Imagine this: you walk out the door of your house, and before you set one foot on the pavement it’s like someone is pushing a very thin needle, slowly, into the back of your neck. You don’t feel it push against your skin, but you can feel every part of the needle as it slowly, very slowly, pushes deeper into the base of your skull. You can feel it as it pushes past flesh, tendon, bone and finally it starts into your brain. The experience is both painful and visceral. As the tip of the needle enters your brain, a high frequency whine begins, just at the upper limit of your hearing. The sound is filled with pressure which compresses the air around your head. It’s just like the feeling of pressure change when you take off in a plane; but swallowing can’t equalise this pressure. The pressure, the whine, the needle. The pressure grows, the whine becomes more powerful, and the needle keeps on pushing into your brain. At the same time as all this is going on, thoughts begin to spark into existence. The thoughts gather pace and volume, until you can hear them; they are screaming at you. “Why?!”, “Why me?!?”, “What have I done?!!”. This is just the beginning of a panic attack, and this is the inception of the paranoia and suffering.
Next come the physical symptoms, the cold sweat on the brow and back, the increased heart rate, the senses become acutely enhanced. You can hear everything, the sounds of leaves blowing around you, cars three streets away, conversations between people in their front room next door. There’s a smell and taste, acrid and thick, which settles on your tongue and permeates your nose. It drips down your throat until it’s all you sense inside, except for the needle, which still pushes in.
From the beginning the mind races, trying to evaluate and understand what is happening, and why it is happening now. The speed that the thoughts enter and move through your brain causes a mess of interpretations, without any pause, without any moment to breathe. The thoughts twist in upon themselves, into a loose helix with crossed connections and endless questions. These questions lead into each other, the spiral tightens, wraps around itself like a snake, tightening and coiling into itself. As the spiral becomes tighter still the space between the connected thoughts disappears and thoughts connect at irrational junctions. Thoughts about life and existence mix with thoughts of taste and smell. Everything is dark in this confused state and in the darkness all you can feel is the needle pushing into your brain. All you can hear is the high-pitched whine.
Then you see it. Every time it appears it varies. It could be a person walking down the street, and as they walk past they glance at you. It could be a traffic camera that turns in your direction. In that moment you are certain, beyond any doubt, that the person who walks by knows you are feeling this way, knows why, and is a part of it. The panic this acknowledgement induces makes your heart seem to halt. Time slows down, each second taking longer and longer while you process the threat that this new information yields. Everything begins to make sense to your irrational, broken and malformed thoughts. This makes sense.
All the thoughts combined, the evidence delivered, the rationalisation forms fast. This is what is happening to you. There are people and there are cameras. To have people and cameras there must be organisation. There must be control, order and a plan. These people watching you, pretending they aren’t. These cameras watching you, monitoring you, aren’t just for the traffic. They are here for you, and you alone.
“Why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”.
At this point, with the needle, the whine, the observers who have given their reconnaissance away, are all firing at once, bearing down into your psyche with increasing force. Then they begin to clear. The thoughts and feelings start to fade away, drowned out by a new brain function. Memory recall. Your mind is sprinting through a million memories, trying to work out what you have done to deserve this. Every moment of your life is being replayed in ultra fast forward, slowing slightly on every bad deed to analyse it for a deeper meaning. The worse the deed, the slower the memory is played back. Imagine every bad thing you have ever done being replayed to you though a kaleidoscope of panic and pain and guilt and horror and fear. Every lie, every theft, every act of violence, no matter how mundane and minimal it seems, being played out next to all the other deeds reminds you of one overarching memory. You are a bad person, an evil person. You deserve this. It all makes sense. They are watching you and waiting, observing you to make sure you cannot cause any serious harm to any one. You are capable of immense violence and anger. You could destroy the world. They must monitor and control you. They must prevent you from ever being in a situation where you can cause harm again.
You pull the door closed behind you and take a second step onto the pavement. Every time the fear takes you, the paranoia overruns your mind, it is another version of these events, played out in a microcosm of reality, over and over again. Each step through life is another series of memories, played back on repeat. Each time you fall a little deeper into the well of dark thoughts. What is worse: that you are being monitored and controlled, or that you are imagining it all and your mind is falling apart?
Now imagine this: you experience this panic and fear every day, sometimes several times daily, for over 5 years. Your senses become highly tuned to look out for evidence, to watch for any slip-ups, mistakes, or purposeful acts by the people watching you. Eyesight becomes vital, you watch everything. Through repeated panic your wide eyes begin to take in more information, and you process that information relentlessly, without pause. You fail to pay attention to friends in public spaces, as your ears are trying go pick out the conversations around you, so that eventually you are unable to focus on one noise. You can no longer be in a thick crowd of people, as the sensory input overwhelms you, even to the point that a busy train becomes a claustrophobic prison of madness and fear.
It is now late July; the sunlight burns through my eyes. The wide eyes, that hope to see all the irrational and fantastic things my mind has created, take in too much light. It’s blinding me. I can’t see the world beyond the inside of my eyelids. The darkness of my thoughts meets the light of the world inside my corneas.