The following entry may contain triggering material.
When I was very young, I had a pet lizard (Physignathus cocincinus, common name: Asian Water Dragon). Her name was Peachy, although it might have been a he. She’d escaped from her cage, and we were never fast enough to catch her, and there were too many nooks and crannies in the house, so we just decided to leave out some food in the garden and leave her alone whenever we found her. One day, she escaped from the house.
I suppose that I was upset about it, but I didn’t know how to deal with that. When pets died, I could cry it out and get it over with. This was a new thing to me.
Dinner a few days after this event was boiled shrimp. My mother peeled them with her own hands, set them in front of me, and encouraged me to eat up. After a couple of bites, the shrimp on my plate started talking in shrill voice, one after the other: “Stop eating us!” “Eating hurts us! Stop hurting us!” “We’re Peachy’s babies!” And together: “WE’RE PEACHY’S BABIES!!!”
This certainly was very upsetting, because I was hungry and would never dream of bothering my mother or the cook to whip up something else. At the moment, I also didn’t think of drawing attention to anybody else that my food was screaming accusations of infanticide at me. I was thinking that this didn’t make sense.
I knew basic zoology, that is: dogs are different from cats, neither lay eggs, chickens don’t give birth to live young…and a shrimp can’t be a direct descendant of a lizard. Also, where did these learn to speak English? And how could they talk with their heads ripped off, without vocal cords or lungs? And, as most cooked food usually was, they should be dead.
So, I kept eating. The voices didn’t stop, even though I knew it didn’t make sense, I didn’t think that not making sense meant that it wasn’t real, only that nobody should care.
What they were saying continued to hurt my feelings, anyway. When my mother refilled my plate (because, it seemed, I was old enough to talk and feed myself, but young enough not to be asked, and I wouldn’t dream of refusing food for reasons that will follow) I couldn’t take it anymore and burst into tears. I begged my mother to stop putting them on my plate, at which I vaguely recall she launched into a tirade about how she hadn’t even eaten anything yet because she was busy peeling shrimp for me and I was so ungrateful and there were starving children in the streets outside our comfortable home…
Well, that shut me up. I didn’t stop crying, nor did I continue eating, but I did give up on telling her about what I was hallucinating. I don’t remember what happened after. It was likely that I was just sent up to my room for having a temper tantrum, and I’d just taken from that that I had been Bad for causing even that much fuss and trouble to everyone. Obviously, that wasn’t real, (for the commonly given value of reality) but it was far too undeliberated and vivid to be imagined. So, I call it a hallucination, thankfully the only one to have happened in my life.
What really got to me, while I was growing up, was anxiety. I was terrified of pulling T-shirts over my head because a huge part of me was convinced that the world I entered through the torso hole would be a different one than I found beyond the neck hole. That it never happened never dismissed the fear I held, each and every time I dressed up, that it would happen this time. I tried not to step on the grotting between tiles because I thought that I had bad thoughts (which, actually, I didn’t very much) and that the tile grotting would know it and the tile grotting would judge me and… that would just really hurt my feelings. The constant sense of impending doom really wasn’t something that I could ever just turn off.
All things considered, I really am very lucky that full-blown hallucinations were no daily struggle that I can’t trust my senses anymore, sort of thing. Perhaps it’s also sheer luck that the way the neurons in my brain were organized gave me some leeway to reason it out, that, “I can’t trust my senses right now.” Mostly, though, I owe the distribution of scientific knowledge that gave me the best tools with which to reason it out, because trust or not, personal experience was the only thing I had to go by. However I reasoned, these experiences couldn’t be ignored. But, I could doubt, and I could function somewhat because of that doubt.
(I have never been diagnosed with or treated for anything other than depression.)
That’s why evaluation has been so important to me, when it comes to experiences I have that nobody else in the immediate vicinity can validate. And, from my perspective, what I deal with now (that I wrote about once or twice before) is different enough that, even though they engage directly with me in an immediate experience, I can accept them in my life and make more sense of it without this being destructive. They’ve even helped.
Of course I’d say that, if I were so profoundly insane that there was no coming out of it, and I accepted nonsense as sense, and upheld destruction and harm as the highest virtue. However well I think I structure my arguments, check my heuristics, form my opinions… the ends invalidate the means.
All of this must either be the product of insanity, or a lie.
I’d also say that my uninhibited imagination, or hallucinations if that’s what these are (because when I say “uninhibited” it’s sometimes just deciding to let down my inhibitions and sometimes that I have no choice) are helpful… if they’ve been helpful. Isn’t that simple enough? Isn’t it likely that any complications to take a turn for some other conclusion coasts on willful and basic misconceptions?
I believe that a lot of the most profound and significant experiences I’ve had come from lowering the repressive/dismissive inhibitions on my imagination and simply letting imagination happen within the designated time, space, or world. If I don’t have a choice, if shutting that down and tuning it out is too effortful that I’d given it up as impossible… I can still manage them.
So, the line between hallucination and imagination isn’t that much of a concern, as I can function.
The line between imagination as metaphysical access and imagination as fictional construction, now, while not quite blurred yet (except in the telling of it, because it’s literally all in my head and whoever you are, reading this, you only have my words for it compared to your experience and understanding of the world,) is an area of interest to me, the nature of inspiration in either divinity or frivolity.