For the past year, I’ve been talking about various symptoms of schizophrenia and I’ve discussed everything from paranoia to delusions to seeing and hearing things. There are a few facets of living with schizophrenia that don’t exactly qualify as symptoms but I feel very keenly in my day to day routine of living with the illness.
One of these not so symptomatic symptoms is the fear of judgment I feel from people and surrounding society. This may well just be classified as paranoia, but it’s important to talk about everything that goes into life with schizophrenia. Fear of judgment is right up there with delusions as far as I’m concerned because it’s a pretty severe detriment to living happily and serenely.
This fear of judgment can manifest itself in any number of ways or avenues in your head. You could fear that people think you’re crazy and that they know it just by looking at you. Or you could think that other people are judging the way you walk or talk or move and coming to some conclusion about you that is incriminatory.
I’ve always worried that people thought I was soft. I realize that in today’s modern society being soft is perfectly ok, but somewhere deep inside me I worry that I’m going to be taken advantage of or made fun of. I can remember a night out with one of my friends; we went to a brewery’s tasting room and we were sitting at the bar. I was nervous as I usually am when out in public, and a guy down at the end of the bar was looking in my direction and laughing to his girlfriend. I may have totally misread the situation, but you can probably imagine where my mind went for the next few hours, all but ruining an otherwise relaxing night for me.
I don’t know why I have such fear of being made fun of; maybe it stems from an incident of psychological trauma, but I do know that I feel this intense fear in charged situations, especially when I’m already primed for paranoia by being nervous and anxious.
Paranoia is like a severe form of anxiety, where inside you truly and without fail feel as though you are under attack. The attack might be psychological or it might be physical, but you know (or you’re brain has you convinced) that you are in danger in that moment. Think of it like walking in a dark alley late at night, except the dark alley is society beyond the confines of your house and late at night is all the time.
There are drugs like Zoloft that can help with anxiety, and they work but there are side effects to consider, along with drugs that can make it hard for you to fully be cogent elsewhere in your daily activities.
Living with paranoia, living with schizophrenia, is an exercise in character. It can test even your deepest held beliefs about yourself and can make you see and think things that have no basis in reality. I’ve been living with schizophrenia for 10 years now, and if there was one piece of advice I could offer anyone suffering it would this: Take your meds, go to therapy, and work on your beliefs. You’ll start to see just how prevalent your mind’s tricks are, and you’ll start to become aware and equipped to handle the paranoia, anxiety, and delusions when they come around. You’ll develop tools for being mindful of what’s happening in reality and what’s happening in your mind. It’s a long, long process toward recovery, but stability is something you can achieve if you want it.