So, I realized I hadn’t written any of this in several days, and hadn’t posted any of it in even longer. Here’s the second part, and I’m hoping to finish it by… Thursday? Probably.
(Just to clarify, these “parts” are arbitrarily chosen. It’s one story, I just didn’t want to go without posting any of it for a while until I finished it.)
Yeah, Thursday. I should have it finished by then. I’m really looking forward to getting to the next story I’ve planned out, though I’m equally excited to finish this. The final part of it should be pretty interesting.
6/9/16: Today, several other of the patients accepted their medications; not all the same medication, of course, as each of them were “diagnosed” with different disorders to further increase the similarity to a real facility. It appeared that we were finally gaining trust with them, and those that did take their medication began group therapy that afternoon, once their defenses were down enough that we could allow them together without fear of anarchy.
When I entered Ray’s room in the morning, he had a look on his face like he was trying to remember something without realizing it, an odd blank look of confusion and mental effort.
I realized something at that moment, something we had somehow overlooked. Yes, we were treating them exactly as though they were real patients. But real patients don’t go to a mental facility to become more insane. The aim is to solve, fix, help, get through, and otherwise aid them through their illnesses. I thought, therefore, that perhaps we had done wrong in so quickly giving them drugs that would help mellow them and decrease the effects of their “illnesses”. As a result, it was highly likely that they would never develop any, and thereby defeat the experiment itself. I made a mental note to talk with the other researchers about it later that day.
“How is it going?” I asked.
“Good, I suppose,” Ray answered. “But I have further doubts about what you’re telling me, now. I’ve done what you wanted me to do; I took the drugs and tried to relax and tried to remember. But nothing. Nothing at all, except knowing even more that you’re lying to me. Knowing that the life I remember is not a defense mechanism or anything else you want to call it. It’s real, and this little ‘world’ I’m in is what’s really fake.”
“I’m sorry, Ray.”
“Sorry about what? Sorry for lying? Are you admitting it?”
“No. I’m sorry that it didn’t work, and I’m sorry that I don’t know how to help you now. I’m sorry that I must have come across badly to you, and I’m sorry that has made you untrusting of me. I want to help you, Ray, but I don’t know how I can. Can you help me in that?”
“You can help me by telling me the truth.”
“I… I wanted you to come to that on your own. But if it will help you, I will.”
“I fear you may not find it particularly enjoyable, especially once you remember what you tried.”
“You’ve been afflicted with your bipolarity for quite some time. It started when you were a teenager, but at that time it was quite subtle and anything noticed by anyone near you would’ve assumed it was the typical mood swings of an adolescent. Over time, it increased in severity, but you managed to cope for the most part. You immersed yourself in drugs at one point in an attempt to make yourself feel better, which it accomplished in the short-term, at the price of speeding up the growth of your disease.”
“So you’re telling me I’m an addict? This just grows more absurd the more I hear.”
“You were. Some of your family intervened at one point and forced you into rehab, and you recovered. This was, actually, one of the best times for you. The therapy and attention you received in rehab accomplished, to a degree, what we try here. What I can’t believe is that the people that attended to you somehow failed to notice your bipolarity. Once you were over your addiction, you returned home, and what had once been in remission struck back at you stronger than before. You went between states of mania and depression practically every hour, from what we could tell, each high and low getting higher and lower every time. In times of depression, you got closer and closer to danger towards yourself and others, and the mania gave you a sense that you could really do it. Then you tried. You hurt someone very close to you, and after what you realized what you had done, you were brought even closer to suicide than you had already been. And you tried it. Luckily, someone stopped you before you could finish it, and brought you here. That was six years ago. As I’ve told you before, we’ve worked with you since then and made some amount of progress, but a few days ago, something happened and you became worse than before, and took on a somewhat catatonic appearance. It would seem that, during that time, you subconsciously created this ‘normal world’ for yourself that you could lock yourself away in. Since then I’ve been working with you, and that brings us up to the present.”
“What a load of bullshit.”
“I’m sorry you’ve had to go through all of this, but that’s why I want to help you. I want you to be able to leave, and to lead a real normal life.”
“But I can’t do that without you helping yourself in turn. I can’t do my job unless you let me. So will you?”
“I’ll think about it.”
“And please continue taking your meds, Ray. I appreciate that gesture of trust, and it will aid the process significantly.”
“I’ll think about it,” he repeated.
“Please do,” I said, and left.
I met with the other researchers later that day to tell them what I had realized. As I spoke, several of them slowly nodded as if they ad been thinking similarly, and told me so after I had finished.
“We can’t just give them placebos, though,” said one of the researchers.
“Certainly not,” I agreed,'”but we can’t continue giving them these same doses. I’ve been thinking perhaps halving the doses, but instead of just giving them one pill when they would normally have two, give them two pills of half the previous dose. They won’t notice the difference and begin to suspect something, they’ll still be getting the drugs, and the integrity of the test will be maintained.”
The others agreed with me.
“But I think we shouldn’t do that quite yet. A few more days of the regular doses, then decrease it. The sudden change could possibly trigger any mental instability that they may develop in this test.”
“But won’t that invalidate the experiment? Because that is ‘forcing the hand’ a little more than we intended,” a different researcher said.
“Yes, to a degree,” I said, “but think to the larger goal of this experiment. We’re seeing if insanity is possible for anyone, or if it’s only specific people it affects. We aren’t testing if it can be induced in a setting such as this; that’s just how we’re presenting it to the subjects as a believable environment.”
The psychologist who had just spoken nodded in understanding, and I looked around the room to see if the others agreed as well. “Does that sound good?” I asked.
All but one of the researchers agreed, and the last one wasn’t directly opposed; she just didn’t fully agree with me on my view of the focus of the test. The decision had been made, and we would decrease their doses in two days.
When I visited Ray that evening, it was evident to me that he had taken his pills earlier. He had a slightly placid look on his face and spoke freely with me. Before I said anything, he spoke.
“Do you know the feeling when you aren’t sure if a memory is real or in a dream?”
“I believe so.”
“A sort of wonder whether what you think is true was just a thought or something you imagined?”
“I have that feeling right now, stronger than ever before.”
“Everything. My supposed past that you’ve told me, as well as my own reality. I have the same feeling in an equal measure for both of them, and don’t know what’s real any more. Or, I guess, they feel equally real.”
When he had said “my own reality”, I had raised my eyebrows, partially as a physical communication of interest and partially as actual surprise. Even if it was just a slip-up, a phrase used in the moment without the subtle implication, it was significant. It could be evidence of a deeper conviction. He didn’t seem to notice my reaction, though.
“That could be good,” I said.
“It could mean that your mind is starting to open up. Once that happens, your recovery can begin.”
“But it doesn’t really feel like that. It feels like you planted the idea in my mind and my mind accepted it and began making it feel real, though it isn’t.”
“Ray, I don’t want to be so blunt, but you are really being very stubborn about this. Every time that there’s evidence you’re beginning to realize the truth, you try to come up with some excuse for it. That saddens me. Do you not want to get better? Do you not want to get out of here and live your own life? Make your own reality?”
“Of course I do. But if that means I have to be brainwashed by you, or even just blindly accept anything you tell me, I’d have to think twice.”
“I understand. But does that necessarily mean you have to reject everything I tell you?”
He hesitated. “No.”
“Then please don’t. My job is to help you, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
He exhaled through his nose and nodded, his eyes on the ground. I looked at him for a moment, then left the room. I was getting there, bit by bit, but damn, this was hard.
6/10/16: Ray seemed relatively docile and accepting of my words today. Whether it be due to the drugs or if he’s beginning to consider what I’m saying – or both – it’s good news. Talking with the other researchers, it sounded as though their subjects were acting similarly. One more day before their drug doses would be decreased and we’d hopefully start seeing responses to the test, but having them more submitting to us was an important first step before that happened. Who knew, perhaps we would truly need to help them after whatever happened. It was a possibility we had considered thoroughly and prepared for in advance.
When I spoke with Ray that morning, he told me had been thinking.
“About what?” I asked.
“A lot of things. I’ve been thinking about how I know what I ‘know’. I’ve been thinking about how I ‘know’ what you say isn’t true. I’ve been thinking about how I can ‘know’ you’re trustworthy, or how I can ‘know’ you aren’t.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Ray.”
“I have decided that I will listen to what you say, even if I don’t want to, or don’t agree with it. That doesn’t mean I will accept it, but I’ll listen and think about it. Memories are very moldable things and prone to modification. I don’t know if you’ve been doing the modification, or if I have been. There’s no way to know, I guess. There isn’t really any way to know anything.”
“That’s true. But I know a lot of other people here who can back up what I’m saying.”
“How can I know you just haven’t told them to say certain things? If you’re going to back up what you say with other people, I could just as easily back up what I say with people from my life.”
“If that’s really your life, that is. If they aren’t just characters you’ve created in your mind. The people I mention are here in this building, just like the nurses who give you your medicine and lead group therapy. But more than just them; doctors that have watched you while you’re here.”
“But that just leads back to not knowing if you’re all playing along to some game.”
“Why would we?”
“Does it mean, just because I can’t answer that, that it isn’t true?”
“Not necessarily. But does it mean it is true?”
“Not necessarily, again. It just boils down to not knowing anything at all, really. I don’t know if I can trust you, and I don’t know if I can trust myself.”
“That’s a very good step in and of itself,” I said, “even if the uncertainty doesn’t feel like progress. Most people immediately trust themselves and their perception of things before anything else, which can either be good or bad. When your own memories and senses betray you, it can be dangerous. I’m glad you’ve come this far, and I’m here to help you in any way I can as you proceed.”
He nodded and sat down on his bed, seeming to be surrounded in thought. Without another word I left him alone to think.
Day by day, we were getting closer, and speeding up in our progress as we went. And I was certain that it would come to a climax in a few days. I could hardly wait.
That afternoon when I went to visit him, he appeared to be asleep. Either asleep or resting, mulling over what I had told him whether consciously or not. That suited me fine, as pressing the matter too much without giving him enough time to process it all could be harmful to what we were attempting. I left, closing the door as quietly as I could so as to not disturb him. The next day I would have enough time to talk with him more.