I’m not really of a scientific bent. I am definitely more a creature of the metaphor and the analogy. So I know that I’m probably talking absolute nonsense in terms of neurobiology (no need to write in and tell me so!), but at the moment I feel that although the grey matter may be firing on all cylinders, it’s doing it wrong. If my neurons usually join up to make a kind of recognisable picture of the world, then someone’s messing with the pattern. Imagine my brain activity to be like a dot-to-dot puzzle – follow the established path and out of an unintelligible array of dots and numbers will emerge a clear picture, the same picture I’d get doing the same picture a week ago or tomorrow. Only right now I feel like someone’s either been interfering with the numbering, or drawing crazed, haphazard lines between the dots with zero regard for the proper path. Or both. Synapses keep passing on information, but are bringing forth strange and sometimes unwelcome phenomena.
And they don’t calm down when they’re supposed to. A good night’s sleep this past month is only waking up four times instead of 8 or 10, only having a series of lurid and emotionally exhausting dreams instead of nightmares that leave me gasping for breath as my heart booms in my chest. Napping to catch up on sleep is not an option; if I try brain forces me awake every 5-10 minutes my in a way that suggests it thinks there might be a monster outside the door. It won’t accept the repeated attempts to evidence that there isn’t. I also have countless mind-pops throughout the day. Mind-popping is when a thought, situation or action leads to a sensation memory of a completely unrelated place or event, and my mind is hopping and popping all over the place this week. I stand at the sink washing up, and suddenly feel that I’m at the Sainsbury’s I used to shop at when my son was a toddler. Picking up the post, I have a sudden sense of queuing to come in after playtime at my primary school, waiting in the corridor alongside the book cupboard. Opening a cupboard,I am in a restaurant in Dublin that I visited once in 1994. No logic to it.
The head music is also back. Once again I am plagued by snatches of the works we are rehearsing in choir – the same snatches, over and over – making me worry that I will have to drop out of choir. I try to get CBT on them. “This is not actual music,” I remind myself. “The actual music requires at least five singers singing five separate parts, and a conductor. This is only a form of thought about music, and thoughts can be stopped or changed.” How sick I am of telling myself that. Meanwhile, sounds in the real world are far too loud again. Sitting quietly in a group I can hear tummies rumbling and feet shuffling, as if tiny insignificant noises are being funnelled down a giant ear trumpet and directly into my brain. Thank goodness for noise-cancelling headphones.
Here’s a new one! My usual capacity for noticing visual pareidolia (inanimate objects that just happen to look like faces or people) has greatly increased. I can’t stop seeing the face in the tree by the church, the narrowed eyes in the speed humps, the horrified countenance of the wire coat-hanger suspended from the cupboard door-knobs. They all look anguished or in pain. I just passed another one, a wailing creature made of worn-through flooring in the station ticket hall. It’s nothing as bad as last November, when trying sodium valproate left me drowning in hallucinations, but I have started seeing faces when I close my eyes. Not realistic faces, but ones that look like they are carved or made from clay, stylised in the manner of tribal masks. They are not (yet) frightening, but they are alien.
With all of this going on, I am back to feeling that I really need a break. A break from being me, a proper rest with my mind quiet and the darkness when I close my eyes being just – well, darkness. I’m not at “the only way is overdose” stage again, but I’m starting to remember why I can get to feel that way. I’m seeing the psychiatrist this week. Let’s see what he has to suggest.