What Does It Feel Like To Go Insane?

I recorded the following yesterday for a couple friends of mine right after the settings on my adaptive Deep Brain Stimulator had been turned up and I was left in a dark doctor’s office by myself…

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Ummm.. what?

Well yesterday I went to see my neurologist and programmer to get the adaptive settings on my deep brain stimulator turned up. I’ve written before on what that means or why I did so, for those who want an overview click on the following links:

A Short Guide to Adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation

The Day of the Surgery

Why Does It Work?

The reason why I went in yesterday is because my symptoms were gradually becoming more bothersome again, which likely means that my brain was adapting to the adaptive settings. I took this as a positive because prior to flicking on those adaptive settings I had to go in almost every two weeks for an adjustment, this was my first such adjustment in 7 months, but this time neither I nor my doctors really understood what I would have to go through to get there.

I’ve written before on the topic of Mania, but I don’t think that it is fair for me to say that I know what mania feels like because mine came with an on-off switch. I’m not sure what I would have done if I were permanently in that state of mind. Part of me wanted to just go outside and play in the sun, part of me wanted to go eat a whole pizza by myself (and then probably ice cream too!), part of me wanted to go and jump out of a window.

Approximate size and location (though in reality both are likely even smaller than depicted) of my Subthalamic Nucleus (STN), the region of my brain activated by my deep brain stimulator.

In that hour and a half in which I was left alone in that doctor’s office I did have a desire at different times to go and do each of those things written above. But I still had enough wherewithal to not act on them. I suspect that was because I knew that all those thoughts/feelings were the result of a temporary over activation of a tiny tiny part of my brain, and that they weren’t really “me”. Also I knew that it could go away as soon as my doctor came back in and pressed a few buttons on his screen. (Luckily I didn’t even need that because over the course of the two hours between seeing my doctor, and after eating a meal, my brain adjusted itself and I felt again more or less like the person I was before.)

But I am left to wonder, what if it was permanent? What if my brain had been unable to adjust and I had been unable to properly vocalize to my doctor what I needed? I suspect that my doctor, the wonderful but somewhat enigmatic Dr. Alfonso Fasano would have known what I needed, but what if he didn’t? Or, what if I wasn’t in his care but someone else’s who didn’t know me well enough to know that I was no longer acting like myself? What if I was an older individual who was already confined to wheelchair and who already had problems vocalizing myself?

What about other people who society deems to be insane? Could they just have some tiny region of their brain that is slightly over stimulated, either chemically or electrically, and that if we can just find a way to bring that down a bit might that correct those behaviors?

I’m starting to really believe that the answer to that last question in particular must be yes. Yet, what does society do with those individuals? Do we study their behavior and brains and try to find the spot that might be responsible for their behavior? No, we usually do the worst thing possible for a brain, lock it in a cage and take away all of its freedoms. Then we get confused as to why these people continue to exhibit the same or worse behaviors after we set them free.

Perhaps we are the ones who are really deranged?

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