Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001
Subject: ~~Re: Hannah's visions

I was in an unofficial "counselling" relationship with one particular
schizophrenic (among others) for over two years. He phoned me every day
(sometimes many times in one day or in succession, of course, just like a
schiz'. For a long time he didn't have a phone in his apartment and had to use
pay phones. Invariably, he let his nickel after nickel run out to its absolute
last drop, triggering the automated [female!] robot operator voice to interrupt
["I'm sorry, but your time has run out" or whatever. "Please deposit another
five cents for another X minutes"]. Speaking of "desiring machines," it was a
curious mechanism by which he, innocently, forced the "hearing voices"
experience on the listener.)

I'll relate a text-related moment that occured with him, peripherally relevant
to Camille's questions about hallucinated text, etc.

I used to leave tongue-in-cheek messages on my answering machine. At one
point, I had a message that said "T-H-I-S I-S J-E-F-F-R-E-Y" (spelled out
letter by letter like that, jokingly) "P-L-E-A-S-E L-E-A-V-E A

People who called would usually respond similarly ("H-I! T-H-I-S I-S . . ."),
or laugh, or say something about spelling bees or the alphabet, or whatever.
My schizophrenic caller, phoning daily, had left messages for several days
without acknowledging whatsoever my outgoing message.

Finally, after about a week of messages, he said something about it (he was,
like many schizophrenics, highly intelligent and well-educated): "That's a
very interesting message you left. Mysterious. You'll have to tell me
sometime if it means anything."

The surprise to me was that he was unable to amalgamate the obvious parts,
letters of the alphabet, back into a meaningful whole, the way everyone else,
people in fact much less clever than him had done in a flash.

He hallucinated voices sometimes, in his case voices of people he was really
around at the time, usually when he or they stepped into the next room. (A
schiz' friend of his hallucinated celebrities voices but, we found this
hilariously funny, they were the voices of extremely minor celebrities. I
wish I could remember whom, but I don't know a lot about television of popular
culture.) He would go to the bathroom and hear the people he had just stepped
away from saying ugly things about him through the door.

What was amazing about him was that he had the ability to double-check with
the sources of his hallucinated voices whether they had just been talking about
him. He could reality text by going up to the person and saying, "Excuse me,
but were you just whispering under the door that I should drop dead," etc.

By Weiner transcribing her reported text hallucinations, she may have had a
unique reality-grounding technique like that, which brought what otherwise
would be lonely "pathology" into a public and interpersonal realm that
neutralized them. . . . not that most of the transcribed text hallucinations of
hers that I've read were especially malevolent or remarkable in themselves.
That, too, says something: the depletion in her "clairvoyant" messages . . .
most that I've read of hers were as banal as street signs, perhaps even moreso
. . .

I find much of what you've written here, Camille, to be very beautiful and
eloquent, literary in and of itself, almost a new genre of mental epiphenomena
reportage, a realism of privacy:

>> it's as if the words were rising to the surface from a place over which I
have little conscious or intentional control. More commonly, I have the
feeling of "losing myself" while writing, in which I seem to be allowing inner
voices, mental movements and desires (and the voices & feelings that I have
absorbed from others) to shape the work. Sometimes, in a hypnogogic state, I
seem to be dipping into an ongoing chatter within my subconscious mind, as if
this chatter might be happening almost all the time, but I'm only allowed
access to it during certain twilight states. When I close my eyes at night, I
often see a parade of images of faces that seem so particular as to be real
individuals, but they are people I don't recognize. Where do they come from?<<

That last touch ("Where do they come from?") is reminiscent of the opening
quote in Chairman Mao's Little Red Book ("Ideas . . . Where do they come from? Do they fall from overhead?" [I don't have it verbatim])

It's very Proustian, his bedside magic lantern, falling asleep in bed and all
that (especially, for me, now after having recently concentrated on Susan
's Bed Hangings lullaby):

>>In addition to the "dictation" mentioned, there's the more quotidian inner
stream, the seemingly incessant chatter or parade of images and symbols
that we all experience, a kind of roiling conversation among memories,
perceptions, and other mental / bodily events. The "conversational" feel,
or the feeling of "otherness" of such voices might be due to the fact that the
brain is interconnected in such complex ways that ongoing neural events
of different types may appear like different voices to us -- perceiving,
explicating, commanding, commenting, evaluating, emoting, symbolizing,
visualizing ? not to mention the voices contending with each other to place
different values on things perceived and tugging at you to behave in
different ways, the proverbial angel and devil on your shoulders.<<

I'd like to try to imitate it some time.

I used to (or can kind of at will re-activate it) "see" either the words that
were being said to me (in reality) or the words of my thinking, going back very
fast in a sort of teletype closed caption monitor way. They weren't exactly
in front of my retina and in my visual field, the way Weiner reports hers,
but sort of like a transparency and somehow coming from "behind" my eye, as
there was no question but that they were thought and my experience, in no way
externalized as Weiner imagined hers.

I worked for a few years, way back, as a dictaphone operator. My typing speed is high (over 110 w.p.m. when last test 15 years ago on an electric
typewriter), and I often found it easier to transcribe by closing my eyes: I
would work, literally, "with my eyes shut." Although I was already a sort of
"hyper-literate" guy to start with, I think that that prolonged enforcement of
having to bring to mind mentally the spelling of words, very rapidly, and then
getting faster at it, somehow "helped" to accentuate or embed these "seen"
spellings in this way.

Also, developmentally, I might mention:

My father worked as a sign painter. He would often have me help him out on
Saturdays. Sometimes we'd go up and work on billboards, and so on. So, for
one thing, I was raised in this household where down in his basement workshop
there were letters, big plastic or wooden letters, boxes of them. I might
either play with them when very young or, in helping him out, have to "go and
get" a B or an H or whatever from these stacks. In proportion to my childhood
physique, they must have been quite large, by ratio, maybe from shoulders to
knees, some of them. --- And then with the billboards, we would be hanging
mid-air on scaffolding with letters of the alphabet three times our size,
painting them in.

I think by growing up around the alphabet on such a Brobdingnagian scale, it embedded the alphabet very palpably into my psyche. Hence, "seeing" or semi-seeing words while they're being heard comes "quite naturally," later
deepened by other reenforcing. (I think they used to clock typing speed with
five [six?] characters per word, so at over 100 w.p.m., typists are manifesting
internal thresholds of transcription, of about 500 or 600 letters/units per
minute, language micro-pulsations of around 8+ per second. [New Math?] . . .
about the rate of musical sixteenth notes at MM = quarter-note = 60)


I would prefer if psychodiagnostic terminology were phrased as verbs rather
than nouns. Rather than "a schizophrenic," to say, "She was
'schizophrenicizing,'" the way we say "obsessing" in place of OCD. I think it
makes it easier to understand, somewhat more relax to discuss.