I was well into my thirties before I discovered that having shadow cats in your life isn’t normal.
Shadow cats are what I call a certain kind of hallucination I get sometimes. Usually when I’m tired. They’re these blobs of darkness that zip about in my peripheral vision. Very much like a black cat slinking around in and out of shadows.
It’s not just cats though. Sometimes it’s black silhouettes of people standing there watching me, always at the edges of my vision. That can be off-putting, but I got used to it over time. There have been a couple times where I suddenly became convinced one of these fellows was real and meant me immediate harm; like they were about to cut my throat. That was less pleasant.
If I don’t sleep for a night, then things get more active. Phantom flies circling my head; visual field distortions, like heat waves; and colorful, energetic halos around things. Certain objects will also get super defined, with their surroundings becoming more vague and somehow muted. A coffee cup sitting there like a magic crystal, bending space and time around it.
I have to watch out, because I really enjoy that mental state. Not just the hallucinations, but the giddy euphoria that goes along with them. For years I was addicted to sleep deprivation because of this, and would go out of my way to induce it. But more and more, there came a really nasty edge of paranoia. People began to seem like demons, planning on harming me. Evil lurked all around, slipping in and out of things and people. When I started getting dangerous thoughts about getting the jump on people before they did me in, I realized I have to avoid that mental state.
As I mentioned, for the longest time I thought all this was totally normal. It wasn’t until I was at some family thing, in my second day of fucked up sleep due to jet lag, that I discovered it isn’t. Someone said something like, “you must be tired,” and I started going on about the shadow cats.
“What do you mean, shadow cats?”
“Oh. That’s just what I call those blobby black hallucinations you get when you aren’t sleeping enough. You know those.”
I do know that I have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, and have also been told this kind of visual stuff means I likely have something mild on the schizophrenic spectrum as well. But since I have it under control by every psychological standard (I’m sober, getting sleep every night, and not harboring thoughts of persecution and whatnot), I can’t be arsed to go get this stuff diagnosed.
I’ve never really seen the point of going and getting it all named. Do that so I can have this little condition that I trot around on a leash. Feed it pills and show it off to my friends. No thanks.
As well, Harvey the rabbit would be most upset with me if I were to talk to some head shrinker. Harvey has strong opinions about those bastards. Of course he doesn’t like me talking about him, but he’s sleeping now, so I should get away with it.
I should get going, though, before he wakes up.