ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Difficult Realities and Paranoid Reactions

Jack Bragen
Friday August 11, 2017 - 11:14:00 AM

I've had to scrap a previous version of the column for this week, because I realized in the nick of time that it would get people paranoid and/or upset. I was affected by my paranoid symptoms, and had written the piece accordingly. 

In the past six months, my wife and I have been hit with a tidal wave of difficult events. 

About four months ago, my wife had a death in the family. She got the phone call just after I'd been dropped off by a tow driver--I'd been in a car accident. This seemed like some kind of cosmic coincidence--but not in a good way. 

About five years ago, a similar situation happened. My father passed away, and soon afterward, I was in a car accident. The earlier incident is more explicable, because I was driving while affected by grief. However, there is no explanation for the second coincidence, that took place this year. 

Some of the time, I get a delayed reaction to difficult events. I might get through a crisis, in some cases with what I could call bravery, I might do all of the things I have to do to get through, and then, I might fall apart a couple of months or a few months later when it seems safe to do so. 

The two difficult events I've listed aren't the whole picture. A number of other occurrences have been rough. 

A therapist recently told me that medication does not by itself make a person able to deal with difficult realities such as these. A mental health consumer needs extra support to deal with rough times. 

I haven't had that. At the mental health clinic where I go, I've been able to obtain medication well enough, but for some reason they've had a problem lining me up with a therapist. This has been going on for about a year. During that time, I've been without the support that therapy provides. Treatment isn't just being medicated--we all need someone to talk to. 

As a result of all of the above, I've been teetering on the brink of getting acutely ill again. When a person with schizophrenia experiences hard realities, the reaction is often to become psychotic. 

When an events occur that we perceive as threatening, a schizophrenic person may interpret this as an indication that "They're out to get me." Actually, hard things happen to everyone. The difference is that someone with schizophrenia may take it personally, and may think it is only happening to them. 

This happens because the mind of the person with schizophrenia is seeking a coping mechanism. However, while this is intended as a way to cope, in fact, it causes everything to get much worse. This is because the person begins to function while affected by psychosis. 

If things are just too hard, you should not try to tough it out by yourself. You should seek help. If you are having a hard time, remember that you are not alone. Hard things happen to everyone. And, if mentally ill, it is normal for symptoms to become worse when having a hard time.