No, that title is NOT a euphemism for my paranoid OCD! I really do have a friend who has been officially diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia since she was 28 and has agreed to do an interview!
So Sunday night, right, I came online to look up a word for a writers’ group submission I was reading aaaaand ended up writing an entire interview with a for realz one-of-the-best-people-I-know. She has read this post through and removed all incriminating evidence of anything untoward. [Never think that I would dare go back through and put everything she removed in againmwhahahhhaahaha! Kidding 😛 Onward!]
So let’s begin: I guess one of the things people think of first when they think of schizophrenia is people hearing voices.
Right, that’s very true, but the problem is that people think the voices are what we want to hear. When we hear voices telling us to do something bad, we fight off those voices with everything in us.
Does this mean you sometimes DO hear voices, or if you DID hear them, then you’d fight them off?
Yes, but it doesn’t happen to me often. One year in January or February, there were inner voices ordering me to sabotage and end all my friendships. I fought it off with everything in me and feel that I wouldn’t have any of the friends I have today if I’d obeyed the voices.
Was this after you knew me?
I don’t think so. I think it was 2016 or 2017, and I met you in summer of 2017. I was friends with this one lady, as I recall, and if I’d ended all those relationships, she wouldn’t have led me to the guy who led me to you.
Oof, that was a near miss!
And I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s not like hearing in the auditory sense. It’s more like hearing…
It’s more like hearing shrieking in your thoughts that you can’t shut up. But it’s very intense. I had to adjust my meds. I was taking an ineffective antidepressant that year.
But it doesn’t happen often?
No, it almost never happens, especially while on my current meds!! It’s all good here on my current drug regime!!
So when did you know / realize / suspect you were schizphrenic?
I was diagnosed in 2005, and it came as a shock. I see signs in retrospect, but it took that long to really make me aware of it!! Years prior to being diagnosed, I had a job that lasted one day. I was terrified by the white walls of the office, which made me feel as if I had culture shock and was in a foreign land that I couldn’t escape.
Wow, this sounds freaky.
It was. Yeah, I couldn’t go back.
What other signs were there?
My natural sleep schedule has always been majorly off!! And there’s a connection between messed-up sleep schedules and schizophrenia. And the paranoia. It came on quickly and cemented it. Prior, I wasn’t paranoid in any way that I know of.
What were you paranoid about?
When I became paranoid in 2005, I was convinced that Evil Spirits were plotting to kill my dad, kill my dog, and burn my face off. But there’s always been a sense of surreality. The surreality prior to 2005 involved the way I saw things around me. As a child I would say, “Mommy, Mommy, make those mean people quit looking at me,” but no one was looking at me!
Did you know no one was looking at you?
No, it’s how my mom tells the story!!
So how would YOU tell it?
That they were staring at me!! I always feel stared at when I leave the house!! A sublte glance is judgment.
There’s a schizophrenia drug commercial that really captures it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOzso6eWNN8
The second half of that commercial with Cynthia!! I can totally relate!
Do you feel the world is against you or people are plotting plans against you?
No, I don’t feel that people are plotting against me, but I do have constant thoughts that people are judging me in public or avoiding me or rolling their eyes at me.
Have you ever done hallucinogens, anything at all, even weed? How did you react?
I’ve never done any street drugs at all!!Probably for the best in my case! 😃 But as a child, I saw gremlins and a floating eyeball and stuff like that.]
A floating EYEBALL?
The eye! I couldn’t sleep when I was six one night, so I went and lay in the living room on the sofa, and I heard a hissing sound! It was across the room staring at me, and it started to glide toward me! I ran for it.
I felt watched and observed by the eye and in general.
You sent me an excerpt from your memoir. I hope you don’t mind me sharing an excerpt from it here. This bit:
Alone in my room one night, I watched some bugs swarming around my still-lit floor lamp, and I couldn’t handle the boredom and isolation of being the only person awake. My brother’s room was across the hallway. I heard gremlin pods hatching under his bed, and it made me afraid. It sounded like the rustling of newspapers. I wanted to protect him but was too scared.
A lot of your experiences as a child sound almost like you had the second sight and were seeing fairy things or things happening in an alternate plane / reality. Although maybe that’s just the author in me talking probably!
That would be awesome, and I love that interpretation! 😮
What about the gremlin?
My brother and I went up to the attic, and a gremlin claw rose out of a bag of toy blocks. We ran for it.
Did he see it?
Yes, he saw it too. I was five and he was three.
And I perceived things literally. Like a boy in preschool tipped his chair back and his head split open into several chunks of skull that the teachers put back together with a bandaid.
Like this this is how you saw it happen? Or you were imagining it but seeing something else?
I saw it happen that way!! 😮 And as I grew up, I figured it was my imagination!!
Were the hallucinations mostly scary or were there fun things, too?
Mostly scary, I daresay. But there was the time I entered the furniture We had a huge wardrobe with a door at the top with a mirror on it. I climbed into it and found the rainbow chute, slid down a rainbow, and entered a magical world. I did that a few times. I had access to alternate realities.
What happened there?
Fun things! Learning and education. In one place there was a woodworking shop where we were taught to build things. When I was eight, I lost that access and grieved it. The access simply disappeared because my brain developed and I lost my imagination. When you turn eight, you master concrete reasoning, and so imagination is lost. But it was more than imagination, for sure. It was real.
Wow, this is convoluted! Like this ended when I was eight, but then I have hallucinations of a different sort later… I was terrified of the Evil Spirits for over six years from 2005 through 2011. If I went down on Geodon, my then-antipsychotic, I’d be terrified after dark.
I largely had delusions of an intense nature, but hallucinations have been a minor and lesser thing. Delusions are false beliefs. The Evil Spirits stuff was very delusional. I also sensed them hovering nearby but not in a way that uses the five senses. They were nearby plotting to destroy me and make me suffer.
One misconception, I think, is that people with schizophrenia have multiple personalties, but could this be a mix-up with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder)?
Yeah, because schizophrenia literally means split mind, I think. But there can be some overlap with dissociative tendencies and schizophrenia, for sure. I’m very dissociative, but I don’t have multiple personalities to the best of my knowledge. I don’t think most schizophrenics do, because that would indeed be a different or additional diagnosis.
“I’m very dissociative” – in what way?
HA HA! I’m dissociative in the sense that I always talk to imaginary friends when I’m out running errands, and I live in my own world while I’m walking the dog, and I talk to her out loud without caring if the neighbors think I’m nuts.
I do all this, too, though! The imaginary friends – like actual ones you imagine, or you just talk to yourself?
Like people I know in real life who aren’t with me in person at the time, mostly!! 🙂
Heeeeeey, I’m not imaginary!
I guess I meant imaginary in the sense that they’re with me when they aren’t!! I often show you around the city!!
Haha, how do I react?
You’re thrilled and interested in everything I show you!!
“Oh wow, the gas station!”
“Wow, Louisville is awesome!”
I seem a lot more accepting of things there 😃
You’re a fun imaginary person to take with me places!!
I think I’d be more likely to ask if the gas station had pixy stix or however you spell that. Why am I fun?
Oh, you’re pleasant and agreeable and very funny.
At least in someone’s mind I’m agreeable and funny 😃 Anyway, we’ve gotten off-topic! What about the time you stole the free fishbowl of candy from the store and the owner chased you all the way home after you got upset because you thought they didn’t want you to take any free candy? Do you think that was spurred by your schizophrenia or just your quirky personality?
Yeah, I stole the candy from the liquidator who was hired by the hardware store to move merchandise before the store closed. He hurt my feelings, so I returned after I left and took all the candy. The owner chased me home, and I gave most of it back.
“most of it” – Only most of it?
He felt so bad for me when I explained what happened that he insisted I keep some!
He even went on to explain that the liquidator was mean because he was from New York. Not sure if I buy that, but I appreciated the support!!
Loool I can believe it – those New Yorkers, lady…😃 But that was all you, right? Not the schizophrenia
It’s hard to know!! Yeah, I take full responsibility for my actions, but I can never narrow down when the schizophrenia is acting up! It’s hard to tangle it out.
I have decided to believe the candy-thieving is just your impish elvin nature 😃 So how does paranoia manifest in your daily life?
I shy away from people to avoid being polluted by their energetic fields. If I make eye contact and have a conversation, it drains me if their energy is less than pure of heart. I often deliberately don’t make eye contact with cashiers at the store, or I’ll use the self-scan checkout for sure, because it all overwhelms me. A drugstore employee once accused me of not liking her. I tried to explain that it’s not personal, but she was still mad. I wound up yelling, “I’m schizhophrenic! I’m schizophrenic!” right within sight of the store surveillance videos, which was perfect. [Eyeroll.] Then I fled.
When I pass people on the sidewalk, I turn my body away to protect my energetic field. Sadly, this offends people.
And the time you were in the facility. Were you committed or did you want to go there or both?
Every time, I was committed due to attempting suicide by taking too many pills.
Oh, shit 🙁
Oh, don’t feel bad!! It’s all good!!
In 2006, I was working at the reading center again on a temp basis that summer. A grandmother in the waiting area gave her younger granddaughter an over-the-knee spanking, which I overheard from the cubicle and couldn’t process. I attempted suicide and told myself at the time that I was embarrassed by a faux pas I’d made. It was about ten or twelve years later when I realized, no, I attempted suicide because I overheard that. Ugh.
What moments in the facility stood out to you? Other patients, nurses, routines, the food?
Well, that visit was exceptionally boring.
They made me take a journaling class where we learned how to open a journal and write in it. It was that bad.
“You can open your journal. You can write your name in it. You can write a poem or a sentence.”
I was begging and pleading to be released, promising I’d never ever OD again, so they let me out a week or so later.
But there was a camaraderie with the other patients. We understood each other. No judgment. Just understanding.
I wish this were more common in real life or among people without a mental disorder, the no judgment, I mean.
Yeah, there’s an automatic bond, like I feel your pain in being here. Let’s support each other.
I know we were discussing it once, how people don’t understand that mental illness is like something warring inside us against our natures. We don’t want to behave the way we do; our ‘inexplicable’ reactions are logical reactions to a mental attack. Anyway, was there ever anything interesting in the visits or anything you think we would find interesting?
Well, one time they showed us “American Beauty”, and in the scene where the man shoots himself in the head and dies, one of the nurses said, “Uh, should we be showing them this?” But no one answered. That still makes me laugh.
And as a teenager in the mental hospital, the nurse came up to me and said, “Hey, your mom’s on the phone. Want to talk to her?” and I was like, “Sure!” So I took the phone and the nurse walked back to the nurses station. “Hello?” I said. My mom started shrieking through the phone. The nurse turned around and gaped at me, because she could hear it. I just muttered, “Okay… okay… okay… mm-hmm… bye.” Later the nurse pulled me aside and said, “We were going to send you home tomorrow, but if you want… we can say you’re still troubled and keep you here another week.” Wink-wink. I was all over that.
Lol so you stayed another week?
I sure did! And my mom never knew why! 😮
What was the institution like – in films they’re sterile with sinister personnel and leather straps and lock-ins at night and violent break-outs at meal times.
Yeah, that’s unrealistic, but such places might exist for people who need higher levels of care? I’m not sure! I can’t imagine such places, though. The nurses take anything you can hurt yourself with and do bed checks while you sleep, but it’s a lot like being trapped in a posh hotel for a week.
And the food is way too good! No breakouts then!
Was there a routine? What did you do all day?
Mealtimes, activities, meetings with social workers and psych docs, family visits, arts and crafts, and that sort of thing.
Group therapy, indifidual therapy.Longer term treatment plan discussions.Television. Books. And we always wore regular clothing.
I never conspired for mischief, either! Any problems were less planned out and more spontaneous, like sudden tantrums and loss of control.
You had tantrums, you mean? Or others?
Usually the others!! I never had any tantrums except the one time I was in the mental hospital at fifteen.
It was about as understated as a tantrum could be. I threw something against a wall. that was all.
Hey, I once threw grapes across the room because my (now ex) husband left them on the counter – I’m not gonna judge 😀 Anyway, we’ve been very chatty, so better wrap this up! Is there anything else you want to add?
I’m grateful for my wonderful psych doc, Dr. Phlegm, and I love having a weird and interesting life, and I’m grateful for federal disability. And I’m grateful for my best friend, Sonya, who’s a fun imaginary driving companion.
I hope she makes you stop at stop signs 😛
Oh, she’d be scandalized if I were to run one! 😃 Thanks for interviewing me! This has been so much fun!!
Thank you, Meggerzzzz!
Thanks for reading, all! If you want to follow more of Meg’s life, you can follow her blog here.
Also, if anyone’s curious how this post relates to my writing, it’s because I’ve been incorporating mental illness more in my books. One of my Heiress books has a character now who has one, and in my crazy-dark epic fantasy, I try to show how it feels having a mental illness (bipolar) through a character under a total mind-f*ck. And I’m working on a dystopian where the main character has PTSD, and there, I’m trying to convey that until our society has a system that nurtures our mental health, reduces our stress and exposure to violence, and keeps those who abuse power from getting into high positions, we will always be stuck in a hellish world.
And on that depressing note… I guess I should come up with something happier 🙂
Alright, here you go, my villainous queen from Heiress of Rebellion being proud of her daughter (who she totally hates lol):
Succumbing to liquor! I am almost proud at how she guzzled it.
Proud, that is, as one would be proud of a slug one is watching on a mind-numbingly tedious day as it slimes its way across a well-used path. It entertains one for a time, wondering if said slug will be smashed by stomping heels, its entrails reduced to a shiny gunk on the stone, but what one truly wants is for something more interesting to come along.
Aaand off we go 😀
And if you’re still hanging around here feeling like you want more, here’s my shamelessly copied weekly info for new Sonya addicts: feel free to join the newsletter I haven’t been writing (but intend to), join the patreon I’ve been seriously neglecting (but want to resume), or check out my books I don’t want anyone to buy (for realz cuz it’s my old writing and I’m like nooo, don’t read it…) before I unpublish even more (like I unpublished my dystopians).