Saturday, August 09, 2008

hallucinations have returned

Right now, it's 3 AM. But I woke up, and can't sleep. I've been trying to get myself back on a regular sleep schedule at night, because I have a part-time job again now. But at the moment, this does not seem to be very successful.

I've been hallucinating again. At first, it was just very minor instances of auditory hallucinations. There is a big difference, for me, between severe auditory hallucinations, where I am hearing people say things to me that they are not really saying, or hearing people on TV or the radio talking to me and sending me messages, and the minor kind - where I just hear a noise that is not really there. Lately the noise has been my phone ringing. I will be in my car, for instance, and hear the phone ringing. Even if I don't have my phone with me. Often, the phone is with me, but I look at it and see that it is not actually ringing. This has also happened when my sister was in the car with me, and she stated that she definitely did not hear any phones ringing, and I must be hallucinating.

Then, last night, a visual hallucination occured, which was very vivid and seemed incredibly real at the time. I do not often have visual hallucinations. When I have had them, it was usually because I was in the middle of a terrible psychotic break. Right now, I don't know why I would be having one. Perhaps it is due to the stress of trying to manage a new job, although, really, my job is not very stressful. Perhaps my Seroquel just is not working well. I don't know.

So I woke up last night, or sometime early in the morning yesterday, and I saw a woman, hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom, right next to my bed, by a rope, which was tied around her neck. She was clearly dead. She had long, brown hair, tied in a bun at the back of her head. She was wearing a long, white gown, of the variety worn by people in the colonial days, or Laura Ingalls. My first thought: Oh, I'm seeing a ghost. Second thought: I wonder who this ghost is. She must be someone who used to live here and died (perhaps I have seen too many snippets of stupid shows on the paranormal on A&E, though I usually turn them off right away as they disturb me). Next thought: This apartment building is not over 100 years old, and this woman is definitely not from this century, so she could not be someone who used to live here.

Thought that came after that: Perhaps she is Fern, my grandfather's sister, who killed herself in Texas when she was 19 years old and my parents were not yet born. I wrote a poem once about Fern, because I imagined that she did it by hanging herself, though I do not know for sure which method she used. I always was very curious about her, since, evidently, we had some things in common. She must have had a mental illness.

Next thought, more lucid than the others: I have never seen a ghost before. However, I have hallucinatd before. Therefore, reason and logic would suggest that I am probably hallucinating right now.

I then began the routine argument in my head about whether or not the person I was seeing hanging from my ceiling was really there, or whether my mind was playing tricks on me. I finally concluded that I was most likely hallucinating. And then, eventually, the dead woman disappeared. I managed to go back to sleep. A couple of hours later, I got up, took a shower, got dressed, and went to work. I made it through my five-hour shift, and then immediately called the community mental health center, which I had to phone about 8809 times, before I reached an actual person and not a busy signal or a voicemail. The medical assistant had gotten my voicemail, and she called me back to tell me that the doctor said it would be okay for me to increase my Seroquel, which is what I requested the doctor do. So last night, I went back up to 600 mgs. of Seroquel.

Seroquel is a powerful, sedating drug. I know a couple of people who get knocked out immediately by doses much smaller than the amount I am taking. I had forgotten that I, too, get knocked out pretty heavily by the 600 mg. dose. I used to have trouble falling asleep at night, but would sleep all day long on this amount of Seroquel. Obviously, now that I have a job again, I cannot afford to sleep all day. So that is a problem. As it is 3 AM right now, obviously the medications are not making me sleep through the night, but I know from experience that I am going to be tired all day due to the sedating effects of this amount of Seroquel on my body. Seroquel, howerver, seems to work for my psychosis, so I am taking it anyway, as I do not want to be psychotic.

After I got off work yesterday, and got finished with my two hours of calls to my doctor's office, I went to the bookstore, and read a little bit more of Elyn Saks excellent memoir of Schizophrenia, The Center Cannot Hold. I highly recommend this bo ok to anyone who wants to understand what this disease can be like. After that, I went to my mother's house and watched a little TV with my sister, then took the Seroquel early and went home to go to bed. My mother, unfortunately, took the opportunity to tell me that the person I had seen in my bedroom while I was hallucinating was clearly, "demonic". I told her I do not appreciate her telling me that I am possessed by demons, when she knows very well that I have a disease, and that I hallucinate sometimes because of that disease. My mother seems to grapple with this weird denial that I am actually sick, sometimes, so she chooses to believe that the problem is Satan, and not a neurochemical imbalance. Since she has been treated for many years for Bipolar Disorder, herself, and she is a registered nurse, I do not understand these bizarre accusations and beliefs. I usually just ignore it, but sometimes these statements she makes really annoy me.

Anyway, tonight, when I went to bed, I was afraid I would end up seeing the woman hanging from the ceiling again. I did not see her, however, which is comforting. I have, though, been having some thoughts pop into my head that would indicate I am not doing so well. When I'm not doing well, and I'm driving, I often think about crashing my car, in an effort to kill myself. This has been happening again during the past few days. The urge is not severe enough to warrant staying off the road, because I've had this urge many times before, and never crashed a car. The one time I did, purposely, crash a car (and total it), was when I was hearing command hallucinations telling me to kill myself, all the time, everywhere I went, for some time. So I ended up crashing my mother's car on the top of the Skyway Bridge, which is 150 high. I was trying to drive over the guardrail, so I would land in the water, inside the car, and drown, as that is what the voices and the urges were telling me to do. That did not happen, obviously, and this occured at a time when I was not taking any medication and I was severely psychotic. I have not crashed a car since then, and I don't believe I will do it again, though, sometimes, I am not sure, since the urge returns.

I've been having fleeting thoughts of suicide, lately, but they are not the kind of ruminations that I get when I am just really depressed. They seem more like the kind that erupt from the miswired part of my brain where the psychosis resides. Not that these two things - depression and psychosis - are separate, but in some ways, they are different. With severe depression, I get very serious thoughts of suicide, desires to die, and make suicide plans. When the thoughts are just coming out of nowhere, or where the reason for them is not completely clear - it seems to usually be more connected to psychosis than depression. I am depressed right now. I do not, most of the time, want to die, however. But I have been having that urge return, at moments, and then it goes away and I go back to whatever I was doing before it came up.

Well, I think this explains a bit of what I was trying to say, though some of these things are hard for me to put into words right now, and hard, always, to explain to people who have not experienced them themselves. Hopefully this was clear enough to make sense to anyone reading it. I will keep you updated on what happens in the near future. Hopefully, the increase in medication will help, and hopefully, I will be able to tolerate this heavily sedating medication and maintain employment at the same time. Keep your fingers crossed! Thanks, as always, for listening.


  1. Jen,

    I am so sorry you are having these problems. It has to be pretty scary for you to be afraid of slipping. You did the right thing in contacting the mental health people and getting the drug dosage raised. Hopefully this will help to end the hallucinations. It takes a few days sometimes for the full effect of the dosage increase of this drug to be felt so be patient with it.

    That is a strange idea your mom had, especially with her being in the medical field. There is no accounting for the worldview of others but you don't have to buy into her strange ideas.

    People who have physical illnesses sometimes focus too much upon their illnesses. This can be detrimental to their recovery because it takes a lot of energy to do it that should be used in getting better. I don't know for sure but I suspect the same may be true for mental illnesses. I dated a girl in college who had spent most of her childhood years institutionalized with schizophrenia. She told me that medication helped but that she only began a full recovery when she stopped dwelling on her illness and began focusing upon living. I am happy to say that she is fine today with the help of continued medication and has a great job and family. She told me that she found it hard to break out of the cycle of obsessing on her illness but that she knew she had to do it or she would be in the hospital for the rest of her life. She chose to go beyond her illness and enjoy life again.

    My thoughts are with you. I sincerely hope that your depression lessens and you don't have any further problems with hallucinations.

  2. Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you reading my blog, and taking the time to give feedback. I just wanted to mention that, contrary to what someone might think if they only know me through this blog which is about my Schizophrenia, I do not actually obsess about my illness or choose to be sick or unhappy. So, while I understand your point, I also just want to mention that I write about this illness here in an effort to explain it to people and educate people about it, and to help myself cope with it, because I don't, actually, have a lot of people I talk to about it in real life, off the internet. Most people aren't interested, and I don't expect them to be. I also don't like being defined by an illness, so it's not like I tell the whole world that I have Schizophrenia (as you probably have noticed, my full name is not on this blog anywhere; I did that on purpose). So while some people might obsess about illnesses, I think there is a big difference between that (and I did do that at one time with a physical illness I have), and the actual illness impacting your daily life to an extent that it cannot simply be overlooked or ignored, because it actually impairs your abilities to think and function like a human being who doesn't have this illness. Schizophrenia is a lot different than depression. Just choosing to think happy thoughts does not make Schizophrenia go away.

    I hope I don't come off harsh here, I just wanted to respond to your message. Thank you, as always for your kindness in taking the time to read my words and I really do appreciate that you put the effort into making responses here.

    Take care!


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