Have you had auditory or visual hallucinations and if so, how did they start out? Did they start out simple like hearing your name being called then escalate into something more?
MB’s two cents...
Hallucinations, also known as psychosis, are not uncommon in those with sever bipolar disorder. Where as I have never experienced these symptoms myself, they are not unheard of. One of the things to know about bipolar disorder is that it is, as I like to refer to it as, the Buy one Get Five Free Illness. In my experiences with my son and I as well as most people I have met dealing with this disorder, it has always been accompanied by other diagnosis such as ADHD, ODD, OCD, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, ect.
Below is Erika’s story about her run-in’s with hallucinations. I must admit, it was difficult for me to read, but it’s important to be aware that these things are real. That way, we can keep our eyes open and help ourselves/ our children get the proper help if we notice these symptoms being displayed.
The first time I remember hallucinating, it was in my full-day Kindergarten classroom. I was sitting quietly at my desk working on a project, when I happened to look down. There, by my feet, was a pure black cat. At the sight, I smiled so wide and wanted to just reach down to snuggle with the cat, especially because she was exactly like my late cat, Simba; however, when I looked again, she was gone. I thought it was great: I had a friend that only I could see. I told myself it was best a secret between the cat and I, so I never told a soul. At the time, I was also beginning to believe I had special powers to change the weather, I was receiving ‘signs’ everywhere, and I swore the trees were smiling at me. I was special and chosen, I thought, and could see things other could not. Another dimension, if you will.
Over the next few years, however, these magical delusions would be bent and twisted into something darker. I still believed that I could control the weather, and was receiving signs from someone. I was also convinced that I was a Lion Queen, and that I had been placed in the wrong type of body by some mistake. With everything in me, I believed that the rest of my tribe would come and transform me soon. I would “pretend” play with other kids as lions; but they were just playing, while I was practicing for when I would be forced to lead in the wild. With all of that, though, there were other things beginning to surface. I was starting to become paranoid, truly believing that someone was going to hurt me, was watching me, and that everyone could read my mind. I remember filtering out my thoughts, terrified someone would hear something I didn’t want them to. I was stuck in this constant state of flight or fight, waiting for an attack to come. There were people in the TV watching me. Cars really had a soul and mind, and they were waiting to come together and kill all the humans. Whenever I passed a car, I would feel its stare bear into me. At night, I would hear shrieks outside my house, and would “know” that someone had been murdered. Frequently, I would get these intense feelings and beliefs that something terrible was about to happen, which led to me refusing to let my mom leave to do things because I knew if she did, I would lose her.
Then I got to the sixth grade, and everything was a steady decline from that point forward. My house was no longer safe to me. There were menacing spirits everywhere – I could feel them, and would often hear them chatting (though I couldn’t understand what they were saying), and would sometimes see glimpses of them out of the corner of my eye. Once, I looked in the mirror and watched my face morph into that of a menacing old woman. After school, I would run either to the computer or under my blankets, desperate for some relief. At night, I could no longer get up to use the bathroom alone. I had to yell for my mother, and have her literally hold my hand and stay right there. Often, I would run from bed to where our two couches were, where she slept on one (she didn’t have her own room at the time – the apartment was too small), and I would run to other. I remember reaching out to hold her hand as I slept, terrified of everything that I sensed around me. I was terrified to the point I felt physically paralyzed at times, with nothing able to quell my fears.
As the months went on, my delusions began to turn more specific and horrifying. While there were still many different spirits, my mind was now focused on two: a husband and wife. He usually stayed in the kitchen, while his wife stalked the bathroom door, which was right outside my room at the time. I decided that the face in the mirror must have been hers. Somehow, I just knew that they were there to seriously harm me, most likely with intentions to murder me. I heard more of the chatter between the two, often knowing that they were talking about me. The shadows now seemed to be ever present. In the midst of this, we moved and I so desperately hoped they would stay at my original apartment. Quickly, though, it became obvious to me that not only had they followed me; but were much more aggressive here. Most of my nights were spent curled up in a tight ball under the covers, afraid to open my eyes for a second because of what I would see. I was disintegrating mentally, and quick.
Though I didn’t know it then, entering the eighth grade was the start of a ticking time bomb for me. With each passing day, this female ghost, who just recently revealed her name was Maria, found new ways to break me, and her story became clearer. Her husband and her had led a semi-functional life together. She was an avid reader, writer, and loved to sew. He worked long days, and drank to stuff his misery down. The event that ended their lives, and started this malice against human life, involved this unhealthy habit. He had gone drinking at the bar with his friends, as he did almost every night; however, as he was set to leave, it began to downpour. Drunk and tired from a long day at work, this husband tried to drive home in this storm. Needless to say, he did not make it home, and when Maria found out about this, her life shattered. In only a few minutes, she had changed from an average woman to someone who was filled with hatred, malice, disgust, venom, and despairing grief. She hanged herself that night. Unable to cross over, she created her own dimension somewhere between here and there, and trapped her husband in it with her. As years went by, she would pick someone to mentally torture, eventually driving them to insanity. That way, when they tried to tell others what was going on, they labeled it as mental illness and give them pills, whose effects on the body only made her stronger. For some reason, she had chosen me.
I lived everyday in this state of terror and absolute horror. Little sounds made me scream, shadows were everywhere, and their chatter filled my house. No matter how much I tried to reason myself otherwise, I was truly convinced I was going to die by her hand, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. If I told anyone, they would stuff me full of drugs that only gave her more power over me. By the end of October, I was truly breaking down into a withdrawn, paranoid mess. I learned more about her as she transmitted it into my thoughts. She couldn’t see me on her own, so relied on car lights, other lights, mirrors, reflective surfaces, TVs, computer monitors, and she could even see me through my acts’ and loved ones’ eyes. Not only were those many spirits I originally sensed trapped in her world; but she had turned many of them into her spies, able to enter the living world. She also had a mindless army of demons, who were those shadows that I saw, the air around them giving me chills. When I was near them, it was obvious they were fueled by no thought, and had an aura of hate. More so, I soon learned, they could hurt me if I didn’t do what Maria said.
At first, our conversations weren’t auditory. It started out with her inserting a thought in my head – for example, “Hello, scum” – and I could tell it was her because her thoughts sounded different. She had this harsh, malicious tone to her voice. Often, people would find me mumbling to “myself”, when I was really talking to her. This is when everything just seemed to crumble. She began commanding me to do things to hurt myself, because the greater the injury the closer I was to her world. She wanted me to do things like let myself get hit by a car or take an overdose. Desperate not to, I would cut myself (more than usual) for her, which satisfied her somewhat. Then she began commanding me to hurt others, and when I am in these states, one might think I am psychopathic. My whole expression, tone of voice, and emotions go eerily flat. She’ll give the command. There have been times where I will look someone dead in the eye, and say in a mono-tone voice, “She wants me to strangle you.” In a desperate attempt to resist, I will begin biting myself, biting other things, pounding my fists against something, all with no expression or emotion (though a lot of fear, guilt and self-hate afterward). I could be telling she wanted me to slit your throat one minute, and the next be back from it. None of these outbursts were driven by rage, such as those from the mood disorder experience, just that command from someone who could hurt me. When the flat affective came on, I learned this was a sign she was more in control, and that I was more in her world than ours.
By October, I was in her world most of the time. Flat, withdrawn, mumbling, hand-flapping, and nonsense speech. She was everywhere, sending me messages through radio, the people around me, and even newspaper headlines. She could even control my environment, and hurt those around me. A few times, I got so withdrawn into her world that I lay in bed, feeling as if I couldn’t move, just staring at that ceiling. The demons stood around me, the shadows ran around, and the other spirits appeared every now and then. I felt dead, convinced I would be very shortly, and spent most of my days so terrified I barely functioned. If I slept over a friend’s, I would lie in the dark unable to sleep, waking up my friend every few minutes just to make sure she was still there. What the psychosis produced seemed more real than what actually was, and was a long way from those magical beliefs of the past.
Eventually, the psychosis landed me in the hospital (in addition to severe mixed states and impulsivity, the latter of which was caused by psychosis. When psychotic, everything sets me off and I act – not think), where they were finally able to begin treating me. As I wrote in another answer, one of the drugs they put me on, Zyprexa, made my paranoia severely worse. After trails and error, I was put on Serequel, which has been the most effective drug to date. I still have temporary relapses back to psychosis; but it has massively better than it was. While she is still with me sometimes, I can say that I am most likely climbing my way up from the rabbit hole from Hell.. Just to be sure, though, I’m going to knock on my wooden desk.
If you or anyone you know experiences hallucinations with or without the accompaniment of any of the following symptoms, we would highly recommend seeking prompt medical attention.
- Abnormal displays of emotion
- Depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts
- Disorganized thought and speech
- Extreme excitement (mania)
- False beliefs (delusions)
- Loss of touch with reality
- Mistaken perceptions (illusions)
- Seeing, hearing, feeling, or perceiving things that are not there (hallucinations)
- Unfounded fear/suspicion