Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fragile Reality

I sat in Thomas's therapy on Thursday and listened as Dr. K. brought up the possibility of any "schizophrenic thoughts" for Thomas to sort into his "schizophrenic bucket". I jumped on it right away but immediately silenced myself because Thomas began to talk about something he thought might be a schizophrenic thought. As it turned out, his thought was actually a moment of intense anxiety and didn't have any schizophrenic thoughts tied to it. He's still learning how to sort thoughts into the buckets and I think he's still unsure of what an actual schizophrenic thought is. I stand by my opinion that filling these buckets is going to be hard for Thomas, as I imagine it would be for a lot of people with schizophrenia, because I'm not sure he can separate what is a schizophrenic thought and which ones are "normal". He's gone so long with his paranoia and delusional thoughts so they've become the norm. He said it himself once or twice too that he often has thought that other people feel or think the same way. If you believe that to be true then why would you think it needs to go in any bucket at all?

To recap, the buckets are a creation of Dr. K.'s and he very sweetly and kindly searched our town for little buckets to make this exercise a tangible one for Thomas. He labeled one "schizophrenic thoughts" and the other "normal thoughts" and then asked Thomas to sort thoughts that bubble up into one of the two buckets. In each bucket is a 3x5 card and for the schizophrenic thought Thomas is supposed to write the thought on one side and then on the other side of the card write a challenge for the thought. In theory is a WONDERFUL plan but as I said, I'm not so sure that Thomas knows when to put the buckets to use.

So when Thomas stopped telling his story of what he thought was a schizophrenic thought that turned out to be an anxious thought, I was called upon to share my thoughts on what he could have sorted into the buckets this last week. I brought up the instance where he had come out of his room shaking and scared with his voice faltering telling me a story about a video he had just watched. Thomas told the story to Dr. K. about the video and in doing so said that the video had been an hour long. AN HOUR! I say "an hour" with such emphasis because that is a LONG time for him to be glued to something that is scaring him. I thought it had been a little 5 minute thing so in spite of his demeanor when he came out of his room, I felt it was something we could get through together. But an hour? That is not good.

You see, the way he was acting when he came out of his room was reminiscent of his first psychotic break. At that time, he was terrified and he was lost to me, caught up in a fictional place in which a creature called Slender Man existed. For days he was terrified and for days he was isolated to his room, especially at night when he would have to come out of his room into a darkened house. He was so thoroughly convinced that Slender Man was after him that he had completely lost touch with reality. Because he had soaked his brain in nonsense filled videos, he had ended up lost to me and stuck in a place I didn't get him back from for over a year.

When I found out that he had been watching this new video for an hour and had presented to me with the same reaction that he had with Slender Man, I got scared. I pleaded with my eyes to Dr. K. to really take seriously what I was saying when I told him that this whole event was reminiscent of the Slender Man thing. He got it, thank God and he stopped for a moment to think. Then he said,

"Thomas, you have a precious mind. You're different from others because your mind is suggestible and it's probably best you stay away from things like that video."

We all agreed wholeheartedly that that is what is best for him but still I couldn't shake how fragile his reality had become by watching that video. To me, I felt like for all of the ground he has covered lately with becoming stable, that ground was shaky, at best, and I am now very worried about his state of mind. How is this even possible? How can just an hour long video shake Thomas's foundation enough that had he spent more time watching more of these videos the story might have ended with him being hospitalized?

Oh how sneaky this illness is...how it lies in wait, hidden in corners we don't think to check, fooling us into thinking things are stable and we're on the road to remission when in truth it is still there waiting to pounce.

After therapy I realized that I learned a valuable lesson. I had forgotten the Slender Man stuff, relegated it to the back of my mind where all of the dark memories of Thomas's first psychotic break reside. I had moved on, as had Thomas and Dr. K. and we had all become complacent.

So, I write today to remind myself, to remind all of you how fragile the minds of our loved ones are. I write to remind those of you living with schizophrenia how fragile your minds are. There is not a time that we should become complacent, there is not a time when we should put our full faith and trust in stability. Don't give up hope, don't stop loving the stable times, but remember, always, that schizophrenia is there just around the corner and it's hidden in places we don't think to look or that we pass by time and again caught up in a sense that we've got it all under control.

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