Feeling Mad: Part 1

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by Ben Huot


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Having Schizophrenia feels very different, depending on whether or not you are on medication. If you are on the medication, people can respond very differently to it, as well. I have always stayed on my medication, because, for all its various downsides, it ultimately reduces my pain more than it causes pain.

I know a person, who I lived with, for something like 9 months, in a mental health group home, with about 5 other mentally ill people. I met him many years later and his personality is opposite. He was very quiet, withdrawn, and easily stressed out, on his medicine. Seeing him on drugs on the streets, with no medicine, he was talking faster than a politician on cable news, but much more animated.

I was only off my medication, before I had my first paranoid episode or psychotic break, when I was first diagnosed. Then I had a huge amount of energy, as I was afraid all the time. I talked so fast doctors thought I was on drugs and I could not sleep very well.

I realized later that I did have very paranoid ideas, though, at the time, they seemed like what was actually happening to me. Without the medicine, I could not distinguish fantasy from reality. The reality of what happened in my mind was so intense, that I still believe there must have been some truth, as to what I thought was happening to me, at that time.

In the hospital, when I first was prescribed and took my first antipsychotics, I have only fragmented memories. I had to fight, to stay awake, to get anything done, for at least a decade. There are a lot of other more unusual side effects that anti-psychotics can cause too.

On one antipsychotic, I released some sort of scent, that attracted insects and I got severe depression about an hour, after taking it. When I went on bipolar medication, for a few months, the only effect I felt was that I kept losing coordination, so that I kept poking my fingers into my eyes. Recently, one antipsychotic caused me to always feel that I needed to go to the bathroom, but I usually couldn’t pee.

My experiences with hearing voices is all over the place. I have heard things as simple as repeated sounds to entire realistic voices. I have even recently hallucinated a smell one time.

Paranoia is not like a phobia, which you can overcome. Paranoia is also not tied to one factor that you can desensitize yourself to. This is because paranoia is a general fear of the future and the exact trigger can and does change over time. Technically, paranoia is described as a type of delusion, where you think you are being stalked, by a person or spirit.

I often get physical pain, in various parts of my body, that are intensified by increased stress levels. I also get physical pain, due to depression, as well, in my intestines and head. Yes, Schizophrenia causes depression as well.

For a long period of time, maybe 2 years, when my antipsychotic was upped, I was more depressed and when my antidepressant was upped, I was more paranoid. I had both severe depression and paranoia at the same time. I finally resolved that it was more about depression than paranoia. The prescriber changed my antidepressant, I made some lifestyle changes, and the combination help bring me out of my difficult period.

For two decades, I tried to stay busy, to distract myself from the paranoia. The side effect of this is it makes it harder, for a person to sleep, with this strategy.

To deal with this situation, the VA, who I see for my care, has decided to train us all in mindfulness meditation. All the techniques are specifically Buddhist, but they claim it is not belief system specific. I figured out how to meditate, but it takes so much energy, that I end up stressing myself out doing it.