Thursday, 1 November 2018

Seeking Delusions


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

When Toby’s voices suddenly stopped - the voices that only he could hear - he was miserable. He now no longer had friends in his head, always engaging him in a friendly badinage, and generally making him - honest and plain (except for a predilection for hallucinogens) - Toby Maddox, the centre of their attentions. It was simply divine always hearing one well-spoken of, even by imagined voices.
     Toby had been hearing these voices from the age of twenty-two, three years ago, and had quickly been diagnosed as being schizophrenic, having a few other of the other symptoms as well, and a family history of it, which he only learned of on his twenty-first birthday. He was prescribed an antipsychotic, Fluanxol, 20mg, injected into a muscle, but the medication only turned the volume down on the voices, never banishing them. Toby, of course, knew he wasn’t crazy, that the voices were real, and only took the so called medication because it would obviously have no effect upon him. He wasn’t crazy. He had also been told that if he didn’t take the injection he would be forced to do so in a psychiatric facility, and was monitored accordingly by being placed on a Community Treatment Order, where if he did not take his dose he would be involuntarily committed to said psychiatric facility in order to do so.
     He realised he had not awoken to the voices, on a nice, hot, early summer day, 2015, a few years after his diagnosis, in Surrey Hills, inner city Sydney. Their departure was sudden and unexpected. The bastard medication must obviously have been at fault. When he realised what was off-kilter he instinctively and desperately hoped he could get the voices back, whilst also feeling that no-one could ever be that fortunate. It would take something extraordinary, as well as ordinary, to get them back. Maybe a unique, perfect thought would serve the purpose, providing something to which the voices would readily respond? But that just raised more questions; what’s the perfect thought? Does it have to be completely perfect to attract back the voices?
     He, however, already knew the answer, or at least was fairly sure he knew how to get back with the voices. Just take LSD for a few weeks. It was the quickest, and perhaps the surest, way to invite the voices back, but he was loath to use the method. True, he’d had a lot of acid over the past three or so years and was always fine with it, but he was presently on an indefinite break for a while. He had become more aware recently that it only takes one bad trip to fell you, leaving you a wreck of what you could have been. So while Toby felt fairly confident that he could take the acid safely, based on previous occasions, he wasn’t completely certain that he’d always be okay on it. But, yet again, it really was the surest way to allure back the voices.
     He considered how to get some trips, finishing his coffee.
    
*

Toby had been on his acid regime for three weeks, taking a four of five tabs spaced over a week. Having recently acquired a casual job at Flemington Markets, twenty minutes from the centre of Sydney, five nights a week that paid cash in hand, as well as receiving unemployment welfare, and sharing a rent controlled apartment with a friend, it was no problem financing the extra outlay for the trips. He was also easily able to get it thanks to a friend’s housemate, and it was an absolutely fantastic three weeks on the renewed acid. When it came time to attend his job at night the trip had largely worn off, enough so that he could attend to his duties well enough. But the acid had unintended consequences. Instead of regaining the voices, he had, three weeks after the treatment began, become always followed by three small faeries. He could almost always feel, at an icy centre between his shoulder blades, when the faeries were following him, sometimes turning around to watch them, hovering in mid-air, regarding him with much apparent concentration. The faeries were dressed as they are usually portrayed, except each little lady had a diaphanous crown, and each had purple shoes, flats.
     The faeries, though, soon stopped watching him mutely and attentively, and instead (but without speaking, and appearing clearly in his mind’s eye, instead of following him, out in the ‘real world’) urged him to commit suicide. The voices weren’t coming back so he may as well give up the search, and then instantly end a life that would be meaningless without them. In fact, the only way he could be happy, the faeries implied, was if he suicided. He was going to die anyway, right? No-one really wanted him either, they also somehow made him feel. They told him all this in pantomime and liked to dumb show various ways of ending one’s life. One of the little vixens could even manage to turn a faint purple in the face while clearly being barbarously hanged. Another one showed him how to properly cut his wrists, by cutting up vertically. She always mimed laughter while she pretended to open her veins with a knife. And then suddenly ceasing mirth and wiping the imagined bloodied arm until it was clean again. Ready for more suicide.
     By a few days of this gruesomeness, he had had enough. He had no intention of committing suicide, and became very worried when he briefly mused over giving in to the faeries. Just end his life and the horrors filling his days and nights, for whatever reasons the wee ladies had. He called in sick to work and rang for an ambulance, pleading psychosis, and flushed the three remaining acid tabs down the toilet while he waited to be rescued. The faeries had been scared off, thankfully.
     The ambulance arrived quickly and the paramedics were rapidly able to see that Toby, when he explained his situation, was in the grip of psychosis. They took him to the nearest psychiatric hospital, Rozella, but they had no room for him there. They tried a few others and he was eventually able to be taken in at Cumberland Hospital, a half hour’s drive west from Surrey Hills, in Westmead. Even then Toby had to wait two hours before he could be formally admitted. The faeries appeared to him constantly while he waited, in probably all possible attitudes of self-destruction. Closing his eyes didn’t help, he just saw the same violent images in negative. It really is a wonder that Toby was not by now weeping from sheer despair.
     Toby had been in a psychiatric facility only once in his life, about two years before. He had been taken there against his will when a police officer saw him sitting in the lotus position in the middle of a footpath in Surrey Hills, apparently meditating. When she asked him what he was doing there he couldn’t very well say he was so very high on some really good acid and was thus now engaged in giving thanks to the Supreme Beings whom were showing him such utter ecstasy. Instead he replied,
      ‘Being a calm beacon of hope to everyone rushin’ around here. Chillin’ by example, givin’ other choices.’
     ‘Do you have any drugs on you?’ asked the officer.
     ‘No.’
     ‘You know some people would say it’s very strange to be meditating in the middle of the street, especially in this heat.’
     ‘Nature is as nature does.’
     ‘Have you ever been to a psychiatric hospital?’
     ‘No way, man, I’m way too chill for that.’
     ‘Well, it seems to me, sir, that you’ll have to go there with me now.’
     Toby hung his head, still in the lotus position, and asked,
     ‘Do I have a choice?’
     ‘I’m afraid not, sir.’
     He was only six nights in the psychiatric hospital that time, in the Missenden Unit, the psychiatric wing of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, in Camperdown, the nearest psychiatric hospital to Surrey Hills. The hospital didn’t do much, except to increase his Fluanxol to 30mg. He was surprised to find that the loony bin wasn’t at all loony, the patients all appearing more or less stable. True, they all had their idiosyncrasies, but the place was generally pleasant and welcoming. In fact, a very ‘chillin’’ place. Thus, he was expecting Cumberland Hospital to be similarly pleasant and welcoming when he eventually arrived there in the ambulance.
     The hospital was indeed pleasant, and when they found out upon his admission that Toby was on an antipsychotic, and a CTO, but still having hallucinations, they automatically increased the dose of his injection, to 40mg, and generally left him alone after that, letting the new dose take effect. After all, the Fluanxol was very effective at controlling such symptoms and a higher dose was certain to solve the conundrum. So, Cumberland kept him only for five weeks and prescribed him Risperdal as well. Toby was always compliant with his medication (since he really had no choice, the medicine being useless anyway), and he was also compliant with taking the new Risperdal, always one of the first to line up when then medicines cart came out of an evening. He was prescribed five milligrams per night, but was initially still taunted by the faerie hallucinations. Their jeering, mocking faces though began to lose outline after a week, and after a further week they had completely vanished. He awoke soon after the start of this second week, feeling something was not right while he had his morning coffee. Taking the last sip of the brew, he knew what it was: he could no longer see those murderous vixens with his mind’s eye. He was discharged from Cumberland three weeks later, still free of the horrors. He had, though, lost his job.
     He was at peace now, only vaguely hoping his happy voices would still return, a calmness and serenity that lasted all too inconsequentially. His voices did eventually return, one week into only intermittently using the Risperdal at home (it made him very, very drowsy. He was aware that he really should be more compliant but felt sure he could safely risk the irregular use of the Risperdal, since he was also on the Fluanxol.), but they were not happy to be with him again. They were now hostile to him, making derogatory comments on his person, his clothes, his hygiene, anything to make him feel small and worthless. He initially tried to argue with the voices, to show them that they were patently wrong, were in fact being needlessly spiteful. But the voices didn’t listen, calling him a coward for not seeing how vile he really was.
     Unlike the positive voices, these nasty ones were not with him all day. They were with him when he awoke late each morning and gradually insulted him in decreasing waves until they disappeared in the early evening. This lack of constancy was even worse as Toby spent the entire night dreading the abuse he was to face the next day. He felt that at least if they were going all the time he could put them to the back of his head, becoming just background static. But their brief appearance tended to highlight their vile abuse, made him feel it the more in contrasting it against the calmness of his evenings.
     It was in feeling like this - that his life was now to be an endless round of abuse - that he slashed his left wrist. He slashed up vertically, not horizontally, as the faerie had shown him, but his primal, animal brain couldn’t bring him to slash all the way up. After a two inch gash, he stopped. And almost viscerally felt the voices laughing at his weakness, shaming him as a hopeless coward.
     So, whilst bandaging his wrist as best he could, the voices became louder, as if they fed on his blood, and their derision was even more caustic. They filled his head and Toby could see no escape, not even death. Was he, he thought, tying off the clean dishcloth he used as a bandage, really in a living Hell?
     He took a Risperdal and went to the local doctors’ for some stitches. He would tell the doctor that it was an accident, a knife that had got away in cutting up some vegetables. The voices laughed at him all the way there.
*

He noticed immediately when he awoke, two weeks after slashing up, that the voices weren’t berating him. He knew instantly because he had been dreaming of them the entire previous night. With sure dream like ability he had tamed them. How he had managed this he did not know. He suspected it was taking the Risperdal regularly, and its mixing with the Fluanxol, a potent combination that was bound to end the torture, given time. His local doctor agreed with him when he mentioned it at his next Fluanxol injection appointment, the day following having awoken to silence.
     But his mornings still made him nervous for a while, expecting the worst to suddenly explode in his head. He was all the time on the lookout for them, even being somewhat jumpy when he was out and about. He had also by this stage given up all desire to regain the friends he used to have in his head, and was more than pleased to have them gone. Nothing, nothing at all, was worth having to put up with that depressing, internal, inescapable tirade that his search for those friendly voices had led to, albeit indirectly. No, he had lost the good voices permanently and they could only be recalled in a bloodied guise, intent now only on debasing him.
     The night of his first full day freed from the internal abuse he had another powerful dream, dreaming he was filled with great magicks and shaping great, vague, moments of history. Such dreams then continued every night, to the point where he now often goes to bed early, just to return to a Universe where he is so very important. He continues to awake late each morning with neither hallucinatory voices nor hallucinatory visions, and instead feeling great, motivated, that the world has a special place for him alone. He remains to this day enclosed by his dreamtime powers, even when he is working at his new cash-in-hand casual job, as a kitchen hand, and is determined to take his boon medications properly, and on time. He owed Reality that much.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick has also had a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing, available on Amazon.

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