Hallucination

“They’re not real. They’re not real.” You try to remind me. 

You don’t have to convince me. 

And yet, at 3 am every morning, when the whole neighborhood is fast asleep, and you’re no longer here to remind me…they share my bed with me, their voice like a ringing in my ears. 

Their companionship is truer than yours, more persistent than all of your corrective voices put together, their presence more constant than my dead husband’s ever was.

Call them my friends or my disease. Like my shadow, my smell…they accompany me my every waking moment. 

{Sometimes…I wish I believed in God. Maybe this will make more sense?}

You can find brief descriptions of different kinds of Hallucination here. For a longer and more literary read, you can also consider reading Oliver Sacks’ book on Hallucination, which he discusses in this podcast. [Please note, when they talk about drug induced hallucination, it’s important to remember, as they themselves briefly touch upon, that knowing that the hallucinations are medically induced and will soon end helps to make them bearable for a neurologist like Oliver Sacks (and makes for good stories later). When listening to such stories, one should keep in mind that those who experience hallucinations induced by psychosis, trauma or other psychological causes, don’t have the luxury of knowing when and if these visions/ voices/ sensations will ever end, and may sometimes experience them all their lives. By sharing this podcast, I do not want to undermine the long and painful presence these hallucinations make for many people’s lives who cannot get rid of them as easily as Sacks did. But of course, when discussing a book on radio, one tends to focus on the more juicy parts of it.]

Here is another interesting article that provides personal accounts of auditory hallucinations and discusses the Hearing Voices Network, which is an interesting concept that has come up in some parts of the world. These networks act as support systems to those experiencing auditory hallucination or voice-hearing and view them “not as a pathological phenomenon in need of eradication but as a meaningful, interpretable experience”.

 

 

 

 

Hypochondriasis

They think I am pretending, they laugh at me behind my back (or even in front of me, those shameless devils), but I despise them just as passionately as they reject me. Do you think I enjoy taking rounds and rounds of hospitals and clinics, a different one each time, watching doctor after doctor frown at me, cut me off mid-sentence, charge enormous fees for 10 minutes of their impatient time? I have spent 20,000 INR just this month alone, on  my medical fees. That’s 20% of my salary! You think I enjoy this!? I am going to need this money for my treatment when they finally find out the cause of all this! Will they repay me for the time and money I have spent on them, each time hoping to find a doctor who will listen and sympathise, who will make use of their expensive education and help me. Instead, with each passing year, the doctors coming out of these medical colleges have shorter and shorter attention spans. They throw offhanded judgements and medicines without waiting to listen to the discomforts I have faced for the past 12 years.

I now self-monitor my weight and bloodpressure I myself; I measure them both twice everyday, making careful notes. I have instructed my daughter to video-record me every time I have my pains, to show the doctors how my skin loses its colour, my body goes limp, how I shriek with true pain. I have lost almost as much money on sick-leaves as I have on my treatments. Those doctors might find these videos more entertaining than hearing me speak. Maybe one day all these notes and videos will help a more patient, more understanding doctor get closer to finding the cause of my illness. I lose more weight everyday; my temperature fluctuates every week and my body goes weak with exhaustion without any physical strain. This is not a life anybody wishes on themselves. I will do anything to not be like this, to not inhabit this body…to work everyday without having to rush home every other week, to go out with friends without making excuses for my sickness, to be distracted for even a few hours from the tickings and runnings of my system; and I definitely don’t want to see the snarky face of another doctor who thinks they know more about my sickness that I do myself. 

If you want to read a quick description of Hypochondriasis, go here, and this is a slightly longer article explaining Hypochondriasis as an anxiety disorder . This is a more humorous personal account by Woody Allen in New York Times, who has proclaimed himself, on multiple occasions, to have acute debilitating symptoms of hypochondriasis.

Burn Out

I am a journalist, or maybe a writer, or maybe even the Managing Director of the manufacturing company you would have liked to work in. It doesn’t matter what my visiting card says. All I am right now is an overwhelming mass of exhaustion. I might have a story to send in tonight, maybe an article to finish, tax forms to complete, budget plans to prepare, Skype calls or  overseas deals…but every toss and turn of my mind tires me. 

How did I get here?

Remind me why I got here?

I might be a sprinter, running on the field…and suddenly I can’t see the end-line any more. I am not even sure there is an end line? You know what I mean?

I can finish this article, the budget plan, the calls, the deals and the tax forms…I can drag my hands, my head, my expensive education through these slow moving steps….but what difference will it make? What is the goal, the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel (if you will) of all this. Remind me, please remind me, the point of all this. How will it get me away from the quick-silver sunsets, the rush of darkness, this overpowering tiredness. 

If I sit in this chair, unmoving, for the next whole week (or month or year) with unattained deadlines, unfinished tasks and unanswered calls, the world will still move on in its exact same devastating way. Nothing I do changes the course of this life!

Tell me, tell me I am wrong.

Before I link to other articles, I want to assert here that Burn-Out is NOT the same as Stress; and while Stress is physically damaging, burn-out is psychologically damaging (though of course, our psychological well-being impacts our physical well-being and vice versa). You can read more about occupational burn-out here. BBC did an interesting feature with Anna Schaffner, the author of “Exhaustion: A History”, which you can read here. And for a quick guide on how stress is different from burn-out, go here.

Anorexia Nervosa

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Darling I do want to pay attention, I want to hear all about your son’s first day in school. I know how important this is for you. But I know they are watching; and I force one spoon after another of this broth, not wanting to give them the pleasure of a gossip. And with each spoon, I wonder if I can maybe sneak out and take a couple of laps around the building? I wonder if I taste nuts in this, that would need more than a couple laps to kill. 

I wish I could share this with you, but I know you won’t understand. You think this is a problem, but I tell you this is my asceticism. There is a strange purity about an empty stomach; I feel cleaner, holier. Maybe this is just my way of being spiritual? 

I want to hear you talk, I do; I want to hear about your days…but I can’t help wondering what sweetener they put in our tea. I can’t accept the cookies, I don’t eat solids on Wednesdays; but I can’t tell them that, so I smile and move away. 

Gosh, I wonder if I am being horribly rude. I feel weak, can we sit a bit? 

There is a whole lot of resources, anecdotes, information and stories available about Anorexia and other eating disorders. I don’t think you need my help to find them. But I found these to be quite comprehensive- this and this. I do want to stress though-  Anorexia has one of the highest death rates out of all mental illnesses, so the tendency to laugh out eating disorders is really scary and potentially life threatening.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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Hello sir, how kind of you to visit us today. 

Will you please take off your shoes? …oh I hate to be a nuisance, but could you put your shoes in between those two yellow lines?

Would you like some tea tea? or coffee coffee? Or maybe just some water water first?

{oh, don’t mind me sir. I have this thing…I have to repeat beverage names twice, and food names thrice with a sigh. don’t pay attention to it. It is quite annoying for me as well.}

Water water you say? I also have some wine wine or some juice juice?

My husband’s out to the garage. He’ll be here shortly. 

Oh how grand of you to bring this cake cake cake (sigh!) for us. It is our anniversary, you are right. Our ninth one. 

We do have candles yes. But I am afraid, we don’t have any knife. Can we cut the cake cake cake (sigh!) with  a spoon maybe?

No, not even a kitchen knife. We buy cut food from the market, and never feel the need for a knife. You see sir, I hope you will not misunderstand me, but we have a five year old darling daughter that we love very dearly. Having a knife in the house…you see, I might stab her. 

Oh, you mustn’t look at me like that. Why don’t I pour you some red wine wine? That will calm both our nerves. 

Would you like some cheese cheese cheese (sigh!) and some crackers crackers crackers (sigh!)? How wonderful! Yes, we do have a great collection of wine (wine). 

Won’t you wash your hands before you eat? The bathroom is to your left.

Sir, if you don’t mind, can you please take three crackers [crackers crackers, sigh!] at a time? It’s awfully silly, but it’s important the crackers stay in multiples of three on the plate. 

To know more about OCD, there is a pretty informative site dedicated to OCD that you can view here; or you can visit the NIMH link on OCD here. To read a short personal account on OCD, go here.

 

 

Panic Disorder

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I sense it’s oncoming.

I know the signs: how my skin throbs, and the world shrinks inside me.

I want to flee,

but my feet fill with crawling lead

and gets stuck to this ground

that moves.

The coils coil inside me wringing my gut.

How the world shakes around me, it makes me dizzy;

and that wild beast leaping at my throat

is likely to kill me.

 

To know more about panic disorder and understand how a panic attack is different from an anxiety attack, you can go here . 

 

 

 

Conversion Disorder

There is nothing I would rather do, than to see the face of my sweet child one more time. I feel his spudgy little hands find my face, and hear him call out my name, and still try as I might, all I see is the dark darkness that has stuck to me since that night I feel down the stairs. And yet you say my blindness is not blindness at all…

If you’re interested to read more about Conversion Disorder, THIS link will take you to a concise informative description of it. If you feel like reading a bit more, THIS link will give you more detailed information.

 

Depersonalization- Derealization Disorder

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After the thread snapped, I lost my ground, my rooted centre…the main meat of this all took to hiding, and we can’t seem to get back to it again. 

We, because…who knows how many am I. I watch myself watching me type these lines. I don’t know how to get us all back into one again.

I wonder who makes me write these words, or say these sentences, if they originate in me or in something outside me. Nothing you say hits me hard enough. I hear you without hearing you, I watch you but I am never sure of what I see. 

Your face changes every time I look away; and everytime I move, this room changes colours and shapes. This is all a dream I will wake out of. A 10 year long dream. 

This used to be nice when it started. Because you see…nothing you say hits me hard enough. And nothing you do hurts me hard enough. I am immune to your blows. 

I often touch my mouth to make sure the voice I hear comes from my own skull. I touch everything, again and again, just to be sure. Is this really a fridge? Is it blue, or is it green? Is it solid, is it porous, will I wake up if I hold it hard enough? Can you snap me out of this? Snap snap. 

The day the thread snapped, she fled out of me to watch me from the outside. I think I am losing my mind, but really what I have lost, is the meat, the central story of this all. How time changes shapes and lengths every hour, and every hour I struggle to hold on to the main sense of it all. Am I really here? Is it really you that stands in front of me?

I look and relook at mirrors, to make sure I stand, my face on my shoulder on my body on these feet that don’t touch the ground.

To know more about depersonalization-derealization disorder, you can go here. This, is a short account of such a case. And for a brief overview of Dissociative Disorders (the family within which DPD belongs), you can go here. (While there are lots of psychiatric journal papers/ articles, there seems to be a huge lack of open-access written material about DPD that can be read and understood by the those who are not from the Psychiatric/ Psychotherapy field.)

 

 

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

mental health, violence, aggression, conduct disorder,

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)

The music gets louder and louder and louder.

I can’t hear you anymore.

Every cell in my body throbs with the percussion in my head.

I am about to burst!

If I can screech this off me and make it stop

stop STOP. I am blinded with that familiar red blaze. 

….

I open my eyes to a room of broken things, broken people 

and silence. {What have I done?}

-x-x-x-

If you want to know more about IED, you can go here and here. This article is pretty interesting too, especially if you’re a parent to someone who shows symptoms of IED.

[Please note, I am not justifying any violence brought about by IED, nor would I (or any mental health practitioner) give the impression that any kind of rage is naturally an indication of IED. All I am trying to do here is to increase the understanding and empathy for it, which then would hopefully help us deal with it in a more informed and sensitive way. IED can be really scary for both those who are going through it, and those who live with and/or love those who have it.]

 

 

 

Persecutory Delusion

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I can feel your breath on my back.

I taste the poison in my tea, I find your shadow in every crowd.

I hear those cameras clicking clicking,

as I undress in the dark.

My heart races whenever a car slows down beside me.

I change my route everyday.

I keep a knife under my pillow.

How many times I check and re-check every bolt in every door.

Yet every night as I lie awake, I wonder if tomorrow will be the day….

the day you get me.

 

For a one-stop place to get all kinds of preliminary information about persecutory delusion (symptoms, causes, conditions associated with it, treatment, etc.), go here.