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Brain Chemistry and Sense of “Self” May 11, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, Mental Illness and Medication, Psychotic.
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During the course of my psychotic break with reality, I had another type of break with reality.  As my psychotic break intensified, my sense of self expanded way beyond the confines of my physical body.  It’s a hard thing to explain, but my sense of self expanded so far beyond my physical body that it encompassed the entire Universe.  The phrase “She was One with the Universe” fit me to a “T”.

After I entered the mental hospital, Job One was to stabilize me, which meant snapping me out of my psychotic state of mind as soon as possible. To that end, the hospital personnel administered large doses of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers.

As the drugs built up in my system, they began to have the desired effect of eliminating my psychotic episode. One of the ways the drugs did this was by reducing my sense of “self” from the global “oneness” back to localization inside the confines of my physical body.

As the medication continued to build up, coursing through my bloodstream in ever-larger doses, it eventually crossed a threshold, building up to a point where my sense of “self” became removed from my body entirely.  I was no longer inhabiting my physical body at all. Instead, I viewed my body from a point about a foot above my head at a 45 degree angle, experiencing life as an observer.

Complaining of this symptom to my psychiatrist, he knowingly shook his head, declaring it a side effect of the medication. Reducing the dosage of medication and eventually replacing it with a different drug served to return my “self” back into the confines of my physical body, where it continues to reside to this day.

Based on my experience, it is clear that we can induce an expansive sense of self as well as a minimalist sense of self in the same person using nothing  but  brain chemistry.   The expansive self incident was induced by stress-related changes in brain chemistry, while the minimalist self incident was induced by the introduction of a drug directly into my blood stream.  Both incidents acted in a way that changed my brain chemistry. Both incidents were two sides of the same coin.

It’s fascinating to consider the implications of this “experiment”. What does it mean when a sense of “self” can be chemically manipulated?  What does it mean when localization of “self” inside our physical bodies is due to brain chemistry?

This new awareness puts events like out-of-body experiences in a whole new light.  Isn’t it interesting that by simply changing our brain chemistry, we can induce a sense of Oneness with the Universe? or even an out-of-body experience?  What are the implications of this for humanity?

(Note: This blog was inspired by the Neurophilosophy blog of December 2008 titled The Body Swap Illusion)

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Comments»

1. moodybpgirl - May 17, 2010

Oddly enough I’ve been thinking about a lot of this lately. My spiritual life has been pretty much non-existent since my medication cocktail finally reached a therapeutic dose. In particular I have always been attracted to alternative spiritual practices- meditation, altered states of consciousness, that sort of thing. Now I definitely wonder how much of it may have been due to a chemical balance all along.

2. Crazy Mermaid - May 17, 2010

It’s interesting that you use the phrase “chemical balance” rather than “chemical inbalance”. I think we’re both on the same wavelength. Like you, my medication plugs up all of my spirituality like a cork in a bottle. In plugging up the psychotic break, it plugged up a lot of other things as well, including my spirituality. The situation appears to be an all-or-nothing scenario. Either I plug up my psychosis and spirituality with the meds or stop taking my meds and risk re-triggering another psychotic break in order to connect with my spirituality again. Difficult choices.

3. HB - May 18, 2010

I’ve enjoyed this post and your previous ones about the sense of self and its movement or expansion. I never really thought about it that way. I think I’ve had the oneness with the universe feeling… It was a magnificent feeling. I also know someone who often has to deal with feeling that he is watching everything happen. It is an uncomfortable feeling…


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