Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Distinguishing Reality From Fantasy

It was a rather unassuming day yesterday. Things have quieted down here with Thomas for the most part. He has an appointment with Dr. N. (his psychiatrist) on Thursday and barring any drastic, sudden change, I expect that appointment will go well and earn us the distinction of a once a month appointment instead of a once every other week appointment. Being able to switch to a once a month appointment is such a good thing because I know things are getting better. I, honestly, never would have thought we'd be this far into winter and not be dealing with some serious symptoms on Thomas's part. It's been that way for so long, his suffering every winter, that it's hard to remember a time in his teenage and young adult life that he wasn't struggling. I'll take what I can get, though, and enjoy this time with Thomas and his bright eyes and face unmasked from the look of depression, apathy and all other negative symptoms.

Something happened yesterday, however, that broke my heart. For starters he's been in his room constantly again but this time he has kept his door to his room open every day most of the day. I think it's partly because he's become so close to our dog Cookie and she spends a lot of time with him in his room and even "asks" him for dinner and walks which she previously only did with me. Having her around him has been wonderful therapy for him and I hope that even when he gets sick again he will want her with him in his room. Even Cookie couldn't have helped him yesterday though.

He came out of his room with these wide eyes yesterday and white as a sheet and shaking. As he begun to talk I could hear those trembles in his voice too and I immediately got worried because he's only like that when he's stressed or having a psychotic break. He began to tell me about this video he just watched. He said it was AWFUL. The story was about 3 people who had been imprisoned during the end of the world and the main character stood by as one of his cell mates committed suicide in one awful way and then the other cell mate soon followed by doing something similar thus leaving the main character alone in the cell during the worst of the end of the world. I could see that Thomas identified with the main character and as he finished telling me the story I could see he was so far entrenched in the story that he couldn't tell reality from the
"fantasy" of the video. He begged me for a hug and I had already jumped to my feet when he appeared beside me shaking and wanting to tell me about what happened in the video so I reached out to him quickly and gave him a hug. I held him so tight wishing that the strength of my hug could stop his shaking. It didn't work. So I said to him,

"Hey kiddo, you need to stop watching videos like that. Perhaps from now on pick something more light hearted and funny to watch and stay away from things that scare you or upset you."

He told me he had a ton of lighthearted videos and that he'd go watch them now. I hated watching him walk away still terrified but I hoped that he'd find something to lift his mood and bring him back to reality.

When I checked in on him later and was better, thank God, but the whole incident brought back a time in his life when he was younger where he couldn't distinguish television shows from reality. I remember countless times when we would be watching something that to you or I would be easy to discern that it wasn't real and either he'd talk to me about it as if it was really happening to him or he would ask a barrage of questions about it as if he was trying to make sense of what he was watching. This kind of thing was a hallmark of the beginnings of his illness in those days. Whenever it would happen I'd always get an uneasy feeling but I didn't know what it meant for him or how to help him. Telling him it wasn't real didn't convince him so I always just did what I could to comfort him.

Yesterday's event did make me wonder. Where else is he lost? He does watch A LOT of videos. In fact he spends his entire day, for the most part, on YouTube so even if he's watching funny things, does he get lost inside of them too even though they're funny? I mean, how much of his time is spent believing that somehow he's a part of what he's watching. Lately he's been obsessed with a particular channel about a guy who lives in Alaska and what he does for his videos is take him and his girlfriend all over Alaska doing fun things like skipping rocks on a frozen lake or lowering a camera through a hole cut in the ice. They're pretty good videos to watch, I've screen a few myself, however I wonder if Thomas feels like this guy is his friend and even more so lately I wonder if he's becoming an obsessed fan of this guy. Thomas talks a lot of moving to Alaska and I have to wonder if he were to do it, would he end up in this guy's back yard? Between his inability to separate reality from fantasy, his obsessive watching of this guy's channel and then the quality of a lot of people living with schizophrenia who develop an unrequited obsession with a star, I wonder if he's headed that direction. I really can't say for sure but for as much as he is watching this guy lately, it does make me wonder.

So, yesterday was a bit of an eye opener for me. I do get complacent now that he's generally doing better and I find myself unprepared for moments like the one he had yesterday. I'd really hate to see him get lost in a fantasy world where he's hard to retrieve from it. One of his psychotic breaks came from a situation like this so I want to be sure that never happens again. I can't monitor what he watches though so all I'm left with is a prayer here and there asking for him to be watched over as he travels across YouTube and all of its nonsense.

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