Empty Spaces: Pushing Back the Boundaries
By Virginia A. Tobin
Reclaiming My Consciousness
Anything or anyone who demands your attention on a daily basis becomes personal to you. Before I became mentally ill, my personal identity was common place to myself and to the rest of society. Since then, my paranoid schizophrenia has demanded my attention generally speaking for approximately 19 years, and has demanded my attention at every level of my life for most of those years. My mental illness has occupied the empty spaces and has pushed back the boundaries so that the gaps of emptiness are much wider than that of a mentally healthy person. I have come to see that being passive about this invites the mental illness to become a parasite larger than the host. The time has come for me to push back the boundaries of emptiness and to allow little room for the uncommon demand.
My symptoms began in 1995, unbeknownst to me, creeping up on me with peculiar occurrences, all culminating in 2007 when I was hearing and seeing ghosts. The onset of my disability seemed to coincide with my one and only marriage to a man I had dated in high school. I only know this in retrospect because I had no clue I was mentally ill until being diagnosed in 2004. My suffering really commenced when my husband left me, without much explanation, after six months of living together as husband and wife. I had a profound feeling of not understanding, which stayed with me, growing for years to come. This feeling of not understanding eventually became about everything that I experienced on a daily basis and thus became MY personal definition of the self.
I would not say that I was lost. I wasn’t. It’s just that this feeling of not understanding became accompanied by beliefs that I adopted to explain the feeling itself. This is where I split from the common understanding of the truth. I began believing that everyone around me was talking indirectly about me or indirectly to me. Following this, I began believing that I knew things that the public did not know about local and world events. Everything I heard, and everything and everyone I met, soon seemed to be a part of a perfect world in which every last detail and generality was previously planned from the license plates of the cars around me to the changing names of countries on the world map. Putting it simply, I recognized everything in the world. It was like experiencing the awesome power of God from a demonic perspective.
One cannot imagine what this felt like, nor understand how demanding this was on my attention. I was in a continuous state of shock and not understanding. This is where my paranoia steps in. I believed that strangers around me knew who I was and that they were all in on some kind of great conspiracy concerning me. I believed that spies from all over the world were watching, listening and following me, that micro-cams were in my bathroom and a tracking device was inside my watch. I don’t know when I started to believe there was an implant in my thumb. This now all seems so gratuitous, of course, since whoever planned the world’s goings on was so advanced.
I was eventually caught be the authorities as only mentally ill people will truly understand. In desperation, I went to the police while I was delusional and traveling around the country thinking now that I was being chased and harassed by the mob. The police sent me to the public psychiatrist where I was officially diagnosed. I immediately noticed that I was now in a different class of people because I was institutionalized. I had just relinquished control of my entire life, as a prisoner would relinquish control to the authorities by being incarcerated. My instincts were correct. This was only to be the beginning of a long span of time spent in and out of the mental institution. It seemed that everyone viewed me as a mentally ill person whose sudden civic duty it was to control and detain. This is how my life crashed.
My paranoid schizophrenia voided my daily experience of true living and settled in with voices from the spirit world. My disability took on a new dimension as voices only came from people in the material world before this. These new voices took my time and my attention so that I was unable to measure my life and at some points unable to measure time. Life events were seemingly non-existent. The value and the meaning of life became shabby. Emptiness was my master and I was its slave.
During the time period directly following my life crashing, I began to finally gain a feeling of understanding through the spirit world voices. They explained a whole new domain of delusion to me which justified everything that I had previously believed. Finally, I began to relax because I no longer felt the desperation of not comprehending.
Currently, I have a more developed understanding and realistic relationship with my disability. The goal is to close the gap of emptiness with a hobby or interest that I can share with others and hopefully earn some money with. The concept that I am pursuing is to teach myself how to make wedding gowns and eventually to design originals. Of course, I will take this very personally as it will redefine who I am by what I think about and do routinely. My attention will be mine again.