This one isn’t going to be easy to write. It might not be easy to read, either. Since I started this blog, I’ve been simultaneously eager for and dreading this blog, and I think it’s time. I’m going to talk about the hallucinations and delusions that strike me.
I remember being a child and assuming that my parents were poisoning me. It wasn’t a suspicion, but nor was it some panicked concern. I was just calmly certain that it was happening. I ate the food anyway, because I was far more concerned about them finding out that I had those kinds of thoughts than I was about the poison. The way I figured it was that if I was right, I might survive the poisoning, but if I told them about it they might kill me directly. If I was wrong, I would embarrass and hurt them. It was a strange situation to be in. I now marvel at how lucid and intelligent the thoughts were. This is typical of my delusions. No matter how awful the belief is, I have never to my knowledge let go of the possibility that I’m wrong, and as such have never acted on them.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had a lot of experience with things like this. When I start dating someone, it takes weeks, or even months to stop thinking that they’re going to kill me or turn out to be some kind of demon. I’ve lain awake more than one night, convinced that if I look at the woman next to me, she’ll be something utterly inhuman. My mind takes that fear of the dark and the unknown that so many of us live with and amplifies it by thousands, until all I can do at night for days in a row is lie there trembling and wait for the dawn. I once became certain that my roommate was the devil himself, literally, because of the shape and length of his fingernails. I believed it for weeks. I constantly guard my thoughts because I find that for long stretches I am completely convinced that people are reading my mind. I was certain once that something was inexplicably wrong with the moon, and the feelings of dread that accompanied with it destroyed my sleep for a week.
Twice I’ve woken from dreams in the depths of sleep paralysis and brought the dreams out with me. This experience is actually fairly commonplace, but the way my mind coped with it after the fact isn’t. The first time, a large, hairy beast tackled me and I awoke to find it pinning me to the bed, breathing in my face. Afterward, I became convinced that the creature was stalking me in the waking world. I was certain I could feel it behind me, and that if I saw it in a reflection, it would pounce. I’m still afraid of mirrors quite often. The feeling of unease accompanying looking into them has never ceased, though the object of the fear changes.
The second time I had the experience reported so often where one awakes to find they can’t move, or speak, or breathe, and are taken by tall, thin creatures and have experiments performed on them. For weeks thereafter, I was certain that I was no longer myself. I KNEW that I was a replacement, something inhuman made to feel and think and act exactly like myself, but not to know that I was. I was certain that something had gone wrong, that I was supposed to believe I was the real me. I even started to believe that I could feel the seams in my artificial body. One day I woke up and the delusion was simply gone. I rarely think about it now. It makes me deeply uncomfortable to do so.
The big one, the one I’ve been dreading talking about, is the things that watch me at night. I’ll sit there, perfectly happy, and suddenly I’ll feel them. I’ll be aware of a presence, aware of the fact that something is observing me, close to me. I will become absolutely convinced that if I change my behavior in the slightest way, give any indication that I know they’re there, it will trigger something awful. I sit there for hours, staring at a computer screen or playing a game, long after I’m exhausted and want to sleep. I just know, with every fiber of my being, that the slightest wrong move could spell disaster. Sometimes, on the most extreme of nights, I am compelled to self-harm, completely convinced that if I just hurt myself enough, they’ll go away.
These incidents have all lessened considerably since I began therapy and taking medication. I don’t know if the meds are doing it or if it’s some kind of placebo effect, but either way, there’s been a lot of improvement. The hallucinations are a whole other ballgame. They can be shocking, but a number of them are actually quite funny in retrospect. They don’t force themselves into my mind the way the delusions do, and I can almost always shake them off.
I used to hear ethereal music come echoing up the stairs when I was a kid. It scared me so much that I began sleeping with music playing, and later in life with the TV on, something I still do. The visual stuff didn’t really kick in until much later in life. I frequently see shadows and faces of spindly, unpleasant things darting just out of my line of sight. On a few memorable occasions, I’ve seen small grey things with bulbous heads peering around corners at me. I see bugs a lot, or feel them on me when there are none there. However, these things all usually feel quite unreal to me, so I’m able to brush them off and go about my day. What really bothers me is the voices.
My voices are annoying and boring. I hear the voices of people I know who aren’t anywhere around me saying things like “Hi!” or calling my name. They never make suggestions or demands, they never try to get me to do things. They just annoy me slightly with simple greetings. It’s gotten to a point where I almost wish they WOULD demand that I assassinate someone, just to break up the monotony.
One time a couch growled at me. That one was so funny that I laughed out loud then and there. I knew it had to be a hallucination, because it was the dumbest thing that had ever happened to me. I laughed, tweeted a joke about it ( “There is no couch, only Zuul!”) and went on with my day. That night, as I slept on the couch, it began whispering to me inaudibly. I told it to shut the hell up and let me sleep. It did.
I’m telling you guys this stuff for one very simple reason: I am sick and tired of the stigma associated with mental illness. If I hadn’t been so afraid to come forward with this stuff twenty years ago, when I feared I was being poisoned, I might be a different and better off person today. The United States is a horrible, horrible place to be mentally ill, and I’m not going to be afraid anymore. None of us should have to be. I am Kyle Fulton, sometimes I see, hear, and feel things that aren’t there, and that’s okay! I didn’t choose to be this way, and I’m getting help.
Anyone out there like me, share your stories, admit your pain, own your fear, and get the help you need. Take back your life. Keep a sense of humor. Laugh at the absurdity of it, but don’t let the world push you down anymore.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think the chair would like to go for a walk.