Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ~ Albert Einstein

Neosurrealism Art: “Mindscape* by George Grie*

                   

“Get out of my mind
Get out of my head . . . ” ~ from “Night Terrors,” by Static-X

This particular post was supposed to go up on Wednesday, October 13, supposed being the operative word. Obviously, that was not possible, so here it is now.

Another Caveat: The events are related below may or may not have happened in the order presented. Author’s short-term memory is fried, so recall is a wee bit hazy.

Neosurrealism Art: "Insomnia or Nocturnal Awakening" by George Grie

Things that go bump in the night . . .

I have promised Corey that I will never again make light of the time I thought Mexicans were living in the walls of our house (Remember? The post op time during which I was having vivid aural and visual hallucinations? If I remember correctly, I smelled things too. I wonder if that’s called smelly hallucinations . . . But I digress.) 

The night after the emergency room visit, which was Saturday, September 25, my mom began to have hallucinations. The EMT’s had given her morphine in the ambulance, and she was given morphine while in the ER. We were sent home with a script for Flexeril (a muscle relaxer) and the mildest dose of Percoset (a pain reliever).

I should probably qualify here: My mother has no tolerance for drugs, unlike me, who, having had chronic conditions most of my life can get a shot of Demerol and Phenergan and go to a restaurant and eat a hot fudge sundae (something that really happened). Such is not the case with mommy dearest.

At first, I thought that she was just discombobulated from the extended ER stay and having her time-table turned upside down. She called me into the bedroom and told me that someone was in the hallway. I told her that no, no one was there, and turned on the light in the hall to show her. When I looked more closely, I saw that her pupils were huge. Mom was high.

A few minutes later, she shouted my name. I ran into the room, only for her to tell me that rats were climbing on the closet door. (Rats: Corey’s least favorite thing in the world; he should have had to deal with this particular hallucination). I turned on the overhead light, and put my hand on the closet door. She screamed. I opened the door and showed her that nothing was there.

Then she told me that the rats had run into the bag that was hanging on the closet knob (a red, shiny gift bag that my mother keeps a whole lot of whatever in). I took the bag and ran out of the room with it. I told her no more rats. She went back to sleep.

About an hour later she declared that someone was breaking into the house. Then she was certain that the cat was on top of her (he was outside). This continued all night.

Okay. So I’m making fun now. Trust me, it was very unfunny as it unfolded.

“I have nightmares about hell, where all I do is add up numbers and try to have conversations with people like you.” ~ Jim Butcher

Neosurrealism Art: "City Ruins" by Natiz Agayev

In the morning, my mother tried to make sense of what had happened. I explained to her that she still had a lot of pain medicine in her system, and told her that hallucinations can happen as a result of certain medications. I told her about my own hallucinations, and that seemed to make her feel better, or at least she pretended that it did.

Sunday night the hallucinations began again. This time, my mother tried to get out of bed to go somewhere, and as a result, she fell again. It was 5 a.m., and there was no way that I could get her back into bed on my own, so I had to call Corey. Between the two of us, we maneuvered my limp, petrified mother back into bed. As we were doing so, she told me that she had heard something snap. I didn’t know if it was part of the hallucination or if something had really happened—as in the snap of a bone breaking.

First thing Monday morning, I called the orthopaedist’s office, spoke to a nurse, and got the first available appointment, which was on Tuesday. The appointment on Tuesday was a fiasco as we were seen by Dr. X, one of the senior partners in the practice, who told my mother (before viewing the ER x-rays) that she needed to be exercising her foot. He was very officious and condescending, which always brings out the worst in me.

When that particular doctor took a look at her x-ray, he came back in and said that he wanted his parter, Dr. Y to get a second opinion on whether or not an operation was needed. I rolled my mother to yet another exam room, where we waited for two hours, only to be told that Dr. Y was running two hours behind and couldn’t possibly see my mother. Could we come back the next day?

Guess what happened then . . . Go on, guess . . .

So I lost it and told the nurse that they obviously did not understand the situation: my mother had fallen again; she was in constant pain and hallucinating. Dr. X increased the level of the Percoset and we set up an appointment for Thursday with Dr. X’s son, a surgeon.

Another day of trying to keep my mother in bed and trying to keep her from hurting herself while trying not to lose what was left of my mind in the process. It was grand.

“With the truth so dull and depressing, the only working alternative is wild bursts of madness and filigree.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

Neosurrealism Art: "Ice Age Premonition" by George Grie

On Wednesday, we returned to see Dr. X Jr., who turned out to be a very patient, kind doctor who listened to my mother’s long list of complaints. He ordered another x-ray (boy, was that fun), and then he told her that he really didn’t think that she needed an operation, that he wanted her to try a different brace, and he wrote a script for Demerol for the pain.

Don’t worry. I never gave her a Demerol. I had no desire to peel her from the ceiling.

We had an appointment to see Dr. X Jr. the following week to reassess. In the meantime, my mother told anyone who would listen that obviously none of them had ever had a broken bone, that none of them could possibly know what the pain was like because if they did, they would immediately put her in the hospital. I didn’t even try the logical approach of telling her that orthopedic surgeons knew a good deal about broken bones. She wouldn’t have listened anyway.

Luckily, Dr. X Jr.’s nurse was fabulous, and she wrote a script for a wheelchair, bedpan, and shower chair (by the way, only the wheelchair was approved by Medicare). We had borrowed a wheelchair from mom’s neighbor for the initial visits. The nurse wrote down her name and phone number so that I could call her the next day if I had any questions about the new brace.

Wow. Impressive.

By the way, did I mention that my mother wanted me to call an ambulance to take her to the doctor’s appointment? I explained that the ambulance was for emergencies. Her logic was that her pain was an emergency, and no one understood what she was going through, and why were there ambulances if you couldn’t use them . . .

I did try to arrange for private medical transport for the first doctor’s visit but was told that neither Medicare nor my mom’s supplemental insurance would cover the $200 fee. There was a long conversation with the insurance company in which I asked them if they would cover the fee to transport me when I threw my back out trying to get my mother into the car. I hung up.

Back to the story.

“I hope I end up a blithering idiot cursing the sun—hallucinating, screaming, giving obscene and inane lectures on street corners and public parks. People will walk by and say, ‘Look at that drooling idiot. What a basket case.'” ~ Henry Rollins

Neosurrealism Art: "The Cemetery of Umbrellas" by Stefano Bonazzi

We spent several more nights with imaginary visitorshuman, animal, and something papery and shiny. Things on the ceiling, things on the walls, strangers lurking in the shadows. One night when Corey was using the fax machine, my mom thought that we were moving furniture.

The third doctor’s visit was in the Chesapeake office, which my mother just couldn’t understand (as in “why do we have to go so far away?” Clarification: Chesapeake is about 15 miles away, 15-25 minutes on the interstate, depending on time of day). Another x-ray, and Dr. X Jr. said the magic words to my mother, who by this point was determined to have an operation and go in the hospital. He said, “If it were my mother, I wouldn’t operate. I would let it heal with time.”

He told mom that the time that it would take to heal on its own versus the time to heal after the operation would be about the same, and with the operation, she would have to be on heavy-duty pain killers, which would mean more hallucinations. She was sold.

So here we are, doing the healing at home thing. The hallucinations have stopped because I’m not giving my mother any narcotics, only the muscle relaxer and extra strength Tylenol. She’s still a bit loopy: trying to tell me that she already took a pill that I hadn’t given her, and making declarations such as, “Tomorrow, I’m going to make (insert name) for dinner. We just kind of look at each other and say nothing.

The biggest accomplishment to date was the shower. It was a major operation, requiring advanced scouting and assessment, but we made it through relatively unscathed, with the exception of my clothing, which was as wet as her body.

But the point of this whole post was this: I now have a keen appreciation for exactly what Corey and my family went through when I was having my own hallucinations. It’s funny to me in retrospect because I find it outrageous, but now that I’ve been on the other side, I have made a vow to my long-suffering spouse that I will not longer take for granted what he went through during that week after my back operation.

And there you have it: my pledge in writing, or typing, or whatever.

More later on the ongoing saga. Peace.

Music by Cyann and Ben, “A Moment Nowhere”

*Neosurrealism art: Artistic genre combining elements of fantasy, surrealism, and 3D to form images  of dreams, fantasies, and subconscious mind visions using painting, digital art, and photography.   

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More Lunatic Tales From The Ether

18_not_easy 

The Other Side of the Looking Glass

When last we left our heroine, she had been disarmed of her sword and was strapped to a gurney being transported to the emergency room for her own good . . . 

The Mexicans in the Walls

Part 3

Final chapter: The Emergency Room 

 So we arrive at the emergency room, where I am parked on a gurney in the hall to wait, for what or whom, I have no idea. I have already assured anyone who will listen that I don’t really need to be there, which is probably not the best thing to say in an emergency room full of people who need to be there. I am going to be taken to x-ray to make sure I didn’t hurt my back when I tried to rearrange the furniture. In the meantime, I am right outside the door of a man who is apparently—and I really am not making this up—dying. This is the only part of the story that is not the least bit humorous, and I don’t think that this was part of my hallucination. He is moaning and crying and no one is doing anything about it. It’s tearing me to pieces to hear this, and I just want to go home. I promise my husband that if I can just go home, I’ll be fine, but I don’t want to hear this man any more.

starting-an-iv
The Correct Way to Start an IV

In the meantime, someone decides that I need an IV. The crew from the ambulance that brought me in assert comically that they need some practice in this area, so one of them volunteers. It’s the female. She gives me the smile given to crazy people to assure them that everything is going to be all right when it’s obvious that it won’t be; then she jabs me with the needle: again and again and again. She looks over at the person who I assume is her supervisor and says, “I can’t do it,” to which I ache to reply, “No shit.” He ambles over, picks up my arm, and declares: “She has really tiny veins.” I reply to his assertion, “no one’s has ever had problems with my veins,” but they aren’t listening because they think that I’m crazy. Well I may be crazy, but I know my veins. This guy tries twice and misses. I give him a look like I’m going to pull a sword out of my butt, and he backs off.

Finally, a technician comes by, (I deduce what she is because she is carrying one of those carts with all of the tubes and needles and stuff), and I tell her what they’ve been doing to me, and she says, “Oh my. Here.” And in goes the needle, and I have an IV. I’m glaring at the EMT’s who are hanging around the vending machines. This is why I didn’t want to come to the emergency room.

Did I mention the medications? Probably not. When the EMT’s were in my bedroom checking my vitals and getting ready to take me out, jefferson-airplane-surrealistic-pillowthey noticed my little castle of drug bottles by the bed, the veritable cornucopia of pharmacopoeias. They looked at each other, and I’ve seen that look: “She’s a druggie.” Please let me pause here. I had just been released from the hospital for back surgery. I had a few meds on my nightstand, along with my medicine for heartburn and other ailments. But they are jumping to the White Rabbit conclusions (you know, “Go Ask Alice,” Jefferson Airplane), and frankly, at the time, all I could think of was Desi Arnaz saying to Lucy, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin to do,” which would have made me giggle, so I shut up.

I wanted to giggle a lot during this whole episode, but I think that (other than the two cops at my bedroom door), I’m the only one who was finding any humor in the situation.

So now that I have an official IV and an ID bracelet, we sit. And sit and sit and sit. The man in the room is moaning horribly, and I’m getting hungry. I also need to pee. I ask my husband what we are waiting for. He replies that he’s not sure. We’ve already been there for two hours going on three. I get off the cart, and my husband immediately panics and asks where I’m going. I tell him to calm down. I’m not running away from the ER, I just need to pee. But that’s harder than you would think when you have an IV, and people are in rooms, and there is no bathroom close by. I find a bathroom but am not particularly happy about its cleanliness—it is, afterall, a hospital, and they are teeming with germs, and by now, I am very ill-tempered, and I just want to go home.

My beleaguered spouse goes to see if anyone will see us, and comes back without anyone. So I pull out my cell phone and call the ER main desk. I distinctly remember doing this as this is something that I would do under normal circumstances. I call the main desk and ask if anyone is ever going to see me. The person who answers the phone is very confused. She asks who she is talking to. I tell her that I’m the woman on the gurney in the hallway outside of the door of the man who is dying, and no one has even checked me in yet.

A doctor shows up in two minutes. We give him a rundown of what’s going on. He totally ignores me (which proves my whole conspiracy theory), and only talks to my husband. I realize that he’s a resident. I hear him go off and consult with the attending, a female physician who comes back and asks my husband if I want a psych consult. I say, “No. I don’t need a psych consult. I just want you to tell me why I’ve started to have post-op hallucinations.” They order a psych consult.

After four hours, I tell my husband that we’re going. He looks at me, and I say, “Look, obviously, it’s something to do with my medicine. You can call the surgeon’s office when we get home. I want to go home and get back in bed. I’m not hearing or seeing anything any more since I haven’t had any medicine in almost six hours. Just take me home, and put me to bed.” He reluctantly admits that I have a point. Truthfully, at this point, he himself is so exhausted that he would probably agree to me performing surgery in the hallway if it would get a response out of someone.

 I wait for the next physician type to walk by and then loudly announce that I’m leaving. It’s the resident again, and I think that I’m scaring him. The female attending comes back, says that I have to sign papers saying that I am refusing treatment. When she thinks she’s out of earshot, she starts talking about me. This time, I’m not hallucinating.

On a better day, I would have taken her to task, but today I have to admit defeat. I’m tired, and I just want to be gone from this hell-hole.

We go home, and my husband finally speaks to someone knowledgeable at the doctor’s office. Turns out that the whole thing was a result of my having stayed in the hospital on the extra strength kaboom medicine for five days instead of three and then going home and taking extra strength pills that the doctor had prescribed for me without taking into account that I still had all of the other stuff in my bloodstream. In other words, the surgeon didn’t bother to do some measured calculations on how much frigging stuff they were pumping into me those two extra days that I was hospitalized and then sent me out into the world, an hallucinatory event in waiting.

What a pedestrian explanation for a calamitous event. After we got home I heard the music a little bit more, but didn’t say anything. My husband got some sleep. My kids approached me tentatively, and I tried to explain that I wasn’t psycho any more. But as far as the whole family of Mexicans and their card table and coffee behind the walls? I think that they left when the ambulance pulled out of my driveway.

It was one hell of a ride, I’ll give you that. The person who had the worst end of it was my poor spouse, who was just trying to keep me from hurting myself. The cops who turned out in full armor probably laughed themselves silly at the stupid woman who was waving around a sword with a blade so dull that it wouldn’t even cut an apple. And I had to have an MRI to make sure that I hadn’t undone the surgeon’s work when I tried to move a 200-pound dresser to bar the non-existent intruders.

It never occurred to me to ask the Mexicans in the walls for help.  But that’s just as well. Now that there is a lot of time and distance from this event, I find it highly amusing, vitameatavegamin1but my husband? He still is not amused. I cannot imagine why.

So this is the moral of the story: If you have a lot of pain medication when you are in the hospital, and they give you more pain medicine to take at home, don’t be surprised if you start to hallucinate. I’m not sure if you’ll have a Mariachi band as I did. But whatever your hallucinations may be, just know that it’s the medication, and don’t allow yourself to be used for recertification training for EMT’s who need to practice sticking people who are conscious.

And that dear friends, is all for now. Peace.

More Lunatic Tales From The Ether

 unreality-crashes-in

Phantasms Collide With Reality

 

Picking up where we left off. If you recall, when last we left our heroine, she was having both auditory and visual hallucinations, and her family was considering running far, far away . . .

The Mexicans in the Walls

Part 2

New and exciting chapter: The conspiracy.

You are going to love this part. Trust me. I am not making this up. This is like something that W. would say at the microphone before his handlers could stop him and the press is just pissing in their collective pants with joy at the gift that they have been handed. I kid you not. That’s how good this part is, and we aren’t even to the S.W.A.T. team and the sword yet. I have figured out why the Mexicans are in the walls. Hallelujah. In my head, this is more real than Paris Hilton’s suntan or James Frey’s memoir. My husband has gathered all of these Mexican’s in the walls, who at this point are playing cards, brewing coffee (which smells rather good because I do love strong, Mexican coffee), and playing this infernal Mariachi music all night and all day, because he—my husband—has devised a plan of such cunning that it would make a Fundamentalist proud.

Now granted I’m not exactly sure how the Mexicans fit into all of this except that there is a larger plan or was a larger plan. I’m getting ahead of myself again. Let me back up . . . When the visual hallucinations started, my husband called the doctor again, who suggested that perhaps he (my husband, not the doctor, silly) should take me to the ER. Well, I was not having any of that because I was onto the whole ER thing. It was as plain as the brace on my body. If I let him take me to the ER, then he would have evidence that he could use against me later when he wanted to commit me or if he ever wanted to have complete control over me. It would be there, in writing: I was L-O-O-N-Y. It was a conspiracy.

He had brought the Mexicans in so that I would see them and hear them, and then when I did, he could tell them that I was seeing things and hearing things that weren’t there. Husbands all over the country were doing the same thing so that they could control their wives, like Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, and we know where that leads, and I wasn’t going there. I had just read Under the Banner of Heaven, and those people were crazy. So I was not going back to the old ways. Not me, no way, no how.womens-collageThe conspiracy, you see, was that if husbands secretly banded together through some kind of code word (no I didn’t know the word, how would I? Duh. It was a secret), then all of those involved would be able to have something on their wives, like me being loony, to keep them in check. You know, no more freedoms, no more equality. None of that crap. Back to the old-fashioned days when women were never allowed to speak or own land or heads of cattle (not that I wanted to own cattle, mind you). I knew that that’s why my husband was planning, and I told him that I knew, so he could forget about taking me to the ER, because I was not a threat to myself or anyone else, so I knew that they wouldn’t hold me. So there.

Of course, this was before the streamers. In between calling the doctor, my husband had been calling his mother and my daughter, asking for advice, help, anything. My daughter was at work, and his mother was 800 miles away, and believe me, you don’t call my mother during something like this unless you want to make it ten times worse by a factor of 92 or so. But I digress . . .

This is important because of the streamers, which I’m getting to right now. Apparently, every time I went into the bathroom or fell asleep, my husband (or so my deluded mind believed) would do something new to add to my doubts to my sanity.

Well, I woke up in the middle of the night, and there were all of these beautiful colored streamers hanging from the ceiling and walls, and they were not the cheap paper kind—I was impressed—but lovely, translucent gels (where did he get these in the middle of the night, I wondered), and I just knew that my daughter had come over and helped my husband to hang them while I was asleep. Let me just mention here that this is the first time that my poor spouse has actually fallen asleep under the assumption that I, too, have gone to sleep for the night in my cocoon of pillows.

He should have known better. He woke up to me jumping on the bed trying to grab the streamers on the ceiling. I really thought that they were quite lovely, and I just wanted to touch them (also, I had to know how he had gotten them to stick to the ceiling like that).  However, post-operative back surgery, I don’t believe you are supposed to be jumping on anything, even a mattress. He brings me down, agrees that the streamers are lovely, and probably does not sleep any more that night.

Now this is the really weird part. No, the other parts were eccentric, a bit out there, but for pure weirdness, this is it. The morning after the streamers, I am in the bedroom alone. Said spouse is out of earshot. Little do I know, but he is in the backyard on the phone trying to convince someone, anyone, that things are not quite normal in our household. When I call out for him, he doesn’t answer, and then I hear a big noise in the garage. I make a completely logical leap here (in my mind), and decide that someone is breaking into the garage, and they have probably taken my husband hostage.

I crouch on the floor by the closed bedroom door and dial 911 emergency. While I am on the phone with the emergency operator, telling her about the hostage situation, I try to move my dresser in front of the door. This is an old, solid wood dresser, not pressed board, and it is full of clothes. I am tugging on the bottom of the dresser when I remember the swords. I still have the operator on speaker phone when I dive into the closet where we have three antique swords that we bought at a thrift store. I grab the first one that I can get to. If I have to, I think, I will take them all out like The Bride did in that scene in the tea house with O-Ren and the Crazy 88’s, which is just the coolest Quentin Tarantino scene ever, except I don’t have a yellow biker suit, and I don’t believe that I’ll be doing any jumping from balconies.

kill-bill-sword
How I Saw Myself With The Sword

“Hello?”

“Yes.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. I tried to move the dresser in front of the door, but it was too heavy.”

“Do you think that you could open the door?”

“I guess so. I have a sword.”

“You do?”

“Yes. It’s pretty old and not very sharp, but it’s the only weapon I have.”

“Well, do you think that you could open the door and give me the sword?”

“Where is my husband?”

“He’s right here with us.”

“Oh. Okay.”

So I open the door, and there is my husband behind two police officers who, I swear, are trying not to laugh. One of them reaches out, and I hand him my sword, while explaining to him that it’s not very sharp, but he should still be careful because it’s a sword. I am a mom, after all. I know these things.

The police ask if I want to go to the hospital. I tell them not really. They tell me that an ambulance is already outside, so maybe I should just let them check on me. Since it’s the police and not my husband, and they are asking nicely, and no one has kidnapped anyone, I figure, why not.

And that’s how I end up at the emergency room.

 

(For Part 1, see https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/lunatic-tales-from-the-ether )