Is My House Haunted?

[I have tried to write this in an entertaining way…I may at times offer my “state of mind” thoughts on what was occurring rather than what is actually occurring – but will by the end reveal the nature and causes of the occurrences.]

It was Wednesday evening. I was working in my office at home when I heard a few voices talking together. I figured Charity must have arrived and brought someone with her. I went to check – but nobody was there. I wrote it off as a fluke.

Bicycle for Our Minds, image thanks to OpenClipart,org and .
Bicycle for Our Minds, image thanks to OpenClipart,org and .

But before long I heard voices again – talking. Sometimes it seemed like two individuals having a conversation and sometimes like there were tons of people shoved into a single room and all talking at the same time.

This went on  for a time – I’m not sure  how long. It seemed that whomever was conversing (whether few or many)  did not care or notice that I was present or that I could hear what they were saying.

They may not have cared since I couldn’t make heads nor tails of what they were saying. I would hear a phrase or a word, but the rest would be garbled…and even the phrases seemed to be somewhat nonsensical.

I needed to use the bathroom. While I was in there I heard rock music. It sounded like it was coming from beneath the floor (we only have a crawlspace). I wondered if some kids were being stupid and having a weird party in our crawlspace. I bent my head down to the vent on the floor – strangely as I moved closer the music seemed to grow louder – but not as loud or as quickly as it should have for the closing of distance that was occurring between my head and the floor.

As I had my ear almost against the vent I listened. I didn’t recognize the rock music – something old, ’70’s, ’80’s maybe. There was a loud snarl that broke out of the mundane music and sent me reeling backwards on my feet. I felt like something horrible was going to burst through the floor and consume me.

I was pretty freaked out now. I don’t like things I can’t see, especially if they might want t0 hurt me. I know Christ is greater than demons, but that doesn’t mean I’d like to meet one. I went back into my room and resumed my previously interrupted activity.

The voices continued – but nothing hostile – they’d gone back to talking to each other. I searched the house from top to bottom. Had Charity left her computer playing Spotify somewhere? Had someone snuck a media player  into our house as a practical joke? Was it coming from my laptop? What about my smartphone?

After fairly extensive and systematic analysis I discovered that turning down electronics which generate white noise seemed to reduce (not eliminate) the ethereal audio.

Thursday I spent both in and out of the house – and I hear the disembodied voices talking to each other both inside and out. I’m walking to the mailbox when a crackling noise as of someone walking up behind causes me to jump out of my skin. I turn around and look back – nothing is there.

Today has been much of the same…though now there seems to be more music than conversation. The musical choices are not what I would voluntarily listen to – all soft, slow music. Sometimes I can hear ads, the announcers voice carries a certain pitch which increases its ability to be heard.1I couldn’t tell you what most of the ads are for – though some I’m pretty sure are for cars and others for upcoming football games.

I’ve jumped out of my skin once or twice and sworn that Charity was in the house with a friend somewhere…yet find that she was not. What is going on?

Go back to last Thursday (Dec. 12th). I go to see my psychiatrist. I’m currently on Prozac (for OCD), Wellbutrin (for Depression), and Adderall (for ADD). Each of these medications has had a large and positive effect on my quality of life and I’ve only ever experienced minor side effects from any of them.2Except when I was overdosed when a psychiatrist carefully enough consider that Wellbutrin boosts Prozac’s effectiveness and together can cause serotonin syndrome.

While my anxiety is manageable, my affect is stable, and my attention is improved – I’m still struggling with Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) and nighttime insomnia. A brutal combination. Can’t fall asleep during the night, but then feel overwhelmingly tired during the day.3I don’t mean, “Ohh, I’m tired or bored…I think I’ll take a nap.” I mean, “I’m in a social situation where sleeping would not be appropriate, but I feel like I’m going to pass out if I don’t take a nap.” Or “I really, really love this professor and am so thankful to study under zzzzzz…” Or “I will you eyelids to remain open. I really am interested in this book/movie/conversation.”

Is there anything we could do about that? I suggested we might increase my Adderall dose. Adderall can help the ADD brain focus and not overwork so much. Maybe increased focus and decreased processing time would equal better sleep at night and more wakeful daylight hours. But Adderall is also the medication which gives me the most serious of the ‘minor side effects’ in the medications I have taken so far…Namely, it increases my traditional (or classic) OCD symptoms.4For example verbal ticks (hmmph, hmmph – with a necessity to repeat it for unknown reason until it is done right). Increasing Adderall then is not ideal (and also pricey – even for the generics)…

I suggested we might also try taking me down from 60 mg of Prozac to 40 mg. Even 40 mg is a fairly high dose for individuals suffering from depression, but for people with OCD, it remains resilient until higher-than-depression-normally doses are used. OCD takes stronger amounts of medication to correct (in many cases) than depression (and OCD people are oftentimes depressed).

I’ve been on prozac for a long time. I took it for a few years as a teenager and then began again my freshman or sophomore year at Cairn University. I’ve been on it ever since5Except for a period of time when I switched to Zoloft (which didn’t work as well for me and caused significant weight gain. That is ten or eleven years ago now6Normally, you’d wean someone off the medication before this…but my OCD was childhood onset, had shown itself resistant to previous treatment (both medication and non-medication methods), was fairly severe, and likely to remain in my life for life apart from divine intervention.…so there was the possibility that my OCD would have lessened enough that it could be handled at 40 mg. I didn’t/don’t have many of the classic OCD obsessions/compulsions these years – its almost all scrupulosity (religious/moral).7I find scrupulosity to be extremely resilient in comparison to the more traditional forms, primarily b/c classic OCD is oftentimes clearly irrational, whereas scrupulosity is more esoteric in nature, thus harder to define “rational” versus “irrational.” But I didn’t want to do this unless there was another short-term medication I could have available  if my OCD symptoms started to worsen. Prozac is a medication which has to build up in (and drain out of) your system over a matter of four, six, or more weeks…I couldn’t afford to put my life on hold for an extended period while I waited for the Prozac to reach its peak effectiveness again.

The psychiatrist made an alternative suggestion – what about Provigil? It was used for EDS sometimes, helped keep you alert during the day and without naps you were more tired at night. This seemed like a good idea – except that without insurance it was around $1000/30 days. The psychiatrist then suggested I could try amantadine, only older medication used for a wide variety of conditions from the flu to Parkinson’s and including daytime fatigue. It also was over $900 less expensive for a months supply…so, yes, I’d try it.

I began taking it the next day – one pill, twice a day. It seemed to be helpful. My naps didn’t disappear entirely, but they did become shorter in duration and I seemed to be sleeping better through the night. So far, so good…but by Wednesday my hands had a noticeable tremor to them. I had felt as if they were a little more erratic than usual (I’ve never had great fine muscle control) but it wasn’t till I tried to hand write something that I realized it was pretty bad.

I went to dinner at the Millers and by this time I couldn’t serve my own food or fill my own cup without significant difficulty. Putting the cup to my lips and holding it there was a shore. Surely not impossible, but it took concentrated effort – whereas previously I could do it without thinking about it.

I called the psychiatrist and left a message asking if I should go off the medications entirely – instead we tried taking me down to one per day. Unfortunately, that didn’t work either. I was pleased with the way the medication was affecting my sleepiness/insomnia – but the inability to hand write would be too much of a handicap if it continued long-term (all other forms of activity that required fine motor skills where either difficult or impossible for me). We thought maybe it was a transient side effect that would go away.

By Thursday I began hearing the disembodied music and voices I mentioned in the beginning of this post. The tremor had spread from my hands, up my arms, and down my legs. Eventually it spread to my neck – I felt like someone was stretching it this way and that, it was always lopping around and seemed like such a big bowling ball to carry on one’s shoulders. Couldn’t it have been made a little smaller and lighter?

I didn’t notice till Charity pointed it out to me – but my face was also twitching. Randomly, muscles in my cheeks or near my eyebrows would convulse, drawing my skin this way and that. I talked to the psychiatrist again and we agreed that at this point the symptoms were too severe and that I should go off the medication entirely. Today is my first full day off the medication…being a bobble head with trembling hands has continued…though I’m not as likely to miss my mouth when trying t0 eat or drink as I was on Wednesday…and I think, maybe, possibly, that the voices are becoming less frequent.

I’m hoping maybe tomorrow I’ll be good to go…and then I need to find another comparable medication for treating excessive daytime sleepiness  (and hopefully, simultaneously, this will help with the insomnia)

The whole voices thing really freaked me out at first. I probably understand now a tiny smidgen in my life what it must be like for schizophrenics – to hear or think you hear people saying your name, asking you questions, or bumping around the house – when no one is there. Of course you’ll jump when a loud noise sounds behind you and of course everyone will think you strange – since they heard no such noise.

I did some research on the topic and found that I’m not the only individual facing this phenomenon. Dr. Neil Bauman has written a very helpful overview of this issue and termed it “Musical Ear Syndrome.” Its more “official” name is “non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations” (as compared to the other type “psychiatric auditory hallucinations”). Dr. Bauman changed the name because of the negative connotations surrounding “hallucinations” which are usually associated with a state of psychosis/disengagement from the real world – which is not the case with MES.

What is the difference between Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) and tinnitus? Primarily that tinnitus involves fairly simple, repetitive sounds while MES involves much more complex sounds – oftentimes entire conversations or songs.

Whom does MES affect? This seems to be a largely unexplored area. It is much more often seen in the elderly (and might sometimes be mistaken for dementia if they talk about a song playing which you cannot hear). It is also more prevalent among those who are hearing impaired (or deaf) and those undergoing significant psychological/emotional stress.

Why does MES occur? I thus far have found three main lines of thought:8And I don’t see any reason why all three might not explain some cases.

  1. The brain (perhaps due to injury, illness, or just biology) takes white noise it hears and mistakenly attempts to translate it into comprehensible words or music. The result is not from any radio station, but recalls from one’s memory matched to the white noise.9Obviously the brain is making a large leap in making the white noise heard the same or similar enough to the same voices/music being recalled from memory.
  2. Some people are more sensitive to radio frequencies than others and can hear in ranges that most human ears can’t – thus their ability to hear the radio – the radio waves are all around us – we just don’t usually hear them unless we want to (e.g. plug in an MP3 or CD player).
  3. The brain or anatomy of some individuals is different in such a  way that they are more sensitive to the frequencies at which radio waves are transmitted than most, and thus can hear them while most can’t.

In my case, I’m positing that the amantadine altered the level of chemicals in my brain in such a way that increased my sensitivity to sound and perhaps caused my auditory processing centers to go into overdrive or to widen its “comparison filters” matching the current white noise sound with previously heard material.10This could explain why the talking is largely incomprehensible – or seems as if it is jumping from channel to channel…The brain matches one piece of white noise to a previous memory, but doesn’t require that the next piece of white noise match a previous memory contiguous with the prior previous memory match. If this is the case, the symptoms should dissipate as the medication leaves the body.

I’ve had cases in the past where I have experienced side effects from medication (both from those that treat physiological and those that are psychological) but never this sort of side effect. Usually the side effects where physical rather than psychological (or, rather, the psychological effects were positive rather negative).

I took Tramadol for pain during my leg issues crisis period and this allowed me to go from crawling around to walking slowly – but it amplified the effects of my Prozac and I began to feel sick from it…so they changed me over to Vicodin – which I had wanted to avoid.11I know Vicodin is powerful and can be addictive…I found for me it was just enough to take the edge off the pain and I didn’t experience any dependency upon the substance.

If I take a regular Adderall it can make my heartbeat feel fast and/or irregular…but Adderall XR doesn’t seem to have the same effect. There was also the incident where a psychiatrist prescribed me too much Prozac and Wellbutrin together and may have started serotonin syndrome in me (I discontinued the Wellbutrin until I could get a consult with this particular psychiatrist).

And there is also the interesting correlation between my mood and steroid treatment. While being treated with steroids my mood moves from negative or flat to flat or positive.

Another interesting caveat which I can’t really recommend yet for this purpose, because I’ve only been using Lumosity for a few weeks, is that after I began taking the medication there seemed to be a significant drop-off in my mental fitness to complete a variety of tasks. I’m interested to see how a service like Lumosity may hold up in the future of monitoring (by professional or everyone) the health of the mind. If we see a sudden deterioration in brain performance, perhaps we should evaluate where exactly the performance is suffering and see if we have taken knocks to the head there, or etc. I’m excited that Lumosity has begun asking during the daily trainings what my mood is and how much rest I got the night before – this may provide some fascinating insights on the correlation of sleep to intelligence, of mood to sleep, and so on.

Finally, you have probably seen the classic study which had an artist draw a picture while using various drugs, the most famous one being the deterioration seen in his work while using LSD. I have something similar…though, unfortunately, I didn’t start at the beginning – I thought the hand trembling was just from the cold. I’ve been writing at various times each day the date, the time, and then in regular print I want to see if I can write. When I’m fully recovered maybe I’ll upload the picture to the site for anyone who is interested to see. There  are definite differences in the handwriting throughout – and I think the “normal” writing will show an even greater difference between all the current ill ones and the healthy control.12Alth0ugh my handwriting has never been great, I was amazed at how much further it could deteriorate from its already poor state.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Have you ever told anyone?

Footnotes

1 I couldn’t tell you what most of the ads are for – though some I’m pretty sure are for cars and others for upcoming football games.
2 Except when I was overdosed when a psychiatrist carefully enough consider that Wellbutrin boosts Prozac’s effectiveness and together can cause serotonin syndrome.
3 I don’t mean, “Ohh, I’m tired or bored…I think I’ll take a nap.” I mean, “I’m in a social situation where sleeping would not be appropriate, but I feel like I’m going to pass out if I don’t take a nap.” Or “I really, really love this professor and am so thankful to study under zzzzzz…” Or “I will you eyelids to remain open. I really am interested in this book/movie/conversation.”
4 For example verbal ticks (hmmph, hmmph – with a necessity to repeat it for unknown reason until it is done right).
5 Except for a period of time when I switched to Zoloft (which didn’t work as well for me and caused significant weight gain.
6 Normally, you’d wean someone off the medication before this…but my OCD was childhood onset, had shown itself resistant to previous treatment (both medication and non-medication methods), was fairly severe, and likely to remain in my life for life apart from divine intervention.
7 I find scrupulosity to be extremely resilient in comparison to the more traditional forms, primarily b/c classic OCD is oftentimes clearly irrational, whereas scrupulosity is more esoteric in nature, thus harder to define “rational” versus “irrational.”
8 And I don’t see any reason why all three might not explain some cases.
9 Obviously the brain is making a large leap in making the white noise heard the same or similar enough to the same voices/music being recalled from memory.
10 This could explain why the talking is largely incomprehensible – or seems as if it is jumping from channel to channel…The brain matches one piece of white noise to a previous memory, but doesn’t require that the next piece of white noise match a previous memory contiguous with the prior previous memory match.
11 I know Vicodin is powerful and can be addictive…I found for me it was just enough to take the edge off the pain and I didn’t experience any dependency upon the substance.
12 Alth0ugh my handwriting has never been great, I was amazed at how much further it could deteriorate from its already poor state.

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