Where It’s Spent

“That’s inhuman!” a colleague of mine exclaimed last week. I’m consistently waking around 5.30am, which is abhorrent to most people. Further down the spiral – it skips, morning to morning, between 5.23 and 5.25. An unnerving recurrence; a triumph of chaos theory over mundanity.

I like having more of the day to play with. Early breakfast, cup of tea, washed with clean teeth before the paper arrives. Ready for a productive day, beginning with at least two hours of Warframe. Youtube on in the background, playing old episodes of Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. My wellspring of political thought.

When I’m not killing Grineer, I’d like to be doing this. Typing. Hopefully something worth reading, by myself and by others. Activism is becoming a significant part of my Me, but a consistent failing, as my untrained eye can observe, is when one occupies a single issue, denying the prismatic facets of simply being here.

So being here. 11.53am. Awake for 6 hours, 28 minutes. Waking and reaching for Marina Keegan’s wondrous The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories. Statistically not my thing, but the quality of her writing, the vibrancy of her personality and intellect shine through. Mournfully, so does the significance of her frustrated promise.

I finished Emma Forrest’s Your Voice in my Head. A memoir of mental illness and recovery which doesn’t entrench itself in the minutiae of mental illness and recovery. Love and sex and family and animals and opportunity and self harm and suicide. The tapestry. Take a tapestry and focus upon several threads. If you’ve lived the way I have these past 30 years, you’ll know how well this works.

Read, write, repeat. I need, I want, to fall in love with words again. Actually this is deceitful – I want to love the words of others, which is why (at the start of 4.0) these authors are wellsprings of optimism.

30 years. 6.5 hours. What’s inhuman is not the time you’ve lost. There’s no inherent glory in any time you might have gained. Just don’t frustrate the promise of every second you collapse into.

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Avatar Theory

A recent news story highlighted fascinating research into the treatment of schizophrenia, conducted at University College London’s Mental Health Sciences¬†Unit.

Avatar Therapy is demonstrating huge promise in the reduction of the severity of schizophrenic episodes, with particular success in tackling auditory hallucinations. A pilot study saw 16 patients participate in up to seven, 3o minute sessions, involving computer generated avatars representative of the entities they believe are speaking to them. Created with the assistance of therapists and technicians; patients were able to engage in face to face dialogue with their hallucinations. Emeritus Professor Julian Leff, who developed the therapy and is leading the project explains:

Even though patients interact with the avatar as though it was a real person, because they have created it, they know that it cannot harm them, as opposed to the voices, which often threaten to kill or harm them and their family. As a result the therapy helps patients gain the confidence and courage to confront the avatar, and their persecutor.

Though in its earliest stages, Avatar Therapy is showing immense promise as a viable alternative treatment option. The commentary on the UCL website stresses that, even with the most effective anti-psychotic medication, ‘one in four people with schizophrenia continue to suffer from persecutory auditory hallucinations.’ Given that schizophrenia enters the lives of 1 in every 100 people, AT offers a considerable lifeline, especially given the shortcomings of modern psychiatry practice.

The next step is a larger trial at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, with the support of a ¬£1.3 million Translation Award from the Wellcome Trust. 142 people will now be given the opportunity to benefit from this radical new approach. One hopes that by 2015 we will have a new strategy superior in reliability and efficacy to the scorched earth pharmaceutical model. However, given that the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence’s recommendation of a combined approach of medication and talking therapies is barely executed, someone needs to be working on the infrastructure and policy to efficiently roll AT out, should it get the green light.

Personally speaking this shows a remarkable depth and breadth of thought, reflective of our increasingly techno-centric culture. Many of us have some experience of avatar practice: be it through character creation in games such as Dragon Age or Mass Effect; or the almost unlimited projection of Second Life. Applications far beyond the original intentions of Professor Leff and his colleagues may emerge, throwing open the gates to the unbound landscape of human consciousness.