November 29, 2016
As a person with schizophrenia, I’m more than familiar with delusional thinking. A major part of my experience living with the illness has taught me to be wary of any thought I have which doesn’t seem entirely real.
These thoughts can range from thinking that someone is talking about you to thinking that you are a god or a prophet, and, in each case, the delusions stem from both circumstance and a flawed sense of logic.
I can remember in the early stages of my illness when I thought I was an extremely important person because the media was sending me messages that only I could decipher. When I’d talk to other people about these messages they’d tell me I needed to see someone. It was clear to them that what I was experiencing was a delusion but to me it was a truth that only I understood.
Further, when you’re in the thick of it, delusions seem to compound upon themselves and lead you to conclusions which are so far outside the scope of reality that it’s easy to see why people under these delusions scare people.
A delusion is defined as an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument.
Delusions come in many forms and a person doesn’t need to have a mental illness to have them.
Sometimes they’re trivial unimportant beliefs that for one reason or another someone continues to believe; sometimes they’re far reaching and take those who are experiencing them outside the scope of reality altogether.
In each case, they’re persistent and it takes work to distinguish between a delusion or a fact of reality, especially for a person in the throes of mental illness.
My most persistent delusion, the one that keeps climbing up on my shoulder and whispering in my ear, despite my rigorous regimen of self care and medication, is that people are making fun of me.
This delusion has caused me to be hyper aware of my surroundings and note anyone in a new room as either a threat or a non-threat. When I hear laughter over my shoulder, I always look for the source and note whether or not the party has any awareness of me. Even if they don’t, sometimes I think that they do.
Many times this delusion results in panic, and, although I know my beliefs are not rooted in reality, that it’s more likely that people aren’t laughing about me, the possibility still exists that they are and that ambiguity fuels the delusion and the resulting paranoia.
The ambiguity about whether or not something is happening is the killer for me.
Chances are, people aren’t laughing about me but the possibility exists that they are.
Delusions with a hint of evidence are the hardest ones to dismiss. This is where so many people struggle with the possibility that the things they think are happening, although not proven, may in fact be happening.
The evidence that a delusion like this is rooted in truth is there, so these delusions have some basis in fact, which makes them harder to dismiss and so persist.
Bigger delusions, that have no evidence or basis in reality, thinking you’re god for example, are easier to dismiss when faced with the facts.
There are things you can do in the midst of delusions, though. Deep breaths help, talking to your friends or family about them helps, and, if you have to, you can always leave a situation and take some time to yourself to get a grasp on the reality of situation. There’s no shame in needing to get hold of yourself, and you shouldn’t let the guilt of leaving or being a burden get to you, especially in the midst of a difficult situation.
It’s easier to get used to something that may or may not be real than it is to treat it as entirely real or entirely untrue. If you can’t be sure, you can’t be sure.
Getting used to the delusions is just part and parcel of the schizophrenic experience.