Trigger warning: This post contains an extensive discussion of Schizophrenia.
The worst part is knowing it’s not real.
One could argue that being lost to psychoses, unable to tell the difference between reality and your hallucinations, is the worst. But to me, knowing that the person in the mirror and the voices aren’t real just makes it hurt so much more when they take me down anyway. Having the clarity of mind to understand that defeat on the imaginary front is what keeps me up at night.
And it’s not just that I know they’re not real, they know too.
“Aw look at you, am I wearing you down? How silly, we both know I‘m not real. You‘re pathetic.”
There was only one time where I couldn’t tell what I was seeing wasn’t real. I’ll never forget it for it made my heart plummet, splattering all of the willpower I possessed into a bloody mess upon the tile floor. It was my first night at work after losing my sanity, my world ending as I knew it.
My shifts are spent in the back half of the store, late into the night. I’m normally alone with the exception of the occasional customer who requests usage of the fitting room. Store policy states I must have the customer place the clothing they wish to try on, onto a bar so I can count them then hand them a number tag. Four dresses, two silky ones, one knit, one sequenced, I handed them back to her. Taking the number card from my stand, I handed it to her as I pointed out the fitting room.
It fell through her hand and slapped into the ground.
Staring at it, I felt the world stop.
Eyes flying back up, I stumbled away and into the wall when I saw that no one was standing there. Panic took me with the blurring of my world as I ducked back into the fitting rooms to ‘clean’.
Luckily when I’m not in a prolonged episode, that doesn’t happen regularly. But for some, that is their life. Their entire world is a struggle between reality and the delusions their fracture mind try to tell them. Delusions don’t hit me often, but when they do I’m left in total pause.
“Someone is under your desk watching you.” The young man in the mirror, a far younger and lost version of myself says, eyes lazily rolling when he sees that I’m obviously ignoring him, “Of course I‘m telling the truth, what do I get out of lying to you?”
And I’m left there to sit in discomfort, fighting every atom of me that wants to look under my desk, just in case the person in the mirror was right.
He sits there, watching me, face propped up on his hand as he sighs, “You know, it‘s impolite to ignore people.”
I feel the need to inform him that it’s impolite to take over my reflection, but I don’t, because then he wins. I refuse to call him by a name, and I honestly hate humanizing him enough to call the hallucination ‘him’. If I don’t speak to him, if I don’t acknowledge the things he says, I win. If I pretend I can’t hear the voices, that they’re not clogging up my every thought, then I win. It’s all about spite and stubbornness for me. I will not fall to them, I will not give them the satisfaction of formal acknowledgment. Sure, I wish I could see myself in the mirror again, would be nice to know if my hair looks dumb. But my hallucination has laid claim to the silver glass, replacing any semblance of a reflection I once had. And there he shall stay, the loneliness person in the world. For I am the only one who can see him, and I refuse to let him know that.
Fighting imaginary demons can feel real, no matter what your logical mind says. It’s sadly not a battle of logic, it is a chemical fallout and we just have to endure. That lack of control, lack of ability to fully logic myself back into sanity, is quite a defeat to my logician pride.
There are 27 mirrors I have to walk around every day at work, trust me, I counted.
“Your footsteps are too loud. You‘re doing something wrong. There‘s someone watching you.” The young man in the mirror says as he follows me around, appearing in one reflective surface to the next.
It’s hard to ignore him, day in and out.
“You‘re getting nervous, are you going to be able to count that money correctly? Your voice is cracking, oh don‘t stutter too.”
He’s with me no matter where I am.
All it takes is a shiny black electronic screen, a window, a glass display, he’s always by my side, pulling apart everything I do. His sentiments are echoed by the voices without a body and eventually they render me paralyzed. Hand extended on a box I was straightening on the shelf, I begin to doubt every movement. But even if I stay still, their attack continues.
“Why are you just standing there? It‘s not your job to just stand there.”
And as I stand there, eyes wide, hand shaking ever so slightly, I am left to wonder just how I ended up here. It feels like an eternity since I was neurotypical. What was it like to not hear things? What did my reflection look like? And as those questions rattle around in my mind, one comes in like a shadow that silences the rest.
Will I ever know what it’s like to not be this way again?
Lowering my hand from the display, eyes falling to the floor, I try to ignore the voices that pounced on that insecurity.
Dear anyone who knows what it’s like to fall into a word of atypical neurological warfare, I stand with you. I don’t know where the end of the battle is located, but I know it must be out there. Let’s continue to search for it together. I’ll hold out the white flag if you wish to set it ablaze. Because surrender is no path worth taking.