A Mental Illness PSA
Hang in there with me. This one will make sense in the end.
So you know how sometimes filmmakers mix animation and live action? And there’s a huge variation in how much animation versus live action that is used. It can be anything from one tiny little detail in a scene that lasts no more than a few seconds to a live action character living in an animated universe to anything in between. What’s more, there’s just as much variation as to the content of the animation. It can be unicorns and rainbows or bloody violence.
This is what living with hallucinations is like. I have a severe mental illness and I have found through many years of life experience that just the fact that I have hallucinations is the scariest part of it to others. There is the perpetual assumption that what hallucinations means is always an live action character living in an animated world that’s filled with bloody violence. Nope. Mine’s much more on the end of one little detail for a few seconds and while not unicorns and rainbows, it’s a long way from bloody violence.
Because of society at large’s assumptions about the nature of hallucinations, people don’t ask what it’s like very often. They just back away and run really fast. What’s more, every mental illness that comes with hallucinations tends to have their own things that the hallucinations revolve around. I’m not a paranoid schizophrenic. So I’ve never had a paranoid schizophrenic hallucination. This means I’ve never hallucinated about conspiracy theories or anything in relation to violence to others. And I never will because I’m not a paranoid schizophrenic.
My techincal, full length diagnosis is severe bipolar, level four, with psychosis, rapid cycling (although I may be on the line for the rapid cycling now and qualify for a slow cycle. Not sure, and I don’t really care), interepisodic remission, with social phobia and ptsd as mitigating conditions. I generally just say I’m bipolar. Have I hallucinated voices? Yep. And the only thing they’ve ever said to me is my own name. I try to find who’s saying it, as would anyone who heard their own name being called. Annoying, but a long way from scary. Just annoying.
Mostly my auditory hallucinations involve things like door knocking or my cell phone alerts or music. A whole lot of music. And it’s always pretty damn amusing because it’s out of place music. Like one time riding the light rail through town, seated across the aisle from this young gentleman who was probably a fan of rap….but I heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony coming from his headphones. I hallucinate classical and opera a lot. A wierd amount of opera. But again, it’s a long way from scary. Well, some people may find O Fortuna a little scary. But I think it’s rad as shit.
I have visual hallucinations too. (Well, I have smell ones too, but those are things like the smell of bacon and cinnamon rolls.) Let’s see… shortly before my dad’s death, my hallucinations for that episode all focused around birds. My dad was a pilot and always said if he was an animal, he’d be a bird. So yes, I believe my mind was telling me something. It was the only time I’ve ever had them focused on birds. But still, not scary. Things like seeing a real morning dove flying with a not real copper wire coming from it’s head.
I hallucinate dogs pretty regularly. Not scary dogs. Just dogs wandering around late at night. I hallucinate bubbles of light coming off of security lights or street lights. All pretty harmless stuff. Do I have some that are at times a little disturbing? Yep. When I’m severely depressed and heavily suicidal, it does happen. But it’s regular, expected, and I know how to deal with it. I hallucinate blood streaming out of my wrists. My trick to deal with it—I put on long sleeves. Not exactly that big of a deal, is it?
So please, if someone you know has hallucinations, ask them what it’s like. Because there’s a strong likelihood that it’s not like what you may be assuming. And it’s a massive relief to actually be able to talk about it honestly and openly. It’s a comfort to know it’s safe to actually say what’s going on. Don’t assume that it’s all a live action character in a cartoon world or bloody violence. Because for the majority of us who have them, it’s not.