Tag Archives: Paranoia

Anxiety, Withdrawal, and Schizophrenia

I’m going to start this one off with a disclaimer. I’m sorry, but it’s true, even if you don’t like it, or don’t want to hear it.

-You will never get these right. The symptoms for each of these illnesses overlap so much that you might never sort them all out correctly. That’s not what this post is about.-

Now, down to business. I’ve been spending a lot of time with people diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) with radical disorders, because of a lack of true understanding in their care teams. I’m particularly annoyed with the blanket diagnosis of a friend who is currently labelled as an “Anxious Schizophrenic” which isn’t really a thing. This person’s current care plan doesn’t even address their withdrawal from over-the-counter drug abuse. What we are really dealing with (according to his doctors) is an individual with generalized anxiety, OTC drug withdrawal, and Schizophrenia.

Symptoms that apply to persons with any of these disorders:

  • Depression
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Suspicion
  • Unjustified Fear
  • Inappropriate Reactions (laughing, crying at odd things)
  • Feeling Detached from the World
  • Chest Pain
  • Sense of Impending Doom
  • Restlessness
  • Hostility
  • Deterioration of Personal Hygiene

This is by no means a comprehensive list. It is not meant to be. It is an example of how several unrelated disorders might present themselves in a way consistent with each other. Which one of these draws the line? Which of these is the determining factor of a diagnosis? The answer: None of them.

These are symptoms that indicate a potential need for higher medical care. That’s it. You can’t look someone over, and say, “Oh, a+b+c=abc.” Nor might you be able to say, “1+2+3=6,” because that’s not how these things work.

For each of these diseases, the symptoms are not the disease. They are just the part you see. Medication, therapy, experience, support, and understanding can help these symptoms abate. But each of them is unique, and are, at their core, completely different illnesses.

Anxiety is a neuro-chemical survival skill. It has evolved to be a part of our DNA for eons. We can treat its symptoms, but the genetics can’t be erased. It is very likely to be inherited, to some degree, by your children. That’s what it is meant to do. Elevated Anxiety sucks, but can usually be treated and managed with few life-altering adjustments.

Withdrawal is a neuro-physical reaction to the lack of a substance. It is usually finite. The body adjusts over time, until it is used to the lack of the addictive substance. It is a natural consequence of over-doing it, or radically changing your life. Mild symptoms of withdrawal can be caused by substances such as red food coloring, and extreme symptoms are more common with volatile substances and narcotics.

Schizophrenia is a fairly common disorder (affecting around 1 in 100 persons), which is both very simple and terribly complex. Schizophrenia causes the person to perceive the world in a different way from the normal population. Symptoms can include perception differences, such as hallucinations, and dissociative sensations, like feeling detached from one’s self.

Everything else is open to interpretation. Trust your doctors, but advocate for yourself. Don’t rest until you understand yourself, your illness, and your symptoms, 100%. Know what that means? You will never stop trying. That’s the point. Never stop. Never give up. Every day can be better, but only if you try. So try, okay?

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Jenny’s Going to Kick Me Out

Classiest break up line ever.

Classiest break up line ever.

I think it a hundred times a day. I obsess. When she talks to the kids, I stop what I’m doing and listen. Several times yesterday, I heard them talking about me and froze. “Is this it? Are they about to kick me out?” I just can’t get over this fear.

It’s completely irrational. My family loves me. They just can’t understand why I won’t eat cheese, which is what they were talking about at one point. I couldn’t resist yelling out (mostly out of relief), “I don’t like cheese because I was always too poor to buy the stuff, and never learned to eat it.” Awkward laughter ensued, as Jenny and the Girl realized that I could hear them talking about me.

While I was making dinner, the Girl went into the office to talk to her mom about “girl stuff.” I froze mid-mayo-spread. I listened until I was sure it was stuff I didn’t actually want to hear, and then resumed making as much noise as I could, in the futile effort to give them privacy.

It never stops. Every time Jenny walks out of the room while on the phone, my ears go on alert. I trust Jenny. I don’t do any of the crazy stuff I might have done in the past. I don’t check her email, or her phone apps. I don’t read her texts, or even really believe there’s any reason to. I’m just constantly paranoid that I’m going to forget to clean the toilet and find myself thrown ass over elbows into a ditch of thorns planted just for that purpose.

On a related note, Jenny called me out on a particular behavior. I alt+tab every time someone walks behind me. She thought I was trying to keep something from her, and was baffled as to what that might me. The truth is that I have been researching gift ideas, and I don’t want her to see that. But I do have that habit anyway. I don’t like people seeing what I’m doing in general. I’m pretty private. (Yes, I see the irony there.)

In the end, though, I guess Jenny and I are learning to rely on each other. It’s a good thing. I just hope she doesn’t check my Google search history. Trying to explain why I searched for “transvestite midget Christmas tree” would be a little awkward… especially because I don’t remember why I searched for those particular terms…

P.S. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Everyone I know is getting pregnant. Don’t be a victim of holiday pregnancy. Think of the children, or whatever. I have no idea what I’m saying. I’m going back to bed.

Meme Response 2: 99 Problems

Image taken from Facebook. If this image is your intellectual property, please let me know, and I will remove the image, or credit you.

Image taken from Facebook. If this image is your intellectual property, please let me know, and I will remove the image, or credit you.

So, here is my second in a new series of responses to internet memes dealing with mental health. Enjoy:

So, living with anxiety is something a lot of people with mental health issues have to deal with. For most, it fits into the normal routine. For a small percentage of us, we live our days around our anxieties. See Jenny’s account of her own anxiety here.

My personal anxieties mostly revolve around paranoia. “Did that person take something I said the wrong way?” or “Did I close the downstairs bedroom door? Oh God, what if I shut the cat in there?!”

This may seem like something to take lightly. People can brush it off, right? Just logic their way through it, until they are better on the other end, yeah? Not for some of us. My anxiety makes me physically ill. I get heartburn if I’m too anxious about something I can’t check on. I have explosive diarrhea if I’m put under stress that validates my anxiety.

An example: The other day, I was really anxious because I couldn’t find the cat. I assured myself that it was, in fact, fine. Surely, I didn’t accidentally kick him down the laundry chute. I was also sure I didn’t lock him out of the house. I got super involved convincing myself that the cat’s disappearance wasn’t my fault. Seven hours later, Jenny texts me from the bedroom informing me that I had, in fact, locked the cat in the closet while getting something out of it. Yep. I had heartburn all day while convincing myself that it wasn’t my fault, then I got the depression that follows finding out that I had something to worry about all along. Wanna guess who spent 15 minutes in the bathroom, which had to be followed by a shower? This guy, that’s who.

I also get twitchy, and react strangely to things going on around me. I will be so caught up worrying about some trivial thing, that I will neglect the fifteen other things that are actually going wrong. Not only that, but I will create moments that cause more anxiety.

Another example:

Friend: “What did you think of the play?”

Me: “Yeah, pears are good!”

Here I have only heard part of what was said, and my brain filled in the other details from my current obsession. In this scenario, I’m thinking:

“Are the pears at home going bad? Will there be bugs in/on them when we get home? I wonder if any studies have shown that storing them at room temperature will cause cancer… I probably shouldn’t say that to Jenny. I don’t want her to think I’m trying to give her children cancer by encouraging them to eat room temperature pears in the effort to make sure they get enough fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. Oh, God. She’s going to kill me. Why am I trying to give the kids cancer? I’m a dick! This must be why I hate pears. Seriously, what is wrong with me?

Insert friend: “What did you think of the play?”

Internal monologue:

Oh shit, why did they bring up pears? Are they trying to catch me trying to give the kids cancer? I better say something positive about pears!

Me: “Yeah, pears are good!”

Now I have taken a completely useless train of thought, and made it into a real life awkward situation, simply because of my anxiety.

A few choice phrases that have made it into my daily conversations because of anxiety:

“I guess it would itch, but would it be worth it anyway?”

“My chiropractor says I shouldn’t really do too many sit ups.”

“Yeah, I guess semen could taste good, but only if you had a good diet.”

All of these were non sequitur. I remember them all vividly. Do you know why? It’s because I have turned these phrases (and many more) into new anxieties that exist in their own right. I worry so much about the things I shouldn’t say, that I end up creating a whole new situation in which I have said something I shouldn’t say.

I have plenty of things that are validly worth worrying about. If/when/how am I going to get a job? Things like that.

Instead I obsess over the fact that my father had his first heart attack at nineteen. “Of course, we can’t really count that he was likely on drugs, because we don’t really know, do we?” Or the fact that more than half of my family is diabetic. “I’m totally going to be diabetic, because I had a god damned brownie! Why do I always eat so much mayonnaise? Maybe I should stop eating. Yeah, no sugar is good right? Wait, what if that makes it worse? My grandmother lost a bunch of weight, and then found out she was diabetic. Maybe that will happen to me!

This runs so much of my day, that it’s hard to focus on, say, whether my boss likes the presentation I just gave. Or whether I complete it on time in the first place. My anxiety has a life of its own, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it!

I’ve just realized I’ve hit over 900 words. I’m going to shut up now, and eat a brownie.

Carry on, dear reader.

What Do You Do If You Think You Have Mental Illness?

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

So, we all know mental illness sucks. It sucks big time. But what do you do when you aren’t sure if you have mental illness?

It’s a simple answer, with not so simple results. See a mental health professional. One with gobs of experience, preferably. This isn’t a scam to get you to spend money. It’s the only logical choice.

Seeing a mental health professional will open several doors for you. There are tests, batteries, counseling, you name it. Your choices are not limited to seeing a regular medical doctor, and hoping he’s got enough of a clue to recommend someone for you. Ask your doctor to do so, don’t wait for them to suggest it. Check around, make sure the specialist you are referred to has a good reputation. And remember: “They didn’t give me the drugs I wanted,” is never ever cause for a “bad reputation.” Not all drugs are good for everyone.

The medical tests that might be administered to you include blood tests like thyroid panels, liver panels, and blood cell counts. Also included sometimes are sleep tests, ECGs, EKGs, and other heart exams. Even X-rays can help determine that you don’t have a physical illness. Ruling out the less severe forms of illness is always the first step.

Batteries aren’t always called “batteries.” They can be called “evaluations” or “examinations” as well. Either way, what it comes down to is that they will ask you many, many questions, and sometimes your answers will spark more questions. This is normal, and a suggested part of a treatment plan. This is so critical because your health care professionals need to know if you are a drug/alcohol/tobacco user/abuser. They won’t turn you into the police, or refuse service. They just don’t want to kill you with medication. Please just be honest with them, so they can take care of you!

Finally, counseling is a huge part of mental health care, because it provides the opportunity to express yourself in a guilt-free environment, and sometimes, just talking it out with a counselor allows you to come to conclusions that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to understand about yourself. Many paths to change come from self-understanding.

Remember, take initiative, be honest, and be your own advocate.