I just ate a piece of bread with hummus on it from a woman giving out samples in Costco. For some reason, the bread or the hummus tastes differently to me. Fear overcomes me. I begin to think the food may contain poison. I start looking for my husband who I left in the computer aisle. When I find my husband, I ask him to go to the woman and taste the food. He recognizes the fear and urgency in my voice so although he is not hungry and doesn’t like to sample foods, he goes to where she is standing and waits in line for a sample. He tastes it. “It is fine,” he tells me. “It tastes good.” This moment is critical, I will either be comforted by my husband’s words, or I will move into a full-blown panic. This time, it works, and I immediately begin to calm down.
The scenario I just typed is one example and one incident among hundreds that happen in one variation or another in our lives. I fear something. My husband tries to show me or tell me why the fear is irrational. He never tries to help me condescendingly. He does it factually, and straightforwardly.
This example of trust is why I titled this blog post, “Think Twice Before You Lie to Someone with Schizophrenia.” I know that it might seem easier sometimes to lie to someone who is paranoid or psychotic, but in the long run, and in my experience, it will damage how much you can help that person in the future.
I have built twenty years of trust with my husband. He is one of the few, if not the only, people who I believe all of the time. That isn’t to say that his honesty with me comforts me one hundred percent of the time, but it does about seventy-five percent of the time, and that is a lot. If we can prevent seventy-five out of one hundred panic attacks or episodes of extreme paranoia, I think that is pretty good. (The number may be higher, I don’t know. I just know it works more than it doesn’t).
I know that telling a lie to someone to get them to go into treatment if they are actively psychotic may be necessary, (and if it helps someone to get the help they need, I am all for it). But I would weigh those situations before deciding to be untruthful. The consequences of lying can last far into a person’s recovery and treatment. Without someone who I trust, who knows how many times I would have struggled severely with hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and other symptoms. Having someone to trust can be as good as a potent medication at times when symptoms don’t have a strong grip on someone with schizophrenia.