I had a weird revelation the other day.
During one of my typical late night rambles—when I’m up that late—I was talking about the way I visualize and compartmentalize parts of my mind. The filing cabinets of thoughts and library of memories. “And, of course, there’s Farrah’s Void.”
Farrah, for the uninitiated, is one of my few distinct recurring hallucinations, a golden retriever puppy. I have long wondered why she appears to me again and again, the one question mark amongst other recurring hallucinations clearly based in trauma or the obvious.
Farrah often “appears” via somewhat mismatched visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations, and the sixth sense, for short spells of time. But there’s one other mode of really feeling like I’m interacting with her: going to her Void.
It was more common when I first started hallucinating Farrah about a year and a half ago, around the one year anniversary of the event that gave me PTSD. I would dissociate, and rather than be in reality, or in one of my fictional worlds, or in a slightly alternate version of reality, I would “go to” Farrah’s Void, an endless white abyss containing basically me, the dog, and occasionally an object I imagined. It looked and functioned a lot like Janet’s Void from The Good Place, hence the nickname. It also got Farrah dubbed my schizophrenia tamagotchi, because it mimicked that pet-plus-blank-environment kind of game.
While I don’t often truly visit Farrah’s Void anymore—sure, I can picture Farrah or her Void any time I want, but that’s not a true hallucination or dissociative experience—I feel like it’s there, like the thought filing cabinets and the memory library. I explained it as, “I almost have too much object permanence.” Dogs don’t just appear and disappear, after all. Surely, Farrah (who’s truly just a quirk of my brain chemicals) goes somewhere when she’s not with me, here meaning, projected onto the real world.
Sometimes I want Farrah to come out and visit, so to speak, and I try to tempt her with normal imagining of her that doesn’t stick like the hallucination, mental talk, C’mere, puppy…, and occasionally bribing her with a real piece of chicken or tennis ball, which I’m sure looks totally sane to the outside observer.
But Farrah doesn’t respond to these, obviously. She primarily appears when I am upset. At first I thought this was based on being a certain level of upset, and felt invalidated when she didn’t appear at times/the right brain chemicals didn’t happen. I wondered if she was a kind of psychotic, automatic self soothing mechanism, the free dopamine of a free puppy. Then I started tying her to more of a certain kind of upset. It had to run deep, be based in trauma, grief, existential loneliness, and already be a little dissociative or psychotic.
I humorously personified—puppy-ified?—her appearances to myself repeatedly, and in my ramble that night. Y’know, she has stuff to do in her Void, I guess. Balls to chase. Treats to eat. Five more minutes, Mom. She can’t eat a real piece of chicken, anyway.
But trying to assign Farrah motives, the revelation hit me:
You’re the part of my brain that wants to be psychotic and creative, and not sane/unimaginative.
Now, there is a whole spectrum in between those things, and I am often battling with where on it I should be. I believe that psychosis enhances my creativity; but I need functionality to deliver that creative energy in a consumable medium to the world.
Paranoia (as in, paranoid schizophrenia) keeps me on edge, reminds me that death comes for us all—not to mention the death trauma I hallucinate reliving over and over—and keeps me focused on the creative works that will outlive me… or hugging my knees and rocking in terror. Lack of connection to reality keeps me hyperfocused on both my fictional characters and on the big emotional rushes of publishing another book, and less interested in the minor rushes of board games and television shows and normal socialization, things I tend to write off as distractions… yet get you through the day and create friendships. My daydreams are dissociative, maladaptive, psychotic—my characters run free, in tighter and tighter spirals until something coherent and gripping happens to emerge without me, and then I rush for pen and paper… or remain trapped in a dissociative fugue on the floor.
There’s a balance.
I tend to place medical professionals and the people who love me mostly on one side: functionality and happiness.
But that night, I realized who was on the other side:
Let’s look at some big previous mentions of Farrah from this blog. Like this one:
[Farrah] races in circles around my feet. A lot of energy for the evening. What? I ask her mentally. You’re not a herding dog. But she wants me inside, much the way the real cats start herding me to the bedroom around this time.
But it doesn’t seem to be sleep she wants. I’m determined to sit in the living room and write down an idea I had on the swingset before I do anything else. When I do, Farrah settles down. I can feel this weird sense of relief on her, like I feel it as my own when I get the idea safely on paper before my mind gives up completely.
I look at my notebook. This was what she wanted?
I look back up. She’s gone.
All right. I’ve accepted that Farrah’s basically a mirror of my own emotions most of the time, and if everything about her says, “Write now now now,” then I guess now is the time.
And this one, from early on in Farrah’s “lifetime”:
[Farrah had] been clingy all morning, and while she didn’t talk, I felt or knew her thoughts in a way that was hard to explain—the way you knew the facts in dreams that were never presented in a sensory manner. She was disheartened by my therapy video chat yesterday that came to the conclusion—I might need to go back on meds. Probably, in fact.
I’m not trying to get rid of you, was what I thought at her, because this was stupid. She wasn’t real, and so wasn’t sad that I was trying to stop seeing her—and honestly, she was the least of my issues I was trying to stop seeing. Her behavior was just the manifestation of my own mixed feelings about likely going back on meds.
And yet I can’t really blame that adorable little face (yes, she does make hallucinating tempting) for favoring psychosis, because there are days I favor it, too, days I romanticize the dysfunctional, the creative, the obsessive. But…
Okay, Farrah. I need my functionality; I need a touch of tortured artist syndrome. You don’t win, but maybe I can meet you somewhere in the middle.
Wherever might be halfway between reality and your Void.