When Chemical Trauma Turns to Paranoia

Gary had irrational fears.  One was that he might accidentally become poisoned, another was that he might be penetrated by malevolent forces against his will.  A third was that if people around him were on medications or drugs, he too would become medicated in the same way–as though he had taken the substances himself.

Common to every one of Gary’s fears was a sense of responsibility–that unless he could catch the incoming intoxicant before it reached him, he effectively was bringing the unwanted intoxication on himself.

The futility of his predicament made him hyper-vigilant, always checking the atmosphere of a room and people’s energies  to see if they were ‘clean’.  And because he feared that invisible, malevolent forces could enter him at any time, he was careful to energetically ‘clean’ himself and the space around him even when he was alone.  His checking and cleaning was a full-time job, one he did without anyone noticing.

It sounds like a horror movie.  You might wonder if Gary even got his fears from a sci-fi movie.  It’s possible we’re all influenced by the images we see in media, but it turns out the only fantasy Gary was having was that the intoxicants were reaching him by osmosis, through the ethers.

There were upsides to Gary’s fears too– he had trained himself to be very intuitive.  He was able to understand people’s feelings, their motives, and to be very attuned to babies, children, and animals.  Outwardly, Gary was gentle, but inwardly, he was under siege.

How would someone like Gary get ideas that chemicals and others’ presences could make their way into him without his say?  What could have happened to make him believe he was about to be poisoned, and unless prepared and alert, it would happen without warning?

Turns out when Gary was two, he required surgery to stabilize a soft tissue weakness in his groin, otherwise known as a hernia operation.  The surgery was low risk and even routine.  Maybe that’s why no one told him he would be having surgery or that the doctors, with his parents’ permission, would be giving him a powerful dissociative drug to serve as an anesthesia.

In a world that considers people under three, or who are not speaking in sentences, unaware, it’s then possible to disregard their capacity for an opionion, a preference, and to disregard the probability of a lasting effect from unwanted treatment.

Babies as young as in the womb have been shown on ultrasound to bat away amniocentesis needles.  Infants after birth use their hands to push away unwanted droppers, needles, and even contact.  Because the movements are small, and many people don’t believe babies are sentient, it’s common to miss these clear gestures.

Gary didn’t get a chance to react outwardly, because he was already dissociated by the drug.  But he did react inside.  And because no one likes being taken from themselves without warning, he was never going to be caught off guard like this again.  From then on, Gary developed a very keen social nervous system, one that he imagined could detect people’s intentions well before they acted, and protected him before anything could enter him.  Unfortunately, his stealthy filters also limited how much love and affection he would allow to penetrate him.  Everything was suspect.

Had someone told him he would be having surgery and would receive an injection that would make him leave his body that day, or had told him anytime in the years that followed, and that his change in consciousness and the resulting surgery wasn’t because of him, but rather it was something that had happened to him, Gary might have been saved from years of paranoia.

Once this early memory came to light, Gary realized how much work it had been to preempt the world in this way.  Outwardly he appeared relaxed, affable, and willing.  But as he unraveled the story, he realized even aspects of his affability were designed to ward off unwanted negative energies, chemicals, or attack.

For Gary’s young body, which persisted in its memory well into adulthood, the intoxication came out of nowhere, and until someone pointed out that, in fact, it arose from outside of him, from one person’s administration, and was centered around a place, time, and purpose, and not a random and free-floating aspect of Nature, he could not stop expecting to have his consciousness radically and involuntarily altered.

After realizing this early event had shaped him, Gary began to relax.  He spent less time watching for what was happening around him and within himself, and instead could turn his thoughts to his own interests.

Babies and children are often suprised by pain and chemicals alterations.  Think of the many instruments and medications we apply to mothers while pregnant, during birth, and to babies in myriads of ways after birth.  If we know there’s a lasting effect, and that that effect can look like a mental health issue, what is our obligation as parents, practitioners, and concerned citizens?

A beautiful world, with all its complexities is waiting to be enjoyed, and if people like Gary are going to live wholly in it, we need to level with them .  And if we must do things to babies that hurt and scare them, let’s tell them we did it, and if possible, let them know before we do it.