Today’s Scribbling: Personal Knowledge of Abnormal Mental States

When I was 12, I was pretty sick. To the extent that my life since then has essentially been a bonus, really. In fact, last summer was the 20th anniversary of when I stopped being sick, which is something that helped kickstart the mental process that led to this whole “Daily Scribbling” lark. Still, that’s not hugely relevant. What is relevant is that one of the things they had to do to diagnose me was extract some of my spinal fluid. This called for an anaesthetic that would totally paralyse me, so that I wouldn’t move around while they inserted a needle between my vertebrae. The anaesthetic they used was ketamine.

I’ve never understood why ketamine is used recreationally by people. My experience of it remains possibly the single most unpleasant experience of my life. A sickening minty taste at the back of my throat, followed by what I’m told was five minutes of unconsciousness, but which felt like several hours of concentrated nightmares, followed by something possibly even worse. Waking up. I don’t know how ketamine acts on the brain, but my experience was that while I was awake, the part of my brain capable of recognising patterns was not. Words were just sounds, and faces were just shapes. If that doesn’t sound that bad, try this. When someone is talking on television, mute the sound. Now turn your head upside down, and stare at their lips. Trust me, it’s a pretty offputting site. Now pair that with violent nausea and a loss of fine motor skills, and you’ll see why I might find it hard to believe people do that for fun.

The point of this is as context for today’s scribbling, where I deliberately re-evoked that memory to help me write from the perspective of someone waking up with brain damage. And the point of this post is to convince myself that I’m not cheapening that, that I have…earned the right to write this scene. I think I have. I think that I’m writing from personal experience does that. But I’m going to have to think about it some more.

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