Aces Low

November 28, 2012

So, it’s very apparent that my symptoms got worse some years ago, probably not coincidentally around the time I broke my skull (it was a minor fracture and moderate concussion-nothing too gory). But not hugely bad. I’m still very high-functioning for the most part. But not all days were created equal.

Most days I have noise, static. It is very hard to describe, quite possibly because I’m not absolutely sure what needs describing. But I can certainly tell you what it’s like losing the world entirely. Those days are when I am not distracted, I’m not having trouble filtering real and unreal-some days i can’t be bothered to even try. And the worst moments, there’s no filtering possible-real has taken a complete back seat.

If you wanted to rate how in-sync I feel with the world (feel, not am-we’re operating n an entirely subjective scale, here), I’d say if ten is perfect, one is completely gone, I’m probably usually around a seven or eight. Hey, passing grade! I’ll take it! Really good days are nines, and on the rare ten, the world is really… dull. Quiet. normal. It feels like there’s nothing happening in my head that isn’t really, pretty much, out there for everyone else to see as well. Those days are, in their own way, mildly disturbing. You do get used to it, in a sick way.

Bad days it gets to a five, and I talk to myself, I mutter, I’m twitchy and I’m probably that person you avoid sitting next to on the train. If I roll a three, we’re talking mood swings that make Girl, Interrupted look like an episode of Full House. I’ve never had a day at one. One is that moment where something in my head crosses wires terribly and I am not connected to reality anymore. Whatever world I’m seeing, and it’s never a pleasant trip, is just… scary. I’ve spent over an hour in a nightmare world, so I’m told. If I’m unlucky, I remember it. My subconscious is pretty gruesome.

So let’s really pick apart some of these episodes. I don’t know if it will help me, but maybe it’ll provide someone with something. I can’t describe the transitions from one state to the other-they’re too fuzzy. Think of it like switching channels on an old TV-you don’t smoothly crossfade from one signal to another-you start on channel three, there’s a moment of static, then channel two. Switch back and it’s the same. Now imagine Channel two is transmitting their sound turned up several times what it ought to be, and that static in between is so loud it’s silent (which makes no sense, but the analogy is stretching thin). I suppose the brain just blanks out during that moment of conscious/subconscious shear.

I remember waking to a room full of death. Not zombies, but not inanimate. As if the concept of death were animate, and… not malevolent, but it wasn’t friendly, either. It was pervasive. I could feel the cells in my skin dying and falling away, could hear each cell’s agony, odd as that is. I could hear everything in the room, everything that had been alive or was kept from growing. There were bodies, but they weren’t real corpses, but ideas-concepts of dead individuals. My nerves squished of death (I have no idea how else to express that concept-imagine feeling like rot, decay, and death, inside and out and all over and surrounded), my eyes weren’t seeing all this, because they were decay, I just knew what was around me.

I wanted to scream, and scream, and scream. But I couldn’t, because my throat was dead. But apparently my real body was very capable of screaming. Talk about embarrassing. I’m sure, had my psyche not been realign from the sudden separation from and re-emersion into reality, I’d have been beet red. All that, in what was, I’m told, about fifteen seconds.

Could have fooled me.

Another time, I was home with my parents. The pet birds were loose, and I stepped on one. Bare foot. It was still alive, and I couldn’t do a thing for it. It just fluttered, broken and in pain and I couldn’t make myself end its suffering, and then it rotted away. First it’s head shed the feathers, and the flesh turned to nothing, leaving the bones. Then the rest of the flesh on the body melted away, the feathers disappeared, and I was holding a skeleton. I dropped the body, and it was alive, but broken again. I couldn’t catch the poor creature before it hit the carpet and it’s back snapped like a twig, it’s neck twisting to the side. And the other birds were dead. And my dogs were there, nothing but bones long since passed from life, and the rest of everything was perfect, normal, exactly the way it should be.

That was the part that really scared me, nothing could have been further from sanity-the world was perfect to memory-every smell, every sensation, every surface just how it should have been. But not. I was there. Obviously, I wasn’t actually even in the same timezone, but my mind was fully believing what I saw.

And this shit happens to me while I’m awake.

Back it down to a two, and you have severe problems all their own, where reality and illusion are just too hard to keep separate, because what’s real just is less solid than what isn’t. A year ago we’d just gotten the heat in the house turned on, and it was noisy. Insanely noisy. And it was just clanking and clanking and ringing and just the sound of metal on metal all night and it rattled inside my skull and I tried to dig it out of my head, I tried to knock it from my skull but it wouldn’t go away. It got louder and louder, and I got angrier and more upset, I wanted to rip down the walls, I wanted to hurt myself, pain and noise could make it go away, I knew it, if there were just enough. Enough pain and/or noise could block out this horrible, mind-piercing sound that just wouldn’t stop. It could, I had to try.

The worst part is that enough pain and sometimes enough noise, and certainly both, can somewhat block it out. It’s like stimming on another level altogether. I have a couple scars on my left arm I’m fairly secure in my belief must have come from stimming of some sort when I was having an episode. I can’t say for certain-I only remember one day noticing I had the little things. One, on the base of my left thumb, is almost gone. The thin white line on my upper forearm looks permanent. It practically looks like a surgical scar, it’s so precise.

The violent impulses are bad, too. But I have those under control simply by abhorring violence, often refusing to use even justified violence when I ought to. (No, really-I once was trying to de-escalate an encounter while physically having to fight someone off). This doesn’t change the VERY vivid imagery of causing another person deep physical harm. The moments of utterly bizarre and unreasonable instant wrath that fills my stomach with fire. Someone brushes past me on the subway platform? I want to smash their skull on an “I” beam and fling them bodily onto the tracks. Someone laughs near me, talking quietly to a friend? Clearly they’re mocking me and I should rip their jaw free of their skull and smash their rib cage in, twist their knee until something breaks loose. Oh, that guy looked at me. Bring it. BRING IT. I WILL FUCKING STAB YOU IN EVERY ORGAN. Or, calmly control my heart rate and adjust my shoulder straps.

These are, not surprisingly, more common the lower my day scores. And yet, I believe I live a fairly peaceful life, at least as far as my own actions are concerned (the incidence of people starting fights with me is, however, somewhat remarkably absurd. I swear, I’ve got a psycho magnet hidden on me and when I find that damn thing I’m dropping it in the atlantic). I think my mental issues have given me an absurd level of stability on my decent-to-good days. Maybe this is necessary for living in a place like New York City-after what my brain throws my way on a bad day, nothing reality has in store can really turn me upside down for all that long.

Today was a nice eight or nine. I rather those numbers.

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