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The Power of Delusion When You Have Schizophrenia

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Back in the Army when I was in the depths of undiagnosed schizophrenia, I wrote long letters asking my friends and family if they could see and feel what I was experiencing while stationed in the Mojave desert. I thought if I could persuade them to stare at a TV or computer screen and fixate on it, then they would be able to hear my voice, and I could hear theirs.

I tried to write everything that went through my mixed up mind into the letters I sent to my friends and family. For example, my brother was a cook at this restaurant at the time. In my mind, I thought I could see him driving and showing up to work. In the letters I might ask, “Could you feel my presence,” or “Do you remember seeing me?”

I also thought if people made eye contact with me, they could instantly mentally connect with me, and we could talk to each other without having to look at each other face to face. I could explain to them through our telepathy what was going on around me, and I thought it was possible for them to hear the same voices I was hearing inside my head.

Not everyone liked hearing the voices inside my head. I thought that one of my friends started sobbing when she was driving home because of all the voices she was hearing. I did my best to tell her it was going to be OK. I remember telling my aunt who I thought was hearing my voices that she could block some out if she just concentrated on her work or exercised.

The voices in my head are often family, friends or people I see around me. Since my delusions were based on real people, I had a difficult time accepting that it was a delusion, because the delusion involved people I actually knew. They were real….I knew them….and why wouldn’t they be talking to me?

I still see visions in my head of people I know even though I am now in recovery. I might be listening to some music and I see my dad working at his desk, tapping his foot. I might be at the grocery store and I forget to buy something on my list.  I always think it’s my ex-girlfriend trying to confuse me.  Sometimes when I’m cooking, in my mind, an old man appears who is trying to make me undercook the chicken, so I would get e-coli or some other illness.

Often these are recurring delusions that involve my life many years ago and revolve around an ex-girlfriend who I have not seen in over 20 years. I think that either she or some of her friends are creating problems for me. When I can’t find something, my head immediately goes to blaming them for breaking into my apartment and stealing something as insignificant as a cover that goes over my disposable razor. It takes me a minute to think, why on earth would someone want to steal that.

Another delusion I have is thinking that my ex-girlfriend can influence my thinking and is stealing my thoughts, or she makes me forget what I’m thinking in mid-thought. Sometimes that does make me so angry that I can’t remember what I was thinking. I try not to give this delusion power over my thoughts.

I have even thought my ex-girlfriend and her friends were trying to communicate with me through vanity license plates. Why would anybody want to go to the DMV to communicate with an ex-boyfriend? Is that really worth a trip to the DMV?

Because of my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, random thoughts pop into my head. One of the ways I’ve learned to cope with delusions such as the ones I have described is through ignoring and blocking them out. Those thoughts can make me paranoid or in a split second I might think a delusion is true. My challenge is not to give validity to those delusions, but to think through them in a logical manner. However, I will be honest and say that sometimes I have to call my parents to discuss a delusion with them to get clarification. They have learned to help me by asking me questions about examining the evidence around me for clues as to whether or not a delusion is true.

Schizophrenia can be an annoying little fly, darting in and out, around my head, annoying me, even though I am trying to ignore it. Most of the time I know the delusion is not really happening, but the thoughts are still there, and they can seem very real to me. There have been times when the delusions became too much for me to handle on my own, so I discuss them with my doctor, and he has made  changes in my medication. I am glad I can be honest with my doctor. Delusions can be frightening, but talking about them with my support team can take away some of the fear and their power over me.

Getty image by Punnarong

Originally published: March 29, 2021
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