Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Quora Answer

I usually keep my Quora worlds and blog worlds separate, yet I thought this would be of interest.

The question was How Can I Retrieve My IQ Score and Decrease Psychosis' Effect On My Cognition? I clicked back to learn more about the requesting person and learned English is not his first language, and that his question is a true cri de coeur, as he is in a bad spot. My answer:

I have two credentials listed, depending on the topic. This one seems related to my IQ credential, that I was president of an ultra-high IQ society thirty years ago. That has some value. Not stunning, but something. I have known many, many very smart people in my life. Some in person, some only online or by correspondence. Some of them were ill or compromised, but still smart.

My other credential is around psychiatric issues. I have been a psychiatric social worker at a state hospital, mostly working with acute emergencies, for over 40 years. Your question broke my heart, yet my news for you is not entirely bad. There are not a lot of things you can cling to, but there are some that are quite real. I couldn’t live with myself if I just told you crap at this point. So hang on, and read to the end.

Rule #1. (But see #5) Blood flow to the brain. Keep repeating that to yourself. There is an unfortunate sapping of motivation that comes with schizophrenia in particular, but all psychotic and affective disorders. The evidence that intense exercise is good for you is not solid. It will make you feel better, as it does everyone, and I don’t sneer at that. Climb mountains. Play competitive tennis. Whatever. Yet those are likely not as important as dragging yourself out for a mere walk around the block when you feel you have no reason for that. Find friends who will risk being rejected to make you do that. On any given Tuesday, it won’t mean much. But for all your lifetime of Tuesdays, blood flow and activity will mean a lot. (Intellectual exercise is actually not Rule #2.)

Rule #2. The balance between medications, psychotic breaks, and long-term side effects is impossible. But you are smart, and you can do this. Psychotic illnesses do erode cognitive function. There are workarounds, but that is true. The medications commonly given for psychosis can also slowly erode functioning. The temptation will be to take the absolute minimum of medication to minimise that. But psychotic or affective breaks are devastating to both long-term and short-term cognitive functioning. It is no good to hold by white-knuckles to a 1% loss of cognitive functioning over a decade by risking a 10% drop from a serious acute episode. Your intellect simply has to rule your feelings in this. Do not take the minimum medication, that will always go bad in the end. Decide for yourself with your prescriber (please show her/him this) whether you should hover at one rung above the minimum, or two. There will be more side effects. But the side effect of underdosing is far worse. You are smart. You can do this.

Rule #3. Maintain social contacts. These will stimulate you cognitively more than crossword puzzles or Trivia Nights or classical music or visits to museums. Even fools are preferable to mental isolation. Jerks over  Jeopardy!

Rule #4. Nonetheless, there is value in purely intellectual exercise, though not what one would think. All the online, paper-and-pencil, and board games share a common trait: they are drawn from the culture of 2019, which is the one you live in. I usually advise people to read things from other centuries, as CS Lewis suggested, for wisdom. Those allow us to step outside the prisons of our own era. But for your case, I ask you to divide those. Let intelligence be focused entirely on what is current, what might be asked by surprise, what people will talk about at work, what will keep you grounded in today. It is something of a cheat code, to pretend to be smarter than you are by being up-to-date. But when you are in your 50s and 60s, that habit will be pure gold.

And yet Rule #5, which is really #1. Wisdom is more important than intelligence, and wisdom comes from God. Pursue the wisdoms that other eras have embraced. The medievals had four cardinal virtues - Patience, Temperance, Courage, Justice - and three theological virtues - Faith, Hope and Charity. Take a full day to contemplate each of those seven, then come back to this. It's Lent, after all, so you'll be in good company.

I ask you - if you are embracing each of those seven and growing in them all, however fitfully and intermittently, is IQ really all that important? You thought you had an opportunity to become a genius. Becoming a saint is offered to you instead. Saint is better, and most geniuses in history (though not now) would have told you so.

1 comment:

Brad said...

Wisdom: "You thought you had an opportunity to become a genius. Becoming a saint is offered to you instead. Saint is better, and most geniuses in history (though not now) would have told you so."