Posts Tagged ‘places’

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a couple of weeks now, but one of my periodic cycling depressions has struck, and in this mood it’s hard to find the words for what I want to say. So I’ll jump straight to the first point, and refer you to Emily Orr’s blog entry, in which she reacted to my previous post and the Virtual Hallucinations Project.

I found it a particularly interesting post, because unlike me Emily has experience hallucinations, and unlike me she didn’t find the Virtual Hallucinations Project disturbing, because as she says, compared to the real thing, “This was mild. This was a cakewalk compared to walking around a lockdown ward. This was…nothing.”

I still think the project is extremely valuable for giving people a glimpse into hallucinations and particularly schizophrenia, but found reading Emily’s perspective eye opening.

She also writes about her visit to the Survivors of Suicide project. The immersive part of the project begins with a warning: This part of the Survivors of Suicide may be disturbing.

Emily writes: “In this case? They’re not kidding.”

Oddly, or maybe not, I didn’t find the Survivors of Suicide Project disturbing – moving, important, saddening, but not disturbing. I suspect this is for reasons similar to why Emily wasn’t disturbed by the virtual hallucinations project – feeling suicidal is something I’ve lived with for more than half my life. Not constantly, but constantly enough during my teenage years and often enough during my adult life that, I suppose, it just can’t shock me.

The Survivors of Suicide Project is divided into two parts – a pleasant room, with candles you can light for anyone you’ve lost to suicide (I lit two), and notecards with information about healing, grief, recovery, treatment, and signs that someone might be suicidal. It also presents you with a darker version of the same room, filled with grave stones and dark images of death, and a bath of blood. Most of the items can be clicked to deliver information and statistics about suicide, such as “A person dies by suicide about every 16 minutes in the United States. An attempt is estimated to be made once every minute.”

I think it’s an immensely valuable educational project. Suicide is still a taboo topic; many people fear that talking about suicide with a potentially suicidal person will make them more likely to do it, when in fact, as the project tells us, “If you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving the individual the opportunity to express his or her feelings may prevent a suicide attempt. The person may even be relieved that you brought up the issue.”

The only thing I felt the project didn’t achieve was any taste of the experience of feeling suicidally depressed, and really I’m not sure how anything possibly could. If you’re not in that state of mind, it’s almost impossible to even accurately remember how horrific it is – why would you want to, anyway? It’s a place of empty, pitch black hopelessness, falling through an endless tunnel of horror where you’ve lost the will even to try to grab at the illusion of a ledge. All you can think about is the desire for it to end – to hit the bottom and die, so finally it will all be over. The main thing that’s kept me alive is that when I’m in that state, I can barely move, let alone gather the energy to carry through any kind of suicide plan that carries the slightest chance of success.

If you are feeling depressed, Second Life has a Support for Healing island that offers group support discussion sessions in an attractive environment. The depression support chat is at 4 pm slt, which is too late for people in Europe unless they’re a serious night owl (or too miserable to sleep), but there are also anxiety support meanings timed for people in the UK.

Support for Healing island

I’ve occasionally seen news reports on whether “too much” internet use can make people more depressed (a stupid question, as “too much” inherently means “to a degree that’s bad for you”, duh). There seems to be an assumption in many of these that if all the miserable depressed internet users would only get off their computers and do something in real life, we’d transform into shiny happy people. At the end of the piece a line may be thrown in pointing out that some people actually get useful support from the internet.

I’m definitely one of those people. The first meaningful support for depression I had was on usenet, when I first got online in the 90s. Until then I didn’t realize it was something I could even talk to a doctor about. But with things like Second Life, I think the usefulness extends beyond support groups, because it provides an environment for interaction with others than I can manage far better than I can cope with real life. It might be “good for me” to leave my computer screen more often, but it’s also immensely difficult and exhausting for me to deal with the real world, much of the time. No, hanging out with friends in their homes on SL isn’t really as good as hanging out with them in real life, but since my friends live around the world and even the ones in my country are far enough away that I don’t see most of them very often, SL is fricking awesome.

What’s more, there are certain things that tend to make most people feel a bit better about themselves – namely, a sense of community, and feeling you can contribute and do something useful. It can be tough to find these in real life if you’re socially isolated (whether it be by temperament, illness, or geography), and especially if you can’t function in the work environments available to you. If you can’t work at all and have to live on disability benefits you have the added joy of being made to feel like a social pariah, even when you do voluntary work.

On Second Life, I very much feel part of a community. My friend Ayesha Lytton runs the land of Solace Beach, which includes a newbie orientation area, an underwater treasure hunt that I helped build, shopping, an amusement park with a drive in movie theatre, and regular live music and DJ events, as well as having over 60 sims of rental land. Sometimes I potter around helping out newbies; sometimes I make clothes and accessories to put in the treasure hunt or sell; sometimes I host at events, or just help out in whatever random ways are useful at the time. Hosting is something I’d loathe and be terrible at in real life, but on Second Life it’s ideal. Two hours work a week pays my SL rent, my managers are my friends, and we have a friendly crowd of regulars who let us know they really enjoy themselves with us.

It’s also a world that’s full of creativity, with magical places to explore. The work and the love that people put into their Second Life creations is inspiring and uplifting, as is the work people do on educational projects and support islands. This stands in stark contrast to how I tend to feel when I venture out into the real world for too long at a time!

Read Full Post »

When I first visited the Virtual Hallucinations Project on Sedig, after reading the New World Notes blog entry about it, I didn’t think I was likely to find it nearly as disturbing as the article described. I’ve read numerous books about schizophrenia, have friends who suffer from it, had conversations with people who were convinced the birds were spying on them or people were hypnotizing them into making their leg hurt, or their girlfriend was actually someone else who’d had a face transplant… An educational tool on Second Life to give people an insight into the experience of schizophrenia sounded like an extremely important and worthwhile idea, but I was skeptical that it would get to me in the way it obviously got to some other people. After all, it was only a couple of minutes long.

the virtual hallucinations project

The project was created by a doctor in California as a training tool. You put on a button which loads the sounds, and put on headphones so the noises are right there in your ear, as if they’re inside your head. Then you enter a small building that replicates areas of a psychiatric hospital… and the voices and visual changes start.

The voices and graphics recreate experiences related by specific psychiatric patients – a man who saw himself dead in the mirror each morning, another who heard voices telling him to take a police officer’s gun and kill himself – as well as common themes, like a television broadcast which talks directly to you.

Simply knowing about these things does not prepare you for the experience of hearing the voices as if they’re there in your head, repeatedly telling you how worthless you are. After a couple of minutes I emerged the other end, and burst into tears. I TPed a friend over and told her to go through – she came out the other end with exactly the same reaction. The idea of living with this every day, every minute, with no off button, no escape, is simply horrifying.

I wish everyone who works in the field of mental health would be taken through the Virtual Hallucinations project – in my experience, it’s shocking how many of them lack any empathy for their patients (or service users, as people in the system are now called). And given the terrible amount of stigma that still surrounds mental illness, particularly of the more severe kinds, I think it’s somewhere many people ought to visit.

The Project warns that it is not a good idea to go through it if you’ve experienced psychosis, however, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s currently very depressed or battling intrusive negative thoughts of any kind. It really is horrendously disturbing. But it’s also a tremendously important educational project, so if you’re not mentally unwell yourself, and have the slightest interest in developing your knowledge or compassion towards others, go there now.

TP: Virtual Hallucinations Project.

the television is talking to you

Read Full Post »

Like the rest of Second Life, I’ve been exploring winter sims – and of course, taking pictures.

Here are a few favourites:

WINTER DAY on Embryo
Winter Day

WINTER TOWN, Sacramentum
Winter Town

Sevy's Winter Retreat


Go to the images in my Winter Album on Snapzilla to see them larger and get TPs!

Read Full Post »

Today I’ve been ice skating in Kensington, and explored a bit of virtual London – of course, taking some snaps along the way.

ice skating

I feel particularly proud of the couple of shots below…

Kensington Church:
church interior
(see larger)

Hyde Park:
Hyde Park
(see larger)

See my Snapzilla profile for some more shots from virtual London, and thanks to Ed Clarity for recommending the area.

Want to visit? There are TP links on the Snapzilla pages, and here’s a TP to Mayfair and Hyde Park.

Read Full Post »

Hearing Tuna Oddfellow’s Odd Balls described as getting people high over the internet”, I knew it was something I had to check out, so that’s how I’ve spent the evening, until SL crashed on me and refused to let me log back in (grrrr).

An Odd Ball is indeed a psychedelic experience, an audio visual trip that pulls you in and slips up on your brain with a dose of SLSD. If that sounds like it could be fun, you need to check Oddfellow Studios out.

My pictures really don’t do the event justice, as I can’t run my graphics up high when there’s lots of people around. The old graphics card just isn’t up to it. But still, here is a taste of the atmosphere in store for you, created by Tuna Oddfellow’s magic.

Dancers at an Odd Ball
Dancers at an Odd Ball

Odd Balls at the Odd Ball
Odd Balls at the Odd Ball

Tripping at the Odd Ball
Tripping at the Odd Ball

Aliens and Odd Balls
Aliens and Odd Balls

You can also see the images larger on Snapzilla.

SLURL to Oddfellow Studios.

Read Full Post »

One of the things I love doing on Second Life is simply exploring, and taking snapshots of places I find.

The town of Innsmouth is based on the works of H P Lovecraft, and has a suitably moody, spooky look.

The way in…

Arkham cinema:

Opera House interior:

Innsmouth Lighthouse:

Read Full Post »