March 15, 2007

Paranoia Strikes Again

Yesterday, Wednesday, I went to my adult ed class again. At first things were okay. One woman came who had wanted to buy a book from me and gave me $12 (I was only charging rock bottom prices -- what I myself must pay the company for books) and another gave me cash. Then Balam, the teacher, who was sitting next to me at the beginner's table gave us the night's task -- a little metal flower made of wire. It took a while to even learn the steps of doing it at all, let alone correctly and I was so enrapt in trying to do it right that my leg started beating a rhythm, crossed over the other leg, my foot occasionally hitting the table leg in the process. For some reason, I looked down after a while to check this out and realized my foot was actually tapping against Balam's boot. Oops, sorry, and I shifted immediately so that my foot was no longer contacting his or in the position to have to. Soon, Balam got up to check on the others at the intermediate table, who were doing a much harder assignment...In fact, I think they were advanced not intermediate, but that's beside the point.

At any rate, at that instant, my paranoia wholly unbeknownst to me as such, kicked in full force. I felt completely stricken, and in agony and terror, thinking he wanted to get rid of me somehow, by any means necessary, that I was evil and disgusting to him (and by extension to everyone) and that I should be X'd out of the world because I'd already destroyed one other person I would probably do it to others. My heart beat in my ears and the blood pounded in my brain. What is he going to do? How do I escape? Why in god's name did I ever come?! Consciousness was a diamond laser focused on me, as if the whole world’s headlights were focused into a single beam on me, the deer...It is so hard to describe, this awful feeling, like you’re inside a bell that has just been struck and you are vibrating with it and the sound is going through you and is inside you and around you and you can’t tell the difference between you and the bell, it’s that scary. I can't emphasize enough how intense these feelings were, how awful, how devastating -- I'd just come to learn jewelry making and now I'd have to leave because it had turned into this!

But I couldn't get up. I simply couldn't get up and leave, because that would make me too conspicuous and that was against the Rules. No, I had to stay mum and inconspicuous and give NO sign of knowing what I knew and get through class in silence again, no talking, nothing. No hurting No One! So I was still there when to my surprise Balam returned and sat down again next to me. Okay...this time I would be good. No more foot tapping, I would do nothing that could even in a year be construed as wrong. I'd get through the night and then not return again.

But then he started talking about things, jewelry making and other casual things and he didn't seem still upset or destroyed or say anything overtly threatening, and he was still sitting next to me when he could so easily have sat down maybe I hadn't destroyed him or or mortally offended him after all, or maybe he had decided not to go after me despite it all. But even that didn't hold up, for after I was the only one to want to work with the little bits of sterling silver eyepins he had brought with him, he gave me a little project to do on my own...a silly little thing, just a way to make dangly earrings out of bits of abalone shells cut in 1/8th by inch-long sections and drilled at the top. But he wouldn't show me how to do it, only said to copy the example he gave me. I did. But in the end I did it another way, which didn't work out but which I wanted to try, because I knew the other way would work but would leave the wire all crumbled-looking and I thought my way might be neater. Alas, not so, it just wasn't workable...

THe point being that I went from totally paranoid-scared to paranoid-but-relieved within the space of a 2-hour class but only began to have insight into the interactions, and my reactions as paranoid, some five hours later when I started thinking about it in my journal. Only then was I not paranoid any longer because I realized that I did not have that much power - over Balam, over the class, over anyone, ever. Well, actually, I won't go that far, but yesterday, in class, yes, I think I probably didn't cause a huge upset, not the way I thought I did. No, certainly not the way I thought I did. For the rest of the class there was NO UPSET AT ALL; for me, all hell broke loose.

Actually, I think I do have that much power over Balam. I think I have WAY too much power over the whole class. I think I have to restrain myself in that class or all hell will indeed break loose before it ends the first week of April. I think I'm way too much for that class to handle, frankly. And I doubt that they could. So while I told them about my book -- I had mentioned that I was a writer and of course they asked, What do you write? and what could I say to that but: a book...and the response as usual was "What's the title?" Uh oh...You see what I mean? So they already know something about me, though probably most of them didn't hear what I said, or weren'[t listening, or don't even know what a memoir is or that I am one of the twins I wrote about. Anyhow, while I told them about the book, and I think a couple got the point,ie that I have schizophrenia, mostly there was little reaction. Few seemed particularly interested in learning more, except for the two who bought books and one who had at least read the review; though she didn't buy the book, I think she wanted to get it from the library.

So what do I do with all this? Just tuck it away I guess. Since it doesn't seem to teach me not to FEEL this way, all I can hope for is to NOT over-react in any permanent way (like quitting a class or job, or burning myself) until I can figure out a situation's verity later on. Ditto for voices' commands, should there be any. If I'd known how to wait, that I could wait, before I set my leg on fire or burned my forehead and then maybe not have to do it because I'd reason my way out of a felt urgency, just think of all the disfiguring scars that could have been avoided. It's not so much that I can reason my way out of paranoia either, I think, since in some sense the paranoia has to drop off a lot before I can begin to reinterpret it, so much as that...Hmmm, what then? Well, I was still paranoid in class when Balam stopped hating me and wanting to rid the class of me; I just was in a better place paranoia-wise (better to be a happy paranoid than a miserable wretched one). It was only at home, alone, away from people and noise and tension and stimulation, without any interference from anyone else, that I could begin to think more clearly and less frantically, less purely reactively to understand that he'd never hated me or threatened me from the beginning. I didn't do anything so terrible. It had never happened, and yet paranoia had been literally and instantaeously triggered by his leaving the beginners table just as surely as the paranoia I described during my hospital stay with the tech who I accused of reading Hustler (which turned out to be nothing but People magazine) started with his responding to me Hello with an unfriendly grunt. So Balam's getting up and leaving the table right after I kicked his boot, and was horrified to find myself doing, triggered an immediate paranoid reaction on my part of "I'm evil, I'm disgusting, he hates me and wants to get rid of me!" I may not be able to tell you anyone's name or what anyone looks like, but nevertheless I was monitoring everything that was important to me. My eyes and ears were open to the cues that I needed to be on the lookout for, the signs I was senstive to: changes in tone of voice, in position, of posture, of place.

But does that really mean he can't leave our table without threatening me? No, not at all. He left several other times without a problem, and always has during the other classes. I dunno what happened last night, what it was about yesterday that made that one particular episode different from all the many others. Perhaps I can't because it was all in my head, literally, in my brain and nothing real to point to. When he left the table the second and third times I felt no threat, perhaps because he had reassured me by his calm talking and no anger, that I was not the OTAM (the ogre that ate Manhattan) again. So I even trusted enough that I wasn't the one CAUSING people to leave when they did, early, or not to come at all, when they didn't. At least yesterday night I believed that...We'll see how long that much lasts.

Sorry for the absence but I am working hard on the poetry manuscript. I hope to have it done by the end of next week if I am lucky. I do NOT want to be Fed-Exing it in on the 2nd to last day! BD

Posted by pamwagg at March 15, 2007 07:34 PM


I don't suffer from any paranoia at school anymore, it's just that my glasses need to be replaced. That is, at the moment, my only hurdle, and I am going to make an appointment shortly.

I found it interesting that you said consciousness was a diamond laser, because there are new theories of consciousness that view the brain as made up of a bunch of tiny lasers shooting energy at other microtubules.

I personally think that consciousness is a feedback mechanism related to the facial muscles including the muscles of the eye, but there is also a part that's internal to the brain.

Some things I have noticed about the voices:

On risperdal it takes lots of energy to focus the voices into something intelligible (so that the people reading my mind (perhaps by playing white noise and deducing the hysteretic properties of the brain's language networks?) can hear it), but I can do it by tensing up my facial muscles. That's why I think consciousness relates so much to the facial muscles.

Sometimes they say mean things to me, and other times they are nice. Though, most of the time they are pretty nice to me.

Posted by: Michael S. at March 29, 2007 05:33 PM

Dear Pam,

I haven't been suffering from paranoia this week but I have had a few delusional thoughts which I've been trying to resist. I talked with my therapist about it yesterday and mentioned that I thought it was like a kind of addiction. This shouldn't be a new concept for me but it is, this idea that there are some ideas (which lead to obsessional thinking) that I have to just avoid, triggers. But it's not easy, I keep wanting to indulge myself even just a little when I know I shouldn't.

I respect you for trying to identify and get a better perspective on your paranoia. I think you've been doing great for a long time now. Just being able to identify a problem, even in retrospect, is really a gift of your underlying sanity. As my Nana used to say, you're "one smart cookie".

I'm excited about you sending out your manuscript. I am just waiting for the day when I can buy a book of your poetry. I know the day will come.

Also, I want to apologize for not responding to your post about why you don't believe you suffer from anorexia. I'm afraid I crossed the line writing about you in my blog. I do worry about you but I shouldn't make so many assumptions. So please forgive me.

Posted by: Kate K. at March 16, 2007 06:07 PM

Good for you, Pam! You really are so impressive.

Posted by: Elizabeth Grace at March 15, 2007 11:14 PM

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