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Updated on May 28, 2016

Reality Risotto for a Paranoid Psychotic

What is paranoid psychosis?

Imagine the people around you are paying attention to your every movement and thought. Imagine the amount of attention given to an opera singer on center stage is given to you while you're at the grocery store, at the movies or even at home having coffee at breakfast. Imagine the people watching you as an opera singer hate you because they thought you were a rapper. Now imagine those people just sent hate tweets about you to everyone in the world. Imagine hundreds of faces, of conversations, of thoughts, of actions, all intrusively directed at you, laughing at you, trying to trick you into saying things, into doing things that support their sick twisted game of consuming the hate you generate.

Imagine people prying into your personal life, your emails, your texts, your phone calls, your Facebook privacy, your credit card statements, your children's medical expenses. Imagine that information is now being broadcast over twitter, Gmail, Facebook, and that the information is being twisted to make you look like a murder or a rapist. With paranoia psychosis, you never have a moment of privacy, you are never alone.

I'm not talking about digital marketing; I'm talking about the delusion a person with paranoid psychosis feels. Psychosis is a mental illness that leads to the belief that one is more important than they are, with the the possibility of hallucinations, anger, erratic behavior, or social recluse. A person with psychosis will feel like they are being treated like a presidential candidate or a celebrity without ever having actually achieved that level of stardom. You may imagine people approaching you as if they know who you are, without you ever have met them. Every conversation in a crowded room is about you, every laugh a joke at your expense, references to events in your life, things you have written or said are blasted back at you in the media and in the conversations you have with others in an attempt to shove your brain, to consume you. That is paranoid psychosis.

With medication and therapy, these symptoms are manageable, and at times, can even enhance one's abilities. For example, years of paranoia have taught me to listen to several conversations while having a conversation at the same time. Sure, I may be slower to respond at times, but I am able to act like a satellite dish, picking up multiple signals.

....Believing one has telepathy is a sign of pyshosis, that's not what I'm talking about.

What psychosis isn't?

Psychosis varies in severity and type of delusion, in extreme cases resulting in hallucinations. However, having psychosis does not necessarily mean a person is debilitated. With proper treatment, depending on the case, it is possible for a person with psychosis to function and thrive. Therefor, a psychosis diagnosis is not a career ending diagnosis, rather, it is a new reality to be faced by its victim. Psychosis can be caused by abuse, substances, or arise naturally, but psychosis is never the fault of the person inflicted with the disease.

A person with psychosis is not the same as a psychopath. Psychopathy is a personality disorder of a person that lacks empathy, is callous, impulsive, lying and manipulative. Every person can lack empathy, be impulsive, or be manipulative to a certain extent, but a psychopath has a damaging amount of self interest called narcissism. Psychopath’s have inflated senses of importance, a yearning for power and a willingness to use illegal means to achieve it. A psychopath views themselves romantically, with an inflated sense of self worth. Not to be confused with confidence, this sense of self worth would manifest in believing every other person is attracted to them, or having such a grandiose opinion of themselves they are not willing to change an opinion even when presented with undeniable facts. This focus on self generated truth makes the psychopath weary of outside influence. Unlike the paranoia of a psychotic, a psychopath distrusts others because of his/her believed superiority.

For an easy comparison: Donald Drumpf is a psychopath, I am a psychotic.

  • Donald Drumpf: Thinks Mexicans need to be kept out of the country with a gigantic wall only he can build
  • Me: Thinks that Hispanic people at the local café are looking at him funny because he supports Bernie Sanders
  • Donald Drumpf: Thinks all of the women he has accosted “love him”, simply “love him”
  • Me: Thinks all the women around him want him locked in jail, for, well, he has no idea why, they just do because he’s psychotic
  • Donald Drumpf: Thinks he is worth 10billion dollars, says he is worth 10billion dollars to the entire nation, is factually worth far less than 10billion dollars
  • Me: Thinks that people are trying to make him out to be ‘too rich’ because he once offered himself $10,000 for proof of a defamation campaign he imagined in his paranoia
  • Donald Drumpf: Wants to sue all of the reporters in America because they "aren't fair", meaning they don't make him look really ridicuolously good like Donald Drumpf thinks he looks
  • Me: Wants to sue his colleagues, who are wonderful, smart, helpful people, for being involved in a vast conspiracy, has tried to contact lawyers, has no idea how he would ever sue anyone because its in his head due to paranoid psychosis - medication makes the anger that drives him to want to sue go away

Why psychosis matters?

Psychosis matters because everyone makes a contribution, even those you don’t understand.

3% of the US's 320 million people have psychosis, that's nearly 10 million.

3% means one person out of every 33 and 1/3 persons.

Do you know 34 people? You probably know a psychotic.

Here are some people you may recognize diagnosed as psychotic: What would have happened if the stigma of "psycho" had silenced the achievements of these people?

  • Isaac Newton (yeah, the gravity guy): Bipolar
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (yeah, THE Beethoven): Bipolar
  • Abraham Lincoln (Abraham F*$KING LINCOLN): severe suicidal depression
  • Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of GB during WWII): bipolar, depression
  • Leo Tolstoy (ever heard of War and Peace): Depression, hypochondriasis, alcoholism
  • Jane Pauley (NBC broadcaster since age of 25): Bipolar and Depression
  • Dorthy Hamill (Olympic Figure Skater): Depression, Suicidal

Notice how none of them are CEOs?

Who would hire Abraham Lincoln to run a company if they knew he had psychosis? Not even Abraham Lincoln could escape the scruples of an uniformed society.

(okay, maybe Abraham Lincoln)

How many CEOs are there in America? 1,800

Clearly people with psychosis are capable of a great deal of success, and by the numbers, there should be some at the top. Of the 1,800 CEO's could at least 1% of them have some form of psychosis which they are keeping secret due to fear of losing their job, could possibly an even hire percent? By the numbers, it is likely so.

So why haven’t we heard of them?

Because it would be career suicide, which is why I am publishing this blog anonymously.

What really sucks about having psychosis?

The first part that really sucks is discovering the disease. When I was diagnosed, a lot my life flashed through my mind. I was on my way to getting married and an international placement with my company, and pow, I was diagnosed. I cried. It was a self loathing bitter end kind of cry, not a Notebook or Fox and the Hound type of cry. It's a deprecating reality to accept a flaw such as mental illness about oneself. But that's why their are doctors to tell you like it is.

So what do you do when you find out you have a mental illness? Stop everything and move to the mountains? Quit your job and wander the earth? Leave your friends and families behind to avoid the risk of burdening them with your plight?

My response was to cry in front of doctors, tell the ones I loved, write myself a series of emails in a fit of paranoid frenzy (re-occurring theme), and just keep going. I had to. Stopping everything would let the disease define me, rather than allowing me to be me, and the disease to be the disease.

Second, having psychosis is worse than being diagnosed with it. As you can imagine, going through a day in the life in the first paragraph of this post is like you're always working. But in addition, because you're a member of the global working class, you're also always working.

When the psychosis gets bad, I'm not in a good mood. So at times, it's hard to be friends with me, even harder to be married to me. And the friends I do have, at times, I find very hard to trust. At times, I want to find proof of ire from others. In these phases, the thing that hurts the most is that "they" won't tell me, "they" would rather have fun at my expense. That kind of thinking leads to a depressed, angry, lonely state of mind, at times.

But I get past that. Some days are worse than others, but with some therapy and medication, I learn to cope, and even thrive in the midst of its onslaught.

The third and final thing that really, really sucks, is that even though 10 million people are afflicted with a form of psychosis, the stigma against people with psychosis is so strong, that the people afflicted have to keep it a secret, which adds to anxiety. Anxiety over relationships, anxiety over career, anxiety over the people behind you in the line at Patagonia. My doctor tells me challenging the paranoia by checking if it exists, for instance asking someone if they have created a Slack account to make fun of everything I do or say, would be counter productive, because you would be forced to do it over and over, and the "checking" would become its own derivative of the disease. On the flip side of that, my imagination is left a chained beast never challenged by reality, self discipline and medication its restraints.

Coping. This may work for you too.

The struggle reduces to a risotto of defining the new norm. The layers and layers of paranoia boiled down until only the remnants remain in a nice stew of reality. Those people having a conversation at the cafe, aren't talking about me, they boil down to normal, average people who don't have time to follow me around. By taking a perceived reality and generalizing to a known truth, I reground myself.

I find meditating on science and religion to be very helpful. Science and religion overlap in the search for the unknown, but also is the acceptance that there will always be an unknown.

Accepting that there is an unknown helps me realize that I'll never know what "they" are talking about. Not knowing is the most common state of being.

To approach knowing what "they" are saying scientifically means I would need to test "their" opinions of me. Who has time to test every single person's opinion of them - further why would that be helpful? Some people's opinions matter, but most don't. Sorry world, it's only a few of you that matter to any given person, and that kernel of rice is a tasty pot of risotto for a paranoid person like me.

Karl Sagan puts it this way:

Buddhism puts it like this:

Holding two ideas at the same time, I am both afflicted and empowered.

I am afflicted because my life is but a small spec in the vastness of the cosmos, and psychosis takes up space in that tiny life. But I am empowered because whatever my challenges and successes may be, they are part of the vast continuum that stretches beyond reason.

We are all specs on a pale blue dot, yet each moment is a beautiful mandala brought to us by impermanence. Everyday is a new chance for my mandala, with a band of psychosis running through, taking form in a brief dance resembling order in the chaos, only to be whisked away by the cosmic winds to make room for the next.

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