MY MENTAL problems are strange. Most of the time, I feel and act lucid. I feel lucid to myself -- and even in my worst moments of screaming, I am aware of myself, of what I am doing and why I am doing it. I could stop if someone asked me to.

But I do suddenly scream.

I hear voices. They seem to be mocking me and laughing at me and my horrible situation -- I who have pretensions to artistic taste. They tease me meanly and ridicule me for being in such a disgusting situation. I have suddenly started screaming in the streets. (I wait until I am outside. I never allow myself to scream in a building and cause an alarm.)

I have screamed for an hour or more. I have seen how this startles passersby. I feel sorry and ashamed. But I feel it is better to scream where no one is unduly frightened. People just hurry past. Sometimes someone says something kind; people are seldom mean, though some people will say "crazy" in passing.

I suffer from terrible insomnia. I have gone for weeks, months and longer with only a few hours sleep. What wakens me at night from a sound sleep is the heavy, rapid beating of my heart. It is controlled (I believe) by another person and that person is trying to frustrate and even torture me,driving me to the edge of suicide.

Often at these times, I pray that God will take me in death. Death would be preferable to my unbearable inability to control my own breathing. I can't breathe naturally. I feel that through controlling my heartbeat, an outside, remote individual is able to make me so exhausted as to make me highly suggestible, and in that exhausted state encourages me to outlandish behavior.

I suppose that, rather than looking tired to another person, I simply look strained and old. Lack of sleep is a method the Russians are reported to use for brain-washing people. I believe that this, for some reason, is being done to me. I know it sounds crazy. But that's one way I differ from my fellow inmates at the shelters: I do not expect to be believed and taken seriously.

Needless to say, I do not expect the reader to take me seriously. "Aha!" you're probably saying, "How typical of a certain type of schizophrenia. She thinks the CIA or the FBI or the Russians are spying on her and she believes she is being controlled by some little man in a raincoat."

I expect you to say this. Psychiatrists, social workers and just plain folks say things like this to me. "Just forget the voices and pull yourself together," they say. "Forget them! Don't pay any attention to them!" But what about their waking me at night? No answer. Why does my heart suddenly start beating wildly in the middle of the night? Then calm down? Then start up again?

I have taken tranquilizers. The effect of the tranquilizers is to knock me out. I sleep through the night but find my head does not feel rested. In fact the tranquilizers exacerbate the problem. The voices can reach me more easily. I get no REM sleep, no dream sleep with the use of tranquilizers.

I hope I don't sound like a fraud to my reader. Believe me, no one would choose to live among the insane and wander the streets for years if she did not have a problem. It's a humbling life. You don't want to wear some stranger's castoff underwear, but you must do so. You don't want to know that rats and mice have tasted your food before you have, but you know it is so. You don't want to be "fed" like an animal and eat with people who act like animals, but you must -- and try to find the good in them and the blessings underneath all your middle-class values.

So that's it: I hear voices. I believe that they are both malignant and benevolent. I am lured into behavior that my common sense tells me is self-destructive. I am weary all the time. Nothing I have tried so far -- and I have taken a variety of tranquilizers and other drugs and been to about 15 different social workers and shrinks -- has worked. I feel convinced (against all pooh-poohing) that I am under an outside force and that I am helpless in its grip.