If you have ever experienced paranoia, you probably know how distressing it can be. Paranoia is an exaggerated, false belief that other people are watching or out to cause harm. Beliefs can include persecution, personal threats or conspiracies. It is a near constant belief that we are in harms way. One in four people have regular thoughts filled with suspicion towards others. And almost everyone experiences paranoia at some point in their life. But for some people with mental illness, it can always feel like someone is watching you.
You don’t always have to suffer from a mental illness to experience paranoia. For most people, paranoia is temporary and mild. Drug use and intoxication is often a cause of paranoia. Childhood trauma is another cause. But for those who suffer from a mental illness, paranoia can be caused by hallucinations and delusions. And paranoia can be debilitating. Especially when you always feel like someone is watching you.
It always feels like somebody’s watching me
I have lived with paranoia my entire life. Ever since I was a child in school. Bullies would constantly harass and assault me. I was chased home nearly every day by kids from school. Sometimes by a group of more than 30 kids carrying clubs and sticks. So I had to learn how to watch my back. Eventually I dropped out of band because it got so severe. I couldn’t run home fast enough while carrying my instrument.
I never understood why, but I was always the guy who got picked on. Even my friends would laugh at me, making jokes at my expense. And it always triggered my paranoia. I just attributed it to my low self esteem and being a weirdo. Often believing what the others said about me. I would constantly wonder who was talking about me. Were they saying things behind my back?
I couldn’t walk outside of my home without feeling like somebody’s watching me. Keeping track of my every movement. Waiting for the right time to strike me. At first I was only paranoid of groups. But the older I got, the more paranoid I became. I started becoming paranoid of coworkers, friends and neighbors. Wondering if they watched me as I would work. When I walked outside the house, I looked to see who was there. Eventually I became paranoid of everyone, especially strangers. And it consumed my life. But the paranoia didn’t stop with just people. I started suffering from paranoid delusions.
Paranoia takes over
It was my first time living alone. I was excited about getting my first apartment in the city. But the excitement soon wore off. I started looking through my apartment at the vents and mirrors, wondering if there were cameras behind them. I tried to dismiss it, telling myself it was all in my head. At first I thought I was just being immature. I attributed it to an overactive imagination. But the bitter truth is, it actually was all in my head. I was mentally ill and I didn’t even know it.
This time I attributed my paranoia to my lifestyle. I was a computer hacker and digital pirate spending my time illegally downloading music and movies. I would also hack websites and social media. In addition, I was also abusing drugs and alcohol every day. Eventually I started selling drugs, which only made things worse. The paranoia had to be just an unfortunate side effect of my substance abuse and activity.
By this time I was in constant fear of getting busted and going to jail. And I worried about someone breaking in while I was asleep. The paranoia was keeping me up at night. I couldn’t sleep at all so I did the only thing I knew to do. I started hanging out at the local pub. Spending four to five nights a week at the bar. Closing it down at 2 o’clock in the morning, even on work nights. But the paranoia was because of my lifestyle, not mental illness. It had to be the drugs and activities I engaged in. I couldn’t be mentally ill, I didn’t feel like I was crazy. And I refused to admit that I might be. I would explode at the mere suggestion of my having a mental illness.
A delusion is a break from reality. Paranoid delusions are the false belief of being persecuted or harmed by others. Unfortunately this accurately describes how I was feeling. And it wasn’t all because of substance abuse or illicit activity. But I dismissed it as being normal. By this time I trusted no one. Not even friends and family. I even found myself going through my rental house looking for cameras. I was convinced my landlord was spying on me.
The paranoia began dictating nearly every aspect of my life. I would only leave the house for work or necessities. I secluded myself and became a hermit, living in isolation. Eventually I stopped hanging out with coworkers and friends. And I refused to socialize with anyone outside of a very small circle of family and friends. Little did I know I was now suffering from paranoid delusions. I had delusions about imaginary scenerios coming true. I spent a great deal of time worrying about what might happen. My mind would race with thoughts and what-ifs.
In 2015 I moved to Denver. I thought I could escape by moving to a new place. Maybe a new environment would help. Surely if I moved away from everyone I could finally relax. The problem is that my mental illness moved with me. I moved to Denver to find a new life. I went searching for God and a fresh start. Seeking to give up my old behavior, I stopped hacking and dealing drugs. I even quit smoking, alcohol and drugs cold turkey. The first two months were great. I was happy, euphoric and on top of the world. But not long after, my old friend paranoia found me again. That’s when things really began to deteriorate.
I started to feel like everyone was watching me. When I would leave the house, I believed my neighbors were watching. That they were keeping track of my activities and laughing behind my back. And once again I found myself searching my apartment for cameras. Only this time was different. While in the bathroom, I thought I saw a flashing red light behind the mirror. Turns out I was also suffering from visual hallucinations. I even began hearing voices. I thought I was hearing God talk to me.
At work I was constantly in fear of my boss and coworkers. I was afraid of getting in trouble for mistakes. But I was also paranoid that my coworkers were talking behind my back. It made me angry and suspicious. I exploded at the drop of a hat. And it cost me my job. I lived in Denver for three years. And during that time, paranoid delusions cost me 4 jobs. I knew something was wrong but I still had no idea I was mentally ill.
Free at last
It wasn’t until after I moved back home to Oklahoma that I was diagnosed. I started taking medications 4 months ago. And now that I am in treatment and taking medications, I am feeling better. But I can’t stop taking them. I no longer feel like somebody is always watching me. I no longer feel like the world is out to get me. And I no longer worry about if I am being recorded. At times my paranoia is triggered, but not like it used to be. I do have my days every so often.
Once in a while the fear sets in, and I get suspicious of people. But not like it was before. It is no longer constant. I don’t always feel on edge and ready to strike. The fear is subsiding. The anger is also beginning to subside. Paranoia still plagues my life. But hopefully that too will be gone.
It always feels like somebody’s watching me. But hopefully that it will stop soon. Maybe one day I will be free at last.
IamThePatRatt – The Bipolar Hacker
Hack the Stigma. Hack the Planet.