Before I dive into my insanity for you I want to take a moment to brag about how insignificant I am.
This weekend I had the distinct honor of performing some mediocre to subpar stand-up in the company of these wonderfully hilarious people. Pye,Brown allowed all of us to make enough people laugh that it boosted even my self-esteem for a time. We were allowed ten minutes, and I can almost promise you I was up there for 3 of them. (Three may be a gross overestimation.)
On the other hand, the whole event took place after nine straight days of work. Nine straight days of my brain ready to collapse. Four straight days without sleep. We’ve been going through some changes at work. Work puberty, and it’s left us a little grossly short-staffed in leadership. And being the manager of my store I’m sort of stuck picking up the amazing amount of slack. Slack to the extent of someone attempted to bungee jump off of a bridge but the rope snapped, and now I’m pulling up the rope with nothing pulling back. It’s a lot of slack is what I’m saying. A den of slack, to quote Reality Bites.
Which brings me to my initial intent.
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
It’s a sad world, when Jefferson Airplane speaks to you, and it isn’t because of drugs. Maybe it’s a happy world.
Here’s what it is. You know how in Alice in Wonderland Alice gets disproportionate to her surroundings unexpectedly? After a while it becomes intentional. But when it starts Alice is just growing and shrinking.
When I was in elementary school I would be, let’s say, taking a test and I would feel something building inside of me. What it really felt like though was me growing. And as a second-grader I began to think something was wrong with me. I thought I was crazy, even before I really knew what that meant. Looking back, not knowing what it was, I think I believed I had schizophrenia. Because I thought I was hearing voices. Well, okay I was, but I was hearing MY voice. If I read a question, “What is the capital of Indiana?” My brain would actually say, “WHAT IS THE CAPITAL OF INDIANA? INDIANAPOLIS INDIANA-POLIS POLIS POLIS INDIANAPOLIS” And as I wrote it down the pencil screeched across the paper and began to shrink in my hand. Occasionally it would snap. I would lose all sense of myself in a space. I would grow and everything would shrink. As I delicately tried to grip something it would be crushed. Everything was so loud. The pencils in the room SCRATCH-SCRATCH-SCRATCHING out more correct answers. TAP-TAPPING of erasers on heads as David Ludlow muddled to find the right letters. SCREECHING and CRUNCHING of heating and cooling systems.
In second grade my teacher was not a kind man. Not to me. He was kind to pretty girls and smart or athletic boys. Nerdy boys were not liked, and ol’ Hayley Johnson was just as bad. My hand-writing was awful. It was. Actually, it wasn’t. It was awful for the expectations of a second-grade girl. Most second-grade boys had similar penmanship to mine, but I was a girl. My penwomanship was supposed to be delicate and flowy. On more than one occasion, as the pressure of bad hand-writing and a poor understanding of reading built around me, papers were returned to me with poor marks. And a stamp. A stamp with a crying dog that said “Your hand-writing makes me sad.”
I had hand-writing that made dogs cry. It didn’t make my dog cry. She never complained about my hand-writing at all. But that sad, judgmental dog made me stay in from recess on several occasions. The recess an 8-year-old girl who is overwhelmed by schoolwork needs.
As that pressure grew so did the noises. Eventually it was every time I felt academic pressure.
Third grade came around though, and it subsided with the kindness and patience of Mrs. Claire Kowatch who, to this day, is one of the kindest women I’ve ever known. She taught so vividly about the ocean and about math, which I hated, that there are times, still, that I could convince myself we actually went into the ocean to interact with jellyfish. My understanding is that we did not, but it was so well presented that if you asked, I’d be certain that Mrs. Kowatch is actually Ms. Frizzle.
Fourth grade was not unlike second grade. My fourth-grade teacher, like my second one preferred pretty girls and athletic boys to gawky girls and geeky boys. And she was not afraid to make that clear. She, an alumna of our school, was clearly the sort who was well-liked and popular herself. And in fourth grade I was being sent away by popular girls to distract other less popular girls they didn’t want around. Mounting social pressure and no academic attention brought back a perceived growth.
You get the idea. Time went by.
I remember once saying something about it, and I have a memory of my brother bringing it up as well, but I don’t know if that’s a real memory. It was, nonetheless, disregarded.
As I got older it subsided. For the most part. It became very rare. In the last few years it has started happening again. In the last months it has increased to almost the same frequency as when I was in second grade. I don’t like loud places. I don’t like loud places because it makes me think it’s happening or that it’s about to. And everyone acts the same in loud places as they do in quiet places, like it’s a normal thing, that my brain starts to process it as me being the one perceiving things differently. When in actuality it’s just that I’m not very good at social cues.
My body does begin to actually feel different. There’s a sort of weird pressure in my ears. My eyes feel as though they are opened as wide as they can be. I don’t know how to describe to you how it feels in all of the physical ways, because unless you’ve had this it’s hard to relay. Even now as I’m experiencing it, I’m trying desperately to find the best way to describe it, but I can’t. If you’re around me regularly, which I try to avoid, you can probably tell when it’s happening. I shake my head a lot. I blink a lot more. I may put my hand up to my ear and tug at it to see if I can pop my ears as if I was on an airplane, though the sensation is different. I may try to speak to you more quietly because I’ve begun to believe I’m screaming. I’ll slouch, and I won’t be able to stop looking at my hands. I’ve grown 25 feet and feel like a monster. I will try to get out of the situation, even if I was enjoying myself moments before. I know now that the less sleep I’m getting, the more often this will happen.
Recently I learned though that I am not alone. I’m not in a grand host of people, but it’s more than just me. A few months ago, when it started happening regularly, I praised God for the internet. I could go to Google and type in the weirdness, which I’m sorry, books, but I can’t do that to you. I can’t go to an encyclopedia and go to “hearing” and find a subcategory for “hearing loudness in your head.” And looking up “hearing loud voices?” Well, you can see where I began to think I had schizophrenia.
After several hours of medical blogs, medical forums, weird queries, and multiple Google searches I finally found an answer. I was scouring through a forum of people simply restating that they had the described symptoms, and then continuing to describe the symptoms (for the 80th time) I found one helpful person. One helpful person who directed my attention to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, which primarily impacts your perception of yourself in a space. It doesn’t even necessarily explain the way I hear things. It isn’t a perfect explanation, but it is a start.
Though, I’m probably just schizophrenic.