So here I am back dealing with Them. I’ve been almost entirely well now for five months and had honestly started to feel that I was completely in remission. A couple of months ago I reduced my dose of quetiapine quickly and easily from 750mg to 600mg with no mental or physical ill effects, so it is which shock and disappointment I find that I have not tolerated the drop from 600mg to 500mg well. In the two weeks since the reduction I have felt that I have been very mildly hypomanic for the first time since about March.
I kind of saw the potential for that; I have been taking on more work, and more exciting work, and I’ve been try to balance out the buzz by using PRN quetiapine and diazepam and taking things slowly and calmly when not working outside the home. It is, after all, genuinely exciting to be asked to speak at conferences or to have the opportunity to give a reading from my book. What I was not in any way expecting was a return to the kind of mild psychosis that for all its lack of severity makes me feel out of control. As I write this, it is Monday, and I’ve been feeling at the mercy of Them since Saturday. I’ve fallen right back into the bizarre system of beliefs I was having problems with last autumn; in a moment when I saw a single object I experienced as “sinister”, that belief system has gone from being something I’ve been able to describe in talks and training events with detachment to my present horrible reality.
The really interesting this about this system of belief is that while I am aware that I am generating it, that it is most likely a product of faulty dopamine levels, I feel very strongly that it has an independent existence. I do not create it; it is revealed to me. I feel like an archeologist who whilst looking for something fairly mundane – coins, perhaps –with one scrape of a trowel accidentally reveals a corner of something larger and far more intricate. Further work on the site exposes ever greater complexity until individual areas of tile begin to link together into one huge mosaic floor.
Each of my experiences with Them has, in the same way, fleshed out and consolidated my understanding of how the other dimension and its inhabitants operate. As my brain chemistry becomes more and more disordered I am more and more aware of the effect of aberrant salience, of the brain incorrectly identifying neutral things as standing out in importance (or being “salient”). Long before I had heard of this theory I used phrases such as “increased/distorted significance” because I recognised that at certain periods my brain would start to see things as specially important or significant, and as meant specifically for me, when they really, truly weren’t. In a mildly hypomanic, expansive mood these feel like benign “messages from the universe” that only I am equipped to decipher because I am special. A feather found in the park; a passage in a book opened at random; a beautiful harmony; all these can be positive sorts of message.
More frequently, however, the messages are sinister, frightening and “evidence” that I am in danger. Entirely neutral experiences and objects become messages sent for me to interpret, only the messages are always the same: We are out to get you, and we can, because you are powerless. As I become less and less well more and more things that anyone else would consider innocuous become not just suggestive of Their actions, but the presence of Them becomes the only explanation that in any way makes sense. For example, I went out to the shop earlier, to see if getting out of the flat was helpful, and when I came back I noticed the bedroom light was on. Instead of thinking, “Oops, I left the light on!” my initial, incredibly rapid interpretation was that there was someone in there. Equally rapidly, this was followed by the knowledge that no, there wasn’t anyone in there, but that They had put the light on in my absence specifically to make me think there was someone in there, to make me scared. Because They enjoy that. It genuinely felt like the most likely explanation.
The more experiences I have like this, the more of the picture is revealed and over the past couple of years it has built into the feeling that somewhere, in a dimension far, far away, beyond up or down or east or west, there are Beings, and the focus of these Beings is – me. I am entirely aware that this is both grandiose and ridiculous, but there it is. They may belong in another dimension, but They have tremendous reach into our own. This is fortunate for them as although They cannot manipulate me directly, They can use their reach to manipulate our world in a way that frightens and distresses me. It does not matter that I retain insight, that I “know” at a cognitive level that these things are not true, because I FEEL at a gut level that they are. And gut trumps cognition in terms of the speed at which it works, and in terms of its ability to instantly flood me with the hormones associated with being in the presence of threat.
They can threaten me through:
Colours. As I fall under their spell I begin to develop a strong aversion to certain colours, to feel that they are risky or even downright dangerous. I begin to feel very strongly that I do not want to connect with the dangerous colours, and will go to lengths to avoid looking at and especially touching them. My choice of pens, clothes, folders becomes dictated by the aversion. Usually the problem is with reds, especially a dark or rusty red, but today it’s yellows, especially ochre. No idea why it’s changed, but it was bad enough today that to feel safe I had to change my Twitter page background.
Patterns and shapes. Especially dark shapes/patterns on a light background. Pointy shapes are the worst, say teardrops or triangles. I have had to get rid of clothes with this kind of pattern before now.
Using technology to trick, distress and thwart me; I’ve covered this a lot in previous posts but right now I’m having ideas about the smoke alarm in the hall (which I cannot move from room to room without passing) being some kind of camera.
Nature. I have relatively recently discovered that They are also hiding their purposes within natural artifacts, BUT letting me know that They are doing this, so that I find aspects of the natural world scary. Previously I was troubled by the idea that the wasps’ nest in my dad’s loft is a monitoring device. Over the weekend as we were driving through the beautiful Worcestershire and Herefordshire countryside I felt, and yes I DO know how bonkers this is thank you, that certain types of hedge were not the work of nature or gardeners, but the creation of THEM. I felt at risk even though I was in the car, because the purpose is never to directly harm me, it is to mess with me be letting me know that I am being observed. I couldn’t bear to look at the hedges, because they were scary; but closing my eyes was scarier, because it left me more vulnerable.
After just a few days of this I am emotionally exhausted; having your eye hook onto so very many “dangers” in the course of a day is just incredibly tiring. I’m also disappointed that I’m this unwell again and that I’ll have to go back up to the dose I dropped down from two weeks ago. But while this is in its early stages I do recognise that the sensible thing is to do whatever takes, go back up, use diazepam, contact my Consultant if necessary to get my appointment brought forward. Even after a couple of days getting out from under Their spell has become much more important than my pride. I cannot face the thought of getting worse.