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Hospital Hallucinations, Visions, and Delusions.

Published June 17, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had the most vivid hallucinations that were scary, unnerving, and downright freaky. For three whole days I thought I had lost my mind and was expecting to get transferred to the psych ward at any moment. Then in a moment of clarity I asked the nurse what antibiotics were in my IV drip. Metronidazole. Of course. I had these in tablet form from a dentist once and I saw a Zulu warrior sat on my sofa, and a grapefruit dancing in my bedroom. I stopped taking them and made a mental note not to take these ever again. Unfortunately, when being admitted to hospital and asked what I was allergic to I had only mentioned penicillin. I was kept on metronidazole for another day until my consultant switched them for a different variety, gentamicin. So, I’m blaming the antibiotics, but it could have been that combined with the morphine I was on, and the temperature I had distorting my brain too.

If you’ve never hallucinated it’s scary as you can see things that aren’t there, and no matter how much you tell yourself it’s just your brain playing tricks, because you can see it so clearly you can’t convince yourself it’s just a mirage. I can’t remember all my hallucinations but here are the ones that I can. It would have been freaky enough to dream these, but to see them was terrifying.

Dancing biscuits. My fellow inmates and nurses were witness to me shouting ‘make the biscuits stop dancing’. Embarrassing to look back on, but at the time I’d been tormented by a five-foot custard cream and a five-foot pink wafer with arms and legs dancing, jazz style, next to my bed for hours. Every time I opened my eyes they were there, grinning at me, dancing. They weren’t nice friendly grins, I found them darkly menacing.

Velcro Bryan Ferry. I opened my eyes and the hospital walls and ceiling were covered in Velcro. Bryan Ferry popped up in a bright yellow Velcro suit and proceeded to sing ‘Let’s Stick Together’ whilst flinging himself to the walls and ceiling. When I ignored him, a bed appeared to the right of me (there was no bed on my right-hand side) covered in Velcro and he wrapped himself around the bed in 2D flattened style, still singing. I had to whisper ‘not now Bryan’ to make him stop. He then sat on the bed that wasn’t there with his back to me and kept looking slyly over his shoulder at me to make sure I was watching him.

Eight grim reapers. At one point I opened my eyes to see not one but eight figures in black hooded cloaks gathered around my bed. This seemed like such a revelation that there was more than one grim reaper. I shouted ‘There’s more than one! Everyone has it wrong, there are loads of them!’ plus ‘That’s so unfair, eight of them and one of me, I don’t stand a chance.’ Goodness knows what people must have thought I was looking at.

Headless patients. Looking around the room and seeing the other three patients minus their heads made me physically vomit. (I was vomiting a lot though, so my stomach didn’t take a lot of persuading to purge itself again). Two were sleeping minus their heads, the third was flicking through a magazine with her hands, but there was just a neck stump, no head.

The scariest hallucinations though were ordinary people stood in front of me, talking to me, that weren’t there. There was a lady with short hair in an orange and blue horizontally striped jumper that I found particularly creepy, she would talk to me about her dead children then stare at me. I did wonder at one point if I was doing a ‘Sixth Sense’ and seeing dead people.

I have never experienced audio hallucinations before. I now have. I hear voices in my head most of the time, but I ‘hear’ those with my mind as a running commentary, as I guess do most people. But I’ve never heard things externally with my ears that weren’t there, so I didn’t realise it wasn’t genuine at first. There was a lady in bed three whose hearing aid kept whistling. When she fiddled with it trying to tune it in it played Jingle Bells. ‘What kind of warped person buys an elderly relative a hearing aid that plays Jingle Bells’ I thought to myself. This happened a few times. I was cussing whoever bought it for her. It was only when the hearing aid started to play Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, in its high-pitched tinny sound, that I realised my brain was messing with me.

Other auditory hallucinations included hearing people say my name and start talking to me, except when I opened my eyes there was no one there. And I could hear a rock station on a radio. I thought it was the woman in the next bed listening to the radio, quietly but not quietly enough, and for a couple of days I was thinking ‘why can’t she put headphones like the rest of us’. I then realised it wasn’t her (she checked out of hospital and it was still playing), it was my brain playing tricks on me again. It was so weird though, I could clearly hear the host introducing artists, new rock music, and I could hear this music and lyrics I’d never heard before so clearly. I can’t remember any of the songs now but at the time of ‘hearing’ them they were all new to me. I wish I could remember them so I could write them down and sell them on to musicians and make a fortune.

As well as hallucinations I had delusions. Only a few thank goodness. I was convinced one of the catering staff was a cyborg. She walked down the corridor exactly like Robert Patrick in ‘Terminator 2’ and as she walked past my room her eyes scanned in, with a slight movement of her head, just like the T2. That was enough for me, my brain told me she was a cyborg, I believed it. I wouldn’t make eye contact with her or I’d pretend to be asleep when she came around. I also believed we were all being given drugs via our drips that were keeping us sleepy and docile, and that the hospital was a front for top secret experiments on our bodies. Whenever I woke up I would scan my body for any signs of unauthorised incisions.

The visions I had were both terrifying and amazing. When I closed my eyes to escape the hallucinations I had visions. No escape from my brain. The inside of my eyelids became a film screen and I was shown weird and wonderful images by my mind. The horrific images my brain showed me were so repulsive I’ve buried them in a filing cabinet never to be talked about, I’ll just say I was disgusted I could create vile images that make ‘The Human Centipede’ look like ‘The Teletubbies’.

There were weird images, that felt like psychic images. I could see the bottom half of a body buried in mud, blue denim jeans, brown boots and a brown satchel type bag buried with, but that was all, then my mind would flicker onto another vision. There was an exquisitely animated film that made me cry as it was so beautifully shot. It was a Swedish girl in the woods, and the animals she lived with and the music was so haunting. They were made of a weird clay type pottery and painted in muted colours, and it was stop go animation. I can’t remember much more now about the story, but at the time it made me weep with joy.

There was a story of two blue and yellow birds that were unseeable by human eye, they lived in human noses, one in each nostril. They were soulmates paired for life but would never see each other as they couldn’t leave their respective nostrils as their jobs were to protect the nose from invaders like pollen, bugs, germs etc. The birds were the happiest creatures, even though they couldn’t see each other they would tweet to each other through the nasal cavities and just knowing the other was there was enough for them. They had such a pure love for each other it was beautiful. They’re names were Geoffrey and Viola.

My brain made a complete Disney animated movie called ‘Vegas to Alaska’. There were four Alaskan Malamute dogs (Montana, Iowa, Utah, and Vegas) that performed in a Las Vegas show. They weren’t mistreated but had a working dogs life, having lived there performing in shows all their lives. Due to animal shows getting less customers they were dropped from the bill and the owner was selling them on. Three sold quickly but no one wanted to buy Vegas, he had been born with one ear and couldn’t bark/talk like the other dogs. The owner was due to fly to Florida, so he gave Vegas away to a random stranger, Ben. Ben had stopped in Las Vegas on route home to Alaska and had lost his dad’s money gambling. He was feeling such a loser but couldn’t say no to taking Vegas home with him.

The film followed their bonding trip in Ben’s red pick-up truck from Las Vegas to Alaska, Vegas taking pure joy from simple things like riding in a vehicle with his head out the window and feeling a breeze on his face, something he’d never experienced before. It was basically a love story between man and dog, about learning to trust, learning to value the small stuff, and learning to love life. I enjoyed it.

A short film that played in my head was a beautiful love story starring Tom Hardy. He played a man, finding out his sister had been mistakenly switched at birth. He only found this out when he’s contacted by his birth sister’s ‘brother’ explaining she needs a kidney. Reluctantly he agrees to visit her in the hospital and when he meets her he agrees to donate, telling her ‘I will always be a part of you and we will go on magical adventures.’ They fall in love, but not a sexual love, a pure love of humanness. They move in together and are inseparable, they make everyday life into wonderful adventures, but then she is stabbed in a random petrol station robbery and dies in his arms. It was called ‘The Day my Kidney Died’.

A comforting vision I had was a huge belly of a monster hovering above my bed, it was peach coloured and furry, with an outie belly button. But the belly button opened like a lid and inside was a fluffy baby monster curled up. I climbed in and the lid closed, and I snuggled with the fluffy baby monster. It was lovely.

There was so much more that played in my head but unfortunately I can’t remember anything else. I was too out of it to write it all down at the time, a Dictaphone would have helped but I didn’t think to ask my mum to bring one in for me. ‘Can you bring toiletries, spare nighties, and a Dictaphone in case I hallucinate.’ Mental note – buy a Dictaphone and carry it with me always.

And while I’m glad I escaped and left my hospital hallucinations behind, the creative part of me would like to have some of the visions return, maybe with an on/off switch. Oh, and yes, I do feel bad that I left my fellow patients to the mercy of a cyborg.

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When a virus hijacks your brain.

Published September 1, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

(In bed, ill with a high temperature)

Brain: Ooh isn’t it cold.

Me: No.

Brain: It is.

Me: It’s not cold, I’ve got a temperature.

Brain: It’s freezing.

Me: (touching head to confirm) No, I’m boiling.

Brain: What’s that noise?

Me: (listening carefully) I can’t hear anything?

Brain: Can’t you hear that? The sound of your bones knocking together as they shiver?

Me: Pack it in.

Brain: Why don’t you put some socks on, your feet are cold aren’t they?

Me: (sighs) Yes, my feet feel cold now that you mention it. (gets out of bed and puts socks on)

Brain: (sings Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’)

Me: (back in bed) What are you doing now? I need to sleep.

Brain: I’m singing cold songs. Because it’s cold.

Me: Please stop.

Brain: Why don’t you put a nighty on. It’s cold and you’re nude, that’s just silly.

Me: I’m not nude, I have socks on. (gets out of bed and puts nighty on, gets back into bed)

(One minute and thirty-nine seconds tick by)

Brain: (sings Ultravox’s Vienna)

Me: That’s not a cold song, why are you singing that?

Brain: Midge Ure looked chilly in the video, so it’s a cold song.

Me: Stop talking, and singing, I need to sleep.

Brain: It’s too cold to sleep. But if you put another layer on you’ll feel all snugly and fall asleep.

Me: Ok, I give in.

Brain: Good, if you get any colder you’ll need the toilet.

Bladder: Hello!

Me: Great. I suppose you want to be emptied?

Bladder: Yes. Isn’t it cold.

Me: Don’t you start. (Empties bladder, layers up, back into bed) Can I sleep now?

Bladder: (snoring)

Brain: Of course. Snuggle down. Right under the duvet for maximum warmth.

(waking six hours later in a pool of sweat)

Me: Oh sweet horse chestnuts! I’m roasting alive! (fumbles feebly to remove socks while fighting heat fatigue)

Brain: Ha! Got you!

Bladder: Hello!

A Colonoscopy Adventure

Published January 19, 2015 by Naomi Rettig

I arrived bright and early at Nevil Hall Hospital. When I say bright I of course mean the day was bright not me. I was feeling hollow and fantasizing about soup – carrot and coriander. I also had the shakes. My body wasn’t enjoying the effects of no food for twenty hours and it certainly didn’t like the lava waterfall the night before courtesy of ‘klean prep’. Horrific and no more will be said of that.
I reported to the desk of the LLanwenarth day surgery suite, which makes it sound quite glamorous, and waited my turn. A lovely nurse called Judy checked me in and took all my details, my allergies: penicillin, animal saliva and fur, broad beans. I’m guessing they only needed to know about the penicillin allergy. Judy then discovered my blood pressure was a little high – no surprise as I was in the middle a panic attack. I was given wrist bands on each arm (appearing like I’d been to a really good festival) and an extra red one alerting anyone of my penicillin allergy. I was disappointed I didn’t have one alerting people to not feed me broad beans.
Judy then left the room for me to strip off and change into the fashionable hospital gown. I’m being sarcastic, it was anything but fashionable. I know these have to be low budget but surely they could find material suppliers with cheap funky designs. I’d want disco cats on mine. After a quick sit down in a side waiting room, doing some last minute Facebooking and a quick Kindle read, I was whisked into the treatment room.
My veins are cowardly and like to play hide and seek and thought it would be great fun to disappear completely. It took a full ten minutes for the surgeon to get a cannula in a vein. The nurse had looked first and decided she’d leave it to the surgeon as she couldn’t find any at all to even have a stab at. Now ten minutes may not sound long but when you are needle and hospital phobic and already struggling to hold onto happy thoughts to stay in your happy place, (a snowy winter forest with a wolf watching over me), having people tapping all over your arms and hands to find a vein seems like hours. The surgeon kept apologising for my uncooperative veins while he tapped. It reminded me of when seagulls tap the ground to get worms to rise to the surface.
I was given a drug first to make me woozy, it did and I felt nicely fuzzy headed. Then I was given anesthetic to make me sleepy and floating but not go under. I don’t know if I had a little too much but my blood pressure dropped like Mafioso in concrete boots and I went under. That was my highlight. It was heavenly. I felt myself free falling slowly down through water with friendly pink and green spotty octopi and electric blue jellyfish buffeting me like mini trampolines as I sank. I felt so relaxed. So I wasn’t best pleased with the nurse for waking me up and I asked her to leave me with the octopus. She didn’t though and I had pain inside that I can’t even describe. Every time I cried out in pain I apologised straight away for being a baby. I requested ‘give me more’ meaning give me more drugs but it felt like this had been misinterpreted as give me more tubing up my backside!
The nurse was a star though and tried to keep me calm by reminding me how to breathe, always good to be reminded, and telling me that she would like to go and work in Canada but her boyfriend doesn’t want to leave the UK. I normally wouldn’t offer advice without being asked but the power of anesthetic removes the filter of tact. ‘Leave him behind’ was my helpful drugged up advice. She had lovely eyebrows and an unpronounceable Welsh name beginning with I. ‘Ooh that’s exotic! Where are you from?’ ‘Merthyr’.
I was wheeled to the wake up room and had three more lovely nurses looking after me, well, chatting by my bedside monitoring my blood pressure readings. Its great lying back with your eyes closed listening to other peoples conversations. I learnt that a nurse in another room was a boring stickler to the rules with no sense of humour but she had a sporty car with a double exhaust. Yes, a double exhaust – this was quite out of character apparently. One of the nurses around my bed had moved to Abergavenny from Bristol to be near her husband’s family but they were all horrid to her and she wanted to move back, but he didn’t want to move. ‘Leave him behind’ I shouted in my head. That seemed to be my stock advice of the day. Do what you want with your life not what others want you to do.
After sitting in a squeaky green pleather chair with a cup of tea (which tasted like the best tea ever) for half an hour I was discharged home with a report of a normal healthy colon and wind noises in my bowels sounding like a blue whale fighting with Chewbacca. Happy days.