What Is Peer Support in the Mental Health System?

Every Christmas, my cousin, Athena, and I have a competition of sorts. We give each other gifts that we believe help establish who is our grandmother’s favorite grandchild.  (There is a picture further down the page from a year I “lost.”) It’s a delightful family tradition that started up innocently enough five or so years ago and just keeps. . . growing.

The general premise is simple enough: Athena maintains that she is our grandmother’s favorite and I know I am our grandmother’s favorite. The yearly battle for Granny’s love has caught the attention of friends and neighbors, and members of the family who can’t be in attendance for the official exchange are quick to inquire about it.

In fact, the only thing my cousin and I do agree on is that whoever is not Grandma’s favorite is securely in second place. In other words, my cousin is the second favorite of all the grandchildren.

Is My Cousin Delusional for Thinking She’s the Favorite?

Wrong versus DelusionalAs the stakes increase year after year, the trash-talk has ramped up, as well. Over the summer, I said to her that if she thinks she’s the favorite, she’s delusional. In the right context, I am correct. She believes something that is unsupported by fact and reality.

Except, of course, she’s not literally delusional. She and I are playing a game. Granted, it’s a high-stakes game. Being the actual favorite, I understand why she wants my position in the family. But I’m exaggerating and using the term more loosely to describe behavior I believe is unrealistic.

A delusion is a false belief that is based on an incorrect interpretation of reality. A person with delusional disorder will firmly hold on to this belief despite specific and clear evidence to the contrary. Being delusional is a symptom of mental illness and generally exists with other symptoms.  More specifically, delusions most often occur when a person is suffering from psychosis.

I’ve been delusional and can tell you that it’s all encompassing. It’s deceiving yourself by believing outrageous, irrational, and often impossible things to be completely true, then defending those thoughts irrationally. Believing a single falsehood — especially a nebulous one — does not make one actually delusional.

In other words, when it comes to my cousin believing that she is the favorite grandchild she isn’t delusional in any way.

She’s just wrong.

Gabe Howard is a popular speaker, writer, and advocate who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is an award-winning writer and the creator of the official bipolar shirt. (Get yours now!) Gabe can be reached on Facebook, via email, or via his website, www.GabeHoward.com.