I’ve had two delusional episodes since my initial break in 2008. Though I haven’t fallen into deep psychosis since my first break at the age of 37, these delusional episodes are completely disruptive of my life. These episodes are different and distinct from my “new” average daily life of hearing voices.
The voices themselves don’t bother me, whereas the story lines of delusion do. The voices I can disregard through diverting my attention, concentrating on anything from music to reading or surfing the internet. Conversely, delusions are invasive, pervasive. Listening to the voices alone is interesting and I think it is exactly because I can tune in and tune out. Like listening to an overheard conversation in a cafe, someone may be saying something funny or obnoxious, and not knowing what you will hear is a part of the interest.
Delusions are no more predictable than voices, but for each person there is often on on-going theme. For some it is religious, as in institutionalized religion. For others voices are spiritual in nature — ghosts or angels, spirits or demons talking. The altered senses may be extraordinary perceptions for others. The story line of my delusions centers around magic, magical beings and disembodied persons who speak through me.
Delusions are separate and distinct from the hallucinated voices. Webster and the DSM would have us believe that delusions are “a belief in that which is not real”. I would say they are more akin to a personal experience so extraordinary and intimate it is doubtful anyone else could relate (except, perhaps, in fictionalized narrative story form). I’ve come to believe anyone would have my same reaction to what I hear and feel during my delusional cycles. It’s in the hearing 24/7 that makes you believe it is real. You simply cannot escape.
My anxiety level reaches top notches when I am delusional, based again on what I hear: the world of magic seemingly rests upon my shoulders, it is a fight between chaos and order (not good and evil, per se) and only my day-to-day actions and habits can help those disembodied souls and spirits who accompany me. Twice now I’ve had this experience since my diagnosis in 2008, with the same results: I become enveloped in an impenetrable, mysterious world and not much in this reality matters. Luckily I’ve managed to keep my job though these episodes.
This is not my personality — being some extraordinary savior — before psychosis set in. That’s delusion. I have to laugh because it all sounds so absurd when I far away from in, grounded in common reality. When “in flight” it is such a disparate reality, that I try to reconcile in my mind because it is at complete odds with my reality. “How can this be true?” See, it feels so real.
Are my extraordinary perceptions real? They sure feel that way when I am in the thick of it. Should I make changes in my life based on what I hear? What can I do to make a difference in my life, make a difference for these lost souls? I think these are questions every schizophrenic must deal with, and since the delusions never stop for most, our behaviors become erratic and disconnected from any thread of consistency, making us seem, well, mad.
The voices I tend to believe the beings behind them are real, while I don’t take their words too seriously. For delusions, it is the opposite: I don’t take their personalities too seriously, but their stories are deadly real to me. At least until the meds kick in again. To me it seems there must be different mechanisms for delusion and auditory hallucinations and I can see why outside observers can’t distinguish between the two. It’s even too hard to describe from the inside out.
In essence, I can choose what I believe to think about the audibles, but for delusions, when I am in that space, there is no choice: I believe and I am encompassed.