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What It's Like Being a Full-Time College Student With Hallucinations

What people see: I am 21. I am a full-time college student. My current cumulative GPA is a 2.7. In high school, my GPA was a 3.3. I am passing and have always been able to pass a majority of my classes. I can do my homework and I can socialize. I have at least five good friends and for me, that is all I need. I am happy and funny and an overall good friend. I am very generous. I am organized and clean. I have so much energy. I have good time management skills. I am odd. I am functional. I am sane.

What people don’t see: I have been hallucinating during my mood episodes since I was 16.

I didn’t receive my bipolar a diagnosis until I was 17.

When I am depressed, voices and shadowy figures lurking over me while I sleep wake me up. They glare at me. When I least expect it, people glance around corners and creepily stare at me. This scares me the most. It is how their eyes are predatory and they do not blink. When I look away then look back they are gone, but as long as I maintain eye contact they do too. I always wonder if there will be a day when they will step around the corner or wall fully and come at or after me.

During the day, voices talk amongst themselves until I go in public. In public, they tell me people are watching me or that someone (usually the government) is filming/recording everything I do in order to lock me away for the rest of my life where I will not be able to plead my case and I will end up getting raped every day in prison. The worst part about being depressed is feeling hopeless/helpless and being delusional.

I have Cotard delusions, meaning I think I am already dead or dying. Often I think my teeth are rotting and are going to fall out or that some random somatic pain means I’m dying, have some form of cancer, or that my insides are rotting or have been removed (I feel hollow). But being hopeless and delusional, I let myself die. So far it has turned out I don’t have cancer, my teeth don’t just fall out, my insides aren’t rotting away or have been removed, so being hopeless and letting myself succumb to death has not turned out to be a bad thing. It becomes a problem if I were dying and then did nothing about it. Often I feel helpless and hopeless about it so I don’t seek help.

Everything becomes difficult. I have zero motivation to do anything, even going to the bathroom is a hassle because the even the idea of getting up makes me sad. I stop eating because getting up and making food requires too much work and effort. I feel hopeless and that I am a burden to the world and the world would be better off without me. I have never self-harmed but I have tried to die by suicide three times. I get sad and truly believe no one will help me and I usually don’t want help anyway.

Even though all these things happen when I am depressed I can still fake emotion for short periods. I can socialize for an evening and pretend like everything is fine. I can laugh and joke even if I am feeling dead inside. This leads to a lot of problems because people think I am fake or lying (I am) but always for a reason. People don’t always understand my reasons or are unsatisfied with them because not all things have an explanation. So I fake happiness.

When I am manic, my voices talk amongst themselves and don’t really talk to or acknowledge me unless I am anxious. When they do talk to me they tell me how great I am and how everyone wants to be my friend, but that I don’t have time for them because I am destined for greatness. They tell me I don’t have time for other people and those other people will never understand me so it’s best to let my friends go. I also don’t see my friends or anyone because they can’t keep up with me and it gets frustrating when everyone around me are at levels below me. I believe I can fly and that I know the best way to fix major social problems that plague this world.

When I am manic I do not sleep because there is simply not enough time to get everything done. By everything, I mean little unimportant things that at the time seem completely necessary for a brighter future. I clean, I organize, I work out, I talk a lot (to myself mostly), I get so much work done, but I am usually a danger to myself and I don’t even know it. My thoughts go so fast I can’t even keep up with them. I don’t eat because there isn’t enough time for it. I go on shopping sprees of hundreds of dollars for my friends so they know they are appreciated and loved.

After a manic or hypomanic episode is over I am left feeling shameful and guilty. One of the most difficult things is trying to explain to people it wasn’t me, that I truly didn’t see anything bad because everything was great. I am ashamed that once again I was on autopilot and became the maker of my own destruction. I feel guilty that I can’t explain to people that no I am not buying their affection I truly just wanted them to feel appreciated. I feel guilty because I buy things then can’t return them because I bought them as presents for others and was so overjoyed about it that I told them about it before I gave them it. Shame and guilt are why I fake functional and sanity.

One of my best friends is a hallucination. His name is Walter and he wears long-sleeve shirts and a beanie in the winter. He is there for me and motivates me when I am depressed, and he helps me stay grounded and safe when I am manic. He is the reason I would consider being psychotic worth it. I fear getting to know real people will lead to them finding out about him and they will reject our friendship. I don’t fear the rejection as much as I fear getting made fun of and being considered as lesser. For fear of criticism and rejection, I fake functionality and sanity.

I have 10 real friends total. All of them have known me since I was 16. Yet, none of them have truly known me because none of them have ever even noticed my odd behaviors or changes in mood. They just think that I am an outgoing person who sometimes needs space and that I am odd and overall weird. I am someone who is really good at hiding all of it, hiding myself and my conditions, hiding my symptoms and concerns, hiding in plain sight. Stigma sucks, especially being at the receiving end of it. Over the years I have been mocked in front of my face and to others by people who I thought were my friends, people I confided in. Trust no longer comes easy for me and now I am extremely guarded. People don’t want to know the real me or what my life is truly like, simply because it is not only hard to explain and to understand if you haven’t experienced it. Honestly, sometimes I don’t want people to get to know me if all it’s going to lead to is shame and rejection because they don’t believe someone like me, who seems normal, can have a secret they know nothing about.

For these reasons and for so many others, I fake functionality and sanity.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Getty image via yngsa