My Night With a Muppet and Other Mishegas

14

September 24, 2014 by Melanie L.

When I was a young child, somewhere near the age of six, I scared the crap out of my mom.  I don’t mean that I ran into the street without looking.  That type of fear is too pedestrian.  No.  I hitched-her-breath, stopped-her-heart, and shocked-her-conscious scared her with my response to her innocent question, “what are you doing, Honey?”

“I’m picking the maggots* off my arm,” I answered casually.

While maggots on a cherub’s arm would be pretty gross, to say the least, what frightened my mom was not the presence of maggots but rather the absence thereof.  I was pinching the air just a centimeter above my left forearm, pivoting my elbow and releasing the pinched air to my right and repeating.

I’d like to tell you that I had an active imagination as well as a recent life-cycles science class, except, no.  I was not imagining the maggots.  I was hallucinating.

Hallucinating! 

At age 6!

While there were no real maggots, I had indeed caught a bug.  A day or two earlier, I had contracted something from a small pool.**  While my body sent my temperature soaring to 105 degrees – yes, you read that correctly – it sent my mind tumbling down the rabbit hole of febrile delirium.

Luckily, I never had any seizures associated with my high fever but I had multiple hallucinations.  In addition to the maggots, I remember I saw a muppet-like, blue-furred monster seated in what was really an empty chair at the dinner table.  We locked eyes and it smiled at me the only way a puppet can – with a gaping mouth – and then quietly resumed eating.

As if imaginary maggots and a Muppet at the dinner table weren’t enough, I also hallucinated when my dad carried me down the stairs to get some children’s acetaminophen.  I had to tell him to slow down: the stairway was blazing past like the Enterprise at warp speed though I hadn’t yet seen the show (still haven’t) or had any introduction to even basic physics.

Although my experience with febrile delirium gave my mom a fright early on, it may have saved her from some needless parental worry later on.  I never succumbed to the lure of illicit hallucinogens as a late teen/early adult in large measure because I had already been there, done that.  I did not need a refresher.

So three weeks ago, when my precious three-year-old daughter developed a very high fever very quickly, I didn’t flinch when she woke startled and cried at the sight of “bugs in my bed laughing at me.”  I gave her some acetaminophen, called her pediatrician, and smiled at the thought that one day, when hallucinations are optional, she, too, will choose to steer clear.


Author’s Footnotes

*I remember them as maggots, however, my mom says I had told her they were spiders.

**I developed febrile delirium twice in my childhood, once in the summertime and again in a different season, but I can’t remember exactly which hallucination accompanied which instance of illness.

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14 thoughts on “My Night With a Muppet and Other Mishegas

  1. Oh my goodness! My oldest daughter has had this several times. Pretty much every time she gets a high fever she hallucinates butterflies in her bedroom, or sleepwalks. It was terrifying the first time, now we’re used to it. She is a quirky little girl and pretty amazing for it. Great to hear there are others!

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  2. Marcy says:

    How frightening! I haven’t heard of febrile delirium. One of my sons was hearing voices for a while. We had him talk to someone, and she believed he was really hearing them. We didn’t know where to turn next and pretty much did nothing for a while. They eventually went away. He had had a concussion around that time, so in my mind I chalked it up to being related to that.

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    • Melanie L. says:

      That sounds scary! I’ve never had a concussion but I’d be willing to bet that concussions can definitely do some damage to the sensory processing mechanisms. Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about it again!

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  3. Candace says:

    I haven’t heard of febrile delirium either, but I’m having fun imaging a child hallucinating! This was really well told, and I like that my (nonexistent) Yiddish vocabulary is being expanded. 🙂

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  4. Meg says:

    Your story brought back memories for me, Melanie! My hallucination during a bout of Hong Kong flu was of three tall men in dark coats and hats. How ‘come we never have visions of cuddly bunnies?

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  5. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I’ve had those kind of hallucinations, too! Only it was more like people appearing who weren’t there, or my parents’ faces dripping…

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  6. Linda Roy says:

    I’ve never had that happen. Wow, that’s wild.

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  7. Andrea says:

    I have never had to experience this for myself or my children. If I did, there would surely be an emergency room visit involved! I’m thankful to you that I will now be somewhat more prepared if my kids start hallucinating!

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Behind the Blog

Melanie L.

Melanie L.

I'm a happily re-married, full-time lawyer, and full-time mom raising two adorable vilde chayas (Yiddish: wild things) named Monkey and Peanut (not their real names!). I am often seen in public counting to three. In addition to parenting and writing, I also love photography, cosmology, evolutionary anthropology, and all things Israel.

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