Some people do a lot of research to write a mental health memoir. Some service users write about their experiences with having a mental health problem. Sometimes they write about addictions they’ve had, the process of being unwell, the stigma and what hospitalization in a psych ward is all about. Not to forget, service users also write about their recovery. A service user is a phrase in mental health hospitals for people who receive help and support.
I want to share with you a story. It’s a true story, and it’s about hallucinations and memories of experiences that couldn’t possibly have happened. Moreover, it is a story about how my thought process works, both when unwell and also during my recovery, where I can finally express some keen insight into all these symptoms of my mental health problem, which is schizoaffective disorder. Rather than using textbook definitions of this illness, I will instead share what it has been like for me. I would also like to say here, I appreciate people who have schizoaffective may have had entirely different experiences than I did.
2016 –– A hallucination of ‘The Departed’
It’s crazy when I’m unwell, the hallucination likes to give the sensation that famous people can broadcast directly into my home. Bare in my mind, I mean like they can see you from the screen and interact with you. Most of the time, the hallucination wants to show you a scene in a film that isn’t usually there. The truth was, I hadn’t slept in two weeks. I was off my medication. I had forced myself to stay awake by merely stopping the medication, smoking cigarettes continuously and drinking cups of sugar-filled coffee. Why would anyone want to do this? Why would anyone want to be awake all of the time?
I can’t last more than a couple of days on my medication. I’ve tried. Did I self-induce a hallucination by depriving myself of sleep? The truth is, during my youthful days, I would go months without sleep. That was when I was in secondary school.
For the longest time, my brain wouldn’t allow me to accept these were hallucinations of the mind. I didn’t know what I believed. After it happened time and time again, I just thought that there must be something to it.
I tricked my mind. My laptop was in the living room. I had a function on the keyboard to black the screen out, whilst the Windows apps would still be working, just without the visual. I had the movie, “The Departed” playing in the background. I marched around the house, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee. I do not advocate anyone to smoke tobacco products. I mention it, to be honest. Health experts and scientists know there is a link between smoking tobacco products and mental health problems. Roughly speaking, it is about twice as unlikely that someone with bipolar disorder will be able to quit smoking, than someone with no history of mental illness.
I had seen this movie many times before. I could hear gunfire. There are some gunfire scenes in the film, but this seemed to be longer than usual. The speaker connected to my laptop was a little blue square one that produced loud volume for its size. I picked up the speaker and pressed it to my ear — more gunfire. I continued to push the speaker to my ear. From the gunfire I could hear, my eardrum ached. Then it silenced, and I heard Jack Nicholson’s voice speaking as his character Costello, “He shot me,” he said. I knew something was up because he doesn’t say that phrase in the movie. Also, in the actual film, he is shot and dies almost immediately. Interestingly, everything I heard this evening was still in character with the Boston accents.
Next, I heard the voice of Leonardo Dicaprio, as Billy Costigan Jr. “You don’t do what I do.” There is no point in trying to reason what it means when I heard that phrase because it wasn’t real, no matter how convincing it seemed. As I sat down on the sofa, with the speaker still pressed to my ear, Matt Daemon speaks as Sergeant Sullivan, ‘I can get you out.’
The speaker does charge up somewhat. But with Matt Daemon and Leonardo Dicaprio’s voices from the speaker, it wasn’t even connected to the computer. Matt Daemon spoke again, ‘I repeat, Sergeant Sullivan and Agent Costello are down.’
The strange thing about this evening was I found a message on the living room’s shared computer. Someone had loaded up a Word document on the PC and wrote the following statement:
You delete information about you.
Apology – you have nothing to be sorry for. You owe them no explanations.
They still have the information due to the reality of the Backstage and their operation centres.
The act is symbolic and of some significance. You limit their capacity in the stage world. You face your so-called fear head on and overcome it. You subliminally/subconsciously tell them you are the owner of your life and the master of your destiny.
Hospital – Assessment. Exam. Judgement. Medication. Sick Person. False impediment. Accusing you of accusing them. When did I? I’m just mentalizing my archetypes, I said nothing to them directly to accuse them of what they are actually doing anyway. Innocent Until Proven Guilty.
I assumed it was a hacker who did this. I never really spoke much to the mental health services about my hallucinations. I did show this message to my community consultant, though. He said that it must have been a disturbing experience to read it, and he advised me to change my passwords more regularly. I never spoke to the psychiatry team about these hallucinations because it would only give them more reason for concern. After hospital in 2019, I opened up to my community psychiatrist and broke the previous rule about not speaking about it. I told him about a short hallucination to do with Alanis Morrisette in the film ‘Dogma’. He said this hallucination with the film ‘Dogma’ showed not all of my experiences whilst unwell has been negative.
The scene with Alanis Morrisette, was simply her healing Loki’s character at the end of the film. She placed her hands on Loki, played by Matt Daemon, and healed the damage that Bartleby had done to him.
2011 –– The hallucination of ’12 Monkeys’
After my first taste of the adult mental health hospitals in 2011, I was out of the hospital, staying well on my risperidone injection. I looked on the internet for what kind of movies people with mental health conditions seem to enjoy. I found a website that mentioned the film ‘12 Monkeys’ in high regard. I specifically remember reading that, ‘People with mental illnesses seem to love this one.’ In the UK, watching ‘12 Monkeys’ is not allowed in all hospitals. In Salisbury, they got rid of all the old VHS’s they had stocked up because some service users reported problems when viewing movies in the old format. Sometimes the VHS would cause them to hallucinate.
At the end of the movie, ‘12 Monkeys’, my dad and I saw a different finale scene. I had seen the movie before in my youth and knew it was some hallucination, but I felt intrigued by it, by the pressing question, how come my dad can see this too? My dad has never had a mental health problem in his life. He joined the boy soldiers a year before they put the minimum age up to 16, served for ten years in the infantry, worked in intelligence, worked in teaching, working in programming and then returned to teaching once again to be able to see his children more often. Can two people hallucinate the same thing? The question begs, what did my dad and I see at the end of ‘12 Monkeys’?
Maybe this will be slightly lost on some people if they have never seen the movie. Instead of the airport security shooting James Cole (played by Bruce Willis), the young boy at the airport shoots him with a handgun. In the film’s story, the boy is the younger version of James Cole because Cole is a time traveller. Although visibly the same boy, he did look slightly different. His hair was bright blond instead of dark-haired. His tan was a golden brown instead of a paler look in the usual scene. Once again, I see little point in speculating what a hallucination means. In this case, though, I will speculate somewhat. In the film, Cole’s mission is to gather information about the virus. In this way, the people in the future, which is Cole’s present, could find a cure. Cole almost kills the man who was in the process of releasing the virus. So Cole is shot. Think about it. It’s against the time travel code. You aren’t allowed to change history because it could tear a hole in the space-time continuum.
2008 –– The hallucination of ‘Galaxy Quest’
This hallucination was in the form of a remake of ‘Galaxy Quest’, a film from 1999. It starred Bruce Willis, and it was from around the year in the 2050s. I’m not talking about a movie set in 2050. I saw it on Bruce Willis’s IMDB page, or rather, I hallucinated a web page. My mind makes these things seem so real, especially when they’re happening right in front of me on a screen. I didn’t recognize any other person from the cast, who were all women. Of course not. It was from the future. How Bruce Willis survived so long, well, the hallucination didn’t specify how, nor much else. I found it on a streaming site on the internet. I had stayed awake for two weeks, and I was sixteen years old. Bruce Willis didn’t look old at all, but he was still bald.
The film starts with a bunch of actors in the movie, playing actors. In the arc of the story, they are actors who worked in an Outerspace T.V Show. They had just landed roles in a significant film about space exploration. They all arrive, including Bruce Willis, on some futuristic spaceship set. Pretty soon, it dawns on them that they are aboard a real spaceship in the film’s plot. Bruce Willis’s character realizes he will have to fly that spaceship with no prior training because he is just an actor. As it dawns on him, as captain of the ship, the classic Bruce Willis look of concern is zoomed in on the screen, the kind of look that Bruce Willis gives in his films, whilst remaining silent, conveying a thousand words, that speech couldn’t do justice. My memory of this movie is vague, though. I remember they arrived on a planet with an orange-reddish terrain you would imagine Mars would like.
They find a cargo of weapons on the ship. Pretty soon, they realize they are in some kind of horror show. The CGI that they have today doesn’t do justice to what I saw in my hallucination. The aliens were predators. They didn’t look human at all. Nor like aliens that have seen before this, in any film or artwork. They were like creations of vicious predator animals on some planet, where the humanoid inhabitants had become extinct because the brutal force of evolution had won over any intellectual invention or development. All the members of the ship crew died, except Bruce Willis. He kept on fighting in this film that seemed to go on forever. If I did manage to get to the end of the film, it was just a victorious Bruce Willis playing the role of a spaceship captain, who had somehow survived unbelievable odds. That was the best movie I had ever seen, and it wasn’t even real. It was just a vivid hallucination. The film had the best musical score in the history of remarkable musical scores.
2006 – 2007 –– A hallucination of Hell on Earth
The first time I saw this hallucination was in 2006. I thought I was beginning to watch a film called “Monkey Wrench,” but instead, what I saw was Hell on Earth. The only actor I recognized from ‘Hell on Earth’ was Eric Balfour. I didn’t know it was him at the time, but I later saw him play Eddie in The OC and recognized him instantly, then looked him up on IMDB. In 2006, I had only gone five days without sleeping. Four young adults go on a road trip to a massive party in a warehouse. On the way back, they are in a car crash, and Eric Balfour’s character survived.
I don’t know the name of the characters they were playing. His girlfriend’s character was blond, and she died in the crash. His best friend’s character was also blond and killed in the crash as well. The girl with the black hair survived, though, the best friend of the blond girl. His life quickly becomes a nightmare as the black hair girl takes over his life. It’s hard to remember exact details, over than his life was a living nightmare after his girlfriend, and best friend died. He keeps on having dreams of his dead girlfriend and dead best friend. They seem to be in the background of white light. They are encouraging him, almost like saying go towards the bright sunlight. In the end, he wakes up from a coma. The bright light was a hospital light. His friend and girlfriend called out to him every day, trying to get him to wake from the hospital. The second time I saw something from this, I got the name ‘Hell on Earth’. In 2007, just like before, it was only five days of no sleep when I saw ‘Hell on Earth’.
This time I saw Eric Balfour and his blond-haired friend standing on the side of the road, looking directly at the camera. It looked like Portland. ‘Fight Club’s’ version of Portland. Do you know the ‘Fight Club’ scenes where stores and bars surround them with bright lights coming off of them? It was night time as well.
Interestingly, it looked like Eric Balfour was wearing the same red leather jacket Brad Pitt wore in that movie. I can’t remember what the two guys were talking about at all. My mind was racing. Besides, it was just a hallucination. That was all I saw that time. When I tried to switch channels on Freeview, every station was playing this film. The menu bar displayed a load of 6s leading up to ‘Hell on Earth’, followed by a load of 6s. ‘Hell on Earth’? I’m not sure what my hallucination was getting at. I turned the TV off. I must have gone to bed and given up whatever I used to be wanting to achieve by staying awake so long.
2017 –– The hallucination of Edward Norton and revisiting ’12 Monkeys’
After five days of no sleep, I said to my dad, look at this YouTube video. I searched and clicked on a video for Edward Norton in a public service announcement for the hit movie ‘Fight Club’. These were short clips to be shown before the movie. I had seen them all on YouTube. Instead, we got a video of Edward Norton, with his arms crossed, looking muscular but with a white shirt on, with the sleeves and cuffs rolled up. His hair was similar to how it was in the ‘Fight Club’ movie, but in that movie, he was skinnier. As I smoked a cigarette, he seemed to keep on repeating the phrase, ‘Yes, sir. No sir. Yes sir. No sir. Yes sir. No, sir.’ It was almost like he was responding to me whenever I took a drag of my cigarette. Seeing as it was a hallucination, I need not worry about it.
How come my dad was able to see this? Hallucinations can happen because of stress. My dad had probably noticed I wasn’t sleeping. He noticed I wasn’t entirely myself. I had stressed him out, but at least I had given him a good laugh with the ‘Fight Club’ hallucination.
Again, in the year 2017, I managed to stay awake for five days. The same hallucination occurred with the movie 12 Monkeys changing at the end. I showed my dad, but he wasn’t impressed. Interestingly, my dad might deny he saw any of these hallucinations, with me, at all.
2016 –– The Hallucination of the Music Artists
Before hospital in 2016, I played ‘The Downward Spiral’ on my computer.
Instead of the first track, I heard Trent Reznor speaking. ‘He gave up all the murder and the fame for this?’ Or did he say ‘money’, I suppose it’s hard to tell, given I was listening to the hallucination of my mind creating Trent Reznor, rather than the real Trent Reznor.
In 2019, I was sitting outside the hospital with another patient who did not tell me his name.
I was playing a crank call by Eminem on YouTube called ‘Is Dr Dre White?’.
Interestingly, although the YouTube video remained with the same cover picture and title, that is not what this patient and I heard. If you have ever heard ‘Slim Shady LP’ and ‘Marshall Mathers LP’, you know the way he whispers on the Public Service Announcement track? It was just like that. Except, there was no announcement, just loud whispering done in the Shady way. Once again, it was still a hallucination but quite something to behold. I had not stayed awake on this occasion.
The truth is, to bring back the hallucinations, I don’t need to deprive myself of sleep. The truth is, if I abstain from all sexual activity for a couple of years, I can’t physically sleep. When I cross that bridge, maybe my consultant psychiatrist can prescribe a sleeping tablet. Perhaps it was never the sleep at all. Magic boots don’t make you a great athlete. You make your luck.
All I am doing is telling you the truth. I hallucinated these things. On the computer screens, on televisions, sometimes on smartphones and even on audio devices like MP3 players. I remember much more, but these were the main hallucinations that stood out in my mind. And thank God, you know, because I’m happy.
2019 – onwards –– My recovery
At the end of 2019, I got my module books from The Open University. That’s what mental health should be about, encouraging people to get back into work and the same respect given to education. For a decade after I left school, I had spent almost every year going into hospital. I want to thank the staff at the hospitals that treated me in 2019 for trusting me and allowed me to live the best life I can. The mental health team behind me are, without a doubt, incredible people who have given me stability and support over the years and stood by me at some of my lowest points. By the summer of 2020, I had successfully passed my access module with The Open University. Thank God, because it was the first time I had focused my concentration on something real, something important in my life, since I became deeply entrenched in psychosis back in August 2009.
In 2020, a week before the first lockdown in the United Kingdom began, I became vegan. I haven’t looked back. I’ve improved my cooking skills. I also bought a power rack, and my carer and I began to train the major compound exercises, like the squat, the deadlift and the bench press. My dad is my carer. At the start of 2021, I began studying with The Open University again, this time for my degree. But wait, what does this all mean? Were the hallucinations for nothing? Don’t all these feelings, these beliefs, these hallucinations, lie dormant in me somehow?
Ever since I was a kid, I believed I was Clark Kent, as in Clark Kent from the Superman graphic novels. I have memories of little bits of flight off the ground, mainly from my youth, and once in 2019, before hospitalization. I know it is just a hallucination, except this time, I’m not watching it on a screen. I remember Smallville in Kansas before the passage of the hurricane. The hurricane was spiritual. Smallville was swept up like Dorothy’s house. I remember the day I broke the jackhammer at the carnival. I remember lifting a pickup truck with ease.
I understand that I’m not Clark Kent. The reason I bring this all up is that at some point, I began reasoning that these hallucinations were my X-Ray vision interfering with electronic devices. Why would these cause hallucinations like videos and songs to appear in my perspective? I’m not sure, but it made for great entertainment. I must state once more that I don’t believe I have X-Ray Vision. You could, in theory, use X-Ray vision to see through anything (except led).
I’ve heard it said that mental illness nowadays seems to have its culmination in people who think they are characters from fictional comic books. Well, I’m not surprised because I’ve been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder effectively from 2009 onwards. My lack of insight says, “well, it seems real to me, and the possibilities are infinite.” On the other side of me, though, I still have the insight to use my powers to pursue truth, justice and the American way.