Personal Stories

Sandy's Story

My name is Sandy and I live with late onset paranoid schizophrenia. 

There’s a place in town that I pass by on my way to work. It’s a reminder of my last moments before my life changed forever. It’s a very pleasant memory of watching the stars and the northern lights play above the train depot. I had struggled with so much for so many years prior: depression, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, ADHD and I thought that list was done growing that night. At 44 years old, I felt at peace with the past and ready to move on to the future.

Then, literally days later, I began to feel watched and suspicious of people. The delusions grew in intensity until I began to see all these amazing connections and clues leading me to the conclusion that I was part of a CIA covert operation. This continued for six weeks until one night, I found myself by the river’s edge in agony, trying to freeze to death. Something in me found a corner of disbelief…some fire that got me up off the ground and walking towards the hospital. There, they forced an admission, which began my journey into this difficult new chapter of my life.

The doctors originally thought my medication was to blame for the delusions, and so they discontinued anti-psychotics. Six months later, I slid back into delusions. This time, I held it together better and was able to stay working and active despite the swirling giant CIA operation going on in my head. In fact, I had come to feel a sense of safety and affection when certain delusions and hallucinations would happen. I called them my pitbull, my protectors and a teddy bear to cling to while chaos existed.

Again, there was a scrap of insight that allowed me to get needed help. I just knew the police weren’t trying to harm me. The delusions receded once again.

Today is a much different future than foreseen underneath those northern lights four years ago. Large weight gain. Cognitive dulling (which feels like ADHD on steroids). I’m feeling better, though, than I have for years. Less struggle with criticism. Far less depression. No delusions and ideas of reference.

So, to honor the delusions, I boiled them down to their core meaning; protect and serve. I want to be of service to others. I choose to add that back into my life. I don’t know yet how to protect and serve beyond everyday kindness, but it’ll happen 

Another thing I’ve chosen to keep on doing is working. My work is only cashiering and stocking, but being forced to pull myself together and to fight residual paranoia keeps me fighting my illness. 

Where I’ll go next is uncertain. It’s tough to consider, but I know with all the support I’ve received both financially and emotionally, that we’ll get through it together. 


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