My husband came home from his volunteer work yesterday (he helps prepare and serve food to the low income and homeless people), and he said he was disappointed in himself, because he got irritated with a guest at the food line.
My husband was handing out trays and the guest said, “I want a different tray.” My husband tried to explain to him that all the trays were the same, and the man grabbed a different one anyway.
My husband kept an eye on him and he did the same thing when he was offered coffee. He wouldn’t take the coffee cup offered to him, he wanted to choose his own.
At that moment my husband recognized something familiar, and felt guilty for getting irritated.
He recognized, paranoia.
I trust my husband enough to talk to him about my symptoms, and paranoia is something I deal with on a daily basis. I don’t, however, trust anyone else with this information.
I have heard over and over again in my treatment that it is unusual for someone with schizophrenia to remember their episodes as clearly as I do, and be able to talk about their symptoms. I don’t think this is true.
I believe many people with schizophrenia are perfectly capable of talking about their symptoms and their delusions, and hallucinations, but paranoia keeps them silent.
If other people with schizophrenia are anything like me, and I imagine there are many who are, we don’t talk about our paranoia, because to reveal the details of what we are paranoid about makes us even more paranoid.
We fear that telling our fears (things we are paranoid about) to others, will make it more likely that those fears (paranoid thoughts) will come true.
The horrible, awful stereotype of paranoid people sitting around in tinfoil hats (something I see written on social media as a joke all the time by some very ignorant and insensitive people), is so far from the reality of paranoia that most people with schizophrenia experience.
My paranoia is subtle. My paranoia is insipid. My paranoia involves everyday things that really do happen although infrequently.
If you work with mentally ill people in any capacity, or if you would like to become a more compassionate and educated, please don’t be so quick to judge behavior as difficult or non-compliant, or whatever other terms you may use for behavior that bothers you.
There is probably way more going on in the mind of the person you are irritated with than you can ever imagine. Their reality isn’t always your reality, and their choices are probably not made to make life difficult for you, they are probably made in order to make life bearable for them.
As Kermit the Frog would say, “It’s not easy being green.”