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I have paranoid schizophrenia. That first word is a big one. Paranoid.

When I was working as a social worker, and a marketing consultant, I made choices about my paranoia in order to make me more comfortable and give me the feeling of safety every day. I imagine people, if they noticed, probably thought I was a little eccentric, but there are many things I have to do on a daily basis in order to manage my symptoms.

At the office, I would keep my food with me all the time. I would pack a lunch that I knew didn’t have to be refrigerated for at least four hours. I kept my food in a backpack or in my office drawer. Even though every place I have worked has had a community refrigerator, I wasn’t able to make use of it. I can’t leave my food out, or exposed to other people or I won’t eat it.  I can’t overcome that symptom. I have to work around it.

In fact food, flavors, smells, etc. are a big part of my daily symptoms. Having symptoms around food in the United States is easy to hide though, because we are such a food obsessed nation. We have every kind of diet imaginable from the all protein diet, to the gluten free diet, to the liquid diet, and we have every type of cooking show from country cooking, to Indian cooking, to Mexican cooking, to vegan cooking. There is probably little we haven’t covered when it comes to food.  So, having symptoms around food doesn’t really make me stand out.  The majority of people wouldn’t even notice, because half of the country has some type of food restriction or issue.

I don’t suffer from symptoms of conspiracy theories, and I’m thankful for that, because that is a very obvious indicator of paranoid schizophrenia, and although I am now completely out of the closet, I don’t like to broadcast my illness other than to write about it. I like to fit in. I like to be treated like everyone else. I don’t like to stand out in a crowd. I want to be equal, not separate or different. (If you happen to suffer from symptoms of conspiracy theories, I am not putting you down here. You may write or create beautiful art work around those theories and that may be lovely for you.  For me, it would be hard to deal with, but I understand my symptoms and ways of managing them may be hard for you. I get it. I’m on your team.)

I also suffer from a great deal of anxiety, and I think that stems from the big word, paranoia. I frequently ask my husband if things are going to be okay. We can also be going somewhere and I will ask him, “This is supposed to be fun, right?”  And he will assure me that it is supposed to be fun. I don’t always know the proper response or feelings to have about everyday things. For instance, I need lots of reassurance to go to the dentist, but again, this is easy to hide, because many people have fears of going to the dentist although I doubt most of them think they are going to die there.

I think I am going to die most days from something or another. I think about dying a lot.  I frequently tell my husband what I want after I die.  I want him to marry again. I want him to find joy, love, and laughter. I want him to be happy. I want him to have an amazing retirement where he gets to travel to all the countries I was too afraid to visit.  I want him to go on, but not just go on I want him to experience all the things that he missed, because of that one big word. Paranoia.