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The Case for Insanity November 21, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
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The case for insanity is compelling

In early February 2008, at the beginning of my traipse into a world of make-believe, I had ESP.  How cool is that? I talked with people in my head.  Powerful people.   Bill and Melinda Gates. The Dalai Lama. Oprah Winfrey.  My (then) bosses. All of these people and more were at my beck and call.

Then there was my job situation.  In my fantasy world, my (real) boss, via ESP, directed me to quit my (real) job.  So I did. Then, via ESP, he begged for my return, promising me more money and better control over my job.  In the meantime, Bill and Melinda Gates offered me a job at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  For twice the money.

And yet money had no real value.  I had access to Bill and Melinda Gates’ money.  I had a friend who was a time traveler who could make it so that I had money whenever I wanted it.  Because money meant nothing, I wrote a (NSF) check for  a beautiful, gold, brand new Lexus Convertible car.  Bill and Melinda Gates were going to reimburse me for the purchase as part of my new employment package. I bought a new wardrobe for my new job.

I owned $2 million in jewelry, including a 3 carat yellow diamond in a platinum setting, and an abalone bracelet that had once been owned by my (Mermaid) grandmother.

I talked with trees, dogs, and cats.

Last but not least, I was a genuine Mermaid.  Fish talked to me (literally). I had fins for feet. I had a beautiful tail.

I was beautiful.  I was energetic.  I was wealthy.

Now tell me that mental illness is terrible.

Hearing Voices Network August 7, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hallucinations, mental illness.
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What Are Voices & Visions?

When we talk about voices and visions, we simply mean someone is hearing, seeing or sensing something that others around them aren’t. These experiences can include all five senses, hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. These experiences can occur in one sense at a time (hearing a voice, for example, or smelling something), but they can also happen in combination.

For some, these experiences can be comforting. For example, someone who is lonely may really value a voice that becomes a trusted confidant. A person who has recently lost someone they care about may benefit from talking to them at the end of the day, or smelling their perfume/aftershave. Others find these experiences to be a source of inspiration. Authors, for example, sometimes talk about how the characters can come to life and write the story for them. However, for some people these voices and visions can be extremely distressing – criticising, threatening or causing confusion.

How Common Is It?

Statistics vary, but it’s generally accepted that between 3 and 10% of the population hear voices that other people don’t. If you include one off experiences (like hearing someone call your name when you’re out shopping, or feeling your phone vibrate in your pocket) this figure goes up to 75%. So, having at least one experience of hearing or seeing something that others around you don’t is incredibly common. Those that have never had this experience are in the minority.

A number of famous and important people (past and present) have experience of hearing or seeing things that other people don’t. Without these people, the world would be a very different place. This list of famous people who have talked or written about hearing voices includes: Gandhi, Socrates, Joan of Arc, Freud, Anthony Hopkins, Philip K Dick, John Frusciante, Carlos Santana, Robert Schumann, John Forbes Nash, Zoe Wannamaker and Charles Dickens.

What’s It Like?

We’re all unique, so it’s unsurprising that voices and visions can be equally individual in terms of their identity, content, interpretation and impact. The following gives a brief overview. If you don’t recognise your experience here, that doesn’t mean you’re ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’.

Voices

Some people hear voices talking when no-one is around. These could be like the voices of people they know, or complete strangers. They might hear many voices, or just one. Voices can shout, whisper, be clear or muffled. They can speak in sentences or say single words. These voices can be male, female, genderless, old or young. Sometimes they have names, but not always. Voices can speak constantly (24/7), but they can also utter occasional words or phrases. People can hear other types of sounds too, including knocking, rustling, crying, screaming or music.

Some voices can be positive – providing the support and encouragement someone needs to get through the day. Other voices can be confusing, perhaps echoing thoughts or repeating strange phrases. Some voices can be very frightening, saying things that are critical, threatening or commanding. Voices can claim to have great power and knowledge, which can sometimes leave the voice-hearer feeling scared and powerless. Some voices can leave a person feeling very vulnerable and exposed (e.g. hearing a crowd of people jeering at you, or discussing intimate details of your life).

Visions

Some people see things that others don’t. These visions can be very clear and realistic, but they can also include fuzzy shapes, shadows and beams of light. Some people see the voices that they hear, others see insects or spiders. For some, the visions are very complex (like entering into another world). For others, the visions sit alongside their everyday world (an added box, person or animal for example). Sometimes, it can seem as if people or objects are changing shape. Their faces may turn to stone, they may be surrounded by a coloured aura or, for example, their eyes may change colour. As with voices, these visions can be reassuring, funny, frightening or distracting.

Smells

Some people smell things that remind them of their past. This could be something nice, like a loved one’s perfume/aftershave or a favourite food.

Sometimes people smell things that remind them of a particularly traumatic experience. For example, someone who survived a house fire may smell smoke when they feel anxious. Someone who was hurt by someone wearing a particular scent may, sometimes, smell this when there is no-one there to account for it. This can be extremely frightening, especially if they don’t recognise that this sensory experience comes from the past.

For others, the smell isn’t linked to a particular memory or traumatic event. For example, some people smell gas, burning or rotting food. These smells can feel very real and leave them fearing for their safety.

Taste

It can be difficult for someone to know that they’re tasting something that others can’t – unless they get someone else to try it too. This can make taste experiences particularly difficult to deal with. Some people get a strong bitter taste in their food or drink and, understandably, start to worry that there is something wrong with it. This can lead people to worry that they are being poisoned, or that someone is tampering with their food. Others have taste sensations when they are not eating. This might be when they are hearing a voice, watching a TV programme or thinking about something. These taste sensations can be pleasant (e.g. chocolate or a favourite food), but they can also be unnerving or unpleasant (e.g. something bitter or metallic).

Feeling (touch)

Some people can feel things on their skin when there doesn’t seem to be anything there. They might feel something crawling over their skin, tickling them or pushing them. Sometimes people feel something underneath their skin, and this can lead them to feel really worried about what is happening to their body.

Understandably these experiences can be very confusing and frightening. It’s not as simple as this, though. For others, these experiences can be reassuring. Someone who feels lonely and hears a reassuring voice may feel comforted if they feel a hand on their shoulder. They might interpret it as a sign that the voice is trying to support them.

Why Do People Hear Voices

There are lots of different theories and ideas to explain why people hear voices or see visions. These include:

  • A special gift or sensitivity
  • Trauma or adverse life experiences
  • Dissociation
  • Spiritual experiences
  • Biochemical (e.g. excess dopamine)
  • Paranormal experiences
  • Emotional distress
  • Physical health problems
  • Cognitive error (misattribution of ‘internal speech’)
  • Individual difference

The truth is that we do not know why people hear voices or see visions. As the experience is so diverse, it’s likely that there are a number of different explanations. Whilst this can be frustrating for those who feel confused and would like a simple answer or some certainty, it means that the most important explanation is the one that the voice-hearer themselves finds useful. It is important not to impose your own belief on someone else’s experience – this is fundamental to the Hearing Voices Network approach. Rather than providing a dogmatic view of voice-hearing, we recognise and celebrate a festival of explanations.

Whatever someone believes about their experiences, the most important thing is to find ways of dealing with that belief and finding some sense of power, control and hope within it.

Is Recovery Possible?

At the Hearing Voices Network we use the word recovery to mean ‘living the life you choose, not the life others choose for you’ (whether those others are family, friends, workers or voices). Many people who hear voices simply don’t need to recover – they are already living lives that they love. The voices might enhance their wellbeing, or their experiences may simply not detract from it.

For those who have particularly overwhelming experiences that lead them into the mental health services, recovery can feel like a distant dream. The good news is that people can, and do, find ways to deal with (and recover from) distressing voices. Perhaps more importantly, people can also recover from the situations that can make voices and visions so hard to deal with. Many people who recover continue to hear voices. Sometimes these voices change during the recovery process (being an ally, rather than an attacker). Other times these voices become quieter, less intrusive or even disappear altogether. Others find that the voices stay the same, but that they are no longer ruled by them. They feel stronger and more able to choose whether to listen to the voices or not.

We have witnessed many amazing journeys of recovery in the Hearing Voices Network. These journeys are, by their very nature, very individual. However, these journeys have led us to believe that no matter how overwhelmed or distressed the person is by their experiences (or whatever labels they have collected throughout their time in the mental health system) – recovery IS possible.

(Reprinted from Hearing Voices Network- http://www.hearing-voices.org)

Sam the Psycho January 3, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices.
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Walking into the mental illness support group, I was surprised to see two teenage boys sitting side by side in our small circle of chairs. Very few young people came to our support group.

It was clear from Sam’s glassy and brilliant eyes that he was the one with the mental illness, and that his friend, Carl, had simply been the means of Sam’s transportation to the meeting. Later on, we learned that Sam’s mom had actually talked Carl into bringing Sam here. I surmise that Sam wouldn’t get in the car with his mom. Or vice-versa.

When Sam’s turn came to share, he said he was getting more violent against his mom, and that he was having trouble with his relationship with her. His principal complaint was that she didn’t agree with his religious views.

He claimed that he and God were buddies.  He also claimed to be possessed by the devil and demons. He said he was routinely roused from sleep by the demons’ violence against him.  They punched him and pushed him and yanked his hair while he tried to sleep. Oh yeah: and he said he wasn’t mentally ill. He was just possessed.

Initially, he and his friend sat quietly listening to the three of us share our stories. But as time progressed, Sam was increasingly claimed by his invisible friends.  Talking and laughing with them, he faded in and out of our reality.

Sam said he had been taking two anti-psychotics for 2 months. Based on his severe delusions and his statement that he wasn’t mentally ill, I seriously doubt that he was taking his meds at all. His friend said that Sam hadn’t been back to his psychiatrist since he had been given the anti-psychotics. I suspect that was by choice.

Leaving the meeting, I realized the danger Sam’s mother was in. I hoped she had a lock on her door. After all, her teenage son, known to be very angry with her, roamed around the house believing that he was alternately God’s best friend or possessed by the devil and demons. It isn’t a stretch to imagine him slipping into her room at night and slitting her throat or stabbing her as she lay sleeping, convinced that the devil and demons- and maybe God- had directed him to do it. She would be just another dead mother whose soon should have been committed to a mental hospital before he murdered her.

Chenille: Reality Check Service Dog December 16, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, mental illness, Uncategorized.
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RandyI met the cutest service animal the other day at a mental illness support group. She’s a friendly, bouncy Chihuahua named Chenille.  I never thought about using a service animal for help with mental illness symptoms, but that’s exactly what she is.   She is a reality checker for her master.

As with many people suffering from mental illness, her master’s symptoms include hallucinating. He sees people and things that aren’t there and hears things that aren’t there. Her job is to help him determine what is real and what isn’t.

For example, if there’s someone suddenly sitting in a chair in his living room that he’s never seen before, if she barks he knows it’s a real person.  If she doesn’t react, then he’s seeing someone who isn’t really there.   The same goes with noises.  Dogs are sound-sensitive, and if there’s a lot of racket or unexplained noise, the dog will react to it.  If someone calls his name from another room (and he thinks he’s alone in the house), and she doesn’t react, he knows he is hearing things that aren’t there.

What a relief it is to be able to tell reality from fantasy by using the unbiased opinion of a dog.

People not suffering from mental illness take for granted their ability to tell reality from fantasy every waking moment. They can’t appreciate what a gift it is not to have to questions whether what they see or hear is real.  If the average person sees someone new sitting in their living room, he doesn’t even have to wonder whether that person is really there. But for people with certain forms of a mental illness, they can’t depend on their eyes to know whether that person is real. It is challenging to live in a world where your mind plays tricks on you.  You need help detecting reality. Who better than a dog to do that for you?

Imagine hearing a loud noise coming from the bedroom. Or hearing someone call your name from the room next door that you thought was empty.  There’s no one else with you in the house. Or is there? What would it be like not knowing the answer to that question on a regular basis?  A dog can be a lifesaver.

People who use the “reality challenged” phrase in jest might want to reconsider whether that term is appropriate, given the fact that certain people are living the embodiment of the true meaning of that phrase.  In order to leave a semblance of a normal life, they need a way to tell whether their perceived reality is real.

During the height of my psychotic break with reality, I met someone at a Starbucks for coffee who was probably not real. He was a green-skinned merman who I thought was my long-lost son from 500 years ago. Long story. But the point is that person was as real to me as anyone I have ever met.  I sat across a table and had coffee with him for several hours. Now at this juncture of my life, I realize I was probably one of those people you see who are sitting there in a restaurant talking to someone who isn’t there.  Imagine going through this every single day of your life.  You need an outside, unbiased source to tell you whether that green-skinned merman sitting across from you having coffee is real.  For my part, it never dawned on me that it could be anything but real. But what if it wasn’t?

This use of a service animal is a clever and fascinating way to help people manage the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.  This is the first time I have ever heard of this use. I wonder if more people could be helped by these service animals.

Halloween October 31, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Insanity, Psychotic.
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Halloween’s here, and with it comes the worn-out old stories about the mentally ill.  The slasher movies and the guts and gore of the horror-filled inspirational costumes- all coming to a theater near you.

Norman Bates in Psycho, a 1960 horror movie, was inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.  The insane Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a 1974 horror movie, and Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs were both inspired by the same serial killer, a man whose “guilty but insane” conviction landed him in a mental  hospital.  In The Shining, Jack Nicholson gave a good impersonation of a psychotic man.  Dr. Jekyl was clearly insane when he became Mr. Hyde in the 1931 classic Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.   Then there’s the classic: Halloween, about a young insane murderer who escapes from his Sanitarium (mental hospital) after being locked up for 15 years- ever since he was 6. Over and over the mentally ill are exploited for the benefit of the media.  In fact, out of the top 50 best horror movies of all time, over half involve mental illness. Mental illness is, after all, scary.

It doesn’t help that the news is filled with extreme cases of mental illness. Teenage kids and adults taking axes to their mothers, beating up complete strangers, etc. are in most cases the result of untreated violently mentally ill people and are  fodder for interesting scary movies.

Unfortunately for those of us who are mentally ill, the media makes no distinction between delusional people in the middle of a psychotic episode,  insane murderers, and what I like to call garden-variety treatment compliant mentally ill people (bipolar, depressed, OCD, etc). We’re all, in their collective minds, the same as Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer who inspired both Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s nothing scarier, after all, than a mentally ill person.  Especially a psychotic one.   It’s no wonder that nobody wants to be identified as mentally ill. Who, after all, wants to be Ed Gein?

Sam the Psycho July 8, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, Insanity.
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Walking into the mental illness support group, I was surprised to see two teenage boys sitting side by side in our small circle of chairs. Very few young people come to support groups.

It was clear from Sam’s glassy and brilliant eyes that he was the one with the mental illness, and that his friend, Carl, had simply been the means of Sam’s transportation to the meeting. Later on, we learned that Sam’s mom had actually talked Carl into bringing Sam here. I surmise that Sam wouldn’t get in the car with his mom. Or vice-versa.

When Sam’s turn came to share, he said he was getting more violent against his mom, and that he was having trouble with his relationship with her. His principal complaint was that she didn’t agree with his religious views.

He claimed that he and God were buddies.  He also claimed to be possessed by the devil and demons. He said he was routinely roused from sleep by the demons’ violence against him.  They punched him and pushed him and yanked his hair while he tried to sleep. Oh yeah: and he said he wasn’t mentally ill. He was just possessed.

Initially, he and his friend sat quietly listening to the three of us share our stories. But as time progressed, Sam was increasingly claimed by his invisible friends.  Talking and laughing with them, he faded in and out of our reality.

Sam said he had been taking two anti-psychotics for 2 months. Based on his severe delusions and his statement that he wasn’t mentally ill, I seriously doubt that he was taking his meds at all. His friend said that Sam hadn’t been back to his psychiatrist since he had been given the anti-psychotics. I suspect that was by choice.

Leaving the meeting, I realized the danger Sam’s mother was in. I hoped she had a lock on her door. After all, her teenage son, known to be very angry with her, roamed around the house believing that he was alternately God’s best friend or possessed by the devil and demons. It isn’t a stretch to imagine him slipping into her room at night and slitting her throat or stabbing her as she lay sleeping, convinced that the devil and demons- and maybe God- had directed him to do it. She would be just another dead mother whose soon should have been committed to a mental hospital before he murdered her.

Talking Fish April 9, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations.
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From the middle of the Cabela’s sporting goods store soared a giant mountain, divided into various seasonal regions and sporting various groups of taxidermy animals. White rams and polar bears posed in the snow section, which was the smallest portion of the display.  A large cave, appearing to have been dug through the center of the mountain, provided a viewing area inside the mountain as the fish swam from pond to pond.

Curtains of thick glass formed the walls of the interior of the cave, designed as a viewing area for the fish in that well-stocked aquarium. Live perch, catfish, and steelhead swam back and forth from pool to waterfall to connecting pool, inside, outside, and all around  the enormous aquarium.  It all made for a fabulous display.

I wandered inside the dark cavern that housed the aquarium, where the thick glass walls separated me from the miscellaneous collection of steelhead, perch, and catfish swimming in the pristine aquarium water.  A few paces in front of me a young boy of about 10 stood with his back to me, admiring a little school of perch. Behind me a few paces, I turned to watch an old man stare at a large steelhead.

As I gazed at a school of fish drifting in front of me, a tiny little gray perch broke away from the others and swam in my direction, stopping right in front of my face.  Hovering in one spot, he stared at me with unblinking eyes.  I returned his stare.  Suddenly, in a little-boy voice, the perch said “Hi!”.  Nothing more, just “Hi”.   Astonished, I quickly looked around at the young boy and old man, wondering whether they, too, had heard the little fish speak. Clearly they had heard nothing, since they were both still glued to the same spot they had been standing at before my little perch talked to me.  Realizing that I was the only one that heard that little fish, I quickly moved on through the display, afraid- for a moment- just a moment- that I was losing my mind.

Halfway through the display, I stopped in front of an enormous old catfish.  Initially, he had his back to me, slowing turning around to stare at me. Two clumps of long gray cat-whiskers poked out from either side of his old oval frowning face.   Locking eyes with me, he proceeded to stare me down.   Eyes narrowed, I started back at him, refusing to blink.   Scowling at me, he addressed me in a grumpy old-man voice. “What the Hell are YOU staring at, asshole?”.   Amazed once again at the talking fish, I surveyed the other two patrons for evidence that the fish were also talking to them.  Clearly those other two patrons  weren’t talking with fish, nor had they seen or heard my interaction with the fish.  Initially frightened about hearing talking fish,  I quickly moved through the rest of the display, almost running, refusing to stop and gaze at any more fish for fear that they’d talk to me too. I moved through that display to the natural daylight as fast as I could, away from the prying eyes of the fish and the humans,  not stopping until I was once again back in broad daylight.

I took a few deep breaths, trying to calm myself.  After a several seconds, my initial panic about hearing the fish talk was replaced by a clear understanding of the situation.  It dawned on me:  there was absolutely nothing wrong with fish talking to Mermaids.  It was perfectly natural and even understandable. Mermaids, after all, were just giant fish.

Even so, I quickly realized that it was best not to discuss the talking fish with anyone. They wouldn’t understand.  So I kept silent.

The Mermaid and His Alien Baseball Team January 24, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, ESP, Hallucinations, mental illness.
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One morning, I was just finishing up swimming my laps (I thought I was a Mermaid) when I noticed a man getting into the lane right next to mine.  Rising to my feet, I told the swimmer that he could have my lane, as I was done swimming.

He thanked me, but he said that he didn’t like to swim in that far lane.  When I asked him why, he explained that it made him uncomfortable but he didn’t know why. I explained that he was probably sensitive to the energy buildup along the bottom edges and corners of the pool.  Instead of looking at me like I had lost my mind, he became very interested in what I had to say.  Fascinated, in fact. Wanting to discuss the  concept further,  he asked to meet me at a nearby Starbucks  in about 15 minutes, to have coffee and talk.

But I hadn’t left the pool yet. Dunking my head in the water to clear my mask,  I noticed the familiar faint green tint to his skin. He was a Merman.

Arriving at the Starbucks a bit early, I purchased my coffee and contemplated the logo on the cup. A two-tailed Mermaid. Hm. A Sign. I settled down to wait for my new Merman friend. Shortly  he arrived, purchasing his coffee and joining me at a small table by a fireplace, surrounded by other patrons.

Explaining that I saw the green tinge of his skin in the pool and that he was a Merman, I was prepared for him to walk out on me. But he didn’t flinch. Instead, he insisted that we move outside where we wouldn’t be overheard. Once there, he told me his little secret: he was a mind-reader.  Then he offered to demonstrate his skill, telling me to think of a word and to concentrate hard on that word.

As I sat across the table from him, I concentrated on the word “Abracadabra” as hard as I could, even mentally painstakingly writing the word on a blackboard in my mind, willing him to succeed.

Although he tried many times to come up with the word I was thinking of, he just couldn’t do it.  He didn’t even come close. Finally, he said had to leave. We parted, not even exchanging names or phone numbers. He didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know who he was. And that was okay by me.

But before he left, he told me about his Alien baseball team.  He said that there were lots of Alien baseball teams throughout the galaxy, and that they played each other in games that were similar to the ones played here on Earth. Then he offered to show me pictures of his Alien baseball team. When I assented, he pulled out his wallet and extracted several baseball cards.

On each card was a photo of an Alien dressed in a baseball uniform. The player’s name, unpronounceable, was written underneath the photo. Statistics and the player’s position were written on the reverse side. In all, the cards were virtually undistinguishable from regular baseball cards with the exception of the players. He explained that he owned an entire baseball team of Aliens, but he never told me where the games were played or invited me to watch a game with him.

The next day,  the word “Abracadabra” was written in blue letters on a whiteboard hanging on the wall. I was shocked. Directly below that word, written in green,  was another word:  dandelion.  Clearly the Merman had returned to the pool and had written the words on the whiteboard. I understood writing the word that was in my mind, but I had no idea what the word dandelion meant. Then it came to me: that was the Merman’s name. Dan De Lion.

Was Dan De Lion real? I don’t know.  If he was, then he was as mentally ill as I was.  If he wasn’t real, then I was one of those people you see sitting in restaurants talking to themselves.

Anatomy of a Breakdown September 23, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Involuntary Committment, mental illness.
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Looking back at my diaries of 2 years ago, I again became enmeshed in my identity crisis.  It reminded me of how difficult it was to lose who I was. And to find out that who I was wasn’t exactly pleasant.

Before I became psychotic, I was Kathy 1.  Then, when I became psychotic, so many things about me changed that I lost my identity as Kathy 1.  While I was psychotic, this change from Kathy  seemed a very natural turn of events, since my delusion had included my belief that I had always been someone else.  According to my delusion, I was, and always had been, a mermaid named Pangea. For 48 years I just never knew it.

During my psychotic break, Kathy 1 was no more, wiped out of existence, replaced by an entirely new personality: Pangea the Mermaid.  Transfering my identity from Kathy 1 to Pangea was easy. It was an act initiated by me. It was an act controlled by me. I was drawn in gradually over a four month span of time into my new identity as Pangea. My final act of recognition of this sea change was that I planned to change my real legal name to Pangea.  But before I could carry out my plan, I was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

When I was hospitalized, the staff began the long process of stabilizing me.  Part of that process was administration of medication that pushed me out of my delusion that I was Pangea. Logically, removing Pangea from the equation should have left me back at identifying with Kathy 1.  Unfortunately (or not), this didn’t happen.”

It’s difficult to put into words, but the person who was Kathy 1 had certain thought patterns, certain ways of doing things, certain tastes in clothing, hair styles, and expressions of who she was, as well as a much faster speed of thinking, and other brain-related characteristics that made up her very soul. Her very existence.  Those characteristics are gone.

There’s a void where my identity is supposed to be. I try to feel a familiar pattern of thinking or feeling or being and there’s no familiarity at all. Zero. I have no idea who I am. It’s as if I woke up in someone else’s brain. I have no reference points.  I’m in a strange place and can’t find my way back to who I was before. But then do I really want to return to that person?

Through counseling, I learned to analyze  all of the little choices that Kathy 1 made in her life that brought her the total control that she was looking for, which ultimately led to her complete break with reality.  Little things and big things loomed in my head.  Overall, I realized that my efforts at control not only led to my complete break with reality, but in the process had turned me into what I would term a “flaming bitch”.  I had attempted to control virtually every facet of my life down to the last speck of dirt in the house to the greatest extent possible.  Everything was always about me.  It was embarrassing to come to this realization at the age of 48.  How horrible, how narcissistic. It was depressing to consider all of the wasted years, all of the misery, that I had inflicted on people, including those I loved, through the years.  Was there anything I could do to make up for my past bad behavior?

I need to find out how to get me back to who I was before- only nicer.  And if I can’t do that, then I need  to figure out who I am now. For lack of a better word, I’ll call myself Kathy 2.  I need help to discover who she is.

Hearing Voices and A New Identity September 16, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, ESP, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
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I admit the first time I heard the voice of my boss, Mark, while driving down the freeway alone in my car, I was surprised.  He wasn’t in the car or on the cell phone, and yet he spoke to me as clearly as if he were sitting next to me. I realized immediately that I had a special power: ESP. It didn’t seem unusual at all to be gifted with special powers, and it didn’t even cross my mind that I could be mentally ill. I was simply gifted.

I assumed from the very first time I heard Mark’s voice that I had control of my ESP. I assumed that I would be able to simply stop hearing the voices whenever I chose to, and that was how it worked. At first.

Then things changed, and suddenly I was no longer in charge.  The voices were. As the voices slowly increased in number- around 50 at the high- they also increased their grip on my mind, ultimately refusing to leave. When I eventually begged and pleaded with them to leave, they wouldn’t go away.  That’s where the strength of my personality played into the situation.

I should have been terrified when the voices wouldn’t leave. I should have sought immediate medical intervention when I felt my mind being smothered by theirs, wrapping their thoughts around mine and choking me off  like morning glories on a rhododendron.

But because of the nature of my personality, I felt strong enough to handle the situation. I had always succeeded in everything I had undertaken before, so this wouldn’t be any different. I fought hard to keep a sense of self, knowing that I would prevail, despite the increased smothering of my ideas by theirs. To keep things from unraveling, I learned not to express fear. To express fear brought on the evil voices. But to embrace the voices with love kept the voices slightly off-balance. Where there should have been fear in me there was a sort of pity for them.

My saving grace was that the voices never learned how to read my own independent thoughts. This situation is hard to articulate even now, but suffice it to say that they tried to smother and replace my thoughts with their own, but they never knew what my thoughts- my real thoughts- were.

Trying to maintain my separate being from being taken over by the voices was like being in a room with someone fighting for possession of increasingly more space. Never satisfied with taking just a part of the room, they moved their line of possession to increasingly larger sections of the room. As long as I could maintain even a tiny portion of the room, I could hold on to my identity.  That was what protected me from total destruction.

Eventually, the voices took over my entire mind, cleanly breaking my mind off and replacing it with their own, plunging me into a total and complete break from reality. Their reality became my own.

In the days and hours before my involuntary commitment to the mental hospital, my independent personality was a sliver of what it had been before the mental illness took over. As my husband drove me to the emergency room, the last shreds of what used to be me disappeared, replaced in totality by Pangea the Mermaid, the identity of the new inhabitant of my body. The old Kathy was lost forever.

Only strong medication administered in a mental hospital under constant supervision broke their thoughts from my mind. But as their claw-like grip on my mind receded, what remained in the room was not what used to be there. The thoughts that took over my mind also took over my identity, and the medication that wiped out Pangea never replaced it with the old Kathy. My former personality was destroyed first by the voices and then by the medication. The mind emerging from the tunnel isn’t the mind that entered it.

As you might imagine, this situation created an identity crisis of major proportions. I’m not the old Kathy, and neither am I Pangea.  I’m someone entirely new. And that’s where therapy comes in.  My therapist has slowly, over a two year period of time, helped me define and identify who this new person is.  I hate to think about how empty my life would be  without the help of my counselor. Her assistance in rebuilding me from scratch has made life worth living for me and my friends and family.  Without her help, I would be in a horrible place- neither one nor the other. Now I realize that I’m not Kathy 1, and not Pangea. I’m Kathy 2, and that’s just fine.