Being Delusional About Not Being Delusional

I am now throughly convinced I have been delusional about how not delusional I have been for the last several months.  I admit to isolating most of the time and rarely leaving my apartment.  I admit to rarely socializing with other people and tenants in my complex.  I admit to occasionally going days without showering.  But I don’t think I realized how delusional I was being about my problems.

I talked to my landlord this afternoon.  She told me that there were several tenants worried about little I was socializing and how unkempt I have been for a long time.  I have pretty much isolated and kept to myself since last summer.  I just got to where I saw no point in socializing.  In my delusion diseased mind, I was thinking most people are violent idiots who would rather curse you out and physically harm you than say hello to you.  Fortunately most of these thoughts are symptoms of my mental illness flaring up and not being treated effectively.  My fellow tenants and landlord aren’t angry at me nor do they want to see me thrown out on the street.  They are actually very worried about me.  I just didn’t realize how far I had fallen in the last year because of the delusion blinders I had due to my illness.

I have gotten to where I was scared to leave my apartment.  I have gotten to where I was scared to go to the laundry room and wash clothes.  So I have been doing most of my laundry in my bathtub for the last few months.  Let’s face it, it just doesn’t do the job like a regular wash machine.  I have gotten to where I am scared to socialize in person with anyone.  I don’t go outside to talk with  people because in my delusion wracked mind, most people were just bitter and angry all the time.  I have gotten to where I’m just scared and depressed all the time.  And I hate it.  I see my psych doctor tomorrow afternoon and I am demanding he put me on something else.  My current routine isn’t working at all.

Advertisements

Optimism, Delusional Thinking, and Schizophrenia

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.

 

Coping With Limitations and New Expectations

When I was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia I was clueless as to what exactly that entailed.  I knew that I would have to take anti-psychotic medications for a while and go to therapy.  Yet I had absolutely no idea how much my life was going to change.

As a result of my worsening mental illness, my ability to concentrate gradually became less and less.  I also had problems remembering details and paying attention.  It became bad enough that I had to give up on my original career dreams.  I started college as a Pre-Pharmacy student with the intention of becoming a research scientist for a pharmaceutical company.  Because of my worsening mental illness and deepening paranoid this dream became impossible to achieve. 

My grades were declining to where I wasn’t even sure I could stay in college, let alone go after my dream.  A change in course was in order.  Even though I knew very little about the subject I switched over Business courses.  My thinking at the time was I wanted to be employable immediately after college if I did get better.

As my college career progressed in my business classes I never achieved the level of academic success I once had.  This was due to my illness making it impossible to concentrate for long periods of time or pay attention to minute details.  I also had problems prioritizing projects so I often had to rush my college class projects.  As a result I didn’t get as good of grades as I could have had I not been mentally ill.

With all of the effort I was putting into just getting through my classes, I wasn’t even thinking about what jobs I would be good at once I finished college.  I really had no clue what I wanted to do once I was done with school.  I didn’t research potential careers very closely, at least not careers that someone with my particular illness could do.

I was in a really odd place, looking back in retrospect.  I was mentally ill but I had been able to maintain much of my original natural intelligence.  I had always been one of the most intelligent kids in my class in high school and even managed to do well in my classes in college in spite of my paranoid schizophrenia. 

My problem was I had serious stress and paranoia issues concerning other people.  Those issues, along with my problems with anger and depression, made, and still make, holding a regular forty-hour a week job for any length of time impossible.  It was, and still is, frustrating to be sitting on this intelligence but not able to use it, at least not in a job.

After I graduated from college I applied for every business related job I could find.  I didn’t get many responses to my inquiries.  I was sending over twenty resumes a week but was having absolutely no luck in landing an interview.  I was painfully finding out that the “apply for everything out there and hope something hits” tactic to job applications does not work.  It wasn’t until a few years later I learned that it’s far better to focus in what you want and be patient.

I thought that I wanted to work in banking or insurance.  I believed that these were stable industries that would be not too difficult to get into.  Yet I couldn’t get interviews for even these industries.  I was painfully finding out another truth: Job hunts immediately after college take a long time.  The person who finds a job before graduation is not the rule; he or she is the exception.

Finally after three months of living with my parents and futile searching, I changed my expectations.  I decided that I was taking the first thing that came along.   That job came in the form of a minimum wage job as a store clerk, and this was a part time job on top of that.

The first few months weren’t that bad.  The boss liked me and I worked well with the customers.  Yet I had a coworker that was constantly on my case and was very unpleasant to be around.  It finally became bad enough that after four months of this that I decided as soon as something different, not necessarily better, came along I was going to jump on it.  The biggest reason was to be done with this disagreeable coworker.  I couldn’t put my finger exactly on it, but I think this coworker found my quirks of being mentally ill frustrating.  I never said anything negative to this person though inside I was seething angry with this person.

One thing I couldn’t deal with very well in the past because of my illness is work place politics.  I have gotten better about it with age because of better coping methods and being able to better tell when I’m just being paranoid. In my younger years I could never understand work place politics, pecking orders, jockeying, etc.  My thinking as a younger man was we are on the same side and we ought to make an honest attempt to get along.  Now that I’m a few years older and have a few years of work experience, I have just accepted politics in the office as just part of human nature.  Just because they occur does not mean that I am expected to participate whole-heartedly in the gossiping or anything malicious.  But I am expected to do my job to the expectations of my bosses and coworkers, and that is what is ultimately important in keeping a job.

If you are an individual with mental illness and you do seek a job, know that there are personality differences among your coworkers and office politics.  Just know that these are rarely personal, they are just part of human nature that cannot be changed.  It took me a real long time to figure this out.  Until I did figure it out, my working life was often miserable simply because I had misguided expectations.

My expectations have changed so many times over the years since I was eighteen.  My expectations about working alone has gone from where I wanted to be a great research scientist to wanting to work in insurance to hating even part time work to fearing I would never work at all to now I work twenty hours a week as a custodian back to not working right at the moment.  I don’t think I would have become interested in writing had I never become mentally ill.  Maybe something positive has come out of all of this after all. 

I don’t know where this journey is going to end.  But I do know that right now that it is quite exciting and each day brings something different and new.  I wouldn’t have had this if I never become ill or had to change my expectations.