Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just because you’re paranoid. Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” –Joseph Heller

Does anybody else struggle with a credibility gap? Or maybe it’s just me.

In the cinematic masterpiece “12 Monkeys,” James Cole (Bruce Willis) finds himself in a mental institution, displaying all the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. He claims to be from the future, and is afraid of the people that are after him. He can be traced via a device implanted in one of his molars. Against his will, he’s drugged to incapacitation.

The problem is, Cole is entirely sane. He really IS from the future – he’s been sent back in time to locate a virus that will wipe out most of the population of earth. He’s also a prisoner, so a tacking device has been placed in his teeth. But when he tries to explain his situation to hospital staff, they don’t buy his story. Who can blame them? Eventually, Cole comes to distrust himself. After all, he’s a textbook case!

Two things happen when you are diagnosed with a mental illness. First, the symptoms you have suffered are put into a context, and finally make sense. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that from that day on, you lose credibility. You continue to live your life, as everyone does, but suddenly it seems like everything is about your illness and not about your outer environment.

It can be a frustrating thing to have a “reason” for your distress. You might have a bad teacher or an inept boss. Your spouse or parents might be cold and uncaring. You might have a physical illness, like irritable bowel syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis. But now that you have depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder or bipolar, the problem is suddenly inside your head.

It can be difficult to talk about your problems with a physician, counselor, or family member, once your diagnosis is out of the bag. After all, diarrhea can be a manifestation of your anxiety (even though you might have food poisoning). You know you’ve always been too sensitive (even though your work environment is toxic). Your credibility is shot. It’s all about you.

And the person with the most doubt isn’t necessarily your father, wife or co-worker. The person with the most doubt is you. That’s why it’s so important, when you are anxious or depressed, to try to be as objective as you possibly can. Really listen to yourself. Journal. Keep track of your moods and how they may be affected by various factors.

Does anybody else struggle with a credibility gap? Or maybe it’s just me.

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