A friend of mine recently asked if Kate ever had any hallucinations. I told him she has, but they had not been frequent. I also mentioned that they had not been disturbing ones. When I answered, I wasn’t thinking about the technical definition of hallucinations. I was really thinking about delusions. They are often confused. According to the National Institute of Health “Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not really there.” “Delusions are false beliefs that the person thinks are real.”
The closest thing to a hallucination Kate has experienced is deja vu. For years this was a very common experience. Over the past year or so it has almost disappeared. This happened most commonly in restaurants. She often pointed to other customers and would say something like “See that couple over there. They always sit in that same place.” That might have been so in a restaurant we frequented on a regular basis, but she had these experiences in places where we had never been before. It also happened in hotels where we hadn’t stayed before.
Although rare, she has also had experiences that I would definitely call delusions. These have usually been a belief that someone was coming to our house for a visit or that we were leaving the house on a trip. On arriving or leaving our home, she has often thought our house was a hotel, a B&B, or a former home in Texas.
When she got up a few weeks ago, she appeared anxious and asked me if she had to to go to a meeting. I told her she didn’t have any obligations that morning, and she was greatly relieved. That was all there was to it. Something happened yesterday that was quite different.
When I got home to relieve the sitter, I walked into the family room. As I did, Mary told Kate she would see her next week. Kate looked frightened and said, “You’re not coming back?” Mary repeated that she would be back next week. Kate said, “Good, because I need you.” I was surprised at the emotion she expressed. She may have thought Mary was leaving her alone right then.
I walked over to Kate. She was very relieved and said, “I’m so glad to see you.” I sat down beside her and put my arm around her. She repeated, “I’m so glad to see you.” Then she added, “I didn’t know where you were. I thought maybe I had done something wrong.” I said, “You didn’t do anything wrong. I just went to the Y and picked up some prescriptions at the pharmacy. Then I had coffee with Mark Harrington. And now I’m going to take you out for pizza.” She was still emotional and said, “That sounds nice. When do you want to go?” I told her to let me put away the prescriptions, and we could leave. When I had done that, I went back to her. She was lying on the sofa. I asked if she would like to get a pizza. She said she wanted to rest a few minutes before leaving. I kneeled down beside her and told her I was glad to see her. She continued to be emotional and teary. I told her I loved her. With a sad expression on her face she said, “I don’t even know your name.” I said, “I’m Richard.” Her eyes lit up with delight, and she started crying. Through the tears she said, “I knew that. I just couldn’t think of it.”
That didn’t end the emotions she was feeling. She continued to say she thought she had done “something awful.” It went on for at least thirty minutes until after we were seated for pizza at our nearby pizza place. I was surprised that her memory allowed her to remember for so long, but feelings last much longer. As she talked, I tried to concentrate on comforting her and didn’t push her to explain. Normally, she can’t explain the way she feels and doesn’t want to try. Not this time. She wanted to explain what she was feeling. She said she didn’t know what it was, but it was terrible.
After we were seated at the restaurant, she gradually began to calm down. Several times I said, “You seem more relaxed now.” She said, “I’m getting there.” I said, “It takes time when you’ve had an experience like this.” She agreed. Before our pizza arrived, it was over. I’m glad we escaped anything more serious than this but wonder what else we may encounter in the days ahead.