Tripping over the Mind: Part 2
Last time, I gave a very brief overview of who I am, and where I am coming from on this topic. If you haven't read it, check it out by going to my profile. This time, I would like to go into my personal story in more detail, describing more of what it was I experienced, and how I fought against it. My hope in this, as I dive more deeply, is that you will find encouragement and see that you are not the sum of your struggles; but that you too can rise above them.
Early Stages and Hallucinations
In my preteen years, it became obvious that something serious was happening to me with my ability to cope with reality. In my introduction, I recounted the first hallucination whereas I watched my mom commit suicide (She did not in reality, thank God!). At that moment, my mom thought maybe I had a waking nightmare, but would later realize that I was experiencing something worse.
Although, looking back, there are events that were likely driven by hallucinations that were minor enough as to be of little concern. Such as the time I looked into an abandoned home and saw a family inside, with a black curly-furred dog looking back at me. I would later see that dog multiple times, even upstairs outside my bedroom, just staring. I shrugged it off as a paranormal thing, and told it to go away. It was stubborn sometimes, but eventually disappeared after a good threat.
But the hallucinations were not always visual, they came in other forms as well. Such as the time I was upstairs by myself, my siblings were all gone and my parents outside. I heard what was someone running back and forth in the hallway between my bedroom, and my sister’s. When I walked to my door, and heard it run to my bedroom doorway, I froze until it ran back down the hall. I couldn’t see anything, but I heard it clearly.
There was also the sensation of my hand feeling like a club, all fist’ed up, even if I was holding a glass or had my fingers stretched. Even looking at my hand and trying to reason away the sensation would changed nothing. This was problematic as it resulted in me dropping things all the time; when it struck, I had no idea how tightly I was holding an object and would absent minded’ly drop it. It did result in a free meal at a restaurant one time!
My early childhood is plagued with all sorts of oddities like this. Heck, I once awoke to a armored demon-like being riding a deformed boxer-looking hound, standing in the doorway of my closet. I rubbed my eyes, and at this point, was so use to experiencing ‘paranormal’ activities, I just responded by rolling over while essentially saying, “Go away, in God’s name”. I looked back, it faded away and I returned to sleep.
Then, after that day, where I hallucinated my mom’s suicide, my brain decided to really ramp up its game. I mean, who was I to tell my brain it couldn’t project things into my reality? We often hear the phrase that ‘your mind is your own worst enemy’, and I was the poster child of that phrase. Something I’ll discuss in my next writing, but in short, my mind worked in duality to solidify my hallucinations.
Find the Trigger!
Now my parents weren’t sure what to do. My dad’s brother had something similar with visual hallucinations, but he grew out of it. The idea was that my brain was developing and my overactive imagination was causing this issue. Yet, it progressively became worse, and was eventually realized that I was not growing out of it.
The next step was to find the trigger. A food allergy by chance? So they took away various food groups, even ketchup! The flavor of life, the tomato-sauce that enhanced all the best foods! Gone! It was terrible, and yet after a few months, no impact. They did this with nearly everything, but water.
They paid close attention and noticed that occasionally it kicked in after a headache. Which, I followed my parent’s example and took Tylenol for the pain every time; this lead to the conclusion that medicine was impacting my developing nervous system. Wrong again, turned out the headaches were from over-exertion (never knew when to quit until I was passing out from exhaustion), and taking no medicine gave zero relief to the hallucinations.
So they decided on taking away tv, video games, and other electronics we had. Even going three months with no noticeable change in behavior. There appeared to be no relevant trigger to these hallucinations, which were now happening on every sensory level.
Some of these hallucinations, were even down-right funny. I recall vividly, I woke up in the night with my lights on and seeing little hats bobbing around. I peaked over the edge of my bed and was delighted to see little mobile garden gnomes clamoring about my room and cleaning it! How awesome! I would take credit, and my mom wouldn’t be mad!
Then I noticed a beeping noise, and every time one gnome successfully put something away, they would bounce up and hit a big red button. A beep noise would emit, and slowly, I felt my bed becoming cold. Then it became hard, and a fear set into me, that something sinister was happening. My bed quickly became a concrete slab upon which I laid, and was raising into the air, threatening to crush me into the ceiling.
I eventually panicked and ran downstairs to my parents. What was interesting, was sometimes, certain events within my hallucinations were traumatic enough that it became a part of my normal life. In this case, it became normal for every surface I sat or laid on to become like cold concrete beneath me. Which was only one of a few hallucinatory affects I experienced in my life.
The first one was the the clubbed-fist I mentioned previously. Then came the cold slab of concrete sensation, next was seeing things further away or closer than they really were (this one often induced a dizzying sensation). Finally, I would hear voices or sounds that were not normal, or when nothing was around to make such a noise.
Often wondered if I shouldn’t begin questioning every possible thing; how could I know what was real?
As my hallucinations progressed in frequency, length and severity, my parents found that anything that was a shocking stimulant to my body would take me out of a hallucination. I don’t know how they managed to discover this, but the shock they settled on was cold water. They would start by running a bath of cold water, and dabbing my face with a cold washcloth. After the bath was half full, they would put me in it, and I would wake from the hallucination. So many times I remember playing outside, or sleeping, or watching TV and the next I was in the bathtub, with my family jewels attempting to retreat to a warmer place.
Funny story there. I was sleeping with my mom and dad, having just had a hallucination earlier, when I woke up to a voice. I was confused, because I was in bed, but the bed stretched for miles and the bedroom opened to the ocean waters. It was beautiful, the golden waters breaking in waves as the setting sun crested the end of the bed. The voice that woke me, it called again, “run… run…”. I love running, I thought, and so I attempted to get up and run.
My dad, a very light sleeper, had already grabbed a hold of me, but it was tenuous as he was still waking up and feeble as a result. I pushed him down, and ran for the setting sun, only to run off the end of the bed. I smashed into a hangar on the floor, but not just any hangar. No, this was one of this quarter-inch thick coat hangers and it hit in that soft space between the kneecap and joint. I tell you what, I didn’t need a bath, I was awake!
However, my dad thought otherwise, saying he just needed to be sure. In hindsight, I often jest that my dad pushed for the cold bath because he was mad at me for pushing him down and getting away. I can hear this thoughts now, ‘Punk kid, gonna push me and run away? I’ll show’ya!’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and my mom. They did phenomenal in a difficult situation and limited resources. I have to credit them both in my escape from this prison of the mind.
There were several pivotal points in this journey, and I’m going to fast forward to the one that started the path to triumph.
I was sitting down with my baby brother, sister, and parents, watching TV; we just finished supper, and in a flash, I was being held by my mom, who was crying. My dad looked very upset, and we were all on the floor. Apparently, I had another episode. I don’t really recall that hallucination, aside from a couple things, one being a frightening sky. It was a brilliant-blue, split into a blood-red that lead into an abysmal black.
This memory still chokes me up to this day because of the tears staining my mom’s face, the tears resting in my dad’s own eyes and for what God did for me. You see, in the past, my hallucinations lasted minutes at most and yet this one lasted hours. My parents had even tried shocking me with cold water, but to no avail. I was literally trapped, and I only recall being frightened under that terrible sky and hearing screaming about me. Some part of my conscious being realized I was trapped within my own imagination, and I cried out.
I didn’t cry out for my mommy or daddy, I cried out to the only one I knew had power to conquer anything – God. My dad recants this story as well, saying my eyes were wild, I moved about rashly, and I was speaking gibberish. Then amidst all of that, my eyes became focused, I became still and silent. I sat cross-legged, clasped my hands and began to pray to God. He doesn’t remember all the words in my prayer, but does remember me asking God to help me. I don’t even remember praying, only that I asked for God’s help in a single cry.
My mom decided enough was enough, I had to see a professional. She called the hospital that night, and found they had a brain doctor on staff. Luckily, he was one who specialized in this exact kind of thing. He wanted to see me right away, so we went in that night. I remember a good portion of this, but not how many times I went back or how many tests were done. I do recall cat scans, questioning, a pint and a half of blood taken for testing, urine sample. You know, normal stuff.
In all that, they found nothing, which my dad jokes is what they found in my head during the cat scan, haha. Funny man.
I do remember the doctor’s words very clearly, in that he had a couple decades of experience and had never seen something like this. His final conclusion was that no diagnosis fit me. Even schizophrenia, because I was too strongly rooted into reality. In his words (not verbatim), hallucinations happen on one or two sensory levels, but I was firing on all sensory levels. Also, hallucinations are typically associated with seizures and not often remembered; if they are, its in a fog with few details. However, I was not having seizures and I could recall multiple hallucinations in extremely vivid detail. He made some recommendations and we went home.
The Triumph and Again!
My mom’s next words to me, which were said upon getting home, empowered me more than anything in my life, outside of God. Her words were imprinted on my heart and were used to move me through this struggle.
She lowered to my level and told me these things (almost verbatim), “You are my son. Because you are my son, I know you have a strong will and mind. The mind is very powerful and I have no doubt that you can choose to overcome this. It is up to you.”
It wasn’t just the words though, it was her steadfast belief in me. On top of that, I certainly did (and still do), believe in a God that has given us the power of choice. On that day, I chose to trust in that power, and be triumphant over my life. I refused to be ruled by any mental disorder, especially one that was taking over my life and would have me in and out of hospitals.
And thank God I chose such an option. It was not an easy road, it took weeks just to get a grasp, then months to hold tightly, and a couple years to bind it, and years more to master. If not, I would not have the wife I have now, and kids would be out of the question.
So, today, where do I stand with this disorder? I certainly still have it, and still feel the onslaught of it. Some weeks it happens more, and some weeks it seems like it is non-existent. However, even when it is hitting hard, the blockades I built within my psyche keeps me well grounded and I lose no sight of reality. Most often, the onslaught is squashed before I can barely realize it was even a thing.
Is that the end then? No, unfortunately not. It has evolved more than once as an adult, and though it was manageable it still took time to reevaluate and conquer. I’ll certainly go into more details on that in another writing.
It is also good to note that when my mind is least guarded (usually high stress times), I can still get hit by one hard enough that it actually manages to take me in. When such a time arises, I just remember these key questions:
Who am I?
Where was I?
What was I doing?
Who was I with?
Usually by time I have answered the second question, I begin to reclaim reality, and by the last question the hallucination is gone. This process takes less than 10 seconds in most cases and starts subconsciously, but triggers a conscious thought. Luckily, this is only an issue less than once a year. I am so thankful to God, and my mom for her words.
I am also thankful to my dad, for he believed in me, and God. It was also his honesty on the situation and willingness to talk to me about the hallucinations that showed me a most pivotal realization. Something I will also be addressing as we continue into this journey. In short, what he did allowed me to see how my brain was operating consciously and subconsciously and that I needed to bridge these two parts.
'Til Next Time!
Well, again, thank you for reading. I hope it was insightful, and an encouragement to you. No matter what we face in life, how we choose and act and think will impact every part of our life moving forward. A negative or even passive outlook on what plagues us can harm the outcome: will we thrive and move forward? Or will we lay over and let it take over?
I know if I can choose to fight my enemy, to not lay down to it, I know you can too. It's never easy, but why should it be? A good fight is a challenge, and I have no doubt that you too can win your fight!