Schizophrenia can be a strange thing. It can leave you thinking things are happening that have no basis in reality, and it can play tricks on your mind that makes you think things are happening that really aren’t.
This delusional thinking is prevalent in nearly every facet of life, but there are few areas where it’s as pronounced as it is in friendships.
I only have a few friends, but in all honesty I think a few is really all you need.
My best friend is a girl named Brianna who has a way of looking at the world that is, at once, both confounding and refreshing. I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone else like her.
The thing is, there are times when we’ll be hanging out when my paranoia and delusions start to get the best of me. This can manifest in any number of ways, from the worry that people think we’re a couple to the worry that people can hear the sometimes crazy stuff that we say to each other to make each other laugh.
I can remember a particular instance just last week. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but she made me laugh so hard I could barely stand it. At that moment in the throes of laughter a man pulled up on his motorcycle, and I immediately started to worry that he thought we were weird because we were laughing so hard.
Another instance involved her striking up a conversation with a homeless man who had very clearly been drinking too much even though it was only nine in the morning. I tried to act calm and confident, but inside I was freaking out about the prospect that this guy thought I was being either dismissive or weak.
I don’t know why these thoughts creep up, but they do.
The cool thing though is that in the midst of the paranoia I feel when I hang out with her, I also feel a sense of security knowing I have someone there that has my back.
Brianna and I have been friends for nearly ten years, ever since she struck up a conversation with me at a coffee shop that has long since closed down.
There are periods I won’t hear from her too, either because of work or the fact that she’s in a new relationship. I’ll start to think that she doesn’t like me anymore and we’ll both forget to text or call each other and the notion will appear in my head that she hates me, and it will spiral and I’ll call her ugly names to myself, but then she’ll make time for me and we’ll pick up right where we left off.
I value our friendship because it’s hard for me to make friends. The illness manifests strangely in that regard as well because new friendships are tenuously similar to relationships, and until that distinction is made, with both males and females, it can feel extremely weird.
I know that can be a weird period for anybody, but the distinguishing factor between normal behavior and delusional thinking comes when you rethink every tiny word you say the moment after you say it and try to determine how it sounded and how it portrayed you. You’ll wonder if there’s some hidden meaning in the words that they’re saying or if you’re performing correctly as a human being with eye contact and body language and annunciation and everything. You wonder if the other person thinks evil things about you and whether or not they’ll make fun of you even though the reality is that they probably won’t. Sometimes you’ll lose yourself in a tailspin of these thought in the midst of a conversation, and you’ll be so distracted that you lose focus on the things that are being said.
If you stick it out long enough though, and if the other person keeps coming back, eventually there’ll be a foundation of trust.
Simply put, friendships are a strange beast, and building new ones is incredibly difficult for anyone, mental illness or not. That’s why I’m thankful for Brianna and my other friends who have been with me through the long haul.
Eventually you’ll realize that some people can be trusted, and those people are the ones you should keep close by.