In this diary of mental illness, John Sterns describes a day spent battling schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, chronic depression and chronic anxiety ...
Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE
Paranoia makes me sweat. I am drenched as I walk up the small campus hill on an unusually clear, warm day. I must reach the safety of my basement office so that the satellite can no longer track my thoughts and transmit them to the central command.
The waves cannot penetrate the concrete of the building’s basement. The controllers know almost all of my movements and thoughts. I need a break to plan my next moves. I keep my head down to avoid making eye contact. Every encounter is an attack, with teeth that are razors ready to rip my flesh. I must please everyone or they will take out a whistle, blow on it and call the attack squad to surround me. They will put a hood over my head, subdue me and then take me to a cabin and kill me.
In my office I sit immobile at my desk, doing no work and trying not to fight my pounding voices. I am helpless against the paranoid delusions and suicidal voices that swirl inside my aching head. My vision blurs. The walls and windows close in and I breathe in rasps. The voices are telling me to die. The air is charged with anxiety. Everything and everyone is overwhelming to me. My body tenses, ready for an ambush at any time. I cower, expecting three men in black snow caps to attack me and beat me to death with wooden clubs. Capture is imminent. Giving in is inevitable.
The afternoon turns to evening and my co-workers leave the building until I am alone. Spies walk the campus ready to report on my movements. I call my wife (though the phones are tapped) and tell her I will be home late. This is a typical evening for us. I will be home in time to play with our son and help put him to bed. Home is separate from work, safe from the satellite. In both places, however, I must have everything in order, everything in its place, neat stacks of papers and no clutter. Nothing can be on the floors. No hiding places for a surprise assault.
I open a drawer and take out the receipts for dinners that I have had during the past month. Most of the meals were eaten alone at local restaurants. A few are legitimate business meals, which I mix in my expense reports to confuse my would-be captors. The satellite is just one part of a campus-wide plot to kidnap my wife and son, take them to a remote cabin in the Trinity Mountains and brainwash them until they forget about me. I will be kidnapped, too, and taken to an underground bunker in Alabama and killed by lethal injection. This plot has been in place since we arrived here more than two years ago. My predecessor killed himself (something I learned after I started the job) and I am convinced that death looms for me as well.
I try to confuse my enemies by committing crimes. I submit false expense claims so that they believe I am working, are fooled into thinking that I have value for them, thereby delaying their plot. I savagely demean and berate my co-workers to drive them away, so they won't spy on my activities. Work is the centre of the conspiracy.
When I come home later, I play a game with my son and my wife where we all pretend to be trains, running a loop through our two upstairs bedrooms, bathroom and landing, collapsing on the beds when we breakdown. I then put my son to bed, giving him a gentle massage. I go through the house, double-checking the garage and doors to ensure we are locked in. I also make certain that there are no messes or untidy places in the house. Everything has its place; everything must be clean, neat, in order. Shoes must be arranged with toes in a straight line. Nothing must be able to sneak up on me.
I lie in bed and try to calm my mind. My heart races and sweat pours down my torso and arms. When will it happen? When will they attack? ("They" are the group of highly trained ninjas who will slip silently into our house and execute the plan.) Eventually I fall asleep, afraid that I will die before I wake again.
A dream in which I am being smothered by gang members wakes me up at around three in the morning. I leave our bedroom and go downstairs, and sit on the blue couch in our living room. My voices are telling me to kill myself. Dread sits like a stone in my gut, distending my stomach and leaving me unbalanced. I sit in the night, alone, waiting, and I ask myself: why resist?
Picture credit: DerrickT (via Flickr)
(John Sterns lives with his family in California, takes five psychotropic medications daily and works as the marketing manager for a leading American commercial real-estate brokerage firm. His last diary for More Intelligent Life was "Being crazy is noisy".)