All those beautiful city lights

During my first psychosis, I spent my days trawling around the city chasing clues that would explain my heightened state of consciousness. What was the story of the world that I’d been blind to up until this point? I was convinced that many people already knew what was happening, and they were leaving me clues to puzzle together. When you’re psychotic, you have hyperactivity on dopamine pathways that are constantly firing. It leaves you with no ability to filter out the irrelevant information that confronts you every day. 

We live in a high stimulus environment. Cars driving past, people walking down the street, logos on shirts, traffic lights, and billboard advertisements. Rather than go about your business, you start to see messages in everything. A ten-minute walk takes three hours because you have to stop and take in all the information to create a coherent narrative. I was obsessed with lights, colors, and cars. For hours on end, I sat on a bench in the square outside my house and looked at the cars driving past, wondering what the sequence of colors meant. There was a pattern, and the people in the know were sending me these cars. Why could I not crack the code?

What really got me was blinking lights, and there are a lot of those in a city. Every time I saw a car with the hazard lights on, I froze and started looking around. Something was happening here. While an observant person might notice a delivery driver bringing groceries to a restaurant, most of us would tune it out as background noise. I would stand there until the car drove away, observing every logo on every person that walked past, trying to make sense of the staged event. There had to be a message, but it was impossible to decode, and I experienced failure after failure. When cars blinked their indicator lights to turn, I became convinced they were winking at me to keep my spirit up. Keep trying, Miss Nova, you’re almost there. In fact, I was anything but.

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