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How I Separate Delusions From Reality With Schizophrenia

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When I was 16, I was diagnosed with prodromal schizophrenia. In some ways, it was a very frightening time. I knew I could no longer trust reality as I perceived it. I began to question everything I was perceiving. What is real? What isn’t real? How do I tell the difference? As a natural progression from that questioning, I was forced to become analytical.

I’ve found the better you become at analyzing and explaining what is real, the easier it is for you to identify what isn’t real. Picture this: A virus spreading all over the globe, a United States President inciting an insurrection and images of a man wearing mittens being spammed all over the internet. The real world can be a pretty fucking bizarre place. But, when you dig deep enough, most things have a logical, fact-based explanation. Let’s say you start thinking aliens are invading Australia, for example. Then, you can’t find any verifiable, reputable sources to back up such an idea. It may be a good idea to check in on whether you may be having a delusion.

The real world is a scary place.

As you may already know from one of my previous posts, I have some undeniably bonkers ideas pop in my head. Those bonkers thoughts, however, are a drop in the bucket compared to the real things that have happened in this world that have been equally horrifying. As an example, I read a very official-looking news article that was reporting on a zombie virus spreading on the East Coast of the United States. After about an hour-long process of having a panic attack and then finally calming down, further research led me to find I was on a parody news site like The Onion.

Even more difficult to grapple with are pieces of news that can’t be explained away with parody. Things like President Obama giving the green light on the assassination of a U.S. citizen, or President Trump assassinating an Iranian general that could have led to another war in the Middle East. Both frightening cases of abuse of executive power, and very real things that are hard to ignore.

When being analytical is not enough.

With instances like the examples above, it can be hard not to go into full-on panic mode. The best you can do is say to yourself, “It’s not my problem.” The more you do it, the more it will help ease the fright. Realistically, the statement will often be true. It’s not your problem. Are you a U.S. General? No? Then it’s not your problem. Are you involved in military activity in the Middle East? No? Not your problem. Are you politician managing affairs in the Middle East? No? Say it with me! Not. My. Problem.

A version of this article was originally published on Ian Rand McKenzie.

Unsplash image by Jan Kopriva

Originally published: March 26, 2021
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