EAST LANSING, MI—Area resident Aaron Henschler, 25, is fearing for his very sanity.
Known as an unorganized and often unreliable person, Henschler reports that in recent months, voices in his head have been making "pretty good points" about time management.
"I must be seriously sick," the house-bound, unemployed Henschler said. "The voices are always present, urging me to 'set small, achievable goals' and 'make a to-do list to manage your daily tasks.' This can't be happening to me."
Henschler has a history of anxiety-based psychological disorders, including agoraphobia and panic attacks. But approximately one month ago, just as he "was settling into a familiar routine," the voices struck.
"It started with just a word here and there, like 'prioritize' or 'organize,'" Henschler said. "Soon, the voices started giving me more detailed instructions, compelling me to 'create a comprehensive chart, ranking action-taking steps in order of importance,' and 'set hard-and-fast deadlines.'"
Said Henschler: "It's terrifying."
According to Henschler, three distinct voices regularly communicate with him: a relaxed, self-assured male, a female life coach who speaks in clear, clipped tones, and a "curious" child who asks such questions as, "Wouldn't you feel less paralyzed by life if you wrote out your daily schedule on a dry-erase board?"
Friend Marcus Gambon, whom Henschler described as his "sole contact with the outside world," said he has noticed an unsettling change in Henschler.
"I was supposed go over to Aaron's house Monday night to smoke pot and hang out," Gambon said. "But then I get this strange call from him, telling me how we can't get together because he's feeling intense pressure to 'be productive,' and how part of that is 'learning how to say no' to something he called 'time burglars.' …I'm worried about him."
Henschler said the voices have begun to affect his conduct.
"At first, I could tune them out by turning up music really loud," Henschler said. "Lately though—as crazy as this sounds—the voices have started to make sense. Especially the whole '10 steps toward making a more positive and lasting change' they dictated to me last night."
Henschler finally succumbed to the voices last Thursday when he left his home for the first time in three weeks to purchase a day planner. He also signed up for online banking and took the voices' advice to go to bed at 10 p.m.
"They have plans for me," said Henschler, gesturing to a weekly schedule, block-printed in handwriting so legible he initially did not recognize it as his own. "Thursday, for instance, the voices would like for me to determine a more sensible and fixed budget."
Henschler added: "I shudder to think where I'll end up on time a month from now, or worse, what I'll be on time for."
Henschler said his delusions reached a peak Sunday, with a visual hallucination.
"I was crawling around the bedroom on my hands and knees when I looked up and screamed," Henschler recalled. "For a second, leaning against the wall, I thought I saw a broom and dustpan."
Henschler said that despite the steady escalation of his sickness, he was able to keep the hallucinations under control until a frightening incident Monday, when he was awoken in the middle of the afternoon, as if by command.
"They ordered me to 'get off the sofa and clear away the clutter at once,'" a visibly upset Henschler said. "I told them that I couldn't do it, but they just persisted in this mad chant: 'If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.'"
"Next thing I know, I'm at the dumpster, throwing away two full black garbage bags," Henschler said. "God, what have I done?"
After that disturbing incident, Henschler decided to seek help. He made an appointment with his family's physician in hopes of obtaining a referral to a psychiatrist.
"I kept putting off doing something about this," Henschler said. "Maybe I was just hoping the voices would go away on their own."
Henschler added: "I should have known better. After all, the voices themselves urged me to call as soon as possible, as doctors are generally quite busy and are often booked weeks in advance."