WARNING: The following post contains content which may be triggering including self-harm, psychotic hallucinations and delusions.
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Poems flow from the tip of my pen. The words pour frantically out of my head and are scrawled angrily onto the page.
Among the dark and disturbing poems even more disturbing texts are recorded in code. Pages of little symbols recorded in my school books… Luckily, by this time we never have to show the teachers our books – our assignments are all written and submitted separately.
When I’m not scrawling I am lost deep in the trenches of my mind, sitting still at the back of the classroom discreetly digging holes in my flesh under the sleeve of my jumper to ease the anguish swamping my head. The blood is hidden. The scars are hidden.
Somehow, among school kids with a keen nose for abnormality who tear down their peers, I manage to survive. True, I am mocked relentlessly and people think me odd, but I hide the extent of that truth from them.
As I withdraw further from the world external to me, my mind gets sicker and I see things with new sharp lenses. Suddenly I am aware of being able to see and hear things that others can’t, but I am not hallucinating – no, it is not I who is sick but almost every other human on the planet! They are all brainwashed, The Matrix-style. I have the gift of seeing. I have been chosen. I have to conceal this gift or the brainwashed ones in their ignorance will put me in an asylum with the other people who see but were deemed mad by those with closed eyes.
Demons perch on the cement garden edging in the school parking lot. My friends are seated on the window sills nearby and the demons sneer at them. I am reminded of the hyenas in the film “The Lion King”.
There are ghosts here, too. They sit silently in their dysmorphic human forms. Some of them are proud of having gone to hell and sneer at my hesitance to join them, others avoid meeting me with their hollow eyes and I know they carry regrets from this life.
The ghosts make me apprehensive – they are human and yet not. The thought of becoming one of them is both appealing and abhorrent.
The demons snivel at me but I despise them. They are only lowly minions of hell.
It is the man I am afraid of.
He is not a prophet, I am not even sure which side of heaven and hell he is on. He seems to mock both, and I am aware now that there are more than the existence of just these two worlds. He and the young woman with him are like gatekeepers between the worlds and the overseers who control those worlds. They have come to show me reality because I have the gift.
He peels back the air like a curtain and shows me an alternative world. I am asked to step into this world, but I won’t be able to return. I want to bring my family – I am not allowed. I beg him to let me tell my mum about the truth I’ve learned but I’m forbidden. He explains that she won’t understand, she will see it as a sickness. I have to hide my knowledge. I feel sick about this, I don’t like lying to her when she asks if I’m okay. I don’t entirely trust the man and I choose to stay here.
The ghosts tell me to join them. I know what I have to do and they beckon me forward. I need to take a knife from the teaching kitchens and go to the bathroom at the back of the school – the one that’s more secluded and less used. For days my mind is completely preoccupied with fantasies about opening my veins there while the ghosts coax me toward committing the act. I think of being found and upsetting a few students but they’ll get over it – the demons laugh at my concern for whoever finds my vessel. Eventually it’s the public nature of this suicide that stops me from carrying it out – I don’t want stories about my body being passed among the new students year after year.
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All the time this was going on I oscillated between feeling gifted and above the rest of mankind and abhorrent. I was agitated and fidgety, pacing at a jog in a paddock at home for up to eight hours every night, unable to stop my pen from moving during classes or my fingers from digging my skin. It thought it was a tortuous extension of the depression I’d experienced months the year before, another layer where feeling was not numbed but amplified a thousand times until it was all-consuming. I knew if I told somebody they would try to feed me anti-depressants.
Why didn’t I want be treated? Because my psychosis led me to believe that it was my destiny to suffer for the good of those around me. I thought I was protecting them. In believing that everyone “sane” was brainwashed and the “insane” were seers like me but who were imprisoned by the people who couldn’t understand, I thought that medication would simply imprison me too. As distressing as my experience was, there was something alluring about not being “brainwashed” like everybody else. I preferred suffering to ignorance.
I didn’t know until much later that the strong negative feelings and corrupt nature of my psychotic obsessions were not depression I was experiencing but a mixed episode with both manic and depressive features.
At one point I actually looked up manic-depressive illness after learning about it in our health class at school. I needed an explanation for what I was experiencing, but I dismissed the idea after reading that mania was all about grandiose feelings and euphoria. I can see the grandiosity in some of my delusions now but at the time the underlying dark tones in my mood overshadowed the pretentious aspects of my psychotic convictions.
There is much I don’t remember about that first mixed manic-depressive episode which is probably a blessing. What I do recall is fragmented and hazy, like a half-forgotten nightmare.
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The next post in this series is Blissful Hypomania.