Back under Their spell

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.

About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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13 Responses to Back under Their spell

  1. Sounds really horrid Charlotte. I hope you find equilibrium again soon. Sending love and strength. C. X

  2. csh says:

    So sorry to hear this is happening to you Charlotte. Sounds absolutely horrible. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

    If you can take support from blog comments, I hope you take comfort from the support of fans of your blog. Here’s hoping this is a mere speed bump and that you get back on the smooth highway soon.

  3. J says:

    I wish you well again asap So sorry that this is happening when you are getting involved in so many worthwhile organisations. Take care and get sorted soon.

  4. Louise Payne says:

    Oh dear Charlotte, how distressing for you. I hope you get things sorted soon and are on an even keel again.

  5. Madeleine says:

    I follow your twitter feed and I saw your earlier tweet about risky patterns on your dress and risky shapes. I read an article that **might** provide an origin for these so I thought I’d note in here. 140 characters is not good for explanation.

    There is a phenomenon called trypophobia – a fear of small holes or clusters of small holes. It was researched by some British psychologists who found it isn’t a phobia, but a deep visceral reaction that some people have to patterns and colour contrasts seen in venomous animals or human disease:

    ” most of the disagreeable pictures shared an underlying mathematical structure that incorporates small, high-contrast features such as dots or stripes. This spectral pattern is seen in the skin coloration of many species of dangerous or poisonous animals; past studies have found that most people find this pattern uncomfortable to look at”.

    I remembered this because it explained why I found the photo of a child’s skull with adult teeth sat in holes under the milk ones completely disgusting (to my irrational mind they were holes where they shouldn’t be with smooth white alien things that could emerge at any time. I know that is how it is SUPPOSED to be…but…) while my sister found it amazing. Ditto other patterns.

    I thought of this when I saw your tweets (dated 16/09/14) and your blog thoughts about ominous and dangerous colours, contrasts and patterns. Especially the photo of your dress, which has an uncanny resemblance to the pattern of the blue ringed octopus mentioned in the second article above.

    I’m only mentioning this as a possible theory. ????? I know it doesn’t cover all your experiences, but for the colours and patterns bit, maybe in origin you are having a natural visceral reaction to these patterns that you might not notice in everyday life, but gets whipped up, amplified and distorted by your bipolar?????

    I’m not trying to tell you what your mind is doing or anything like that and I hope it doesn’t come across like that or as belittling what you are going through. You asked on twitter ‘what does it all mean?’ I thought maybe this might possibly be a mechanism or an idea that might be useful ????

    I hope you get well soon.

    • I’ve given this some though but it doesn’t feel right because much worse than circles or rings are dark coloured tear drops or triangles. And those would be much, much worse spaced out on a light background than grouped or patterned. I have no idea whether there is any meaning behind any of it. I doubt it.

  6. I know what you mean about the dizzying disconnect that happens in your brain when things that you see, hear or that touch you that you know logically are not there nevertheless feel totally and undeniably real. Its totally exhausting trying to reconcile the two things. I hope you find some solace soon.

    • Hu Kev 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. That’s not quite my experience – I hardly ever have hallucinations. The things ARE there, it’s the meaning that I attach to them that is wrong. xxx

  7. Ahhh, I see. Yes that’s totally different 🙂 I’ll read more carefully in future!

  8. Vivek Iyer says:

    Extraordinarily lucidly written. We were discussing something similar today in group. Madeline’s comment was also an eye opener.
    I was wondering whether people who are naturally gifted with high rationality and lucidity suffer more during visitations from ‘Them’ than more muddled or ‘mystically’ inclined people.
    I remember, at School, if the material got a bit too challenging I’d respond by disengaging, getting dumber (I’d actually play noughts and crosses against myself- even though the first thing you learn in Game Theory is that it’s a simply dominated game!) and doodling childish cartoons of super-heroes.
    I suppose this is a common strategy in totalitarian countries- if Power is terrifying in its arbitrariness then ‘Good Soldier Schwiek’s stupidity and incompetence is the only way to fight back.
    For me, personally, writing stupid poetry (surely the most vainglorious thing to do under the circumstances- like taking a selfie as the guillotine blade descends) is my way of getting back at ‘Them’.
    Against Stupidity, the Gods themselves battle in vain. It also works on Bureaucrats.

  9. Michael Tobias says:

    I can soooo relate to what you were writing in about in “they are back” – though I have been “stable” for several years now, I notice certain things which used to have supreme significance — signs of the same sinister monitoring of which you speak. An old man, who would have been Satin in disguise — things moved around in my apartment, which would have been the product of the mysterious “others” coming in to rearrange things just to mess with me.
    I realize after reading your article how lucky I am. And that that’s all it is really. Luck. (and good medicine of course) Simply put, I want to thank you for so eloquently putting to words what is so difficult to translate from the madness of our disease into the written word. But you have done so — and I know just what you are conveying. Thank you so much, and may you be blessed with the peace for which you long.

  10. Pingback: Black bags in the night | purplepersuasion

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