(first published 24th February 2012)
It’s very interesting, I noted during an early morning chat with a fellow PD-wrangler, as she recounted her first, and rather scary, hallucination. Interesting because her brain had chosen to inject life into a hat and scarf hanging on the back of a door, so much so that she had been forced to touch it, to confirm with one sense what her intellect knew and yet her sight denied. Interesting because we suffer from a brain-based movement disorder which makes our bodies move uncontrollably, or make it difficult to control our bodies. Why the projection of movement onto inanimate objects? Why translate this movement as a sign of life rather than of the wind?
The physical parts of PD are in themselves rather unsettling, sometimes scary, eventually debilitating, but it is perhaps the stuff that goes on inside the head which is most interesting, if possibly in a Chinese sense. Eventually, everyone can see you have PD, but it’s the stuff contained in our own little personal prison, our own lifelong solitary confinement, which is really crippling.
I have been hallucinating for some time. Nothing major. No great rends in the fabric of reality, no rips in the spacetime continuum, just small, mild, unsettling things. The most common is the ‘horror movie scuttling things’ hallucination. When the protagonists are still unaware of their fate, they often pick up flashes of darkness, mainly flashing (if darkness may be allowed to flash) across open doorways. I do the same to myself, creating things in my peripheral vision, things which are palpably there, but not there. Schrödinger’s things. Looking collapses the hallucination. These used to worry me, now they’re almost comforting – reminders of what I am that stay internal, so that no-one else can see.
I, too, have a thing about making things alive. I tend not to create movement, but to mistranslate movement as a sign of life. I once watched a spider scuttle backwards and forward in a short elliptical pattern on the bathroom floor for about a minute, trying to work out its motivation. It was almost as if it was playing out the stress patterns you see in caged animals where they grind a path into the earth as they walk, repeat; walk, repeat. Eventually I realised that this spider was merely the shadow of the thing on the end of the bathroom light pull cord.
Unless you’re particularly scared of spiders, the this isn’t the most perturbing of hallucinations possible, but it’s the principle. Why is it that the brain decides to mislead me this way? Why, and this is perhaps more pertinent, do I insist on granting my brain its own will? What possesses me to think that the grey matter is purposely fucking with my mind?
This is perhaps the greatest hallucination of them all: the personification of the brain. Disease is not aware. It does not have feelings. It does not make decisions. PD is not a dragon you can fight. There’s no challenging something that doesn’t recognise your rules. My brain is neither for nor against me. It merely is. It’s just that some of it has merrily wondered off into its own territory.
There be spiders there.