By Samuel Campbell III –
Around 2002, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. There’s a lot of theories about what causes it. Some think it is psychological, while others think it has to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. It occurs to me that I’ve never taken the time to write out what it is like to have schizoaffective disorder. What follows is a series of experiences I have had with psychotic breaks. I’m not doing this to elicit sympathy or pity from anyone, but simply to put the experiences down so I have a record of them.
I would think that God, angels, demons, spirits, extraterrestrials or other people could communicate with me in my head. The first time I remember this happening, I was in the parking lot of a grocery store and I thought I had “broken through” into a secret area of heaven. I had what I thought was a conversation with angels who asked me a series of questions. One question I remember in particular was “what is a matrix?” This was many years before the movie The Matrix came out, and when I actually saw the movie, it triggered a remembrance of that long-ago conversation, and precipitated another psychotic breakdown.
I would often think that the television or the radio were sending coded messages to me. For example, my dad was a major fan of the original Star Trek series. Years later I developed a fixation on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I believed held coded messages specifically for me, and that the original series had coded messages for my father.
I often thought that other people were sending coded messages to me through hand gestures or some other body movement. I would also think that if a loud car or motorcycle went by me that it indicated that everyone around me was angry at me, and the the loud motors were “growling” at . I thought there was some kind of hidden purpose in traffic patterns. For example, if a car went by me to the left, I would think it meant I was supposed to go left. If a car went by me on the right, I would think it meant I was supposed to go right.
Most of the psychotic delusions occurred during periods of intense religiosity. Curiously enough, when I wasn’t particularly interested in religion or when I outright disbelieved in God, I never seemed to suffer from any of these symptoms. My mother was of the opinion that it meant that the devil was trying to destroy my mind. And for a long time I actually believed that too.
One of the earliest memories I have of a psychotic break occurred when I was living with my best friend and his wife. I was extremely agitated and confused that day, and I think I was challenging God to reveal himself to me. I don’t know what led me to do this, but I decided I would try an experiment. I took a bowl and filled it up with water. I then poured the water all over myself in my bedroom. After that I took a wire hanger, straightened out the hook, and stuck it into an electric wall socket. I received no shock. Since I didn’t die from doing this, I became convinced I was immortal. I opened up the window to my bedroom and pushed the screen out. I then jumped out of the window. Since I only lived on the second story, I was not seriously hurt. In fact, I landed on my feet. For a long time after this, I was convinced I was immortal somehow.
A lot of the religious delusion revolved around what I felt was my place in a “spiritual war.” I was convinced that I was a “warrior” of some kind for God. This particular delusion was coincidentally reinforced by a Pentecostal “prophet” who delivered a prophecy over me that also stated I was going to be a great “spiritual warrior” and that I would be a “father in the house of God.”
Because I have tinnitus, I often experience a persistent ringing in my ears. I would sometimes interpret these ringings as angels trying to guide me on the right way. If I was thinking something, and my left ear would ring, I would interpret that to mean that I was on the wrong track. If I was thinking something and my right ear would start ringing, I would interpret that to mean I was on the right track.
Since I never knew who my real biological father was, I would sometimes become paranoid that I was the antichrist. I also thought at one point that my father was Lee Harvey Oswald. I thought I received a vision once of who my real biological father was while I was watching television. There was some golf professional playing on a beautiful green field, and I somehow ‘knew’ that this was my real father. I was happy that he was enjoying himself.
Continued in part 2 next week.
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