Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Pop - LLI 'Head-rushes,' Nightmares and Hallucinations

When I met Blip he hadn’t yet instigated a lot of the coping mechanisms which he now uses, they were something which we worked on together and as such he was a messed up bundle of stress. This post will deal with the negative side of his condition, the side which we have almost completely prevented from occurring. 

It is often said that people with LLI border the line between creative genius and insanity, increased intelligence pushes the person towards the genius side of the line but even in cases of high levels of intellect stress can start to act as a sort of drag factor. When I met Blip issues in his family life had led to incredibly high stress levels, the kind which would push anybody overboard. The problem is that people who don’t have LLI seem much more capable of letting this go in whatever irrational way the person is more inclined to use. Screaming, shouting, punching cushions. When you take this kind of behaviour down to its base level it is completely illogical and forms no rational purpose but it manages to get rid of any built up stress. For Blip, the lack of logic behind this led to no effective stress relief and it began to build up. He was smart enough to do the physical things which lessen it slightly but mental stress can’t necessarily be fixed by sex, alcohol and cigarettes.

So his mind started to go into overdrive. We don’t know whether this is common to all people with LLI but it certainly seems to be a product of it with Blip, when there is too much information his mind gets faster and faster until it reboots. This ‘rebooting’ procedure is what we refer to as a head rush. During a head rush Blip experiences horrific hallucinations which range from shadows in the distance to believing he’s being dragged backwards by a malevolent force with bright orange eyes. He starts to shake and scream and in the worst of these cases attacks his own head as if trying to remove his brain. It’s hard enough to watch, I can’t imagine how horrific it must be for him to experience.

Before we realised that these head rushes were stress linked we always followed the same procedure. The moment Blip starts to have a head rush he is forced under a duvet and all noise is removed from the room except for me telling him that everything’s okay. That’s more for my benefit than his but he assures me that it’s comforting to at least know I’m nearby. This process removes all sensory information and allows Blip’s mind to recover slowly once the head rush is over. As soon as he recovers he says out loud everything that he’s seen in as much detail as possible which helps his mind to classify all this information, deal with it and move on from it.

Eventually, after a particularly bad head rush, we realised that it was directly linked to overstimulation of his mind. This could be by stress or by me cutting him off too many times in a situation so we worked on identifying every trigger of increased information. It has now been at least a year since he had a full blown episode, partly because both of us have become so atuned to the behaviour which indicates the potential onset. Talking quickly, staring in a bewildered manner at something without a proper explanation, frustration, migraines or not understanding things are always a red flag of sorts which show us that we need to be a little more sensitive towards his mind.
On a similar vein to these head rushes were nightmares. Blip has described a lot of his nightmares to me and the majority of them are worse than any horror film. Specifically he had a large amount of recurring nightmares which refused to resolve until the stresses of his life started to reduce long after he met me. It is our theory that these are the same as the head rushes, they reflect the amount of information that his mind is trying to fix.

But then the question has always remained, why make them scary. His mind could do anything, possibly even cut out entirely and make him faint, but instead chooses to try and frighten him. If anything this should make him more stressed. But from what we’ve observed of his behaviour, the overwhelming nature of these episodes acts like the flare of a match. When there’s excess gas it just burns it off in exactly the same way that Blip’s mind flares up. When the flare has ended, the excess has gone. The stress may still be there, or even be increased, but the information that was building up because of it has been dealt with. It’s a preventative measure.

The fear may therefore be an attempt at an indicator, a marker that suggests he may need to sort out the source of stress in his life. Fear is a very potent stimulator where the body is concerned, the fight or flight response is the easiest evidence of this. When something happens that is potentially dangerous our body has to very quickly decide whether the risks are such that it confronts the stimulus or it avoids it. For a person who has rationalised and removed emotions such as Blip, the only thing which would get a message through is this most basic of human instincts, forcing the body to pump adrenaline and escape the stimulus which in this case is a sensory overload. I suppose it could also be using the adrenaline in some way to speed up the process of dealing with information in his head.

As I said previously in the post, we are unsure as to whether this is just Blip’s experience or whether other people with LLI have suffered head rushes and debilitating nightmares. Either way it’s definitely miles away from the whimsical way it’s treated in circles which suggest that reducing your latent inhibition is a great way to improve your life. 

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