I used to think that my symptoms were linear and straightforward. Simple cause and effect. Or action and Reaction.
Trigger happens > My mind and body react > Parts of me counter with coping strategies > reaction slows down or goes away
It was logical and made sense. So every time I got triggered or had an increase in symptoms, I’d go through my tool box and try out coping strategies until something worked. And kept using the same strategies for specific symptoms and triggers until they did not work anymore.
The last few weeks, I got sick with a cold and had an increase in symptoms. Then came Veteran’s Day; a holiday I completely forgot about except in the peripheral sense. My cold did not get better; it kept lingering. Possibly because I stopped sleeping and started having more nightmares. Possibly because the headaches and neck pain came back. Possibly because of the radical temperature changes in my part of the US.
Either way, I got sick. The headaches and nightmares got worse. The body pain increased. The switching at night got worse. By Monday, I knew I had to do something or risk not being able to work. So I took half of a Tylenol (the mild version of a knockout pill) and slept through the night in spite of nightmares. Woke up the next morning feeling rested even though I was crying and curled in a ball…and seeing giant spiders and frogs all around me. My hearing was dulled too; like hearing everything through static.
The spiders and frogs (8-12 feet tall) were transparent. I knew I was hallucinating. And I felt pretty good; so I decided to go to work. The hallucinations stayed. Sometimes I saw cartoons. Once I mistook my supervisor for someone else because I didn’t recognize his footsteps and didn’t see him. But every time I tried to use a strategy to make the hallucinations ease up, I got a headache. Or the neck pain got worse. Or I started feeling like a panic attack was coming on.
Wednesday, I switched days and saw my therapist. It had been almost a week of disturbed or interrupted sleep; no idea what the alters were doing while I rested at night. She listened as I explained the situation with the hallucinations and the physical pain. We agreed that I had to make a choice. Keep hallucinating or endure the physical pain medicine can’t make go away.
The hallucinations were not affecting my work performance or daily routine except to be disorienting and confusing (auditory ones mostly) sometimes. And I kind of liked seeing cartoons and landscapes appear as an overlay while I was out and about. The spiders, flies, frogs, and other creatures not so much. And as long as they didn’t get worse or become so real I couldn’t tell the difference anymore, why not let them stay?
It’s been about 2 weeks since the hallucinations started, maybe longer. About 8 days without the physical pain. My cold is gone. The anxiety and panic feelings are lessened. And I still see animals, insects, cartoons, and landscapes overlaid like a transparency over the real world. Neither of us knows when it will stop. And right now, I am not going to worry. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the funny stuff my brain and my alters come up with and share as they appear.