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Inside the beautiful mind of a schizophrenic psychologist




Schizophrenia gripped the mind of Frederick Frese in the usual fashion, with an abrupt psychotic break in his early twenties that felt like terrifying insight.

Now a prominent clinical psychologist and mental health advocate, who is still afflicted by his field's most mysterious delusional pathology, Dr. Frese was then a U.S. Marine captain with an advanced math and science education, fluent in Japanese, and assigned to guard nuclear weapons at the Jacksonville, Fla., naval base.

He was also preoccupied with U.S. military failures in Korea, and China's successes, and he came to believe that the only explanation was long-distance Chinese brainwashing of U.S. officials.

Fatefully, he took his concerns to the one person he figured would know most about brainwashing, the base psychologist, who was only too keen to smile and listen, flanked by large men in white coats.

"I'm psychotic, remember, so it doesn't matter that it doesn't make sense, but to me it made beautiful sense," Dr. Frese said in an interview this week in Toronto, in advance of a lecture hosted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.

The Chinese "had to have something, and the only thing I could crystallize on was hypnosis," he said.

He recalled the terror at his immediate incarceration, and his belief that the nurses were assassins. He demanded a priest give him the last rites, and surprisingly one did indulge him, going so far as to leave him material about how he could join the priesthood.

Even when he accidentally saw his own chart, with the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, he thought this was a ploy by the government to protect him from the Chinese, and so he should pretend to be insane to keep the ruse going.

In a way, everything made sense.

Two years later, discharged from the military and living in Ohio, he had another in a series of relapses that would see him institutionalized by the state as "insane," but also set the stage for his unique story of redemption, in which schizophrenia was merely an obstacle to a successful life, a disability, but not the mental death sentence it can often seem.

Twelve years later, he had completed his doctorate in psychophysiology, and was appointed director of psychology at Ohio's largest mental hospital. The inmate was literally running the asylum.

That improbable process began with a crisis in a church, as the disoriented and floridly psychotic young man -- then unemployed with uncertain housing, such as many schizophrenics -- walked up the aisle to stand beside the priest, his head awash in terrifying superstitions about the numbers 13, 3 and 4. Someone called police as he fell to the floor by the altar.

"I was like a snake writhing around on the floor. Then I was like an amoeba, then an atom," Dr. Frese said.

"I had to be the hydrogen atom [the smallest and most basic], but isotope three, tritium, the kind used in the hydrogen bomb, the kind that would be 'split', which in Greek is 'schizo', the linguistic root of the disease. I had become the instrument to usher in the holocaust."

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Active member
Nov 21, 2009
Vey Inspiring :)

Strange as it may seem, dance is an important part of how he manages his symptoms, often retreating to his basement to play ABBA records and dance until he sets himself back on the path to normal.

Mind you, if i did this, it would probably set me on the path to madness, I'm not the biggest Abba fan :D

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