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Posts Tagged ‘Young’

Hallucination

“When I was a child, I had a fever. My hands felt just like two balloons. Now I’ve got that feeling once again. I can’t explain. You would not understand. This is not how I am.” — Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”

One of my earliest memories is of hallucinations.
At a very young age, no older than five, I sat at the piano and cried. I wanted to play, but I had this smeary sense of time and space. I knew the tempo of the piece, but no matter how hard I struggled I could not hear it right in my head. It came out either frantically rushed or morbidly slow, and I couldn’t reconcile the two and start to play.

And my hands… my hands felt enormous. Not structurally large – the bones were the right size – but almost spherically fat. If I closed my eyes, I could feel my hands puffing up until each tiny finger became too wide for the piano keys. My parents had friends over, and they’d asked me to play something for them. I was proud but frightened (a stage fright I never overcame), not wanting to disappoint my parents by making a mistake, and therefore not wanting to attempt. But I was determined to perform for them. And my hands started to swell as time became erratic.

I remember my father growing frustrated with my apparently willful opposition, but I simply could not play. I’d been nervous about playing, but now I was downright terrified by what was happening to me. I couldn’t explain; I knew they would not understand. As I cried, my mother came in and closed the door. I tried to tell her that there was something actually wrong; I wasn’t making it up, but nothing was coming out right, and I gave up. My mother just sat and looked at me in utter confusion. Then, as always, she didn’t want to give in to a tantrum, but she didn’t want to be unreasonable and mis-judge actual trouble as a tantrum.

I don’t remember what happened, or what she did. But I do remember that this sensation happened again and again throughout my childhood. Some of the occasions I remember all occurred during times of high stress or frantic activity. I was once jumping on a trampoline, and my body entirely changed shape and stayed suspended in air as I came down much too slowly. Other occasions occurred while doing something very deliberate or quiet. I frequently felt my hands and feet start growing puffy and heavy while I was trying to go to sleep.

As I grew older, these sensations dissipated. I still have them once in a very long while, but not like before. During my teen years and through college, the hallucinations became more visual and auditory. I sensed motion out of the corner of my eye, or saw halos around objects. I could hear a pattern in any white noise – music, voices, both. One morning, I distinctly heard my mother’s voice, coming from outside my head, saying, “Get. up. right. now.” Talk about startled. I genuinely expected to open my eyes and see her standing there.

But synesthesia is the weirdest. Late one night, there was a fire – a big fire – across the street from my apartment. I’d dozed off while studying. As I lay there, I was awoken by a horrifying smell. Think of every rotten, molding, excremental smell you’ve ever encountered. This was worse. I said, “What’s that horrible smell?” My husband, who was still awake, said there was no smell, but the sirens were getting pretty loud. I dozily said, “‘mergency…” and then was fully awake. The smell persisted. Until I was outside and actually seeing the fire trucks, the noise was being clearly perceived through my nose.

Only as an adult did I discover that all of these sensations can be versions of the migraine “aura“, or neurological phenomena leading to sensory mis-perceptions, usually preceding or coincident with a migraine. And that the “puffy hands” phenomenon is more commonly associated with childhood migraines. What an odd thing – to be relieved that I have migraines. “Ohhh… I really wasn’t making it up… I really wasn’t crazy… I was just sick!”

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Revisiting my freshman year of college in my mind brought me to a startling scene of a girl jolted into the transition into a woman. I had fun during that first Mardi Gras, the one with Renee and the giggling, despite disappointments over the discovery of my crush’s girlfriend, a girl he had only mentioned during the Lundi Gras festivities in the French quarter while he literally carried me down bourbon street. This one man, possibly from Middle Eastern decent, had grabbed my right breast in a fit of arousal and intoxication. I found myself suddenly surrounded by these men, helpless, and wondering what other awkward part of my body they would try to grasp, until I was hoisted up in the air by familiar arms, my hero and crush.

I had no practical reasons for finding this man attractive. He was a republican, and I am still near green to this day. His father was a successful lawyer, probably a real asshole, who had defended some lousy scum bags. He wore glasses that made him look like a board member of a tech company. His hair was wiry and ash blonde, his skin an uneven tone of pale and plotted with reminders of adolescence. By no means should he have been the object of my 18-year-old –California-Girl affections but he was. And perhaps, for the first time, did I start to feel the pangs of desire that young women feel when they finally start to become a woman.

Or was it just the excessive amount of drive-thru Daiquiri that I was consuming? In any case, nothing happened, just a strong clasp of arms around my waist, carrying me until there was a break in the crowd, where he then set me down next to a pile of Mardi Gras waste, vomit, pee, and beer. Hardly the romantic scene. He told me that he had to carry his girlfriend out of places like that before. I told him that I didn’t know he had a girlfriend to which he replied a simple, “7 years”, like they had 2 kids and a white picket fence.

So why did this memory suddenly come to mind the other day? I’ve wondered that myself, frankly. That was probably one of the first times in my life where I was confronted with what I felt was the brutal and disgusting truth of raw, male desire. My first instinct should have been to run, run far away from the crowds, or maybe even refused to walk down Bourbon Street. My curiosity lead me down to watch the hundreds and thousands of people behave in bizarre ways, wearing outlandish costumes, or in some cases, nothing at all.

This wasn’t the kind of Mardi Gras I had seen in photos when my mother was a girl. My grandparents, just starting to show the signs of aging in their face, my mother’s round, cherub cheeks, and my aunt’s stunning blue eyes all peered out from adorable cat costumes while waiting for the parades to start. They looked so happy in those costumes that day, a memory that I’ve held onto tightly for my grandma, and an honor I hold closely for my late grandfather and aunt.

But there were no adorable cat costumes or cherub-like faces that night, just the faces of the drunken folks who peeled pieces of their clothes off to expose wretched parts of their bodies. It’s not that I’m against nudity, or partying, or even Mardi Gras in general, though in recent years I have expressed my distaste in Fat Tuesday, it’s just that I was 18 and I didn’t know any better.

Now as I approach my mid –twenties, several years later with experiences, stories, and realities under my belt, I suppose that I was the most naïve girl who was ever carried down Bourbon St., or, at the very least, in that moment I was.

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