The Importance of Colors in Schizophrenia

Michael Hedrick
June 14, 2017  | Last Updated: June 14, 2017

I can remember when I was seriously sick. I got on a plane to New York and dug into Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos.” In a simple down to earth way, it told about Egyptians and the sun god Ra, and I remember thinking the woman of Middle Eastern descent next to me was evil and she was wearing the color red. When I got to New York, and then Boston, I followed colors religiously.

Often creepily through the streets I’d follow bags with blue markings until they led me to some strange place, like an Asian church or a candy store. I’d pay very close attention to blue and green signs because those were the colors of Earth and red was the color of Mars where the Martians who were controlling our government lived.


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I’d be lying if I said colors didn’t hold some sort of serious religious connotation to me. There were good colors, and there were evil colors, and in a fit of exasperation I followed evil colors through the streets of New York until they led me to a church for Jews for Jesus, where I spent a night on the curb.

The weird things is: I don’t know why colors held such meaning in my mind. It was almost like they were the one thing I could hold onto that would tell me if the things I was doing were good or bad. Mixed up in all that was the concept of auras and there being good and bad auras, which I imagined I could see.

Of course none of this was true, but that’s beside the point. I was convinced that colors held some profound spiritual meaning, and I was going to stay true to the good colors. In my ability to differentiate between good colors I found that the things I was thinking were good, and that I was able to stay grounded to the concept of good. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but suffice it to say that I was devoted to colors.

This was wholly and completely a function of my delusions. It was based in some notion I had acquired that colors held meaning. Maybe in my photography projects I internalized that notion. The thing is I was sick, and I was not seeing the world through the right lens. Colors even held meaning in the hospital when I was getting treatment: the scary guy there wore red most of the time, and the tension between us was palpable.

I didn’t know that colors and determining between the meaning of them was a delusion; I thought I had to pay attention to these things on my mission, but the truth is that it was nothing more than a delusion. Learning that was hard, and the meds did their part for helping quell these delusions.

The lesson I learned from all this though is that sometimes things you think have meaning aren’t based in any sort of reality. Sometimes the things you believe are happening to you aren’t actually happening to you, and that has given me a healthy dose of skepticism through which I see the world. I’m thankful for that, and that’s one of the many things you learn when you live with schizophrenia.


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