In my last visit with my case manager, she mentioned that the center where I receive mental healthcare has implemented a new healthcare program that allows clients to see medical doctors there as well. This program also provides clients access to an online service allowing clients to view test results and appointment schedules. In talking about this, she mentioned that many of her clients probably wouldn’t utilize the online service for the obvious reasons of having no computer or internet service — but also, for reasons related to paranoia.
My mind keeps going back to that conversation, questioning my own experiences of paranoia and how paranoid I am to honestly talk about those experiences. I’m paranoid about being paranoid. It’s not that I purposefully or consciously lie about the worst of my symptoms. It’s more of an effort to protect myself, withholding information rather than blatantly lying to others. If I’m asked about anything point-blank, I can’t lie about it. I won’t. I value honesty. Worst case scenario, I just won’t answer if I’m not comfortable sharing the truth. “The right to remain silent” approach. Lies by omission are still lies, right? Paranoia makes me a liar, and I don’t like that.
Usually, I’m pretty good at preventing my irrational, paranoid thoughts from taking over. At least, I think I am. Stress makes it a lot more difficult. During calmer, more peaceful periods of time, it’s easier to evaluate, challenge, and dismiss destructive thoughts and quiet the more aggressive voices in my head. I’ve had enough therapy over the last 22 years to know that at least some of the healthier coping mechanisms I’ve been taught actually work, provided I can remain mindful enough to use them.
Both paranoia and hearing voices make me very uncomfortable to talk or write about due to common misconceptions held by the general public — stigma. Even in my own family, such things were discussed in hushed tones, critically shamed or in obligated aggravation, while otherwise ignoring the family members altogether. I’m beginning to understand that much of my own fear and denial associated with either a schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder diagnosis (not saying I’m either) is/was due to this stigma as well as fears of being institutionalized or permanently medicated. “Institutional” nightmares are some of the most common dreams I remember. That’s one reason why I guard my emotions, behavior, thoughts, and beliefs so closely. I’m phobic of institutions and medications, but paranoid of the people who are meant to help me.
I don’t think I would know where to begin if I were to try to list all of the bizarre notions I’ve come to believe over the years. I’m not really sure what others would consider bizarre. Thankfully, I was born skeptical and curious; so it’s second-nature for me to question everything. This allows me to challenge those beliefs and perceptions; yet parts of me hold onto them, stubbornly refusing to let certain thoughts go. I do believe that this is a product of my creativity, allowing me to see and understand life from many perspectives — a positive attribute of my personality. It’s not all bad. I rather enjoy the conversations in my head nowadays, definitely more so than in my twenties through early thirties. My head was a much scarier place to be back then.
I’ve learned I cannot watch the news or political programs. Even as a child, the news terrified me; but within the last few years, I recognized my tendency to ruminate on the negativity associated with the woes of the world. That’s one area where I must remain detached. These days, I’m not spending much time on Facebook. Emotions run high during election years, and I’m far too sensitive to get caught up in that snare. Honestly, I’m not convinced we have much of a choice in the matter. Elections feel more like popularity contests, just for show.
Conspiracy theories abound. While I do believe there is a small truth in most, there again, this is an area where I must steer clear for fear of plummeting down the rabbit hole. The weird part of YouTube is fun, but definitely in small doses or not at all. I can understand and empathize with those people who fear government surveillance because I’ve fought those same fears and paranoia for many years, especially while applying for SSDI. My ex-boyfriend, who I’ve referred to as PI on my blog, is a private investigator who often received cases to investigate disability claims. Is it paranoia if it’s true? (Seriously, I would love an answer to this question.)
Real privacy is a thing of the past, if it ever existed at all; however, at the same time, I can understand the benefit to national security as well as to local law enforcement of utilizing every resource available to keep us safe. Paranoid or not, I think at least some level of monitoring is a necessary evil we must tolerate for that reason alone. For the most part, I simply try to avoid thinking about it.
When I first entered therapy in 1994, I didn’t have the language to describe what I was feeling or experiencing. It has taken me 22 years to understand myself well enough to find that language to better communicate my experiences and problem areas with anyone else. Communication is arduous for me. Writing is easier because I can give myself the time to find the best descriptive word to get a point across whereas verbal conversation is generally too fast paced to accommodate my slower wit. I often wish I had KR’s quick wit to come up with snappy comebacks and funny quips. He utterly fascinates me in this way. I, on the other hand, get flustered very easily. I’m constantly second-guessing myself to the point of saying nothing at all, out of fear of judgment or criticism for saying the wrong thing.
I worry so much about how others perceive me and their motives for interaction that I often feel paranoid around most people. This goes far beyond simply not trusting people. Just because I’ve learned to hide it well doesn’t mean it’s not there. I guess my point here is that in contemplation of my own experiences with paranoia, I find myself re-evaluating much of my life, questioning how I perceive the world around me (once again). Feeling paranoid is much like feeling pressured. Simply telling a person you are not pressuring her, or persecuting her in the case of paranoia, does absolutely nothing to assuage those feelings. For me, how I feel is my reality.