I’m not sure how to talk about my introduction to the metaphysical. At the time, I didn’t understand what was happening to me at all. Even as I write this, I still can’t say I’m confident about my interpretation of events. You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, right?
The only explanation that came to mind was schizophrenia.
I started seeing things that weren’t there. Finding meaning in the meaningless. I never heard external voices coming from outside of myself, but isn’t every thought we have just a whisper in our mind?
Apophenia is defined as the tendency to randomly perceive patterns and connections between unrelated phenomena in one’s life. It has been acknowledged as one of the potential first symptoms in someone who is developing schizophrenia.
I started seeing a lot of repeating numbers in my daily life. I saw these repeating numbers so often that they felt meaningful. 111, 222, 333, etc. Sometimes I saw them while looking at my watch when I opened up an app on my phone. Or while sitting in traffic absentmindedly looking at license plates.
Maybe it was just a coincidence. But have you ever seen 6 or 7 repeating number sequences in the short span of 10 minutes? Or maybe the same one, like 333, on two separate cars within the span of 10 seconds?
It’s eerie. Some say there are no coincidences or accidents in life. To that, I say I’d like to know why genocide, war, and starvation don’t fall into the “accident” category.
But repeating numbers, while strange, aren’t innately creepy. Most of the creepy stuff happens in the dead of night.
I started waking up in the middle of the night, regularly. But waking up wasn’t the bad part. It was the clock on the side of my bed that was strange. 3:33 AM. Several times in one week. 3:33 AM. No alarm clock set, no intention to make it harder to get up in the morning. Just 3:33 AM. Waiting for me like a specter in the night.
Sometimes, I couldn't sleep and would just pass the time idly on my phone. I’d browse Youtube, Reddit, Twitch.tv, or whatever, but then I would have to get up to go to the bathroom or feel like visiting the refrigerator for something to eat.
1:11 AM, 2:22 AM, 12:34 AM, without fail, on my phone’s clock or the old-fashioned digital alarm clock sitting next to my bed. It was unsettling. Like the universe was persistently telling me “I have my eye on you, don’t forget it.”
I remember watching TwitchTV at the time and one particular commercial was really getting on my nerves. It was for “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” but it was one of those commercials where you could watch the whole thing and not really know what the commercial was about until the very end. Whoever made it obviously cared about the cinematography more than the product placement.
The lines in the commercial were simple “There’s a door out there, waiting for you.” It was filmed from the perspective of someone walking into several different establishments.
A nightclub. A room with an attractive woman. A cult.
Yeah, I’m sure that by drinking your fucking alcohol, I’ll suddenly acquire much more confidence, courage, and grace.
But my point is that the commercial felt aimed at me, personally. I would see this commercial over and over and then just when I felt disgusted with the advertisement spam, I would put my phone down and see 3:33 AM staring at me.
It was freaky. Is someone or something trying to get my attention? Who are you and what do you want with me?
I was just some unemployed, depressed, socially anxious 24-year-old man who was trying to escape from reality by watching people play video games on the Internet. Let’s say someone or something was trying to get my attention. Why? What could they possibly want with me?
The uncomfortable feeling of being watched would not relent. My anxiety and fear started to grow. It started leading me to thoughts that people entertained after getting into a car accident, losing their child or their job:
Why me?... Why me?... Why is this happening to me?!
Despite my introverted nature, I occasionally did leave the house to do a few things. I’d walk the dogs, play Pokemon Go, or maybe do a free yoga class at the local library.
I remember signing up to go to a meditation circle at a library. I was seriously freaking out. Meditation is like the opposite of freaking out, right?
Look universe, I’m going to go meditate, just leave me the fuck alone.
I got to this meditation circle and sat down amongst strangers. But the oddest thing started happening to me. My body began shaking like a leaf in the wind, almost like shivering.
An older middle-aged woman looked at me and asked if I was alright. All I could do is say I needed to go to the restroom (which was true; I was sweating profusely and felt like I had to pee more often than usual at the time).
I went to pee and came back a few minutes later. I tried to sit down and listen to the music and just meditate a bit. No luck. I was shaking like a leaf again. And it felt like the shaking was more intense the closer I got to these people in the meditation circle!
What the fuck?! Alright universe, I’m at a loss. Why the fuck am I shaking?!
I went outside of the library and started walking around just to get some sense of grounding in myself again.
Occasionally, when looking at license plates, I would see a vanity plate here and there. People who customize their plate to say things like “KITTENZ” or “NUMBA1,” just frivolous little stuff. When I started shaking, my gut was telling me that something was wrong. Almost like an alarm signal going off.
“Run away,” it seemed to say. “Run away. Run far, far, away.”
I asked the universe what the hell I was supposed to do about the shaking. And then, I looked down at the license plate in the library parking lot and lo and behold, the vanity plate read “JUST RUN.”
Holy shit. There was a telepathic conversation happening between my mind and the universe. That, or I had completely lost my marbles.
I had no one to talk to about this stuff at the time. Who in the world was going to believe me and my outlandish stories? Any sane individual would tell me I needed to go to a psychiatric ward ASAP. And part of me would agree with them.
But another part of me, the part of me that was perceiving the meaning in the madness, knew that this was for me and me alone.
“Fuck anyone who tells me I’m crazy. I am crazy. This world is crazy. Maybe I do want to live in a world where the license plates talk to me and the voice inside my head is a guide rather than something that just won’t ever shut up.”
Whatever. I got the message. If I started shaking, that meant I should run. That simple realization would boil down to a life or death decision in the coming weeks ahead.
The shaking wasn’t constant. It came and went. I tried going back to the same library where the meditation group met for a yoga session. I was sitting on the floor with my yoga mat where the majority of participants were middle-aged women.
Besides standing out demographically, I thought everything would be fine. But lo and behold, for no apparent reason I could surmise, I started shaking again.
What in the world could this mean? Was there about to be a mass shooting? Did someone near me simply harbor ill intentions?
The shaking was bad enough that I could not do a yoga session. I left at once and decided to try to contact someone who might be able to tell me what the hell was going on with my body.
40 minutes away in my hometown lived an older couple who call themselves “Shamanic Practitioners.” I had visited them once or twice previously to attend some of their group events, but I didn’t strongly identify with them or feel a sense of belonging when I was there.
People who gathered around and talked about crystals and spirituality in a yurt were just one step away from formal organized religion, as far as I was concerned. But at this point, I really, really needed some help; and by help, I mean anyone who could ground me in a sense of reality. I intuitively felt I would be labeled a schizophrenic if I turned to traditional healthcare and I did not want to go down that path.
I tried calling this couple, but the call just ended up going to voicemail. They called me back a little while later and told me that one of them was in the hospital for surgery and they would not be able to see me anytime soon. However, they recommended one of their students to me. I didn’t really know anything about this student.
I took her information and scheduled a session with her as soon as possible. She called herself a Reiki Master. What the hell is a Reiki Master?
I didn’t really care. I just wondered if she would be able to tell me why my body shook.
On the day of our appointment, I drove to her office. I remember seeing the repeating number 999 on a guy’s license plate for the majority of the drive there. Her office was literally a block or two away from the high school I attended almost a decade earlier.
What a strange occurrence. Had this person always practiced this Reiki stuff in this building the four years I was a high school student?
I entered the office and filled out a disclosure form. Yeah, yeah, this is alternative medicine and if I lose my shit during a session you’re not liable. Got it.
I walked into a simple room with what looked like a table with a cloth spread out over it. The lady, after some idle chatter, asked me to lie down on the table. I told her I see repeating numbers and I’m shaking, stuff like that. She didn’t really directly respond, which irked me.
I lay down on the table and just started talking. She waves her arms above me in a random fashion as far as I can tell. Almost as if there was an invisible apparatus hanging in the air above me that only she could perceive.
Weird. Strange. What the fuck?
I just started talking. I don’t really remember what I said; I think I just gushed to her about my experiences. But I do vividly remember that at one point the conversation topic turned to my mother.
The Reiki master asked me what my relationship with my mother looked like. I responded, saying that it was like barbed wire, messy barbed wire entering my guts and spilling out like entrails.
She said something like “I see,” and started doing her weird-ass hand waving over my abdominal area. But at this point, something was wrong. She said something about my relationship with my mom that I perceived as bullshit. I don’t even remember what it was she said that triggered me. But I do remember her saying “What calms you down?” “What makes the pain go away?”
I think I responded, probably yelling or shrieking, and definitely in a louder than a normal voice, “Sadism. Pain.”
She tried to defuse me or sidestep the conversation we were having. But I, upon realizing that, would not let her steer the conversation in a more pleasant direction. She opened a can of worms, and I was not going to let her put the worms back in.
It was at this point that I realized I really had to go to the restroom. I was sweating and urinating profusely at that time, almost like my body was fighting off an infection or I was sick or something. I think it might have been general anxiety, as well. I don’t know, I was under a lot of stress at the time.
I left her room to use the restroom, and upon return, she told me that our session was over. I didn’t know if this was due to my time being up or the violent outburst I had before I left the room, but I really didn’t care.
My eyes had fallen on one of her books in the office: Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.
Someone had previously mentioned that book to me at some point and I found it odd that I was encountering it again.
What does this book have to do with Reiki? What’s the difference between Reiki and Shamans? I don’t know.
I asked her if I should come back again and she told me she doesn’t know. I wasn’t happy with this answer at all. It was bullshit. How can someone who takes your money for a medical treatment tell you after the treatment that they don’t know if you need more?
I think she said something about patience being part of a healing process but I tell her I’m out of patience.
“I’m seeking answers. And if you don’t have any answers for me I’m not coming back.”
I stormed off to my car and the voice in my head was really going at it.
What a waste of money. Maybe you’re just being scammed. Just because you’re shaking and weird shit is happening doesn’t mean you’re not being taken advantage of.
I got the car and started driving away in a less-than-safe manner. I screamed out to the Universe, “I AM SICK OF THIS BULLSHIT. I CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS.”
And then, simultaneously, I almost had a car accident. I just barely hit the brakes fast enough to make sure I didn’t rear-end the car in front of me. And, unbelievably, there was a response to my angry outburst on the Vanity plate I almost smashed into: “ME TWO.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this response. I had pretty much stopped believing in coincidence at this point. I was just accepting that I was having conversations with license plates.
Was this Reiki Master just not able to do whatever she intended to do? Was I just a bad patient?
This dialogue in my head left me in a foul mood. There was some type of communication going on and I guess that was better than nothing, but there was still a lack of clarity. I had no certainty; just bizarre, surreal experiences.
Experiences that promptly got even more surreal and bizarre.
That night, I woke up with a start, sweating profusely, like I just had a nightmare. An image was searing into my brain, into my consciousness, and it wasn’t a pleasant image.
A man was staring into a dirty, shattered mirror. His hands covering his face except for one terror-stricken eye. Strangely enough, it was an image I was familiar with. It was the cover of an Album by Senses Fail: Still Searching.
I heard a song off this album from Guitar Hero, a video game I played when I was younger. Why in the world was this in my head right now? The song’s chorus rang through my head.
I’m stuck in a coma
Stuck in a never-ending sleep
And someday I will wake up
And realize I made up everything.
I won’t be saved.
I won’t be saved.
I won’t be saved
Listen to all the songs
that the night shouts
Jesus. Fucking. Christ. Whatever paranormal spiritual entity is yanking my chain… You. Have. My. Attention.
I reached for my phone and checked what time it was; 3:33 AM in the morning.
Goddamnit. Why this song? Why this image? What is this about me not being saved?
The chorus especially stuck out to me. At this moment in time, I did feel like I was stuck in a coma. Like I was wandering out in a no man’s land.
No one could directly help me. No one could tell me what in the world was happening to me. This seemed to be strictly between me… and the universe.
I started becoming afraid to go to bed. What was going to happen next time I woke up? What could possibly top this? What was so important right now that the universe had to have my attention?
The next night, I went to bed. And once again, I woke up in the dead of the late-night/early morning. I was still in my basement, sleeping right next to a mirror.
I had never given this particular mirror any thought before. It was hanging on the front of an old wardrobe, probably an antique. My mom cleaned houses for a living and probably had it given to her by a client who was trying to clean stuff out of their home.
My mom, a packrat by nature, could almost never say no to free furniture and it ended up in our basement at some point in time. Or maybe it came with the house when we moved in.
I woke up, once again with a start, and my eyes fell upon this mirror. And there was a fucking hand coming out if it. A purple, wispy, ethereal hand coming out of this mirror, waving slightly like a kite in the wind.
I think I was in a state of shock because I just got up and walked away from it and started going upstairs. I had to pee really badly, and the basement had no restroom.
As I was walking up the stairs, I passed a few family pictures and they... disturbed me. It was like the eyes of the pictures were shimmering. I just had this overwhelming impulse to turn them over so I couldn't see the faces.
I reached the top of the stairs and before I walked into the bathroom at the corner of a hallway, I saw someone's hand resting like they were about to pull themselves around the corner.
Upon reflection, I guess I could have walked around the corner to see whose hand it was, but I failed to find any courage to do so. I was terrified out of my mind.
I peed, went back downstairs, and the hand was gone. I’m not sure how I even managed to go back to sleep that night. Maybe it was a dream, a nightmare. But part of me knows, deep, deep down, I was fully awake and alert during those experiences that night.
I started covering the mirror with a blanket before I went to sleep and put a lot of the pictures downstairs facing down for days after the incident. But I wasn’t home much longer after that happened to me.
Why was it happening to me? What was this building towards?
The morning after I saw the hand, I found myself sitting on the toilet. As I pulled down my jeans, my eyes fell upon a tag advertising the brand of the type of jeans I was wearing: INDEPENDENCE ARIZONA.
There was a small voice in my head as I looked at this tag. It whispered to me, “You will find your independence in Arizona.”
This wasn’t the first time I had this thought. I actually remember telling my parents that I was so fed up with everything happening around the household that sometimes I just felt like I should just jump in my car and start driving south until I ran out of gas. I wanted to just run away from my life, my family, everything.
It was a random, intense, and insane compulsion. Except maybe it wasn’t so random? Because here it was again.
“Bullshit,” another voice in my head said. I finished up my business on the toilet and as I was pulling up my pants I said aloud to myself and the universe, “Alright, fine. If you give me one more sign right here, I will drop everything I’m doing and fucking drive to Arizona right now.”
Right on cue, the phone in my hand started glitching out. I was listening to a podcast and saw all the numbers in the lower left-hand corner that signified the time zone I was in all spin to random numbers: 11111 33333, 12345, 99999.
The whole screen blacked out for a moment. But then, scribbled in white lettering I made out words and an image forming, almost like the screen of my phone had become an Etch-a-Sketch.
The words were “Thank you, “ and the image was a feather. My mind went completely blank.
“What do I do now?” I called the universe out, and it responded.
“Oh my God. I guess I’m going to Arizona.”
I gathered some food and asked my sister, who was using my car to drive to work to fill the car with gas when she came back from her shift. She came home and I piled a few things into my car: blankets, food, bottles full of water, just the bare necessities. Then I told my phone’s GPS to target the center of Arizona. I had no idea where in the state I was going. I just told it to take me to the middle of Arizona.
And I started driving.
Maybe there will be answers in Arizona. Maybe I’ll never come back. Maybe I’m an insane schizophrenic and my parents will wonder whatever happened to their 24-year-old son. But I have to go. I have to.
The universe had called.
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