Insight - Inside Looking In


It never ceases to amaze me how some thoughts will NOT leave me alone until I have put them down on paper, electronically or otherwise. It's as if they were yelling to be let out of my brain. Eventually, I must give in if I don't want to go completely around the bend...  Talk of being crazy.

The thought that will not go away concerns insight. Insight is a very big word in psychiatric medicine. You either have it or you don't. Depending on that, you are directed towards different treatments.

Medically, I have always retained insight. In other words, I don't need anyone to tell me I am losing it because I am the first one to know. I have often joked that I must be the only patient in the history of mental health who sectioned herself! This little joke of mine is non-sensical because - of course - if you take yourself to the local psychiatric hospital, you are not sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Other people (usually the attending doctor) have to section you, often against your will, because you have become a danger to yourself or to others. Interestingly, if you retain insight it is very difficult to be taken seriously. That fateful night five years ago when I remember being on the verge of doing something extremely nasty to myself I had great difficulty convincing the first doctor I saw that I was in danger. The fact that I was aware of what was happening seemed to override  the terrifying fact that I could do nothing to stop it.  All I could to do was to fight my violent self-destructive urge with all my might whilst begging for help. Fortunately, an experienced psychiatrist eventually appeared who understood immediately what I was dealing with.....

Insight means literally 'looking in' or 'looking inside'. I know from my own experience that what I saw 'inside' that night (and on many other occasions later on) was so terrifying that I have no words to describe it. It felt like my own private version of Hell itself.  It is said that we human beings could never look God in the face because His light would blind us and the sheer power of His energy would disintegrate us on the spot. I have experienced the opposite: the darkest place in my consciousness felt like a low powerful 'resonance' that was disintegrating me from the inside out and turning my eyes into burning wounds. I am aware all this sounds like a cheap horror movie but I assure you it doesn't even come close to the real thing. Interestingly, I am not at all sure that I was not so afraid of the brightest light in me that I disguised it as darkness. I distinctly remember it as a 'blinding darkness', even if that doesn't make much sense in our physical reality.

Anyway, that brings me to the thought that won't go away: I have a profound sense that losing insight is a self-protective mechanism. In the same way as we 'lose' the memory of traumatic events to protect us against the excruciating pain they caused, we lose insight to protect us against the extremes of our own internal psychological terror. This thought is neither medically accepted nor scientifically proven and yet I would stake my own life on it.

We go 'insane' when remaining sane is too hard. We disconnect when remaining connected is too awful. It is much easier dealing with monsters that live outside of ourselves than it is to deal with our own internal ghouls and so we create external terrifying creatures and are judged nuts in the process.

Many times, I knew that I would feel immense immediate relief if I flicked my own sanity switch. I extended my hand towards it on more than one occasion. The only thing that kept me from 'letting go' was this recurring thought: 'if you let go, you won't come back'. And so I spent days hanging on for dear life (literally) with both hands a few inches away from the pain-relieving switch. I will admit a shocking truth (shocking to me anyway): some days I wonder whether it was all worth it. I wonder whether 'letting go' of my insight/sanity would not have been a wiser choice for me. I am not sure. I don't know.

Something in me fought to stay here and so here I am. I should feel a sense of victory about that and yet all I feel is a great sadness, as if I had woken up and found I was still 'chained' to this life. I don't quite know what to do with those feelings except perhaps be a good coach and stop 'shoulding' all over myself .....

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