© Copyright 2010 Kurt Snyder
The previous sections of this manuscript were written over five years ago. This section is what I hope to be an update on my experiences over the last four years, and is prompted by some recent experiences I have had this past year. The following section (titled Schizophrenic thinking) is my personal analysis of schizophrenic thought patterns that I have noticed in myself. They are presented in the hope that someone else with schizophrenia will become aware of the same patterns within themselves, and thus be convinced to seek permanent treatment.
Generally, I have experienced little to no symptoms since 2001, however, over the last few recent years I have occasionally had an occurrence of minor symptoms once or twice per year, over a period of a few days or a week. Usually these would be in the form of minor paranoid thoughts that were distracting, but I was able to dismiss them without much effort. For instance, I might be driving in the car and I would wonder whether someone was following me, but the thought had very little permanence, and I would understand that it was irrational and it would evaporate within 15 or 20 seconds. These thoughts might occur to someone without schizophrenia, however, if I would have these thoughts more than once per week, it seemed to me to be a marker of schizophrenic thinking, and the irrational part of my mind was becoming stronger. When I would inform my doctor about these thoughts, he normally prescribed a slight increase in my medication. After a brief period of time on the new dosage, the thoughts would stop. This reinforced my belief that I do in fact have schizophrenia, because the medication (intended for schizophrenics) would improve my thought processes (by eliminating irrational thinking). This pattern of recurrence of symptoms and adjusting the dosage of my medication paired with subsequent diminishment of symptoms has taken place three or four times over the past four years.
For the most part, the effectiveness of the medication has been superb. For the vast majority of the time since my psychotic episodes, I have had no symptoms, except for the rare occasions I’ve just described. The occasional flare up of minor symptoms has been brought under control with adjustment of medication. On a severity scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the most severe symptoms I ever experienced, and 0 being no mental illness whatsoever, I would rate the severity of these occasional symptoms as between 10 and 15 points.
But even at that rating, the symptoms would be fleeting. I was able to recognize the truth, and then they were gone. That is, until this month.
In the past month, I have experienced symptoms on a scale of 20-30 points, with mild paranoia, temporary disorganization, strong anxiety, and permanence of a delusion, that I cannot dismiss even as I write this.
What follows next is a description of events that led to this recent revival, how I reacted to these events, and how I decided to cope with it.
When I was the most severely ill back in the spring and summer of the year 2000, I had several experiences when I was overhearing conversations of other people. Their conversations seemed to emphasize certain words that I could not ignore. It seemed as if they were accentuating these words to get my attention. The perception of these words caused some kind of anxiety to occur in me. Also, the conversations I heard somehow seemed unreal, or distorted, with the emphasis being placed on words in a strange way. The words seemed to have some kind of special significance for me alone. I didn’t believe these people were participating in a normal conversation. It was THEM. THEY were trying to unsettle me. I believed the people speaking these words were in some way carrying out a psychological attack on me. It fueled my delusions that people were following me everywhere. Until one month ago, it had been over 9 years since I’ve had any experience like that.
In the present, I am currently in school studying computer science at the University of Maryland. Often, I like to do my studying at local coffee shops or bookstores. Approximately one month ago I was studying for my classes when I became aware of some person or persons talking. I could not ignore their words. They seemed to be emphasizing certain words or phrases, like ‘Russia’, ‘France’ and maybe ‘CIA’ or ‘FBI’ and I overheard the phrase ‘They’re following me’. Other than this, I don’t even remember exactly what they were saying, but these words seemed to stand out. I tried to ignore their words and focus on my studies, but I couldn’t. My perception of their ‘conversation’ was exactly like my experiences years ago when I was severely ill. It occurred to me that this was some sort of test to see if I was sensitive to certain words or phrases. This is the delusion that I have even now. I know it is a delusion because I have no evidence to support my conclusion that this was a test. I am believing something without absolutely any proof or evidence. All I can be sure of is that I was overhearing someone talking. Well, actually, I can’t even be sure of that. Because I never looked at the people who were talking. I was trying concentrate on my studies, and trying at the same time to suppress my emotional reaction to these words. Later, I would wonder whether in fact I was hearing voices. I started to question whether what I heard was real.
In any case, I was reacting negatively to what I was hearing, whether real or not.
Over the past 9 years, there have been times when I have overheard hearing people mention the FBI or CIA, Russia, etc. I even have a friend who works with the FBI, and have seen him several times, but he doesn’t make me paranoid. Why should I have this reaction to these words now?
I couldn’t help thinking that this was a test. THEY were following me again. I started having all the delusional thoughts I had years ago. THEY were tapping my phone, THEY were monitoring my cell phone calls, THEY put a microphone in my car. THEY were following me everywhere. In the next week, I had more than 40 distinct delusional thoughts. However, I was able to dismiss all of them, except the first. (That I was being tested).
Again, I know this is a delusion because I have absolutely no evidence to conclude that. My conclusion is based solely on intuition, which is often wrong.
I started thinking, ‘Why would they come back after ten years?” I have no good reason to answer this.
Even though I was able to contain my initial delusion and keep it from expanding, I started to experience other symptoms which I have not had for years. I started to become suspicious of people I saw at random. I also became indecisive and disorganized. During a conversation with a friend, I started to become acutely aware of certain gestures she was making, gestures which normally should be ignored. The gestures seemed to have some special meaning. I realized at the time that this was abnormal. My perceptual filter was malfunctioning.
Approximately one month after this, I was at the bookstore cafe again, trying to study, and again I heard two people talking nearby, I believe a man and a woman. This time the conversation seemed relatively normal, although I was trying my best NOT to listen. I heard the words ‘CIA’ and ‘FBI’. It seemed the man was talking about his job as an investigator, or asking questions an investigator would ask. I really didn’t pay attention. The rest of the conversation escapes me now, but I could not ignore the words ‘CIA’ and ‘FBI’. The two people certainly weren’t saying anything directly related to me, nor was it threatening. Nor were they emphasizing any particular words. But my reaction was immediate anxiety. The more I tried to suppress it, the more anxious I became. Eventually, the two people left, but the effect on me was continued anxiety. A short while later, I became self-conscious, something I count as part of the paranoid spectrum of ideation and emotion. Twenty minutes after that, I was becoming indecisive and disorganized.
Why would these conversations bother me? I couldn’t simply decide that they didn’t bother me. I couldn’t suppress the anxiety. It was irrational. Clearly, something in my subconscious was being affected and I didn’t entirely understand what was going on in my own mind. The emotions weren’t a result of a conscious pattern of thought. It was instinctual. Push the right button and automatically get a reaction.
I realized that in general I was experiencing schizophrenic symptoms. I called my doctor, and he increased my medication by 40%. The symptoms which had seemed to have been suppressed for ten years are just lingering under the surface.
In all honesty, I hope it happens again. That is, overhearing a conversation about the FBI or CIA. I hope that my reaction will be normal…to simply ignore it, or at least to maintain a calm disposition. It will be interesting to see if the medication is working. I would certainly like to feel and believe that I am free of any mental disease, and that it is under permanent control.
My hope is to someday say with confidence that I have a mental illness but I am no longer mentally ill. But that may not be 100% attainable. Although my life has been nearly symptom free for most of the past nine years, these minor occurrences of illness may represent a fact of life. Perhaps we are never completely free of our demons. I need to be vigilant in identifying possible symptoms so that they can be managed effectively. I view these recent occurrences in the same way that I view someone being treated for diabetes. Although the disease might be managed well, every few years there may be a flair-up, or a slip-up. The important thing is to recognize the symptoms early so they don’t get worse. If all the symptoms can’t be entirely avoided, then you need to develop strategies to keep them from worsening.
Based on my recent experiences, someone might say to me “Don’t go to the bookstore Cafe! “. But I can’t not do that. I like going to the bookstore cafe. I’m not going to hide in fear of the universe, because it is not the universe that is the problem, it is me. I have to overcome my own minor limitations. I believe that is achievable with consistent effort.
The next section is about schizophrenic thought patterns, or at least the dysfunctional thought patterns I have noticed in myself.
© Copyright 2010 Kurt Snyder