I Saw a Stranger in the Mirror…

I mentioned in my last post that something a bit scary happened to me. No one was hurt, no one else was involved, but it was scary nonetheless. It was all mental, and disturbing, because it dragged up memories and feelings I haven’t had in over 15 years. And I’m not really sure what to do with that because I am as far away from how I felt about life and myself 15 years ago as it’s possible to be.

So anyways…

Content Warning for mention of suicide, for discussion of anxiety, stress, and depression, and talk of (I think) dissociation(?).

It was about 2am on December 31st. I had gone to bed rather more stressed than normal. A lot had happened over the previous three weeks… there was a lot of horrible stress at work, then Grandpa died, then after that, coming back to work was like walking into a powder keg that had already been lit.

So… two nights ago…

I honestly can’t remember if I took any medication. I don’t think I did, but if I did, it would have been Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu Nighttime (on top of everything, I’m suffering from the change of seasons). So I went to bed, fell asleep, and started to dream…

The details of the dream are not important. What’s important is that I experienced sleep paralysis. It’s been a while since I had that, but I usually know how to handle it. So I forced myself to wake up entirely. It took a bit, and it’s always stressful. But I felt odd when I woke out of it that first time. I was experiencing tinnitus; 2 tones, in fact (a lower tone and a higher tone). And my body was… tingly.

However, I kind of ignored it and tried to fall back asleep.

And I… immediately slipped into a second sleep paralysis. Only this time, I wasn’t dreaming. I was in my room, with it set up exactly as I always set it up to sleep. It took a lot longer to break than the first one, and this time, my mouth went sandpaper dry. When I finally got myself out of it, I sat up. I immediately drank a lot of water (I have two large water bottles by my bed full every night… I get thirsty at night), and then took stock of how I was feeling.

The tinnitus had gotten worse, the tingling had escalated into a sort of numbness, and I had a headache.

So I decided to go into the bathroom to splash my face and calm myself, and that’s when it happened.

I looked into the mirror, and the person staring back at me simply wasn’t me.

There is no other way to describe it. I did not recognize my reflection as myself.

I knew, logically, that it was me. But I did not see me at all.

I probably stared at this stranger for a good minute before simply walking myself out of the bathroom, getting onto my computer, and just browsing Facebook. I needed to forget about what had just happened.

An hour later, the headache, tinnitus, and numbness were gone, but I had drank a little too much water. So, terrified, I walked back into the bathroom. When I looked at the mirror… well…

There I was. Me. In the mirror. That was my reflection. I was, thankfully, looking at myself.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt much better. It had passed.

I managed to actually get a little bit of sleep that night, but the next day, even while at work, I reflected on it.

I reflected on it because it has happened to me before, but not in over 15 years.

If you’ve followed me over the years, you’ve probably seen me mention that I was suicidal between the ages of 14 and 15. I’m a survivor of 3 failed attempts (all thanks to my Dad, who stopped them before they got any further than me picking up the knife). I experienced this same kind of thing a few times that year… that is, I would look in the mirror, but the reflection staring back at me was not my own.

Here’s what bothered me so much this time, though…

As I mentioned at the start of this post… I’m way far away from that time. Not only am I not suicidal, but I’m hoping that by the time I reach my elder years, medicine and technology will have progressed enough to allow me to live even longer. I’d love to live well into my 100s, if not my 120s. There is so much I want to do, and so much more I want to see, and so much of that absolutely depends on waiting for technology to catch up. So I associate my dissociation with being suicidal, and I’m nowhere near that, anymore.

So… let’s get to the early morning of January 1st, about 3am. This time, there’s no sleep paralysis, no numbness, no headaches, and no tinnitus. I get up because I have to use the bathroom.

And it happens again.

This time, oddly, I react as if I expected it. Instead of freaking out, I get frustrated. I think great. Again. Good. That’s just what I needed. Let me go get on Facebook. So I do… only this time for about ten minutes. And when I go back in the bathroom…

Yup. There’s me again, staring at myself from the mirror.

Not a stranger.


But this time, I think I have a reason. I can’t go into detail, but I had a horridly stressful incident with a particularly nasty customer in the evening of December 31st… yes, on New Year’s Eve… who was just determined to be angry at everyone. And it brought me to tears.

So… I got home pissed off, and I drank alcohol to celebrate midnight, and I went to bed. At 3am, I did not recognize myself in my bathroom mirror.

I’m not anywhere near as stressed today, so, hopefully, tonight goes smooth. I don’t want to have to wake up tomorrow to tell everyone “welp… that was number 3”. I want to not have any updates at all. I want to be able to go the next day, week, month, year, decade… even century… and say it’s never happened again.

But… only time will tell…


  1. kestrel says

    That sounds really scary. I’m glad you’re OK.

    I don’t know why but it makes me think about my mother’s migraines… hers did not show up they way most people’s do, she just had a lot of really odd and freaky mental symptoms. Initially, everyone thought it was a brain tumor. But it turned out to be “just” migraines.

    I do hope your whatever-this-is never shows up again. That really would be frightening. Also hoping for less stress at work.

  2. silverfeather says

    Ugh, sometimes customers can be so bloody awful!

    I’m usually a lurker, just wanted to say that the stranger in the mirror thing sounds really disturbing -- I’ll keep my fingers crossed for no updates on that front. Jedi hugs to you if you want them!

  3. jazzlet says

    That stranger-in-the-mirror thing sounds very disturbing, glad you were able to get over it both times, I suppose it’s good that you have a technique that works, but uff. Some people are just shits, I’m sorry you had one then and hope that you can be shit-customer free for a few days at the least.

    I would guess that you are in a different place than when you were a teenager, but that your brain is using some of the same alerts to warn you that you are under a lot of stress. Even if nothing else was going on, your grandpa dying would be enough to put you under a lot of stress, and you have other things happening on top of that. From my experience of grieving I found it intensified everything else stressful, I think you (general grieving you) are starting from a much stress higher level so it takes less to push you into serious stress. None of this may be applicable to you, but whatever I hope you have times you can destress from work at least. You have my sympathy, grieving is tough.

  4. nobonobo says

    A few days ago I experienced some hard to describe symptoms, like electrical sensations in my head with concurrent aural sounds like “shin shin…shin.” I was also anxious and dizzy. Then I remembered I had failed to pick up my Cymbalta for three days.

    Mayo clinic described the severity of withdrawel. And the 1st symptom was “Brain zaps” (electric shock sensations.) Chemicals can bite back!

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