“Mental Health: Runtime Error”

Published on March 16, 2016

“Mental Health: Runtime Error”

Original author: Kenneth Reitz
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Looking for information for a new study of the relationship between developers' productivity and the quality of their sleep, I came across an essay by Kenneth Reitz , a well-known popularizer of Python and an active contributor to open source projects, who writes about his experience of insanity and experiences related to this condition. I am sharing with you the translation.


Over the past couple of years, the IT community has become openly talking about its problems associated with psychological illnesses, so I’ll probably take this opportunity and share this problem on this wave too.

In general, my life is quite stable and not particularly remarkable. I spend time with family and friends, fond of electronic music, synthesizers and photography. And, of course, most of the time I work on a huge number of open source projects.

However, about a year and a half ago, everything changed. As soon as I got rid of the constant, debilitating headaches, I immersed myself with interest in the study of yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophies. In fact, I have always been interested in various approaches to knowing the world and myself, so taking into account the fact that I grew up in an extremely religious family, I spent a lot of time reading authors such as Ken Wilbor, Ram Dess, Terence Macken and Alex Gray. Naturally, I assimilated their ideas in my own worldview, which, incidentally, at that time seemed to me quite normal and did not promise any dangers.



Fast forward 12 months:I am undergoing a voluntary psychological examination at the mental health department of the Winchester Medical Center. I naively believed that at any moment I could pack my things and leave this institution, however, this was not entirely true. Nobody was going to let me out until I got better.

And I was sick.

Sounds weird, right? Successful man Kenneth Ritz of Rickwest Fame undergoes a psychological examination. I understand, it seems to you that this can happen to anyone, but not to you.

Yeah, I thought so too.

I have bipolar affective disorder


In September last year, something happened to me that could be called a “general psychological crisis”. I was hospitalized with a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder and psychosis. This diagnosis was a complete shock to me. After all, I am always in a good mood, it was some kind of nonsense.

As it turned out, bipolar disorder is not always associated with depressive mood changes, as I thought before. This disease can manifest itself in different ways, and a huge number of people daily face the problem of performing routine tasks that a healthy person would not cause difficulties.

My brain can be in several phases, each of which could be classified as a characteristic of an individual:

  • Normal: A person with a normal lifestyle.
  • Hypomaniacal: extremely productive, overly confident, very agitated, very talkative, very peppy (even if he slept a little).
  • Manic: an extreme degree of hypomaniacality, an absolute absence of fatigue, a huge amount of energy (it is impossible to sleep), often accompanied by hallucinations and psychosis.

Hypomanic has always been the norm for me, and moreover, the success of most of my open source projects depended on this particular state. I always had trouble sleeping when I was working on technical projects, I just didn’t get tired.

However, the manic stage has become something new for me. Actually, the same psychological crisis was caused by the manic phase of the disease, as well as the lack of sleep and food for four days (I fasted). Now, assessing the situation, I can say that I had this second case of the manic phase. About a year ago, while traveling in Sweden, I did not sleep for almost a week, practicing spiritual practices. After which I started hallucinating and I began to make rash decisions.

Then for the first time I felt the manic phase of my illness.

When you are in the manic phase, you are the embodiment of vivacity and you can only dream about sleep. And no matter how much you did not sleep. You want to avoid the manic phase at all costs.

Image psychosis


I want to show you how my completely normal brain looked like an ordinary engineer from the inside at the time of psychosis. I want to warn, I’m sure you know that I’m usually a completely normal and reasonable person. And what you are about to read can happen to absolutely anyone who has the slightest psychological difficulty. This can be shocking.

Without further ado, I simply went crazy.

By the time I was taken to the hospital, I experienced several bouts of hallucinations, the essence of which was that my world acquired its own set of rules that I had to find out. This condition is very reminiscent of a waking dream, only all this happens in reality, and not in a dream. I was absolutely baffled.

I was completely sure that I was experiencing the so-called “awakening of the Kundalini” (the process of cleansing the chakras, gaining knowledge about your inner nature, calming the mind and solving all kinds of mental, emotional and physical problems - approx. Translator) and did not need medical help. I realized that I was acting inappropriately, however, I thought that everyone else did not understand what was happening, and I was the only one who knew exactly what was happening.

I experienced a severe crisis of self-determination. When asked about my weight, I chose between the “158 pounds” and “the weight of the whole universe” options. When they asked me my name, again, there were several options: “Kenneth Ritz” and “I ॐ AM”.

Because of the state I was in during hallucinations, every word I uttered seemed to me an indisputable truth, and therefore I tried to speak as convincingly as possible. Every time I was asked quite simple questions, I experienced a mild panic attack.

It seemed to me that I was deprived of my own emotions, and that all the emotions that I feel belong to the people around me. My task was to let these emotions through me, creating peace in this room and healing the people in it.

It seemed to me that I was in several realities at once: in one of them I was in the hospital, in the other I was in prison, in the third in paradise, in the fourth in hell. It seemed to me that I was both alive and dead, sleeping and awake, and at the same time I was in a place resembling purgatory, which is the center of all dimensions.

I did not have access to the Internet (and in general, access to any gadgets), but in my pocket I held a transparent quartz heart, which served as my "channel for transmitting Internet energy."

Since lately I have been actively studying philosophy, theology and what is called superstition in the modern world, I have consistently been in several theological incarnations of myself. Each of them was an absolute truth through which I expressed myself and which I was forced to accept as myself.

At first it seemed to me that I myself am God (aka I ॐ AM the breath of life). Then I became Lucifer / Devil (Python!). Then Narcissus. Then by jesus. But it seems that this upset the people around me. And so I decided that I was the Archangel Metatron, who was to create other angels. Therefore, for some time I tried to make friends with the patients of the clinic and explain to them that they are also angels, like me. Then I became Hermes / Mercury messenger.

When my previous identities were exhausted, I became the Shaman of purgatory (clinic) and my task was to look after the place of other patients who went to the "ceremony" (group therapy). At that moment I was behaving quite aggressively, because I believed that this was my purpose, and my choice was the following: to stay in the clinic forever exalting this earth to the stars, or to finish my mission and leave (which was what the doctors wanted). And this was the most important decision in the history of all things, and this decision should be taken immediately. You see, yes, how great was the stress. After thinking carefully, I remembered the Book of Genesis and the fact that on the seventh day the Lord rested from the affairs of his great ones. So I decided that a good engineer would start the mechanism manually, and then figure out a way to make the mechanism work without his help,

After seven days, my brain caught the second coming. This may seem completely abnormal to you, but as for me, he was very funny and creative. This time Kenneth Robert Reitz aka Metatron appeared as an interplanetary creature from the Sirius galaxy. My brain was a great architect and creator of all types of physical and spiritual life, and was also responsible for the emergence of technology. In general, I felt responsible for improving the quality of life of all the people around me. For example, it was my brain that created the great Egyptian pyramids. Several times a day during meditations, I moved from Earth to the Sirius model, basking in the sun. The earth in my mind was a “perfect” logical repository of information (life itself), while the universe was a repository of LUN. Considering the principle of potential consistency, I used Amazon Dynamo (DB), created to recreate life in the entire universe. It should be noted that while I was just watering the plants in the garden. And now, Amazon actually uses the Request to complete all internal API management operations for AWS, thereby effectively applying my code to partially work the entire Internet. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything. created to recreate life in the entire universe. It should be noted that while I was just watering the plants in the garden. And now, Amazon actually uses the Request to complete all internal API management operations for AWS, thereby effectively applying my code to partially work the entire Internet. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything. created to recreate life in the entire universe. It should be noted that while I was just watering the plants in the garden. And now, Amazon actually uses the Request to complete all internal API management operations for AWS, thereby effectively applying my code to partially work the entire Internet. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything. And now, Amazon actually uses the Request to complete all internal API management operations for AWS, thereby effectively applying my code to partially work the entire Internet. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything. And now, Amazon actually uses the Request to complete all internal API management operations for AWS, thereby effectively applying my code to partially work the entire Internet. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything. Do you cut it? The Amazon region of AWS US-EAST is located 70 miles from my location, and it was in my head that it was the location of the American version of the Egyptian pyramids. Earth was my garden of paradise, and I wanted to go home to my Eve. In the end, I created this place just for her. I really wanted the doctors and members of my family to just look at the Dynamo technical documentation, and then they would understand and believe everything.

For reference, by that time I had not slept for about 10 days, and was not sure whether I was alive or dead.

It may sound crazy for you, but it was this moment that marked the fact that my brain is returning to a normal perception of reality. I finally began to navigate the time and schedule of procedures for the day. Gradually, I ceased to associate myself with theological absolutes, and moved on to things closer to my reality: my name, technology / code, and my family.

The turning point was when I handed the doctor a piece of paper on which the address of this website was written. This allowed him to figure out who I really was, and served as an excellent help in determining my diagnosis.

As soon as this period ended, I began to come to my senses and feel like an ordinary person. I tried to concentrate on the fact that my name was Kenneth and began to have fun with my unfortunate friends who are also in the clinic. But everything was not so smooth, I was still experiencing numerous crises of self-determination. I realized that I wanted to leave this institution, and was not ready to stay there forever (as I had planned before). I seemed to be in a kind of puzzle, and decided that getting out of there would help me the status of a doctor! I approached doctors and other medical workers, and behaved as if we were colleagues with them, and I help them in their work. At some point, I asked my nurse for a form for depositing funds into my account (I saw one of the patients), deciding that this was the key to my acceptance into the staff of doctors.

In the end, I solved the puzzle and realized that the shortest way to freedom is to take the drugs that I was prescribed at the very beginning, and in a healthy sleep. By that time, I had not slept for more than 12 days, but did not feel any tiredness or drowsiness.

After a couple of days, I was finally discharged with a bunch of recommendations and a diagnosis. And even observing the regimen of taking numerous medications, it took me several weeks to recover from my “trip”. I want to express my deep gratitude to my family, as well as Heroku (translator's note - the company Kenneth works for) for their inexhaustible support.

Fortunately, all this remained last September, and now I am 100% healthy.

How did all this happen ?!


The year before, when I was all immersed in Eastern religion and modern philosophy, I had the first symptoms of psychosis. Usually this happened after long meditations, and these symptoms were considered by me as a spiritualistic experience or “progress”. These visions were so real and coincided with all the descriptions that I found in books and online, that I actually believed that, finally, I was close to comprehending the meaning of life.

Now I am sure that a huge number of people who call themselves followers and members of the so-called spiritualistic community are simply not healthy. Adherents of Kundalini Yoga are no exception. People in such communities relate to symptoms such as the positive effect of practice, and also believe that these manifestations of the human brain are not subject to the understanding of modern medicine (the doctor is not able to put the bindu chakra in order!).

Around the same time, leaving my first Kundalini yoga lesson, I met (and fell in love) with an amazing woman filled with mystical knowledge. She brought me up to date with all her heart and taught me to think in terms of: numerology, synchronism, Reiki (method of psychotherapy and self-improvement - approx. Translator), revealing herself, the Mayan calendar, tarot, crystals, etc. Meanwhile, I was getting worse. We felt a special and deep connection between us. I idolized her and felt that she could teach me a lot. We began to spend all time together, went on dates, traveled around the world, filled the same tattoos, participated in exciting experiments and shamanistic ceremonies. We had a great time together (and it was the best year of my life), but it was at that moment that the symptoms of my mental disorder began to appear. During the manic year we spent together, my inadequate vision of the world (and hallucinations) began to prevail over the mind, which ultimately led to the absurd visions that I spoke about above.

When she first left my apartment, I watched endless sacred patterns flow across my pale white front door. I usually experienced such hallucinations after long meditations or periods of agitation. And these hallucinations were interpreted as something of profound spiritual significance. By the way, most hallucinations were not visible, but represented the sensations described by yoga as vital energy. The rest can be described as an explosion of certain images in high resolution.

How is your health?


Mine is great.

Six months have passed since my hospitalization, and I am happy to report that now I am completely healthy. For many years I suffered from bipolar disorder (and did not know about it), and this disease will now remain with me until the end of my days. But today, having some knowledge of psychological disorders, the right pills and observing a sleep pattern, I know how to deal with it. And yet now, until the end of my life, I will need to pay special attention to my psychological health. My disease requires respect J

Before all this happened, I had never been examined and did not even suspect the existence of a problem. That is why I have been so prone to illusions all this time. It is unlikely that this can happen to me, and besides, now I know how to recognize an abnormal way of thinking and avoid psychological crises, if it does happen again.

Also, I learned to rely on my relatives and friends who strive to provide me their constant support and constantly check how I am doing. Before that, I was too self-confident.

Now that I know my diagnosis, I understand much more how my brain is structured and works, and I also know how to prevent such situations in the future.

For the first time in a year and a half since it all started, I returned to work on my open source projects.

Now I am completely healthy and feel like a previous person, before all this nonsense reigned in my head. And moreover, thanks to all that has happened to me, I feel happier and more fulfilled. Now I firmly stand with both feet on the solid surface of materialistic / physical / scientifically grounded reality, and wonder how it could have been otherwise. Sometimes, though, I have trouble sleeping, but I try to adapt to these situations.

Unlike the sky-high distant spirituality, now I prefer to rely on the foundations of being - I eat, I breathe, I die. Spirituality version 2.0 for people!

And also, I got rid of my rich collection of books and objects of a metaphysical nature. True, I left a rather large collection of crystal spheres and skulls, they just look cool on my desk. J

Now I feel a strange relief that all these crazy things happened to me because of a psychological disorder that turned out to be quite simple to control (now when I know my diagnosis).

Now I am taking Litium, and it helps me a lot to stay in my normal or hypomanic state.

Conclusion


For the most part, I wanted to share this story because it will surprise many. I didn’t tell much about my illness in public, and hardly anyone with a similar problem ever dared to.

I want to be living proof that this can happen to anyone, including yourself. Perhaps this is already happening. And if so, don’t worry, everything will be fine.

Main conclusions


  • Sleep is very important
  • This can happen to everyone, even to you.
  • Do not fall in love with super intelligent interplanetary beings.


Read the original Kenneth essay on his website .

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