There were spiders dropping down from the ceiling and into my wife’s cleavage. The wall behind her was a huge, stretched expanse of hairy green flesh, breathing slowly in and out. Phantom janitors stole in and out at the edges of my vision, sweeping in places they could not possibly stand and then vanishing when I tried to talk to them.
And my response was, “Oh. That’s interesting, what my brain is doing.”
These ridiculous hallucinations happened during my extremely traumatic 52-hour post-surgery recovery phase, when I was in tremendous pain and could not sleep. And yet, I think about the only other time I hallucinated, having dropped acid on a very hot summer’s night… and I found it disappointing. Yes, my vision was flexing and distorting, and I witnessed all sorts of curious artifacts as my brain’s visual processing center went into overload – but I quietly dissected each illusion, breaking it down into its interesting components, and in such a way I reduced what could have been a wild trip down into a series of interesting quirks.
I don’t really hallucinate, I don’t think. I know what my brain is up to. And today, I realized why:
It’s because I’m a depressive. I don’t trust my brain.
My brain has been a chronic liar for years, telling me how everyone hates me (when they don’t), how I’ve never accomplished anything of any note (I have), and how the world would be better off if I just killed myself (unproven, but I use the other two false conclusions to keep that one in the “bad idea” zone). I live a very strict life of having to double-check every input my brain gives me, for it routinely distorts a mundane “Oh!” into an encoded “You suck, Steinmetz, everything you ever liked was a fraud.” If I don’t, well, I ruin my life.
So when my brain starts providing false visual information, I do the same thing: I question it. I compare it to reality. And if it doesn’t make sense, I ignore it.
This makes me a little sad. I mean, it did protect me from a full-fledged freakout when I was in the hospital… but it means that while others experience an exultant joy with acid and peyote and other crazy drugs, seeing the face of God, I’ll never be able to flow with that illusion. They can trust what their brains give them, accepting most inputs safely and without harm, and so when some external source causes the brain to deliver crazy input, they can just run amuck with it like a kid whirling on a playground.
I’m off to the side. Analyzing. Breaking it down. Questioning relentlessly. Because that’s my survival. That’s what I do.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
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