Mornings are interesting in our LB world. Pat frequently awakens in the midst of a dream world in which she is actively working, studying for a test, worrying, counseling, achieving, etc. I think these dreams are pretty much the same as mine or most peoples.’ But just because she awakens doesn’t mean the dreams quickly fade away. Instead, they hang around, almost as if they were populated by creatures insisting that the dream is obviously real, and that action is still required. What kind of action? Making a presentation; helping someone or an animal in trouble; finding a lost child; counseling a client.
These hallucinations were worse before Pat began taking generic Aricept, a drug originally designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease that actually works better for LB patients. The scariest pre-medication time for me was when Pat woke up and searched the whole house for a missing child. I tagged along and was able to convince Pat not to go outside looking for this child – it was 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit out there. What was scarier than Pat’s searching was my total inability to convince her there was no child and her utter conviction that she needed to find her. I was terrified that Pat would go outside in the cold and freeze to death.
Now Pat’s hallucinations are milder. I’m less scared. That means I can think about how to respond better than “Pat, Pat, that’s a hallucination. It’s not real. You’ve got to let it go right now.” That’s when Pat turns angry eyes on me, and I become someone who can’t see the obvious truth that this other world is real (and sometimes dangerous). Getting angry and frustrated doesn’t work. I know that, of course (my specialty is anger management and I’ve written several books on that topic) but sometimes my panic overwhelms my ability to stay calm.
So, what does work better? Sometimes just going along with the hallucination for a while. After all, reality is a fluid concept. We all live in our personally created fantasy worlds much of the time. If there is no immediate emergency or danger then why not just listen, ask a few questions to briefly enter Pat’s dream world.
But lately we’ve established somewhat of a routine. Pat wakes up in midst of a dream state. She describes it to me in a questioning manner: “I passed the test, but I don’t know where the lecture hall is. Do you know where?” I might say that I don’t. Then she looks around, sees that she’s not in a lecture hall, and asks me if she is having a hallucination. I carefully affirm her (“Yes, I think so” as against “You sure are and snap out of it”). Then the lecture hall flows away, sometimes to return a couple times before our shared reality takes over. Time for breakfast. Time to share one single good enough world. For now.
Pat’s hallucinations from Pat’s perspective.
I’m getting better at recognizing when I’m having a hallucination. I’m less confused now, less scared. Sometimes I can even tell my hallucinations to go away and they do, but not always. I feel more in control of my life now that I can tell better when I’m having a hallucination.
For example, there were a group of people (about eight) sitting before me, and one guy and his wife were talking about what trouble they had getting along, and I told them that it was not my job to figure out what they wanted from each other, but their job to figure that out and to share it. This couple never “came back” and I began to realize that as my life was changing, I did not want to do this sort of negotiation between couples. I counted them among the folks who “showed up in my life” so I could say goodbye to that business. [Pat is a retired mental health counselor, so this is the “business” she refers to here].
-----I’ve had lots of folks who come to see me seeking help from me, but am slowly but surely just beginning to say, “this is work I don’t do anymore.” And then they go elsewhere.
There are also rather weird looking people who show up to bother me, and with whom I ask Ron to help me “I need to leave this place... just hold my hand and walk with me out of here.” He always does help me when I’m scared to take direct action.. or to steer me in another direction when I am certain one I don’t want to go in is nearby,…I consider Ron my soulmate when I’m really scared, and he always quietly reassures me. I think, in fact, that this I because he is my soulmate.
The worst hallucinations are when garments hanging in the hall take on threatening projections, or I sense that there is a child or small being who is being threatened by scary or salacious things, or if there is a large male shadow hanging over everyone and I need to be guarded or helped in some way. Or, somewhere a raging female spirit, shrieking at me, a spirit chasing or threatening me.
There is one other set of hallucinations that weird me out—one was a young woman with an oddly hidden face, as if she had been squished together. She shut her face away inside, until I caught a sense of great threat from ways she did that. Then I refused to look at her, and I told her to go away, and told her I was not going to be available to her. Finally, I felt her hatred of me, and she has now left.
There is one other set of hallucinations I have had—people who tell me their name as they go by—sometimes down the hall in my house. One is Margery, and she has a big limp. I always remember them and call them by name. But if I follow them, they are no longer there. They are happy, and friendly, and refuse to bother me in any way—or even stay. I sort of know that they are there just checking to see that I’m ok. I love them.
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