Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tricks of the Imagination

One of the disturbing things that has developed recently is that S now appears to be carrying on conversations with other people who are not present. This seems to be a step on from talking to herself. I have no problem with that - all of us talk to ourselves, in one way or another, and most, at least occasionally, do it out loud. Also, S often appears to be happier after talking to herself so that's very good.

The talking to others is different. It happens a good deal in quiet whispers when we're in bed and I, at least, am trying to get to sleep. I can't hear much more than the odd word but what particularly strikes me is that the talking seems to be much more coherent than many of the conversation that she has with me and other 'real' people these days. The Professor, after checking that these were conversations - 'Does she talk and then pause, then talk again?' (answer, she does, which distinguishes it from talking to herself) - described this to me, and S, as 'a trick of the imagination'. I found this helpful and I think she did, though she's probably not concerned about it anyway. I have already spoken to her about 'tricks of the brain' when she insists, for example, that a stranger in a restaurant abroad is an old friend, and keeps smiling at them. All of us have brains and imaginations that sometimes play tricks on us, particularly at certain times or in certain moods. It's just that people with a condition like S's experience this more often and find it harder to distinguish it from 'reality'.

The Professor explained that some doctors want to suppress these conversations and that anti-psychotic drugs can do this but he, and others, do not agree with this approach as there's no harm in it - in fact, as in S's case, it seems mostly helpful and often sounds as though it might be a device for trying to work things out. I agree wholeheartedly with the Professor's approach, though I am sometimes tempted to tell S to shut up and let me get some sleep!

It also occurred to me that if a child has imaginary friends and carries on conversations with them it is usually regarded as harmless, even charming. There's an understanding that it's something they'll grow out of, but this perhaps clarifies why it is disturbing in an adult - they won't grow out of it and you wonder what will come next.

Anyway, it's just one of the things I'm learning to live with.

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