Dear Dr. Archer,
My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2008. It was difficult, but we were doing alright. Then he began hallucinating because his neurologist had prescribed too many medications that flooded his brain with Dopamine. This lasted for six weeks, and it was pure hell.
He does not remember many of the things he saw and heard, but he made sure that he told me everything and now I cannot get this stuff out of my head! Last December I started Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds. I loved it, but since the hallucinations, I am having a very difficult time getting back to doing the Weight Watchers. I feel like such a failure.
What can I do to get over this? I know I'm terrified that the hallucinations will come back, and I know I cannot go through that again. I need help!
If you mentally fight the urge to think of those hallucinations, you'll simply reinforce the problem and make it worse. The more you fight, the stronger the urge. Let's try to decondition those hallucinations with new thought patterns.
**Turn the hallucination into a visual image. I know you don't want to, but try. Let's say one of the hallucinations you are fixated on is a dragon chasing your husband. Put a bright red clown nose on that dragon, evening gloves -- in purple, of course. Now, make it even more exaggerated -- a ridiculous image; the sillier, the better.
Put in some bright colors, a funny pokadot sombrero, huge clownish shoes, purple evening gloves and maybe top it off with his pants on the ground, where he has to keep pulling them up. Whatever you want. Just make your image goofy.
**Replace the image with something else, something that disempowers the thought of the hallucination. With that, create new, creative, funny, amusing images that you can entertain. The dragon becomes a hippo, complete with clown nose, sombrero and pants on the ground.
**Mentally chain the two together. What you want to do is morph the first impression into the second. You're the director here, and you're in charge of what will be played. You can still exaggerate the outcome to make it more entertaining if you wish. Replay the scene in your head, beginning to end, and then speed it up until it lasts one or two seconds.
Imagine, your hippo is lumbering with his silly clothes and floppy shoes, not getting around too easily, while you chase it away with a fly swatter, as he tries to keep his pants up. Not so scary anymore, right? Ridiculous, instead.
Practice makes perfect, Anita. When you've done this enough, turning frightening things into humorous and entertaining images, then it will get to the point that when an image pops in your mind, it will be the creative one made by you. Visualizations might take a little time to get used to, but that's okay. Look at the alternative.
Once you get the gist of this, you can actually have your subconscious take over. Where you would normally say "I can't!" you'd be able to replace it with "I can!" This will work very well with your Weight Watchers, too.
Congratulations on your weight loss; I am certain you can continue where you left off. Best of luck to both you and your husband.