Paranoia | Like, The Worst Soup Ever
The worst thing about living with paranoia is my inability to trust my own instincts and intuition.
The second worst thing about living with paranoia is that my neighbors are probably going to kill me.
For many years, I simply thought I’d found myself on the unfortunate receiving end of a steady stream of lunatics—some sort of strange manifestation after so many years of obsessively fearing people. If the teachings of The Secret were to be believed, my thoughts were *actively* creating my destiny, a prospect so terrifying I’d opted to stop thinking all together. (Alcohol problem: commence!) But, of course, the damage was already done. My chakras were fucked. Something about metaphysical reactivity (?) or past life regression (?) or crystal disharmony (?) had gone horribly awry. I’d created my destiny, and now I had to see it through. (Great.)
On the nights when I’d peered out my windows 1000 times and noted all of the strange men tracking me, I’d usually remove the grates on my heating system to be sure I’d disabled the cameras. (A violent punch into the vent and a wild wave of my hand should do the trick!) Sometimes, of course, the cameras would be too small so I’d have cover the openings with duct tape. Other times, the men would be circling my house so rapidly that I could scarcely keep an eye on them. Occasionally they’d be plotting with people I knew or driving cars I swear I’d seen earlier in the week. How long had they been following me, and when were they going to make their move?
The interesting phenomenon here was that I had become so adept at justifying these theories, that even the people closest to me didn’t question them. I can almost assure you that it came as a shock to my friends and family when I, of all people, began to wonder if maybe all of these things weren’t happening to me. After all, there seemed to be so much build up…but no real action.
At my worst, I was certain that the build up was simply an attempt to drive me mad, to knock me off my guard, to render me incapable of fighting back. At my best, I agreed that these impending-death scenarios were improbable, but still, despite my best attempts to shake them, believed them to be true.
So, my mission was clear. It was my job to remain vigilant. To fight. To flee. To curl in a small ball behind the couch and play dead.
You’re likely thinking that I must have been under some sort of psychological care throughout this time, acutely aware that I was suffering from a combination of Anxiety, Depression, PTSD and Paranoia. To that, I’d respond with a sort of maniacal laughter that would haunt you for a lifetime. Therapy was for crazy people, angry people, people who didn’t have white picket fences and 2.5 kids and nice husbands and 401ks. Not me, bro. I’m cool. (*sunglasses emoji*)
Sometimes I think back to the mash-up of issues I was facing as a perfectly concocted soup. (But less like a regular, hearty soup, set to warm your soul on a cold night…and more like one of those soups they’d serve cold in a school cafeteria: thick and mysterious and generally unpalatable.)
It is so easy to get trapped in this feeling that mental illness defines us, or has broken us, but I’ve gone to therapy now (*pats self on the back VERY HARD*) and read lots and lots of inspirational quotes on instagram (*abruptly stops patting self on back*) and I realize now, that these are not the things that define us. Even the way we stumble through is not what defines us.
We’re allowed to break down and fuck up and do it all wrong. We don’t always have to overcome our setbacks gloriously with the sun bursting through dark clouds. Sometimes we just wake up and try a little harder not to suck, try to not peak out the windows looking for well-disguised murderers, try not to ruin our probably-expensive heating and air system with 16 layers of duct-tape…we wake up and take one little baby step towards healing/recovery/self-care and that’s ok.
I truly have to believe that what defines us is who we are in between these broken times. What defines us, if we even need defining, is the person we are when we have perspective, and coffee in-hand, and all the stars are aligned and we feel like we can shower and converse and meet opposition with something other than hysterical crying. I’d like to believe that who I am is the person I’m able to be when at my best. Anything else is just too much damn pressure.
Now, that I’ve largely overcome my paranoia (again, *emphatically* PAINFULLY patting myself on the back) now that I’m here making soup analogies and talking about sunlight bursting through clouds, I can hardly believe what my life once looked like. And while it’s easy to joke about now…in those moments, it felt absolutely insurmountable. Here I was, trapped in this self-imposed prison, unable to escape, probably destined to die there. I could not leave the house, could not forge new relationships, could not trust, could not love, could not function normally in the world. I was lost, and didn’t know where to turn.
If you’d have told me then that there were answers, that there were services, solutions, resources, support, people struggling in the same way, I’m not sure I would have believed you. In those moments, I needed that place, and I didn’t know where to start.
For me, If Lost, Start Here is a small step in the right direction. With so much of the world operating under the assumption of wellness, If Lost Start Here is a resource for people who are just unapologetically struggling, or at least those of us who accept that self-care is hard, and self-realization even harder, and self-compassion maybe the most difficult of all.
So many of the solutions offered for “wellness” or “recovery" can feel unattainable to people who are struggling. (How am I supposed to book a "Heavenly Weekend Getaway” when I can’t even go to the grocery store without having a panic attack?)
If Lost Start Here is less about “Resetting Your Wellness At This Jaw-Dropping Bali Retreat” and more about “700 Places Where You Can Openly Sob Without Judgement”. And for me (huddled in my bed, with my duct tape, thinking about soup) that feels just about right.