’ve no memory from that period. Once I was found at a movie theatre downtown where a friend had dropped off a missing poster, I experienced a period of amnesia that spanned several months.

Looking back at my twenties, I’d had hypo-mania and -depressive episodes that another person might have considered more serious and deserving of professional care, but I always had work, friends, and family to support me, so I just ‘got over’ those phases and didn’t look back. I am also of the belief that it’s hard to recognize patterns, positive or negative, in our lives until we reach our forties. I’d lived quite a nomadic life, so people close to me that might have flagged behaviours and suggested I get help if I’d stayed put in one place were not aware of my day-to-day situation. And we had no Internet.

I feel lucky to have bridged the Internet generation; that is to say that I grew up without it until I was well into my twenties, and then have reaped its benefits over the last twenty years. For many years, I kept quiet about my dissociative fugue and amnesic period, for I was scared being labelled as crazy would keep me from getting jobs and forging meaningful relationships. It bothered me that I couldn’t be honest and open when meeting new people, but was also appreciative that a Google search of my name didn’t bring up all sorts of information about me that I preferred to keep private at the time.

Were the same situation to happen today, I believe there’s no way I’d have been able to disappear in Toronto for four days. Facebook would have been engaged within a few hours, and I likely would have been found within a day by any one of hundreds of people who would have immediately seen and shared the missing post. Although that would have been much better for my loved ones who went through hell, I’m of the belief that I needed to take a break from my life and brain, so I’m selfishly quite happy to have been able to go ‘walkabout’.

I experienced this selfish feeling again last year when I enjoyed six months Internet-free. I’d experimented with various tame methods of unplugging, limiting my social media to weekends, or taking every third day off, or not taking my chargers with me on holiday. Those efforts were as painful as trying to wean off smoking through similar steps – I’m an all-or-nothing addict.

I wish I were able to replicate my hiatus again this year, however travel, the possibility of work, and certain relationships will force me to be online pretty much constantly. My goal is to get to the point where I can at least drop FB and IG for several weeks or months at a time, if not for good. We’ll see about Twitter, as I’d mentioned, I’m an all-or-nothing addict, and enjoy it way better than smoking.

Epilogue:

2019

Since writing my piece for the anthology, there have been ups and downs regarding both my mental health and online use. We spontaneously rescued a dog, Spencer, from Andalusia. He’s my first pet since being on social media, and his antics are simply too hilarious not to share! Having him with us has done wonders for my mental health, I consider him a therapy dog.

As much as getting out with him has improved my mental and physical health, though, I am listening to podcasts for several hours a day. This isn’t negative on the surface, but I’ve realized that the topics of my faves have drifted from music and comedy to politics and true crime, which can tend to either agitate or anger me depending on the day. I also tend to get hooked on series of the latter, whereas if I miss episodes of lighter shows, no big deal.
As with everything in life, moderation is key to a healthy balance. I aspire to leave the headphones at home more often and enjoy the quiet of the forest until Spencer tears off to chase critters or splash around in the water.

Kim Bauersfeld

F0037586-B51B-4207-AB9B-B56F11A2F980Hanging On By A Thread
by Kim Bauersfeld

I’ve been a sexual assault trauma counsellor for 11 years. When I started I had two clients and it increased at a gradual rate until about three years ago when I noticed an influx in historical abuse survivors suddenly finding themselves in crisis. It wasn’t long after that my own assault, 30 years ago, started to resurface. The “Me Too” movement and the many women coming forth after 30+ years along with the criticism and negative backlash they were receiving triggered something in myself. I found myself awake at night rehearsing Facebook rants in my head. Telling my story from 30 years ago and daring anyone to question my motives and the time lapse from the event to my coming forward with it. I wanted to fight with anyone who dared ask why I waited so long to tell. The thing is I did tell, just like most women have. Just like my clients did. We were threatened, called liars…maybe it was just brushed under the carpet. As for myself, my family knew, the police knew….nothing was done. I got over it. I moved on and thrived for 30 years. Then it was all over the media….women coming forward to prevent their historical  assailants from being put in positions of power. It wasn’t only about them anymore, they had to come forward to prevent these people from gaining more power and hurting others. All of this brought mine back and I googled my assailant. There was a Canada wide warrant out for his arrest. He had travelled west across Canada sexually assaulting women and children after he had assaulted me. Nothing was done 30 years ago so it wasn’t only me. Our anxiety disorders are believed, we are medicated but then throughout the day messages in the media, from faraway places that were silent before, work against the passivity that the medication induces. Flashbacks and triggers work to drive us mad and uncover the trauma. Being bombarded from all sides, online and offline, with conflicting ideas increases anxiety and perhaps a personality disorder. An obsessive compulsive drive to measure up. I’m lucky, I’m strong and take what I need while discarding the rest. I take the stories, issues and images and turn them into art that heals me, but the ones who are more vulnerable are pulled apart by the mixed messages. I do what I can for my ladies, I give advice and believe their stories. I try to help them move on in a world that won’t let them.

 

Dayanti Karunaratne

SUPERHIGHWAY: Searching Online For A Loved One

By Dayanti Karunaratne

My mother’s voice broke through the morning grumbles of my two year old in the backseat. On the radio: a mother talks about a missing son, a body found, questions unanswered. Curiously, she was looking online for answers — she was trying to access her son’s Facebook and Google accounts. She was going to court that day. I remembered the name of her son, Dovie, and Googled him later from my desk.

Of course, that wasn’t my mom — it was another mother looking for her son in the online world. But it brought to mind my own family’s struggle for insight into the life and location of my brother Nagita, and how we search for answers in the world wide web.

Dovie was born and raised in Ottawa and moved to Toronto for university. But shortly after his 23rd birthday, he went missing. His mother notified the authorities but eventually, it seems, they stopped looking. His mother kept up the hunt; one day, about two years after he disappeared, she stumbled upon a page of the Toronto police website that listed unidentified remains. A few details matched, she pursued, and eventually she learned that Dovie’s body had washed ashore in Lake Ontario a few months after he disappeared. By then the body was too decomposed to attempt any real identification (foul play was not suspected). Unconvinced that her boy committed suicide, Dovie’s mother continues to pursue the mystery through his online communications, in hopes they will fill in the blanks about her son’s final days.

My mother has decided to stop looking. She hired a private investigator earlier this year and the PI immediately went online for clues to my brother’s existence, or lack thereof.

My brother Nagita was born in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, and moved to New Zealand shortly after his birth mother died. I guess he is technically my half brother, but we didn’t grow up with such labels. My parents met in New Zealand, where they married and had my sister Kumari. My half-sister Manjula was there, always on the periphery; photos often show her with a pony. I often wonder why they left.

And so did he. My childhood, at least the time I spent at home, involved listening in on a lot of yelling and violent tantrums. I would come home from school to find rooms destroyed. I’d go to sleep, eventually, to the sound of threats and the kind of sorrowful, wild crying that just makes you sad — that is, after you get over the fact that plans for the weekend were over. Pity came after I accepted that life — the food and books and calm that I had almost gotten used to— had been upended.

At least I found sadness, empathy, and pity for him. By writing through the crashing plates and hurtful accusations, I found a bit of calm in the closet of that house. But everyone in my family coped with it differently: my sister Kumari fought, jumping in the middle of matches that saw my brother painting himself as a pathetic, unsuccessful, doomed, black, crazy man. My half-sister flew — to Kenya or Quebec or a high school on the other side of town. My mom was usually in the thick of it, trying to defend herself or calm the situation so we’d all feel safe. My father? He was a psychiatrist, so of course he played the therapist.

But me, I was too small or weak or torn between all sides to be a part of it. So I hugged my journal (and probably my dogs and cats) and just wrote. Of course I listened, but I didn’t want to hear. Of course I would get angry, but mostly I was scared. The paper was so quiet, and all mine.

(Even writing this, using buttons on a machine to open up a vein in my family’s history and let bleed this way seems antithetical. Wrong. For so many years I took to my journal, scrawling while bawling — or maybe not crying at all, because I was releasing the pain through my words. Typing is something I do at work, commandeering multiple projects in a way that I hope is educated and considerate but is a bit more calculated than I’d like to admit.)

On and on it went: the fighting, the suicide threats, the late night talks between my father and brother that no one was allowed to weigh in on. Family members moved across the country and back again. The internet was born, allowing for hatred and pity to come alive in pixels. The scariest part of writing an email to Nagita was waiting for a response, which rarely came.

And then my father died. I was there, so was Nagita. My mother too: all three of us went to the morgue and were civil with each other. I stuck around what we now call my mom’s place for a couple of weeks and I remember the hug from my brother when he left. He said: “You’re hurting too. I know that.” He was always a good hugger — the tallest of my family, he could wrap his arms right around me. They were maybe a little forced, a bit stiff, but I always felt a little leaning in on both sides. As if we shared something, a similarity in our relationship with my father, maybe, or at least something big that we couldn’t put into words.

That was more than 10 years ago. I last heard from him in 2009 when he responded to an email wedding invite — he said he’d be there. I was immediately scared: what if he really shows up? What if he doesn’t? Luckily, enough great things were going on in my life that I wasn’t too surprised, or devastated, when he didn’t show. And when I finally got up the nerve to reach out to him, almost three years after that, to tell him he was an uncle to my little girl, I wasn’t surprised at the bounce-back response. My mother had told me that he cancels email addresses often. So often that she now sends mail — Christmas money, news from Sri Lanka — as registered mail, requiring a signature.

When she first told me about the registered mail process it really hit home. I had trusted that he was alive, doing his thing (that could be called self-pity but is more likely a condition that should be diagnosed, that would provide him with mental and physical support, a government label that aims to prevent him from falling through the cracks). But to truly find out we’d have to look at the one place he was always looking: online.

That’s the first place the private investigator looked. For months, no news. During that time I wallowed in fear, shivering at the possibilities. Death, of course, was always among the fears. Could it be worse? I had just started to let my mind wander down that dark path when I heard that the PI had a positive hit. A chatroom comment. Chatrooms were something I, as a late adopter to the internet, knew very little about. But when it comes to early adopters by brother was a stereotype: a tech-savvy engineer and a loner, he enjoyed long hours in dark rooms, the only light coming from the desktop monitor. It completely made sense that a PI would find him there.

But now what? Should my mother pursue, beg for more of the violence and anger that soaked through our home life?

A few days after I learned this last development I woke with a question that never occurred to me before: maybe he’s better off. Maybe he really doesn’t need us, his family, any connection to his past. Maybe his online community gives him everything.

Without knowing anything else, I can only turn inward, and ask what this says about my own relationship with my brother — and the online world in which he lives. That perhaps I see that world wide web through a lens of fear: because it is where he lives, because he was so quick to flock to it, because it does hold the key to any future relationship I might have with him.

Epilogue:
About six months after this essay was first published my mother let me know that she had made contact with my brother — that he was indeed alive. There was a long pause on both ends of the line as we let this reality set in. I personally observed happiness and relief, confusion and pain, all over again. I read her email correspondence with him, and there was clearly hurt on his side, too. There were searing accusations, but also notes of humility. Mostly there is an articulated desire to be left alone, and yet I can’t help but also pause at his pain and wonder if that really means I should really only contact him in case of emergency. Is it not an emergency when it’s Christmas Eve and I’m afraid he’s alone and no one cares about that? It’s easy to hide online, but now I have an email and street address (and a vow to keep my mother updated of any changes). Now it’s easy for me to find him, too. I keep thinking about something my 7-year-old daughter asked me the other day: “If someone is upset and says they want to be alone, should you really leave them alone, or should you make sure they’re okay?” I didn’t have a good answer, other than to say “if it’s been a long time you should go and check on them.” I think I’ll use that advice myself.