My Schizophrenia Tamagotchi

“Farrah’s back,” I said at brunch. “She seems to like mornings.”

It was a morning just days ago, near the one year anniversary of my father’s death, when Farrah appeared for the first time. A puppy hiding between the edge of a desk and the wall. She never got too close, but when I paid particular attention to her, I could, unbidden, feel her warm fur in my fingers. The tactile hallucinations were relatively new, too. I wasn’t complaining about this one in particular, though; it was much less terrifying and consuming than the others as recent as last night, almost soothing except for the nature of hallucinating and knowing it.

The name Farrah was printed on the silver dog bone shaped tag on her red leather collar, the kind of bright red that made more sense for the ribbon you put on the puppy on Christmas morning than the stiff material the hue appeared on. The color appeared almost scribbled over the texture rather than a part of it. I could read the name only when it came as a zoomed in flash of an image, and I think I felt it more than read it. I didn’t know why Farrah. Google later revealed an Arabic origin, a girl’s name meaning joy.

Rather benign for a manifestation of mental illness.

After first noting Farrah’s appearance, I noted that sometimes when I changed rooms—she was highly reactive to the real environment, a trend for my hallucinations lately, pawing at the unknowing actual cats curiously, hiding in real nooks—she vanished from the real environment, but came to me in flashes of moments when I started to dissociate. Trying to describe where she was in those flashes, I told my fiancee that it was like a computer game I’d played as a kid—there was a dog in an unexciting space without much to do but pet its head and throw a ball and give it a treat and have it look cute and do tricks. Having not played the game I had in mind, she, more of a nineties kid than me, came up with something similar enough:

“Oh, like a tamagotchi.”

This set me off in a long giggling fit I couldn’t stop. “Oh my god, I have a schizophrenia tamagotchi.”

In keeping with that nineties kid theme (though a friend did recall the game I’d mentioned, on a different platform), I later described Farrrah with a comparison to the golden retriever puppies in Lisa Frank products. She wasn’t very cartoony, if a little poorly rendered, but it gave a quick image translated to a more realistic looking hallucination, the chubby, fluffy golden retriever puppy.

Unlike the tamagotchi, I couldn’t really decide what Farrah did when she was in that void. She didn’t do much. Sometimes I got a flash of her rolling around or chewing on a blurry toy, fading into that space as the real room faded away. When she came into my actual environment, at the most random of moments, she responded to what I did, but not how I willed it. She cowered behind a shelf when my fiancee spoke loudly, and growled at the cats playfully; she might sniff the air and take a step forward curiously if I beckoned, in my mind or in reality, but she still didn’t get close enough to see if the tactile hallucinations would line up.

Like some recent others, I could feel her, but she simultaneously appeared several feet away. Still getting used to the tactile hallucinations, it was interesting to note the disconnect. The very occasional auditory hallucination of a yip or growl did seem in line though.

I knew she wasn’t real—no running cats or confused people, too many things not quite right—but the responsiveness was interesting. Imperfect and inconsistent, but there, like a dream.

Mostly Farrah was cute, shy, and playful. The only disconcerting thing about the photo calendar ready puppy was that she wasn’t quite right, wasn’t quite real.