August 29, 2007

Paranoia strikes again...and again

I dunno what to do. This paranoia thing, and the fight or flight response, the flight reaction in public but, and worse, the fight reaction in more private settings, is happening more and more. so it seems. Almost constantly in fact. Coupled with my deficient memory, it makes for some literal misunderstandings on my part with unfortunate consequences for Karen.

Case in point, this afternoon I had a very loud and nearly public fight with her (out in the empty hallway) which was entirely my fault from start to finish.

She wanted her library DVD’s, which I had, and suddenly they were nowhere to be found. In a panic, I told her so by intercom, but I “knew” exactly what had happened to them: Karen had let herself in with her key when I stepped out for ten minutes, had taken them and hidden them in her apartment. Now she planned to call me and say that she had paid the $75 each that the library charges -- but of course she had done no such thing --and expected me to pay her back. Quick easy cash. Well, I had her all figured out and No way, Jose´.

When she actually came to the door, it was locked against her, rather than open as it usually is. “Where were you and what were you doing?” I yelled without opening.

“I was in my apartment, calling the library --” Aha! I was right, I thought. Just wait till she says she paid for them...” to see if the DVDs had been returned, since you said they weren’t in your apartment.”

“Why would they be returned?!” I cracked the door, and saw Karen and Gary standing there, Karen with the white plastic bag of the DVDs I had been looking for. I was so astonished I opened the door all the way. “Why, you have them! I knew it. You had them all along, you came into my apartment and took them! You were just gas-lighting me!”

“Not these DVDs, the ones for Joe, the other five. I want the other five.” Karen stood inside my apartment now, and I had moved backwards, but I was furious at what I saw as deception and commanded her to get out at once. “I want the DVDs,” she reiterated.

“Get out of my apartment.” I spoke with cold ,steel-edged fury but I was trembling with fear lest she push the issue and not do as I demanded. “I will get you your DVDs but I want you out of my apartment." Finally she stepped back and I closed the door but didn’t lock it, not wanting to provoke her.

I found the other DVDs and handed them to her, adding, “You had no right to enter my apartment while I was gone and take the DVDs!”

“Pam, I’m sick of being accused by you! I did no such thing. You brought me the DVDs last night. You simply don’t remember. You never remember!”

I felt a jolt, but closed the door and decisively locked it, not wanting to discuss it, but my mind was already awhirl. I brought her the DVDs last night? I don’t remember doing that but in fact she did have the bag with the DVDs inside and how else could she have gotten it, if in fact she didn’t get them by stealing them? My conviction of a plot began to dissipate as the “evidence” for it quickly unraveled...

I wrote a note of apology, which she accepted, but told me I had put her through the mill this week with suspiciousness and accusations, and though I have to admit I also do not remember this, I suspect it is true, given all the other episodes of paranoia I am aware of having experienced elsewhere.

What to do, what to do? I am uncomfortable to the max with all this, and am afraid I will misunderstand something truly important or pick a fight in public. Why is Karen especially the subject of so many absurd plots? She may be histrionic but she doesn’t deserve this level of constant suspiciousness. I’m suspicious of others too, but no one gets the full force of it the way Karen does, perhaps because she is the one who interacts with me the most, I dunno.

In any event, I will take an extra Haldol tonight, because I am so uncomfortable but I’ll have to see how I feel about it in the following days. I cannot afford to have it deaden me... I wish I knew how to lengthen the time between the feeling and the trigger-pulling but I guess that may be the shorter amygdala pathway Dr O once diagrammed for me, the pathway from the errant spark in the amygdala straight to a fight or flight bodily response and the confabulation of a reason for it, which by definition is paranoia.

It was over when it was over, and I was “only” paranoid then about why Karen wasn’t calling “to forgive me.” I caught myself at that one! I actually found 2 reasons other than “to punish me” ie because she was attending a Democratic town meeting, as she often does on Wednesday nights, or she went out to supper after visiting Joe...

It has been an exhausting week since last Wednesday. I was paranoid in the hospital, visiting Joe and at home about Karen and probably about others, though feelings and reactions I have not yet recognized as paranoid are assume to be justified and based in reality. That's the worst thing about paranoia for me: that I can't tell what is real from what is only in my mind. I recognize a real attack surely, but do not recognize a false attack, the falseness of it that is. Instead, I feel, and it is a matter of feeling, that they are equivalent, and so react equivalently, which as you may imagine, leads to big problems!

What if I had a weapon and I began to fee that someone, or Karen, were about to attack me, as I did in the elevator the other day at the hospital? You see what I am talking about. In fact, my reaction was one of flight not fight, and I feared more danger of physical attack from them than I would have caused. But if I were male and more fight prone? This is the problem of unmedicated schizophrenia and why there are so many mentally ill in jails and prisons (usually not for serious crimes, though not a few are incarcerated for assault, even murder). I do not think I personally would hurt anyone; my paranoia is not that severe. And I do take medication, which while it doesn't seem to cure it, does help it, with a prn of Haldol to add when it flares up. Most people with schizophrenia never harm anyone, only themselves, and are much more likely to be victimized. But unmedicated schizophrenia sometimes can lead to violence and I suspect when it does it is more often than not due to paranoia.

Well, it is late and I have ruminated long enough about the subject that has so concerned me recently. I am sure I will write more in days to come, but want to enjoy a few more days of blog "vacation" first. TTFN

Posted by pamwagg at August 29, 2007 10:04 PM | TrackBack


I know alot about paranoia. Mainly when I'm paranoid I start sensing a grand conspiracy in everything, be it caused by the FBI, CIA, aliens, or Satan. I know without my meds I'm liable to kill someone or myself.

Posted by: Philip B. at September 1, 2007 12:20 PM

Hi Pam,

I think your hunch is right about you being more paranoid with Karen than with other people. She's the person you probably see the most and so it's easier to imagine that she is out to get you in some way. Better to doubt yourself than to doubt others. That's part of the handicap you have to weather through with paranoia and schizophrenia. Now, when I have delusional thoughts I'm able to stop and look at myself (just as you have been doing) and take a few steps back, see the bigger picture. It's not an immediate process, it takes a few days but I get to a clearer place if I just stick with it.

I think what most people don't realize about a paranoid person's violent reaction is that the person is probably terrified, probably doesn't even want to fight and acts out as a form of self-defense. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but in your case I think it's safe to say that you are an unlikely candidate for a violent outburst. But, that is a good reason to doubt your perceptions, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you feel, just in case.

There was only one time during my active psychosis when I became borderline violent. I didn't punch someone in the face but I did push this person's face briefly. Thank God, that's all I did and I've felt very grateful that I have been a peaceful person throughout the worst of this illness. Some are not so fortunate. There's a Phil Ochs tune that goes "There but for fortune go you or I" or something like that. I think that's a profound statement and I try to keep that in mind when I hear of someone with mental illness becoming violent. It could be any of us. And that's why I admire you every time you question your illness. That's all it takes to go in a better direction, a little self awareness and a willingness to listen to others when you start to go off track.

Posted by: Kate K. at August 29, 2007 11:32 PM

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