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The Bite of Paranoia

rabid dogI’m pretty normal, for a person with schizophrenia that is.

I’ve said many times before that you wouldn’t know I have a mental illness if I didn’t tell you and that’s because of years of social practice and self-therapy, ultimately in an attempt to reclaim the personality I thought I lost during my first major psychotic episode.

I function fine, I can go out in public, do the things I do and for the most part it’s fine except for one thing, the paranoia.

In the years since I was diagnosed I’ve learned to become comfortable with it and have gotten pretty good at not letting it affect me.

There was a period of time that I was afraid to leave my house, and to just go into a store would leave me reeling for hours.

While I’ve gotten better at shall we say, life, the paranoia is still there. Sure meds have done their part to quell it a bit but it’s still there and I think it pretty much always will be.

I’ve equated it to a devil in the past, an opportunistic devil at that, hanging out on your shoulder and taking any opportunity to whisper some nasty thing in your ear. It could also be a small rabid dog, yipping incessantly and biting at your heels whenever you stop moving forward.

Just today I was sitting in a coffee shop minding my own business and there were a couple young women sitting next to me, one of them looked at me and then there was laughter, and in that fraction of a second I crumbled, though I was careful not to let it show. I stared silently at my computer, mind reeling and breathed until I managed to piece myself back together.

While I don’t know for certain that they were laughing at me (there’s a good chance they weren’t because who would do something like that?) they could’ve been and the devil was screaming.

After a moment of sitting there, head exploding, ears ringing, I stood up, went outside and had a cigarette because that’s what I do when the world is collapsing in around me.

Had you been a third person observer, you would have simply seen me blink, stop typing and then stand up, no crisis to be seen and that’s because I keep it that way, hidden, because to allow the wolf inside me to stand up and scream I would have faced even more judgment from the world, judgment that I don’t need.

For now, I know I’m ok, and although the paranoia can throw me off, make me lose focus for however long, it’s only a matter of a few minutes before, inside, I’m back to my quiet self.

This is part and parcel of the experience of living with schizophrenia, you never know when that rabid little dog is going to nip at your heels or when the devil is going to yell something horrid into your ear, but you live with it, you accept it because to fight it would be a death wish in a losing battle.

If you let it get to you you’ll only lose yourself more.

There are millions of people who feel this very thing and while some are crippled by the devil, a few refuse to take him seriously.

Here’s to those who fight for that normalcy the world takes for granted.

The Bite of Paranoia

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). The Bite of Paranoia. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 18 Feb 2015
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