Lesley Scott-Smith, 63, Leongatha, Vic
My eyes were fixed on the curtains. A giant black spider was sitting there, clinging to them. I’d just woken up and it was the first thing I saw.
But when I looked closer, I realised it had too many legs to be a spider, and its body was bulging.
It was full of tiny little spiders!
A shiver went up my spine and I looked away to the wall. I was horrified to see it had jumped there too – in the blink of an eye!
This can’t be real, I realised. It’s an hallucination.
Scared, I snuggled back under the doona and waited. Around 15 minutes later, the mystery vision had thankfully vanished.
But as weeks passed, it kept happening.
At the time, I’d been suffering from depression and was worried it meant my mental health had worsened.
I kept the spider a secret because I didn’t want people to think I’d lost my mind.
Then in 2012, after three years of visions, I finally told a doctor. ‘Do you have any sight problems?’ he asked me.
I told him I only had around 25 per cent vision in my right eye after being born with toxoplasmosis, a condition caused by a parasite.
The parasite can be contracted from cat faeces and can damage the eyes and brain of unborn children.
‘I think you have Charles Bonnet syndrome,’ the doctor said.
He explained that the part of my brain that would normally process images from my right eye had been left idle because of my poor sight.
So it had started to fill in the gaps with visions.
I was incredibly relieved to know what was wrong. It’s common for sufferers to experience visions when they first wake up or are in dim light.
While the spider came and went for me, some sufferers have their strange vision constantly.
Everyone is different. Some people see waterfalls or even singers on a stage!
I still shudder when I see my spider, but it’s great to finally know why it’s there.
Charles Bonnet Syndrome
➜ The condition can affect people of all ages with impaired vision.
➜ Visions vary – some people see detailed figures, shapes and buildings, while others have even reported seeing people in period dress and costumes.
➜ There is no cure, but simply acknowledging the visions are not a result of mental illness can help sufferers manage the condition.
➜ The Charles Bonnet Syndrome Foundation offers support. Visit www.charlesbonnetsyndrome.org