Saturday, July 18, 2009

Being watched

Cruising around on Blogger, something I really rarely do, last night and earlier today, I came across a number of interesting blogs. They're linked on the left of the page now. I knew I was not the only person writing about Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizophrenia on a blog, but I never came across so many interesting, and funny writers on this and/or general mental health issues before. To be honest, I don't read much anymore. It is too hard to concentrate for long periods, and I still have severely dry eyes from Sjogren's Syndrome, which make my vision (albeit 20/20 on good days) horribly blurry so that I cannot read.

Anyway, while shopping today at the ever-trendy Goodwill (actually it's a new one I discovered with my madre), for household goodies as I love decorating my apartment which no one ever sees except me and maybe the maintenance guys (though decorating, you must understand, has nothing to do with "cleaning", something at which I am profoundly inept), I overheard a store employee say to another employee (male saying it to a female), "watch her", and I knew he was talking about me. I always know that they are talking about me when I hear this. I still remember sometime back last year when a clerk at the Hess station I frequently stop at said to her coworker, "watch her; I'll be right back", and I knew she was referring to me.

But did I really know? That is the question. And, equally and quintessentially important is the question, "Is that what the person really said?" And, unfortunately, the answer to both questions is, simply, Hell if I know. As I never know. Or, I do know, and I am wrong. How does one determine delusional thinking in one's own mind? It's always tricky. I've discussed it here before. I should mention that I am still, despite not having much trouble with psychosis these days, very prone to paranoia, and thinking I'm being followed, someone's going to rape me and/or murder me and then throw my lifeless body into the dumpster in the back of my apartment building when I go for a walk in my crappy neighborhood which I do almost daily now, and thinking they're watching me at every single store of any nature that I ever enter. I also frequently think that people on the street are mistaking me for a prostitute, because most of the women who walk in my neighborhood appear to be doing it for a living, rather than to be trying to burn calories.

I've always thought this way, though. Many years before I became clearly psychotic, even back in childhood, I thought I was going to be mistaken for a shoplifter. I thought I was being watched by security guards. I thought they were going to arrest me. I thought they were going to follow me home, and then arrest me, if they failed to arrest me in the store. In my late teens, and early twenties, though, I worked in a few stores as a clerk/cashier, and I learned then that security guards really aren't that prevalent, and most of the time those cameras have no tapes in them or aren't turned on. So that, in some small degree, helped me to worry less. I still worry, however, and I suppose this being a lifelong symptom thus far indicates that I'll probably be this way forever.

At this point, you might be wondering what I look like. I was very thin all my life until four years ago when I started the weight-gaining meds; I am reasonably okay-looking, and some people would say in my thin years, attractive. I don't dress terribly shabby either. I am also Caucasian (in case you missed that little pic I put on here after the blog had been up for five years without one), and, in our racist society, I am therefore not too likely to actually be mistaken for a shoplifter, particularly if I am not actually stealing anything. But then, there is the issue of the times when I was actually stealing something. I would get the voices and the cues that indicated I was supposed to take something. In my delusional mind, when I was not on meds, I truly believed that this was the way the world worked. This was how people got nice cars, big houses, and new leather shoes. They took them. People did not actually spend money, in this world, they simply "won" stuff.

So, I would get the urge to steal a lipstick because, for example, it said "Jessica" on it (as one brand used to be named that after some famous Jessica), because I thought that life was a game, and I had beaten my sister, whose name is Jessica, in some mental task, so I was supposed to take the so-called prize which I had supposedly won. And sometimes I did take them. Stealing a bottle of water, some nail polish, or a lipstick would, of course, easily land me in the back room of a store being grilled by security guards if I were ever caught. So that fact, of course, fed into my paranoia about being watched. But at the end of the day, how many people go to jail for a tube of lipstick? I don't know, but I'd venture to guess that not so many did. More importantly, when I did this I did not consider it to be stealing, so I thought that, if I were caught, someone would understand I just took it because I won it. As that was the way I thought the world worked.

In that vein, I should mention that the news anchor, Anderson Cooper, who I believed was my other-life husband and my owner, at that time, came to speak at a college near where I lived. Since I thought he was my infinite husband (despite that he's gay and I had never met him), I went with a couple of people to hear him speak. I heard him, in this speech, clearly tell me, in a way that was quite loud and obvious, that if you don't take the things that you "win" in life, you are doing something seriously wrong and there will be negative consequences for it. So, after that, every time I heard a voice or saw a sign telling me I "won" something, I'd go about trying to find a way of coming into ownership of that thing. As you might guess, this could cause some tricky situations.

Can you say, "Grand Theft, Auto", anyone? Yes, I stole a car. I also stole my mom's car, and my brother's car on different occasions, so all in all, you could say I stole three cars. I totaled my mom's car, five years ago, by crashing it into the side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in an attempt at suicide, which is what all the signs and voices were telling me to do, and since she never got to use that car again, this is something that hasn't been forgotten in anybody's mind. My brother's car, though, I only actually took for about 20 minutes, so he didn't really care. The unknown person's car I stole (or, as it was in my mind, "took" because it belonged to me), was a different story. It was a Chrysler, albeit a really old one from the early 80's, and I thought that day that I was Jesus Christ. I got off a bus because I saw a sign that said "J.C. Auto Body" at a shop, and thought, of course, I was meant to go there. Next door to the auto place was a grocery store, and the voices told me to go directly to that Chrysler, which was clearly mine, as I was Christ.

It may sound odd to tell you the next part. The car had a key in the ignition. And the car was unlocked. I don't know how my brain guessed or, maybe, knew that, from across the parking lot, but that was the case, nonetheless. So I took the car. I ended up a day or two later, perhaps (I'm not sure if this all happened in one day or several), leaving the car where I was told to leave it, as I had, by that time, understood that I would most likely go to jail if anyone found out I took the car. I knew that people still went to jail, because the way the world worked was such that society pretended we still had things like laws against stealing, though, in reality, I believed people won the items they could go to jail for stealing. It's possible to hold two completely conflicting points of view in one's mind, or facts that counteract each other, at the same time. I've done so a lot.

Now, of course, I'm better than I was five years ago, mentally. I no longer think things are won and taken. I know you have to use actual money to pay for stuff, and that the other Illuminati world I thought I lived in actually never existed. Most of the time, I even know that I'm not going to be arrested for shoplifting if I am not stealing anything. But then there are days......days when the tone sounds too serious, the implication so obvious, the words so threatening, that my brain interprets words to say "Watch her". And I can only go about my business not ever knowing whether someone said those words about me, or not. Such is life with Schizophrenia.

2 comments:

Wanderer62 said...

Hi Jen,

Very glad that you put up a blog list. I was hoping that you would do that because it gives me a window into new blogs and I like that. And thanks for including my blog there.

I still really think that sometime this year, since your psychosis has finally loosened a lot of its hold on you and since you are a very good writer and have excellent recall, that you should start work on a memoir. Think about starting to print out some of this blog. Perhaps you could use part of the blog or use it as a jumping off point for further work. I don't think memoirs are easy to write. Sometimes it takes a while, but I think you have a lot to tell people with your story.

Paranoia is tricky. I still get twinges of it myself. But, for the most part, I can look at the faces of people passing me in cars when I'm driving and rest assured that they are in their own particular world and we are separate. They are not aware of me and that is a relief.

I'm looking forward to chatting with you tonight or tomorrow night!

My best to you always,

Kate

April_optimist said...

It sounds as if you've come a long way in the last few years. That can't have been easy and says a great deal about your courage.

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