A few months ago, I saw someone who was not there. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a woman with long hair and a long dress leaning over the bed. She was not frightening or threatening in any way. I gradually realized that I was seeing her features more clearly than I should be able to, given how dark the room was. Then she faded away. I am as certain that I was awake then as I am ever certain that I am awake.
Last week, I was placing an order over the phone. When reading my credit card number, I became convinced that that it was the most horrible number ever and that the person over the phone would think I was terrible for giving them this particular series of numbers and would hate me for it. It was something about the sixes I thought was wildly offensive and showed what a failure of a person I was. It took me a couple of minutes to realize that the thought wasn’t rational.
After both of these experiences, I was very unsettled. I had never had a hallucination or paranoid thinking before–at least as far as I knew. I thought a lot about those experiences as symptoms and worried about what they meant. Did they mean that I had a different or more serious mental illness than what I already think I have?
After the hallucination, I told my psychiatrist. He murmured something about psychotic symptoms and gave me samples of Saphris. I had a terrible experience with the drug. It tasted terrible and numbed my tongue. Then I became very tired but also very panicked. I laid in bed for an hour sweating, my heart racing, feeling extremely anxious but also too sedated to move much at all or do anything. I slept 12 hours and the next day I was groggy and perceived bright rooms as dim–everything seemed literally, not metaphorically, darker. I stopped taking it and felt better.
I chose not to tell my psychiatrist about the moment of paranoia. Instead, I am trying to push myself to think about the actual impact of these experiences. Really, the most damage they have done is causing me to worry that I might be “crazy,” when in fact I already identify as crazy and don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being crazy, and want to be in solidarity with all sorts of people who identify or get labeled as mad/mentally ill/psychiatric survivors/people with emotional disabilities/mental health consumers.
The hallucination–I assume that’s what it was, although some friends have suggested I might have seen a ghost–didn’t actually cause me any distress or harm at the time. The moment of paranoia did cause me distress, but only briefly, and no other harm happened.
So I’m trying to get a little more real about my politics of mad pride, disability justice, and radical mental health. I think if I could let go of some of my fear and shame about these symptoms, I might even be able to appreciate or at least learn from them. For example, I worry pretty often that people are mad at me or think I am a bad person. Sometimes that’s real and sometimes it isn’t, but maybe I can hold those feelings more lightly even when they are more realistic if I remember that it felt just the same when I thought I was offending someone with my credit card number. Maybe I can enjoy the beauty of ghostly visitors at night.
Maybe I can think more clearly about what is actually causing me distress and what sort of help I want to seek out for dealing with it.