It’s been just over a week since I came home from the ER, loaded with pills and therapists’ cards. One thing I’ve learned in the course of all these hospitalizations and doctors visits is that the best thing I can do is be calm, open, and straightforward with people. Last year, I went totally bonkers. If you follow my blog, you know about that. Last week, it happened again, but slightly less… vehemently. The gist of it is this: My brain is weird and no one knows why. (You may have noticed.)
See, I’ve had this other entity with me my whole life. Some refer to him as my “other self.” I had to tell my employers about him last year after my first mental hospitalization because “the other one” was reaching out to my boss in a fit of panicked gibberish because we needed help badly. My boss, understandably, was caught off guard by all that, so I had some explaining to do after the dust settled. Some call this entity “Lask.” This entity is, in fact, named Lask, and he is the red-eyed fellow I have so many pictures of. He is partly my inspiration as a creative individual; a model for drawing, a caricature of him is the protagonist of my YA series, and a more complex and accurate representation will be the protagonist of the Adult Fantasy series I’m writing now. (You get it; I’m a Writer, he’s a Mental Thing but also the Muse for this Writer.) A kind soul or two has been learning to interact with Lask online as a means to better be my friend and help keep an eye on my mental health. It seems to be working pretty well, to be honest. I’m hopeful some other folks in my family and friend circle may be willing to chat/check in with him periodically, because his state of mind and attitude is a great indicator of how “well” I actually am mentally. The social masks I have to put on to get through my day, to go to work, the grocery store, or anywhere out of my house are often well-crafted facades, so sometimes it’s hard for people to know when I’m struggling until it becomes too late and the mask shatters.
Talking to Lask can be used as an early warning sign; observing him is a way to assess my “threat level.” As long as I’m sleeping well, and medicating my anxiety, Lask and I are not in danger of reaching “DEFCON 1.” That’s what all my doctors’ visits right now are about– finding/regulating a workable dose of anxiety medication, and finding ways to make my brain run the proper sleep cycles at night. So far, so good, I’m happy to say.
Lask may be a recurring hallucination. In the past 14 months, some doctors have used the labels “schizophrenia” and “dissociative identity disorder,” but ultimately thrown out those diagnoses because I lack all the other hallmark symptoms. When my chronic insomnia, anxiety, and depression is managed, I am a perfectly well-functioning woman capable of holding a full time job, making mortgage payments, driving around town safely, etc. I’m a “normal” person when I’m rested and medicated for anxiety, so… I’m disinclined to call Lask a hallucination, but for some people, psycho-disorders are the only way they can make sense of him.
Lask may be a spirit. Many of the women in my mother’s family, including me, can see ghosts. (If you believe in such things.) This has been openly discussed by that side of the family since I was a child (like over Thanksgiving dinner). So, it’s clearly a Thing that runs in my family, and there is some research that suggests if intuitive “gifts” exist, there is a strain of them that seems to be passed genetically from people of Scottish Highland and Scandinavian descent… and I’m about 75% Scottish blood. So, we may just be freaky people who genetically see spirits. I dunno. None of my relatives can “see” Lask, but they do occasionally feel his “vibe” when he’s around, and there have been a number of odd incidents when he’s been present and technology has done weird things, or radios suddenly turned on, etc. So, there is also some evidence he could be an external spiritual entity, if you’re inclined to allow some belief in those things. Personally, I don’t know, and don’t understand it myself. He’s clearly tethered somewhere in my brain, but he has an odd way of seeming external at times as well. Still puzzling that one out, along with everyone else who’s encountered him.
I have been subconsciously aware of Lask since I was born. There are stories, photos, and other evidence that indicate his presence in me as a small child. When I was 8, I had a dream where he introduced himself, and the next morning when I woke up, I could see him… and I’ve seen him every day since in some way or another. I’ve grown quite fond of him over the years, and think of him as a member of my family. His presence seems inescapable, so I do my best to love and appreciate the good aspects of it, while managing the bad as best I can. I do not believe he means me harm or intends to get me into the trouble he sometimes does. See, Lask isn’t built to be human. Whatever he is, he doesn’t “exist” in the human world, so when some switch gets flipped in my head (usually triggered by anxiety and days-long insomnia– I didn’t sleep for over 72 hours during this bout), he stops being an outside/spirit entity, and “comes to the surface” like another personality, essentially becoming trapped as me. Naturally, this is scary for everyone, especially since we are still learning, experimenting, and figuring out why that switch flips the way it does, and why we we can’t free ourselves of it at that point without medical intervention (usually, when he “comes to the surface” we have full control over that experience). But we’ve been at this medical aspect of it for over a year now, and we’ve learned a lot.
Why am I telling you all this? Because, for better or worse, mental health is a Thing, and a lot of us fight battles that go unseen every day. I acknowledge I’m not always the easiest person to get along with, but often that’s because my brain is jacked up in ways doctors still don’t understand. My family– oddly, the line of folks who can also see ghosts– has a history of epilepsy, and in a CT-scan they did on me last year, there was some indication that I may have had a seizure of some kind. I did pass out in the shower about three days before I was hospitalized last February. No one’s sure how those things are connected, but it seems significant in terms of brain functions.
So, I have a lot of medical problems. I’ve been in the hospital an alarming number of times for someone who is only just now about to turn 27. Some of those times, my case has been badly mishandled. Last year, during my first “episode,” after a night handcuffed in the ER, the police drove me in handcuffs to Richmond, where I was put in a locked ward full of actual crazy people. They forcibly cut the drawstring off my pants (I had been dragged out my house at 2 a.m. in nothing but my pajamas, not even a bra or shoes– how embarrassing!), so I spent the rest of the morning making sure my pants didn’t fall off, trying to talk the staff into letting me go and get in touch with Jackie, while avoiding the actually crazy men and women who were shuffling through those halls screaming insanity at me, trying to grab me and “save me from the government” and every other kind of crazy you can imagine. By the time they got me to Richmond, I had been well drugged, slept several hours, and had woken up more or less sane again. But I had scared so many people during that first episode, they dragged me to the Richmond ward anyway. That was, perhaps, the most traumatic event of my life, and to this day, I feel barfy when I see cop cars anywhere. I’ve learned a lot about the effects of trauma and stress on the brain in the past year. My therapists help me, and I read a lot about my various “conditions” and “symptoms.” There’s a good case to be made that I have a touch of PTSD, but I’m reluctant to wear that label because it feels like stolen valor– reserved for people who have actually fought in wars and been shot at, you know? But the effects of trauma on the brain’s wiring are the same, and recent events have forced me to acknowledge that I am not the person I used to be. Things have happened to me in the past few years– emergency invasive surgeries, mental breaks, relationships breaking with various family members, secrets coming out beyond my control, death of mentors, various humiliations for medical reasons, etc.– that have irrevocably changed me. I am not the person who wrote The Seven Wars. I’m not the person who started this website. The Elanor that started working here five years ago… that person is gone, and I’m still trying to figure out what to make of the person I am now.