According to the National Institutes of Health, paranoid schizophrenia is a “mental illness that involves false beliefs of being persecuted or plotted against.” Symptoms can include social isolation, feeling tense, suspicious or guarded, having grandiose or jealous delusions, or auditory hallucinations.
“Cedric” isn’t his real name. He is 43, lives in Georgia, and reads this column on my “Disabilities by Daniel J. Vance” Facebook page. In a telephone interview, he said, “When I was in junior high, they diagnosed me with depression. A while later I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was a loner and attempted suicide.”
During one difficult period in life, he “wouldn’t make (verbal) sense to others,” he said. “I didn’t want to repeat anything I said because I thought if I could do that all the problems I was having would go away. I ended up using all the average words quickly, such as the and was. After that, I began saying only obscure words, such as kangaroo. I had a lot of pressure coming up with new words.”
In terms of paranoia, he believed the universe was set up to ruin him and that people could read his mind. However, he has never heard voices, and still doesn’t. Ten years ago, after being hospitalized several times for relatively long stretches, he had an epiphany that changed his life. He realized his world wouldn’t end if he had “bad” thoughts.
In terms of his personal life today, he worries about being stigmatized because of mental illness. For example, he debates internally how long he should wait before telling a woman. He said, “I won’t do it off the bat because I’m afraid that will scare her away.”
He said his biggest struggle has been over-thinking. For instance, he said, “I’ll be walking down the street and go to the left, and think I should have gone to the right. I second guess myself all the time about whether I’ve done the right thing. Sometimes I think I have autism. I just don’t seem able to see the big picture. I’m in my own little world. When talking with people, I often don’t explain where I’m coming from and they aren’t able to understand me.”
He advised people with schizophrenia: “You can get through it. Where you are at now doesn’t have to be that way forever.”