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Why Schizophrenia Only Makes Me Paranoid in Certain Situations

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I’m so afraid of getting sick. More specifically, getting poisoned. I’m afraid of getting sick too, but the fear of being poisoned is debilitating. That’s really what schizophrenia is for me: living in fear. I live in fear of so many things, on a daily basis.

In school, when we have a mid-class break and I have to go use the restroom, I put my water bottle in my bag. Not only that, but I memorize the exact position of the water bottle in my bag so that, when I come back, I can be sure it hasn’t been moved. I’m afraid my classmates are going to poison me. There is no reason why they would. I haven’t wronged them in any way. There is no reality in which they go around poisoning people; they’re good people. But, no matter how unrealistic the notion may seem, I can’t shake it. So, every Wednesday night around 7:30, I hide my water bottle in my bag and very carefully examine it when returning from the restroom.

I remember someone telling me their friend had been poisoned with LSD once. Someone stuck a tab of acid on their bald head and the poor guy hallucinated for 12 hours. When I heard this, I was so terrified, I wore a hoodie for months. When I go to coffee shops, I always pick a table in the corner so I can be up against the wall — no one behind me to do something like that.

Earlier this week, I bought one of those pre-made salads from the grocery store. It wasn’t sealed properly. I took a couple of bites, and got paranoid about it, thinking someone had poisoned all the salads. I threw most of it away and skipped lunch. The thought I was going to start seeing things or have terrible abdominal pain any minute plagued me for hours. Nothing happened, of course. No one had poisoned the salads. There was just something wrong with the packaging.

If I’m at a bar and look away from my drink for just a second, I can’t drink it.

My doctor and I have deduced I’m only paranoid like this in certain situations. For example, I can leave my water bottle on my desk at work all day and not worry about it. I guess this is because I trust the people I work with. So, I’m thinking I won’t have to worry about dinner with my family, because I trust my family would not do anything to harm me. But I do think about people who are not as fortunate as me, who do not have a trusting environment like I do, and might have to worry about that. I want them to know that I know how they feel — that it’s a terrifying feeling. I want them to know I’m sorry they have to go through that. I know how it feels to not be able to trust your own mind to be realistic in real-world situations, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Paranoia, or living in fear, is a part of schizophrenia that many with this disorder have to live with every day. It’s discomforting, always wondering if there is someone out there who is trying to harm you. The best we can do is limit our fear with coping mechanisms, like putting your water bottle in your bag or only picking salads at the grocery store that are properly sealed. Creating awareness of what we have to deal with is important, so that other people can understand and empathize with the reasons we do the things we do. Sometimes, it helps to simply know there are people out there who get it.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Originally published: March 9, 2019
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