Among the delusions that seem to be most prevalent when you’re living with schizophrenia, namely that you are more important than you actually are, that you can see and hear things that aren’t there, and that you are telepathic, there is one symptom that has the potential to be debilitating to any sense of peace, which is probably sorely needed. That delusion is the idea that there are hidden microphones and cameras in your home, at work, and anywhere you spend your time. It’s scary to think that you are being recorded by some unknown authority greater than yourself, and it can cause some severe paranoia and skewed behavior.
I can remember being alone in my apartment shortly before my first major psychotic break. The television was on C-Span, and I was emoting wildly and loudly as I watched the members of Congress react to the things I was saying. Strewn across my coffee table were the remnants of household objects that I had taken apart because I thought that there were microphones and cameras. This notion is a facet of a greater delusion that secret messages exist and that you have to be keen to meaning and context in order to read between the lines. I was under the impression that, though I had taken precautions not to be recorded, there were still devices somewhere in my house with a direct line to Congress and to the U.N.
You can imagine what it feels like to think that you are being recorded every minute of every day. You aren’t allowed the freedom of privacy to make mistakes or to just simply relax. You have to be on guard because you think that “They” are watching. It’s still unclear to me who “They” were, whether it was the government or aliens or any number of unseen groups. Still I knew that they had been watching me, or I felt very strongly that they were. They seemed to make reference to mistakes I had made years ago in the secret messages, and what I realize now is that I was somehow parsing all this paranoia and delusional thinking into a reality that wasn’t quite right.
The belief that you are being recorded can cause you to act a certain way, obedient. You’ll act cordial and professional to everyone you meet and even to yourself when you’re alone, but eventually the pressure to be perfect is going to get the best of you and you may lash out or do something that harms a relationship or an opportunity. You’ll reach a tipping point where, after not being able to even relax for a moment, you’ll lose control. On top of that are both the overwhelming fear that you’ll do something wrong and the intense hatred of having to be on display to whoever’s watching at the other side of the tiny camera hidden in your smoke detector.
Clearly these are delusional thoughts, and it’s pretty plain to see that this thinking is the result of mental illness, but you don’t know that when you’re in the thick of it and that not knowing what’s happening can be one of the hardest things to deal with when living with mental illness.
Almost 11 years out now and I no longer worry that I’m being watched. I’m still wary of things like social media and allowing camera access on my phone and computer, but I know that my life, overall, is far too boring and inconsequential for anyone to be watching, and I take comfort in that.