Out of our heads

The NZ Herald has in interesting article in today’s paper about former psychiatric patient-turned-psychologist Rufus May who has been shaking up the treatment of mental illness by talking to the voices people hear. It makes for interesting reading and it is a helpful addition to our Cuckoo’s Nest study.

Rufus May’s recovery from delusions – that he was an apprentice spy for the British secret service with a device in his chest that was being used to control him – took time.

He was 18 when he was admitted to Hackney psychiatric hospital in London, diagnosed as schizophrenic and not allowed to leave.

Initially, he believed he was in a place for burnt-out spies. “Eventually I thought people are being treated too badly for it to be a place for burnt-out spies.”

Surely burnt-out spies wouldn’t be humiliated, degraded and forcibly medicated – pinned to the floor while their trousers and underpants were pulled down to their ankles for an injection in the buttocks with mind-altering drugs?

In the frightening environment he now inhabited, May developed a scary, maniacal laugh to protect himself from his fellow inmates. “I think I was half-expecting to be reunited with my girlfriend in a safe house because I thought she was a Russian spy.”

May had been getting messages about his mission from the Bible and the radio. Between the age of 15 and 16 he was a heavy cannabis user, but he wasn’t smoking at 18 when his troubles began – his first girlfriend left him after a nine-month relationship.

Instead of getting depressed, May drifted into a dreamlike reality, where he was spied upon and felt he had special spiritual powers. In hospital he still thought he could communicate with his girlfriend via the Bible. When he stopped getting messages back, he cried. The dream was over.

“I realised that actually I wasn’t that important and that I was in pyjamas in a psychiatric ward, dribbling. And then I started to think, ‘well, you’re in the pit of society now – the only way is up’.” Read the rest here.

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