Optimism and schizophrenia are two things that normally wouldn’t go together. Few who suffer from this mental illness would tell anyone that their hallucinations and delusional thoughts are conducive to optimism. Most of my personal hallucinations are voices telling me all the things I’m doing wrong or how I’m angering the people in my life. Fortunately for me my hallucinations aren’t usually loud or overbearing. They are often whispers or low volume, much like the play by play commentary of a ballgame on television. My hallucinations have never told me to hurt anyone or myself. So for that alone I can be optimistic that my schizophrenia is manageable. It does cause me irritation and anxiety that the voices are almost always there. But, in my case, the paranoia has to be the worst.
I have had issues with paranoia even before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I didn’t keep journals or do any writing on my own when I was growing up because I saw my brother reading the journal I kept one summer while in junior high. I was afraid to record my thoughts as I didn’t have a lock on my bedroom door and my parents often entered my bedroom when I wasn’t there. Once when I was in junior high I lost over $60 in birthday money. For years I was convinced my brother stole it. I never confronted him about it because I was paranoid the problems it would cause would be even worse than suffering in silence. I was paranoid enough to believe my parents wouldn’t take my side in the argument and I still wouldn’t get my money back. To this day I never found that money nor have I ever confronted my brother to see if he took that money. I don’t know if he did or not and probably doesn’t remember it anyway. My paranoias involve fearing people are going through my trash, people are listening in on my phone conversations, that I’m being watched every time I step out in public, etc.
I could have worse delusions. I met some schizophrenic when I was a guest speaker at the state mental hospital that was convinced people were trying to poison his food. I met another mentally ill man one time when I was in hospital that was convinced he was going to prison for a minor offense and wanted to hang himself. He was on suicide watch and that was scary seeing someone that distressed. I have met people who had great careers and families and lost them both once their mental illness took full effect later in life than mine started. In my case my problems started in my late teens and for years I was under the delusion that I would overcome my illness and still go on to have the career and family I had dreamed about since I was five years old.
I realized I was having problems that weren’t going away on their own when I was a junior in high school. I didn’t think much of my problems at first because most teenagers I knew were often moody and mean. It was when it was constant and interfering with my school work and activities that I decided to self medicate. I didn’t turn to marijuana or alcohol, I turned to herbal remedies. A friend of mine who had a rather unhealthy distrust of modern medicine recommend I try things like St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, multivitamins, and fish oil pills. I try numerous combinations of these for two years with no noticeable effect. Non modern medicines may work for some cases but my case wasn’t one of those. I may have been delusional enough to believe I could treat my mysterious problems on my own. But I have to be optimistic that I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that modern medicine was ineffective and some elaborate conspiracy. Some people I know are delusional enough to believe that even without schizophrenia.
Some people I met were religious people who believed that I needed to pray more and be more faithful to God. I was already the most knowledgeable student in my Sunday school classes since I was four years old. I read the Bible almost daily to where I had read the entire book at least a few times. I was more faithful to the teachings of the Bible than most people three to five times my age as a teenager. For a short while in junior high I even thought about the ministry as a career. But none of the prayers eased my anguish or calmed my delusions and fears. Even though I went to a Christian college I was attending church maybe only two to three times a month. I got to where I was aggravated watching people I knew who didn’t take religion as seriously as I did just seemingly coast through college and life. I was thinking, ‘Alright God, what are they doing that I’m not.’
Finally a couple years after college I stopped going to church entirely. It wasn’t because I was mad at any one person, but because it no longer made sense to invest that much into something that had no results. None of the prayers or Bible studies did anything to alleviate my delusions or allow me to cope with my paranoias. It just got to where it seemed senseless, unproductive, and even delusional. I don’t know if God exits or not. But I do know if the only thing keeping someone from hurting and abusing others is fearing God, than that person is indeed a sorry excuse for a human being. I do find it just lucky that of all the thousands of beliefs that existed all over the world and throughout history that I happened to be born into the one that was most approved by God. If I was born in India I would have been a devout Hindu. If I was born in ancient Egypt, I would have been all for Osiris and Horus and regarded the Pharaoh as a god. So it just gradually came to me the idea of burning in hell for all eternity just for the crime of being born into the wrong religion, wrong time, and wrong culture was delusional. Most of my friends won’t agree with me but let them. I won’t convince them that if there is a God that God is indifferent (that’s what the evidence I’ve seen so far convinces me). And they won’t convince me that God will send someone to hell for losing the guessing game of picking the right religion.
As far as delusional thought goes, I am open to the possibility I could be wrong on anything. I never got the memo that said I had to form my philosophy on life by my early twenties. I am also not delusional enough to defend an idea I have that is being proven wrong. Even though I am schizophrenic I have to be thankful that I don’t have the delusions of defending an idea I know to be off base.