Have you ever wondered whether there is a more sinister reason behind the actions of someone in relation to you? Have you ever though, what if…?
What if that close friend’s silence means they hate me? What if it means I have said something so bad, and don’t recall that such a meaning could be construed from my words that they wish harm to me? What if someone ignoring my request for help means they think I don’t deserve any? What if they think I deserve to not be in the world, I have done so many bad things? What if something bad has happened to them, and they can’t be in touch, but, they can see my thoughts, and now think I am so selfish worrying about myself when something bad has happened to them that they hate me, and rightly so?
What if this escalates? What if someone cooking for me wants to poison me? What IF putting someone’s picture on my wall means they can actually see me as if they were there?
Can you imagine thinking these things? Can you imagine what it feels like to actually believe these things? Do you think, “well *obviously* that can’t be real!” – But, how do you KNOW?
And that’s paranoia. There are LOTS of things that can be thought, and felt and attributed to paranoia. Have you ever just told someone “don’t be so paranoid?” But what if these thoughts are in your head, and you KNOW that you can’t constantly check, even with close friends, even with family, because, they get fed up, they can’t reassure enough times. They can’t understand that these thoughts won’t go away, that it is not possible to be completely sure what is real and what is not.
It can’t be easy to be the friend of someone who needs the reassurance. I mean, you’ve never done anything deliberately unkind, much less harmful, why can’t they just trust you? Why can’t you just get some peace occasionally? Why do they think you are lying?
But, what if (paranoia is basically WHAT IF writ so large you can’t see anything else) they DO believe you. What if they ONLY believe you, but in the gaps between your reassurance, they are battered constantly by unpleasant and frightening versions of “what if” and they are counting the minutes until they can check again? What if they KNOW you have things to do and life to lead and they are going back over everything you have said to them to help remember that it is OK, and feeling proud that they have managed to not bother you for a hour? Me, sometimes I can go 2 or three days, and it’s hard because the other person might not realise I have tried SO hard to “give them a break” that my mind is now SO cluttered with what if, that there are no pictures of people up, and I might not ever speak to some people again. Just in case.
It’s frightening. It’s very frightening. And it takes a LOT to marshall all the experience and all the knowledge you have to make a balance of probabilities in your mind to help yourself. And what if you can’t? What if you are too tired, or too overwhelmed? Then you just have to be scared on your own? What if you have bad life experiences which mean that, some of your dark and dangerous what if’s are actually possible? If you KNOW that someone you loved might have actually killed you, where is the past experience to help you say that someone hating you enough to hurt you is unlikely?
It is important, I think, to remember, however annoying it is, that, if you are the person being checked with, you must be a VERY trusted person. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, because they are bringing their worry to you. Why would they, if you might laugh, or ignore it? Of course you can’t always be there, but it is worth a thought that, that someone really believes in you.
You can’t easily control your brain chemicals. You can’t easily choose which thoughts to have and which not to have. You can’t even always know what to be sure of and what to dismiss. In fact, if you can confidently pick out a paranoid idea from a real one, well done you. I can’t. Even in my professional capacity. I have met enough people to whom extreme, and disturbing things have happened, that, to me, it is real, until it is proven not true, when someone needs my help with their fear of something bad happening.
Because, fear is fear. Dispelling fear means you have to acknowledge it to begin with. And, if it were my friend, and it were possible, I would not want them to sit there, in complete panic, if I could actually effect change by reassuring. Yes, I need my own time, and to care for myself. And no one ever means that should not happen.
But, it would be nice to know, that someone knows the effort being put in to talk myself out of believing bad things, of removing the “paranoid” thoughts, of trying NOT to ask for reassurance. Because, how else cold they possibly have the patience to see how to help?
Just think, every time you are trusted to provide reassurance, you re actually building a bank of experiences that help, tiny brick, by tiny brick, build a wall to keep out the nasty, scary “paranoid” thoughts. And, if it were me, that would make me feel better for helping.