“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just a bit different...

I'm spending my week in a mental health training class - mixture of cops, fire/ems, medical people etc., so it's a variety of viewpoints and experiences. One of those mandatory things, but so far it's not too bad.

Anyway, today one of the exercises was actually interesting; in that they provided a stress input to all of us to simulate some of what a person might be experiencing during a psychotic episode with auditory hallucinations. We then were put into a variety of situations and asked to perform "normal" tasks as we dealt with this - with varying levels of distraction and effectiveness among the class participants, as would be expected.

So - apparently my performance was a bit abnormal... apparently I displayed almost no significant stress change from all of this as I went through the various tests, which had some of the ones who knew me laughing & those who didn't a bit perplexed. Up until it was explained to them what my particular specialty and background was. As I explained to them - no explosives, no one shooting at me? A few extra voices out there isn't exactly stressful all on their own.

But I do know I got a few strange looks from some of the mental health professionals. Like that's anything knew - we all know bomb guys aren't wired right in the first place!


Chaplain Tim said...

Back in the early '80a I spent a year helping train military EOD. Yeah, once the concept of blowing away on the wind as a fine red mist sinks in, minor problems become even more minor. Little bits of insanity leaking out was normal.

Melissa said...

Heh. That is awesome. IMHO mental illnesses are normal human traits with the volume turned up to 11. Any of the illnesses (except perhaps depression) turned down to 5 has some positive traits. Narcissism turned down to 5 is really solid self-confidence. OCD turned down to 5 is a stickler for details and procedures. Even schizophrenia, which is notoriously chemical in origin, appears to be tied to creativity.

Interestingly enough, I've read that one of the markers of psychopathy is an abnormal stress response - their heart rate goes down under pressure, not up. They're visibly unruffled by stuff that would make most people crap their pants. That trait is also common among test pilots, astronauts, and yes, bomb techs. There's a book titled "The Wisdom of Psychopaths" that discusses it in a fair amount of detail. The book does make it very clear that this is only one element of psychopathy, and appears independently of the lack of moral scruples that defines the condition!

All that to say, it's incredibly useful to society to have people who are a little bit crazy. We need people who can do this shit.

Phelps said...

It's a combination of genetics and training. You've become accustomed to stress, and likely have a genetic predisposition to it. (I'm the same way, only my stressor situation is multi-million dollar civil trials. Sometimes I think that blowing up would be preferable to losing a case that puts the client company under and puts thousands of people out of work.)

The training causes your body to produce a lot of specific hormones in high levels, particularly neopeptide-y, commonly referred to as "mental kevlar." It makes your stress response further to the eustress side (good stress, being on the edge) and less to distress (bad stress.)

Like any other body change, more training builds it even higher. The special forces training that involve endurance all build massive levels of neopeptide Y, to the point that one researcher says he can detect who is and isn't in special forces with a blood test, and he's been right more often than not.

One of the best examples I know is one of those Discovery Channel specials where they were testing "superhuman" traits, and they brought a Seal in. First, they had him run a course (couple of obstacles, ID the bad guy, engage him with a pistol) and timed it. Then they decided to induce hypothermia -- and were unsuccessful. He said after half an hour in a bath half full with ice, "I don't have sand in my crack, so this isn't that bad."

When he ran the course again after that, he shaved half a second off his time. Turns out, to get a Seal really on his game and into that eustress zone, you had to drop him in a sub-zero chamber that would kill most of us for a half an hour. For some people, it really is true that you don't get to see what they can REALLY do until you start hucking hand grenades at them.

Phelps said...

Neopeptide Y is also linked to preventing or shortening the recovery from PTSD. PTSD comes from having a traumatic event occur during a period of chronic stress, and it both lowers the effective chronic stress level and makes the traumatic event less severe. I think that within the next decade, neopeptide Y injections will be standard treatment both for combat troops and for anyone who experiences a traumatic event (rape, other violent attacks, etc.)

Captain Tightpants said...

Melissa - that's not the first time that has come up actually, a number of research studies have shown that people in special operations, EOD, and the like do tend to be borderline on a few psych issues - more so AFTER training than before.

Phelps - interesting input on the Neopeptide Y. And I have a bit of a write up and link on PTSD kind of percolating as a matter of fact.