I am aware of having had two delusions in my entire life, and both times I was appalled to find my mental processes hijacked by emotional need, and frightened by the strength and persistence of the delusion. My heart goes out to those with physical/mental disorders such as schizophrenia for whom delusions can be overwhelming. Until I experienced a delusion, I had no idea how gripping they can be.
The first time I experienced a delusion was when I was fifty or sixty years old, and swimming off the coast of Hawaii. I was used to public beaches in Minnesota where there are signs indicating where they are. In Hawaii I could see the Pacific Ocean everywhere, but I did not know that the prime beachfront had been taken up by deluxe resort hotels, who blocked off entrances to non-guests; and that less accessible beaches were usually unmarked, perhaps to preserve them for locals. I drove around the parameter of the Big Island, looking for that elusive beach entrance. The only public beach sign that I found was on the south side of the island, the ocean there was becalmed and dirty. I waded out to look at a crude fish trap someone had set in shallow water by laying stones in a pinched-off horseshoe shape, then as I headed back to the beach I saw that what I had mistaken for a public park was actually a graveyard. Eeew, I was wading in corpse water. I trotted back to shore, rinsed off, and drove on. On the north shore, I noticed a lot of cars parked catawampus along the highway, so I swerved over to park among them. I saw no signs, just thick tropical rainforest lining the road, with a thin, well-worn path leading down. Down is where the water is, so I grabbed my fins and snorkel, and headed down along the path. Fifty feet in was a lovely little cove, with a lot of people swimming and bobbing about. I went into the ocean, keeping an eye on the huge winter swells that seemed far out in the ocean. I stayed well back from the young men who were farthest out, but I did notice that the family groups were thinning as time went on. As I snorkeled about, I heard a child ask, “Why are you watching her?” A nice male Hawaiian voice responded, “I want to make sure she’s okay.” I did not see where they were, but I came into shore anyway and drove on further to find a calmer beach. I found another beach in the same way, this time it was a very small beach with no sand, just a ledge of volcanic rock that tourists were jumping off to get into the water. The ocean was strong with chaotic movement as I swam out into it, and I immediately saw that the sea life was wild and relatively undisturbed. I intended only a very short putter about, and I kept my feet and hands away from everything, not knowing what might bite. I almost gasped in water when I sighted a barracuda just at the edge of visibility. It was finning in a murky place off to the side but somewhat between me and the shore. It was watching ME back!!! It looked like a Minnesota Great Lakes muskellunge which is a big fish, but this fish was bigger. It could have been up to six-foot long and it had a mouthful of needlelike teeth. I could not tell exactly how large it was through the lens of the water, it seemed it might be about the size of my arm but then again it might have been HUGE! While I tried to figure out the odds that it would ATTACK!?!, my body took over and rapidly swam me to shore. As I scuttered in, I saw a moray eel poke its sharply-toothed head out of its burrow on the ocean floor, and my first-in-life delusion said to me, “Don’t worry, its tail is fastened into the burrow and it cannot reach you to bite you.” Nonsense, and as I fluttered on I saw it swim freely away. But my mind persisted in the delusion, and I thought, “Well, poor thing, its tail is cut off so it won’t bother about me.” More nonsense, and it was an unnecessarily elaborate delusion that was surprisingly difficult to shake. This was my first delusion, and all is well that ends well. Despite the scariness, Hawaii has white sand, yellow sand, black sand, red sand, green sand, even “barking” sand, and I walked on all of them. Delusions be damned.
My second delusion persists faintly to this day, although it may be a not unordinary part of the grieving process. In the weeks after my late father passed, I kept having a violent urge to rush to the hospital emergency room, to find my father. The delusion was that he had not died there, that some other unfortunate old man had died in that ER room, and my own father was in a nearby ER room; and he was anxiously wondering where I was and why I was taking so long to come see him. This still brings me to tears.
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018