Paranoia is one of the toughest things about having a mental illness
It is difficult to understand that the thoughts going through your mind are not generated by “you”. They are more directly fueled by chemical imbalance in your brain.
Forever in two minds about every conversation, every decision, every relationship, your diet, your sleep; with another voice assuring you that there is no point to any of it. It is difficult, even impossible, to put your trust in doctors or medication or therapy. How can anyone or anything ease a disease that is so internal, so personal. When your own brain tells you that the pain is not worth the effort of living and provides lived experience, supportive evidence, why would you believe that a pill or talking could offer any peace of mind? What would that even be like anyway?
For myself internal conflict, guilt, self criticism and paranoia has always felt like a default setting. I know who I am and where I stand when I hate myself to such a degree that when things are OK I become suspicious, expectant, keenly aware that it can’t last. When my brain resets to the factory default, starts telling me I hate myself it is easy to agree, in my history there is no evidence to prove otherwise.
For a long time I was under the impression that everyone hated themselves, at least part of themselves or at least some of the time. Everyone considers their own mortality. Everyone experiences the chest crushing pain of utter depression. Surely everyone considers and reconsiders every conversation they have had in a day, every nuance, all subtext. At least I was certain that every “normal” person felt directly offended by the actions of others.
So if you believe, as I have, that this is just how the human brain is wired, it is not difficult to understand how a person could become paranoid.
Voice 1 – “I think there may be something wrong, I can’t eat or sleep. I’m really agitated. I really don’t want to leave the house today.”
Voice 2 – “Are you sure? Don’t you think everyone feels this way? They all get on with it without whinging. Best you take yourself and your tears off to work.”
Voice 3 – “Or…maybe no one thinks this way ever and you probably shouldn’t mention it to anyone because you might worry or burden them. Remember when you made Dad cry?”
Voice 2 – “How can you burden someone with an imaginary problem? If it were really an issue would you be on your way to work right now?”
All together now – “OK. So it’s settled, we won’t say anything to anyone, it might go away. And if it doesn’t there are options.”
When you are devoid of any physical sign of illness it is next to impossible to present with symptoms and seek help. If that is a path you choose (and I strongly suggest you do) it is even more difficult to walk into a doctors office and legitimise your problem to this person you have never met before. When there isn’t anything perceived to be wrong with you, how will you approach your friends and family?
I put these thoughts, opinions and insights into words for a few reasons; it is a cathartic process for me. I also hope to offer some kind of comprehension for my friends and family and by extension offer some alleviation to those who also suffer. You are not alone and people do care. Doctors, friends, family, strangers don’t have to understand what is happening to care for you.
One of the most important reasons for these blog posts is to open the avenue for conversation. When people can understand or have some kind of comprehension of what it feels like to suffer mental illness we become better equipped to help each other. To listen without judgement. Sometimes that is all anyone wants, an ear vacant of judgement and “prior knowledge.”
“Most people do not listen with the intend to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
– Stephen R. Covey