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 that their friend had been poisoned with LSD once. Someone stuck a tab of acid on their bald head and the poor guy hallucinated for twelve hours. When I heard this, I was so terrified that I wore a hoodie for months. When I go to coffee shops I always pick a table in the corner so that 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 bites, and then got paranoid about it, thinking someone had poisoned all the salads. I threw most of it away and skipped lunch. The thought that 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 that 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 Thanksgiving, because I trust that 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 for their Thanksgiving, 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 that 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 people with this disorder have to live with every day. It’s a very discomforting feeling, 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 other people can understand and empathize with the reasons we do the things we do. Sometimes it helps to simply know that there are people out there that get it.