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What Paranoia Is Like With Bipolar Disorder

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Due to having bipolar disorder, there are some “normal” things I can’t do without jeopardizing my stability. Some of those things are more well known, such as how I can’t stay up all night without risking mania. Some of them, on the other hand, are things I bury because they bring up symptoms I prefer not to talk about. For example, I can’t listen to conspiracy theories without risking full-blown paranoia.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Overall, I’m pretty open about my mental illness, but paranoia is something I’ll always hesitate to talk about. Not because I’m ashamed, but because it’s surreal. When I’m stable, it’s beyond surreal to remember how far-off my mind can go when I’m not on the right meds or following my treatment regimen. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine I can become so unstable that I think these things are real.

And to be clear, I’m anxious about some of these things constantly — to an extent, it never goes away. For example, when I hear sirens off in the distance, for a split-second I always wonder if they’re coming for me. But when I’m paranoid, I genuinely latch onto that fear and obsess over it. Suddenly, when I hear sirens, it’s not mild anxiety. Instead, I’m terrified. I hear sirens, and I instantly think the government might’ve realized that I caught onto their “scheme” and they’re coming to arrest me because I know too much.

“What’s their scheme?” you ask? Let me tell you.

Sometimes, it’s that I’m a test subject in this life and everything around me is scripted. My loved ones aren’t really my loved ones, and everything is like a Sims game, where I’m being mind-controlled by external forces.

Other times, it’s that there are cameras everywhere and the government is spying on me. It gets to the point where I think my dog isn’t really a dog. She’s actually a device made to spy on me, and her eyes are cameras they use to keep eyes on me at all times.

When I’m paranoid, I also believe the people around me can read my thoughts. That’s pretty terrifying in itself, so I’ll spend my time desperately trying to force thoughts out of my head, so that I can maintain my privacy. I have nothing to hide, but I also don’t want them to know that I know they can read my mind, so I spend time trying to block that out.

And then, of course there are the grandiose thoughts that come with mania, where I’m untouchable. During those times, I truly believe I’m the next Virgin Mary — which is ironic, because I’m an atheist in stability. The manic version of myself, however, becomes preoccupied by how great I am, suddenly not caring about the problems of my loved ones, because my problems are so much bigger. I’m the next Virgin Mary, after all. My future holds much greater things than anyone else’s.

As I said, paranoia is a surreal state of being. Typing this all out, I know it sounds “ridiculous,” but when it’s happening, my mind is tainted and it’s so real. Sometimes, I’m genuinely fearing for my life, hoping I’m not arrested and sent to prison. Others, I truly don’t care about anyone around me — as hard as that is too admit.

Still, the problem with paranoia is that it’s sometimes really hard to talk about because when it’s happening, I believe these things. I believe my life is staged or I’m a test subject of the government, and I believe I shouldn’t know that I am, which makes it hard to trust anyone — including my doctor. In fact, paranoia is so hard to talk about, that usually I don’t. I’ll simply state my other symptoms and leave that one out, because I don’t want people to call me “crazy” when (in the moment) I know I’m right about these schemes.

However, even with that being said, I (hypocritically) don’t think people talk about paranoia enough. It still seems to be a taboo subject, which makes it extra hard for me to vocalize. Because I know I’ll sound ridiculous if I tell anyone my paranoid thoughts, even when they’re happening. That’s why I don’t.

If I’m being honest, the stigma also makes writing this in a stable mindset hard, because I know I’ll probably sound “crazy” to a lot of people who haven’t experienced it. It’s why I don’t really talk about these times with even my closest family and friends. Because I get it. It’s pretty unbelievable to think my mind can get so twisted. Yet, it still does.

But I’m not “crazy.” I might sound it as you read this article, and even feel it sometimes, but I know deep down that I’m not. I simply have a mental illness, which unfortunately includes some pretty “crazy” thoughts sometimes. Paranoia is simply another part of my disorder.

I wish more people would talk about that, though, because I promise it’s more common than you might think. And to those who struggle with this, just know that you aren’t alone. Even if you might feel it.

Getty image via Grandfailure.

Originally published: December 19, 2019
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