Brushing Shoulders with Insanity

2016. It was a year which changed the course of my thoughts, and my personality. Living in a prime location in Delhi wasn’t enough for me; I was constantly on a quest to find what was truly good for me. My partner often stayed with me. We almost lived together as a couple (married?).

Ours was a rocky relationship, in which we constantly fought, drifted apart, and yet came back to each other. It was a vicious cycle which slowly turned into a suicidal to-and-fro. I wasn’t happy, neither was he. Yet we found it difficult to let go of each other.

The Knocks Begin

One night, he was sleeping on my bed. I suddenly heard a knock on my door. As usual, I pranced towards the door to open it. There was no one. It happens to everyone. I didn’t find it unusual because it’s a common occurrence. In Clinical Psychology, auditory hallucinations are false perceptions of hearing sounds, like voices, music, etc., without any actual sensory stimuli. However, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Hours went by and soon it was yet another evening. I came back from the shopping trip, unlocked the door as usual and came inside. My cat Choo Choo was waiting for me, so were her newborn kittens. 8 PM; I heard another knock. Once again I opened the door; still no one. Perplexed, I stepped back and tried to figure out who might have knocked it.

A father-son duo lived beside my room. There was a staircase spiralling up to the second floor, which was accommodated by two college-going young adults. It wasn’t unusual for me to hear the knocks on my door during odd hours because they often came down whenever they needed anything. My thoughts went towards the boys. Could it be them? Was I was being pranked? If they did it, then why did they do it? The father-son pair never meddled in my life. They were too busy with their chores. By the time I came home, they were usually asleep. No, it couldn’t be them.

The third day, the knock happened again at 8 PM. I couldn’t help but opening the door, only to find darkness staring me in my face. The boys weren’t there. They were out for a trip. My partner was asleep on my bed. He was snoring. I did think for a while that he might be playing a prank on me. However, he wasn’t exactly one of those people who had fun at the expense of other people’s sanity.  Around 10 PM, another knock happened. I jumped on my bed. This time it was too real to ignore. I, with shaking hands, opened the door. Yet again, no one.

The Assumptions

Were my ears deceiving me? I don’t know.  The sound of the knock was real enough to make me want open the door; the door which I came to dread. I tried to figure out if it was someone’s doing. Let’s talk about the basic things here:

  1. A father-son duo lived near my room. Someone might say that the son might have knocked on the door and ran back to his room.
  2. College students being college students have a greater chance of indulging in occasional activities which are called fun. They could have done so to have a little adrenaline rush. Remember, when we were children we did it too. Ringing someone’s doorbell and sneakily run away, leaving the person wondering about the culprit.
  3. I might be imagining things. That’s what the common people say. They have the tendency to interpret you as a crazy person and brush your concerns off whenever they are told something unusual. They have been conditioned that way. So, it’s not their fault.

My interpretation after filtering the obvious was:

  1. The knocks were real. At least for my brain.
  2. The father-son pair didn’t do it. They were often asleep when I was kept awake by my nocturnal orientation.
  3. Even if someone attempted to knock and run away, it was physically impossible to do so without making a sound. I will hear the sound of their slippers or the thumps of their feet, or even their giggles or panting. The adrenaline rush is hard to hide unless you are a spirit.
  4. My bed was placed beside the door. It hardly took me a second to open it if I sensed any movement.
  5. The knocks happened even when no one was in the building.

A student of clinical psychology being petrified of the knocks which seemed to have no source; it’s slightly amusing for some. I was told, “Maybe you should stop studying so much. Sleep early, wake up early.” These dialogues annoyed me. No one was ready to believe my interpretation that my brain, indeed, was playing with me. The knocks which never bothered me in my lifetime had started to have an impact on me. As soon as the dusk set in, I was cowering in fear. The pounding on the door did not stop until 3 AM. I was scared to enter the very room I lived in.

The Phase of Awakening

Slowly, the knocks started getting to my thoughts. Since there was no source, the only logical interpretation was the “auditory hallucinations”. For some reason, I found myself drifting towards uncontrollable anxiety. My thoughts were personified into two people; both bickering continuously in an attempt to prove themselves right.  Sometimes, I pondered the possibility of the existence of supernatural elements. At other times, I tried to reason with myself that I was thinking wrong. I still don’t believe in spirits and ghosts. My situation at that time placed me on the periphery of the real world, and the one which was imaginary. However, the knocks were more intense than before. I tried to grip whatever reality I had.

The battle was between me and my brain. I was frightened that my brain was detaching itself from me, and operating as a separate person. Of course, it’s the brain which runs you but you are in control of your thoughts. It was ironical that I thought of myself as the master of my mind. In reality, it’s your mind is your master and the brain rules it. Your body is just a slave.  Also, it’s surprising that we, as people, are perfectly fine with our identities as the members of the most intelligent species on the earth.  And that is, unless, our brain decides to rebel. It is often labelled as the insanity.

Stepping into the Shoes of Others

That phase made me question everything I knew. It’s hard to put yourself into others’ shoes and experience their experiences. Was I losing the control of my brain, or was my brain losing its grip on me? It’s certainly a conundrum for me. If I am my brain, then why I am scared of myself experiencing different things? I slowly started understanding what people went through when they lost control of themselves (when their brain starts behaving erratically). Most of the psychiatric patients feel helpless when they go through something which only they can feel. Others have a tendency of labelling them as insane. The patients are often treated in a pitiful manner.

In the end, what matters is your experience in the battle between you and your brain (which is you only). My experience widened my horizon of thoughts. Sometimes, you have to understand the complexity of the human brain and mind. People who have experienced the hallucinations need not be afraid when they have someone by their side. Isolating them because their experiences seem bizarre will only make things worse. Moreover, if you do make an effort to understand their idea of reality, it gives you a deeper insight into your own mind.


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