Legion or to the nature of delusions in schizophrenia

Delusions and hallucinations are probably the best-known symptoms of schizophrenia. They are dramatic and are therefore the behaviors usually focused on when schizophrenia is being represented in popular literature or movies.

There are many people with schizophrenia who have a combination of other symptoms, such as a thought disorder, disturbances of affect, and disturbances of behavior, who have never had delusions or hallucinations.

Delusions are simply false ideas believed by the patient but not by other people in his/her culture and which cannot be corrected by reason. They are usually based on some kind of sensory experience that the person misinterprets. This may be as simple as brief static on the radio or a flicker of the television screen that the person interprets as a signal. Family members often wonder where the delusional ideas in the affected person came from.

I started watching “Legion” and I stuck with it with the interesting premise – what if a superhero was mis-diagnosed as schizophrenic? What if other mutants were actually mentally disturbed people who think they could jump through memories, really don’t want to be touched or exhibit strong attachment to their missing spouses?

Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?

The look and feel of the show is 60s futuristic and when they’ve introduced loads of hexagons and neon lights in season 2 and the “amplification chamber” which reminded me of Professor X’s Cerebrum, I was in awe.

“We did a lot of research on isolation chambers, but I’ve been banned from looking at any X-Men or Legion comic books. I’m not allowed, and also I think it’s really unfair to the people who made these comic books and came up with this character to go in there and go for their intellectual property,” Wylie said.

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The discussion of mental illness on Legion has, like all things in the Kubrick-infused tale, been somewhat ambiguous as to who has what and what aspects of the illnesses are real or purely metaphorical.

Maybe this place, this hospital, maybe it’s a version of reality, and not reality itself.

But on the whole, as the show has progressed, it’s made a number of vivid statements about ailments of the mind.

What if you’re not the hero? What if you’re just another villain?

Perhaps the best summary of what Legion says about that topic comes in the finale during a bit of dialogue between Dan Stevens’s reluctant Chosen One, the unstable psychic David, and Rachel Keller’s untouchable Syd. “That’s the trick, the mind-killer,” he tells her, “your disease convinces you you don’t have it.” He’s describing his own struggle with his schizophrenia diagnosis, something he’d lived with for years before the show begins and led him to a dismal hospitalization in which he was “drugged, doing nothing, contributing nothing.” One day, miraculously, Syd and her mutant-renegade cohort recruit him and, as he puts it, “they tell you you’re not sick; you have superpowers. And more than anything, you wanna believe it, because that means you’re not crazy.

Melanie: David, your whole life people told you that were sick. What if I told you that’s a lie? What if I told you, every memory you have of mental illness: voices, hallucinations, was just your power? And what if I could do more than just tell you? What if I could show you? Help you re-write the story of your life?

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Crystal Ball

As he tells Syd, he has come to understand that faith in the idea that you’re not ill is both refreshing and potentially life-ending. It “means you can fall in love and live happily ever after; but you know if you believe it, if you surrender to the hope and you’re wrong, then you’re never coming back.” He doesn’t spell it out (the show never does with anything), but you can read “never coming back” as meaning the death or irretrievable madness that comes when a serious mental illness isn’t taken seriously in time.

When David is taking a therapy session, he is talking about what sounds a lot like bipolar disorder(like in Spinning Out – Or the story of a bi-polar skater ). He’s recovered from a period of bleak depression and is finding a certain degree of peace and optimism; however, when his doctor asks him if he’s afraid he might lose that new hope, he wisely points out that losing it isn’t the problem — the high’s very existence might be dangerous.

“I think about the mirage, how this feeling of clarity, how maybe that’s just a symptom of the other side of the disease kicking in.” “You’re talking about mania,” the doctor replies; David says yes.

Here’s where the scene gets more viscerally honest — and, one suspects, personal — than TV usually is in its confrontations with mental health. “People always talk about the depression side,” David says. “But it’s the other side, that invulnerable feeling, that’s dangerous.”

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As anyone with a bipolar variation can tell you, that statement is right on the money — and quite smart in its subtle subversion of the superhero fantasy. The genre is largely about the fantasy of powerless people finding power, and there is a special despair in the powerlessness of the mentally ill individual, especially someone in the depths of a brutal depression.

While plumbing those depths, it can be useful to imagine yourself overcoming incredible odds and taking control of your life, as well as discovering that your perceived weaknesses can actually be strengths; your idiosyncrasies actually unique assets. But you can go too far down that path as well. It’s good to feel hope; it’s not so good to prevent yourself from acting on that hope by giving up on necessary and healthy treatment. It’s good to remind yourself that illness isn’t craziness; it’s dangerous to think you don’t have any illness at all. Legion gets that paradigm.

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There are always other mutants out there who struggle just as much as you do to be accepted and healthy. “I am so sick of myself, This only works if it’s not about me.”