Paranoia has a variety of root causes. It can be learned from nervous parents, a result of traumatic events, or more often, a part of a psychological disorder. It also can be triggered, or in many cases intensified, by street drugs or prescription medication. I’ve had traces of paranoia for most of my adult life. Both my parents worry just like their families did. Not to mention, paranoia is a part of Depression and Anxiety, which although they were often undiagnosed or translated into alcoholism, contaminate the soil of my family tree on both sides. I’ve come to accept I’ll always be a bit paranoid about some things. Plus, I like to think like Kevin Nealon’s character from the HBO show “Fat Actress.” He plays some shady record producer who offers one of the main characters marijuana. She declines and says, “That stuff makes me really paranoid.” He responds by saying, “Well it’s good to be a little paranoid. It keeps someone from just comin’ up and whackin ya.” Amen, Nealon. Amen.
In all seriousness, I’ve been unbearably paranoid a few times in my life. It often correlates with when I first start taking Wellbutrin or have my dosage increased, which I’ve experienced a few times. For instance, a couple years ago I had to start taking it again after a year of being off of it completely. Kanye West’s album 808 & Heartbreak had just dropped, but I hadn’t heard it yet. It was around Christmas, so I sat in a room full of some of my closest friends from high school. I was tense, and I hadn’t seen most of them in a long time. One of them started singing that Kanye song, “Paranoid,” and I had never heard it, so I got paranoid thinking that they were making fun of my paranoia! It’s the most intense sort of paranoia where I panic in cars, certain people aren’t breaking or are turning into us. Or, I’ll panic and think I see animals running out in front of me when I’m driving.
After I adjust to being on the medication, I’m stilly jumpier than if I didn’t take it at all, but it’s manageable. I’ve been paranoid again lately, though. Not as extreme as mentioned above, praise the deities, but it’s bothering me. I’ve had unexplainable stomach pain and cramping for about a month now. They’ve done a lot of tests and found nothing that could be causing it. They suggested I get my psychiatric meds adjusted because the pain could be psychological and caused by anxiety/stress. I try to remind myself that just because I’m on almost the same amount of medication I was after my hospital ordeals, I’m not regressing. I’m still relatively well, mentally speaking.
The med adjustment seems to have thrown my body off. I don’t know if it’s medication related or not, but my new therapist thinks I’m having a bit of hypomania. Luckily, I’m not full blown manic. I can still function according to social norms, but my thoughts race, I don’t sleep as much, and I either get a lot of stuff accomplished or none because I can’t concentrate. This is where the paranoia comes in: my stomach pain is still just as bothersome. After being told my mental health isn’t as great as I thought it was and could be causing the stomach pain, I now get depressed about being depressed when my stomach hurts. Then I get paranoid about relapsing, which downright terrifies me. Then, balancing out the lows, the hypomania kicks in.
Another example of paranoia getting in my way, I just received some very good news about the potential to work with one of my favorite writers, so I’ve been on a bit of a high. I’ve always talked fast and been giddy when I’m excited. Now when I feel excited, I get paranoid that it’s not my excitement; it’s the hypomania and that something more is wrong with me. Then my thoughts spiral out of control: I think about how I’ve been so open about my mental health and tried to show others it’s worth putting in the energy to get better. How will I be able to tell them it’s worth it if I’m sick? Then, I think about how I will have to admit to the nuns I’m mentally unstable and move out and go back to the hospital and start all over again. It’s irrational thinking, but anxiety and paranoia are not rational most of the time.
I feel fine mentally. I do get depressed some days, but I know to just take it easy, sleep, and get through them. I also am having the hypomania stuff, but it’s not all bad. I’ve been getting lots done. I guess, now, my biggest concern is the stomach pain and whether or not my mental health is okay. It is an awful feeling to not be able to trust your own mind. It’s like at the end of “A Beautiful Mind” when the main guy asks someone else to make sure the person talking to him is not a hallucination. I’m like that, too (not the schizophrenic part). I have to have someone say, “No, calm down. This is normal,” or “No, this is definitely not normal, let’s address how to combat it.” I’ve gotten better. I used to panic at even just one bad day and think I was relapsing. I’d need my psychiatrist or psychologist to say, “Hey, be nice to yourself. You’re allowed to have bad days.” I can tell myself that now. Lately, these strange medical issues are bringing back my insecurity about my own sanity. Because here’s the thing about insanity, you don’t know you’re insane until you get better. Through all this confusion and paranoia, I’m still staying strong, though, thanks to all my wonderful friends and family who support me.