I have spent a vast amount of my adult life battling, confronting, denying, engaging and dancing with my nemesis diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.Most of the time I find myself just stuck. Belligerent thoughts that argue back and forth that are not my own. I can just hear them (voices I mean). They continuously debate and I feel like I have gatecrashed a kind of business conference. The absolute irony being they are the intruders. They clank and collide like parts of a machine that has no power down function. Sometimes I feel that I am living a waking dream or a flashback of an event or conversation that is playing on the stage in my brain delivering a repeat performance and of course the encore. De Ja Vue can be a comical one for me as it happens twice! So, back to the conference – I attempt to tune them out and on the rare occasions where I am successful they then resemble a monotonous droning like the sound of a quiet background television minus that habitual comfort.
Having a diminutive element of control over the voices, music, names and yes, even crying, enables me to concentrate my efforts on my crippling anxiety that takes many forms and even proposes to take on a “Chameleon” anxiety as I like to call it. Social anxiety I “conquered” merely by just becoming a recluse. It was the easiest thing to do and eliminated somewhat all of my fears of the world right outside my front door. So a recluse I became apart from disguised and incognito midnight runs to the all night stores. Hooded tops and sunglasses became my actual crutches. Nobody knew who I was and I didn’t know who anybody was – just the way it needed to be. My bedroom with its four walls (very comforting) became my sanctuary and I created my own little world, my own little bubble of an environment. My rules, my space, sparkling clean, no germs and nobody could tamper with me, my tea or my medication. Having such transparent control like this kept me focused and kept me running each day despite it’s damaging connotations.
The panic is tougher to confront. Its power is quite overwhelming and at any given moment during an attack I feel as if I am facing death constantly or being informed inside my head that I deserve death and it was always coming to get me anyway. The physical torment of these attacks come in the form of terrible tremors and shakes – a trembling that I just cannot control. My heart pumps so fast with erratic rhythm and I feel as if it would explode out of my chest. Cold sweats that force me to regularly change my clothes up to several times a day and night – usually pyjamas as I hate wearing “normal” clothes as this represents the world outside to me. I am restless beyond belief and my enforced routines in my sanctuary cause me to never be able to sit or lay still. I get in and out of my bed hundreds of times over and over to do some little thing or to write something down that suddenly causes a literary urge in my head. I may re-light a candle, put on an incense stick that would be appropriate for my state of mood, re-arrange my precious books on the case or paperwork folders. I write endless lists which are my nemesis and yet I cannot help it. I even start labelling things, putting up post its and panic that my clothes, linen and bedding are not folded and rolled properly. I will chain smoke, nail bite to the point of bleeding and display what can only be described as OCD traits. It is sheer panic sometimes and I just cannot rest. I am tormented with this and cannot even sit still through a TV show or a movie. My mind will just not allow it. To say this is difficult to overcome such things and panic attacks is an understatement. Most of the time I feel like I have cheated death several times a day and that there is somebody divine taking pity on me from above.
My constant companion is paranoia and if I really consider all aspects of this mental illness I would be forced to say this is the very darkest and worst one of all to handle. Paranoia is relentless and unforgiving. It does not stop to take a break and it seeps into every corner and single detail of my life. It will find a way no matter what. Just when I believe I have a grip on the day and might be able to make it through it appears constantly to greet me or perhaps remind me. I forever feel I am being watched and looking over my shoulder, listening for any words people may say about me. Why am I so special? What is it about me that this seems to happen? I sometimes write everything I do down in several diaries and journals each day so I can remember events, conversations and details so nobody can “catch me out”. I am plagued with miserable thoughts of what people may think of me, what they may say about me and how they actually feel about me. It all feels like some huge personal conspiracy and they are all in it together to eventually “get me”. Sometimes, I feel like it is only a matter of time before I am mobbed with some kind of intervention for doing something that I have no recollection of but it will be terrifyingly bad. My own thoughts feel like they are being chronically “stolen” and broadcast elsewhere so I am never quite sure what I have said or done. I do not know if the paranoia preys on my bad memory and the fact that I seem to have little control over my mind. Often my mobile phone and the mail scares me a lot. Yes, that’s right, I can be frightened of a letter being posted into my mailbox. I never know what it might contain and with the phone I can become frozen and find it extremely difficult to be who I want to be (myself) and talk to people, even loved ones, family and close friends. Remote controls and electronic devices also cause me distress. This often causes me to retreat into a catatonic state. I become numb, flat, frozen and blank. It is maybe a coping mechanism for the extreme fear and abject torture of it all. The only single person I find solace and safety with is my boyfriend with all of this. He is beginning to understand more about me and this debilitating condition. He witnesses my despair, silent rage, frustration, pain and the criticism and misunderstanding that comes my way. In my world I am more than blessed to have him in my life and heart. The alternative without the incredibly special man that he is would be complete and total reclusiveness and loneliness for life. I am so lucky he can somehow see the “real” me.
Hallucinations are another thing altogether. For me, the word hallucination just doesn’t seem right when describing what I see. They are not visions to me they are just a very normal part of my life now. I have never seen anything completely clearly, fully or front on ahead of me. They are always out of the corner of my eye or if they do appear front on then they are always moving fairly quickly or running across my field of vision – blurry and fast. I see people and animals. The people are always mostly the same but the animals vary. They always let me know when they are coming. After a dry taste in my mouth I then get a warm feeling come over me but it is not comforting in any way. They are not always visual. I receive, I suppose, audio hallucinations too. Various parts of music that will play awfully loudly. I hear names and conversations and other unidentifiable sounds. Over the years I have learned to accept and ignore these to a degree and I have become adept in recognizing what perhaps is “real” and what just tortures me from somewhere else. I have engaged with my visions in the past verbally but it was not a pretty experience and I have found that I am much better off ignoring them and carrying on like they are not there. Some days this is easier than others. I rarely talk about this aspect of my Schizophrenia as I am often met with mockery, disbelief and criticism. I cannot stand to be misunderstood and judged in this way through ignorant eyes, ears and opinions. I surrender, once again, to silent reclusiveness and silence as it offers me relief from the pressures of this world and the attitudes of some people towards somebody like me with this condition.
Night times are mainly exposed as the most formidable for me. There is the multiple medication regimes to be upheld and recorded. I have painsomnia and hardly sleep during dark, night hours. If I do it is broken and laced with night terrors. I have regular physical symptoms – Shakes, Tremors, Erratic Heartbeats, Hot & Cold Sweats, Pain and Restless Leg Syndrome. They are just from Schizophrenia – let alone my other physical symptoms from my Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome and Diabetes (Other blog posts for other days). I despise the nights. The witching hour of 3am arrives and knows all my secrets. I shrink away in terror under blankets and pillows, mainly on the floor somewhere. I pray, no, I beg most nights that I can fall asleep before it arrives. However, it rarely happens and I am forced to confront those things that come tumbling out of my Pandora’s box after I worked so hard to place those most painful things away. I really must get that lock fixed ….