Saturday, March 16, 2013

How do you know when you're delusional?

That's the real question isn't it?  The answer is: you don't.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be deluded.  I'm not trying to be funny here, but it's like a paradox, wrapped inside of a conundrum kind of thing.  They say that if you can question your sanity, you know you're sane.  But that's like, a big overall kind of view of sanity.  Most delusions are like parts of a broken mirror. There's a chink here and there that has gone missing.  Maybe you can see enough of the picture that you don't notice the broken parts.  Maybe you just don't think to question them.  Or, as happens often with severe mental illness, someone (usually a doctor or therapist) points out the incongruity in your thinking and you react.  If you're deeply delusional, the reaction might be denial in some form and that can range from retreating into the delusion to a violent outburst.  My therapist told me once that with some people, you just have to work with their delusions, because their psyche's are too fragile to handle reality. See, delusions are defense mechanisms. 

Why I'm thinking about this today is that I'm wondering about how I survived so long with all the delusions that I had at my worst.  I was just explaining to someone today how I spent 6 years battling serious auditory hallucinations.  They were loud, they were omnipresent and they were my reality.  The main plot of my psychosis was a belief that I could read people's minds and that I was "connected with the universe" in a way that allowed me to "listen" to things that affected me - especially people talking about me.  The voices, as I call them, made it hard to concentrate on anything because they were the focus of my attention.  I remember I couldn't watch TV or listen to music without them filling in the cracks - and by that I mean I also thought that I could "hear" the residue of the thoughts that the various media personalities "left behind" when they were taped.  I thought I was getting subliminal messages.

Now, the only reason my reality was rarely challenged was that part of my psychosis was that I thought no one would believe me about my special abilities.  Twice I actually said something so out of touch that the listener questioned me and so I simply avoided those people.  See, I didn't know how to ask that question about my sanity.  I didn't want to.  Did some part of me know the answer and just not want to hear it?  All I know is that without meds, I hallucinate too much to function in society.

But what about now?  I seem to be able to share my thoughts with people and they seem to synch with reality.  I can usually pull myself away from buying into the delusions (like, I have this delusion of reference that the intercom chatter in stores is about me for some reason). Subtleties are all but lost on me though, and people still scare me.  I need to be very clear about what everybody means or I suspect the worst. It's still not easy.

So, what I want to know is: how would I know if I was deluding myself?  Could I face the answer? Could anyone tell me?  If so, how? Do people have to be careful with my psyche now?  What aren't they telling me?

There's no conclusion to be found here. I'm attempting to ask the question. 

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