When it comes to experiencing new or possibly uncomfortable things, there is usually some element of risk involved. For instance, do you share your diagnosis with a recent acquaintance before they level up to friend status, or do you wait for the elusive Perfect Moment to divulge your secret? Do you ask your doctor about the side effects of a new medication they recommend, or do you simply go on faith that everything will work itself out? You might ask yourself whether it’s worth the risk.
In my journey through mental illness I have taken many risks, not the least of which were among the two points previously described. Those were of the weightier type. The more mundane might be similar to wondering if I can safely ride the bus to the clinic without incident. Because I am a paranoid schizophrenic who has lived with psychosis for much of my life, I tend to err on the side of caution when I’m faced with situations that might trigger memories of delusion and set me up for a negative episode. But I have to risk it when it’s for my betterment, like getting to that clinic to receive my monthly antipsychotic injection. Add to the mix the precautions necessary during this current pandemic, and risk seems to be the primary response.
It’s about predicting the outcome when one or more variables are unknown. You can’t know the unknowable. You can prepare for the worst, but if it’s inevitable that things will go awry, there is nothing one can do to avoid it. Risk is defined as “a situation involving exposure to danger,” so we have to decide if the context of our experience is dangerous or not. Will we be misunderstood? Will harm come our way? Will unpleasant circumstances arise from moving forward regardless of having taken necessary precautions? All valid questions, albeit without concrete answers, in the context of precognitive experience. So we have to be the Tarot Fool, one foot off the cliff, blissfully unaware of the ramifications of such folly.
Since middle school, I’ve had trouble with demons, and I don’t mean that figuratively. Most frequently on the bus and sometimes when I’ve been walking at night or even in broad daylight. Because I’ve been working with a therapist and am finally properly medicated, I’ve had fewer interactions with devils, so when they do appear it’s cause for alarm. Being in places where I might interact with them is a risk I’m willing to take since I don’t drive and rely on public transportation to get to appointments. My delusional mind wants to believe that hellspawn follow me whenever I leave the house, even with my new practices of deep breathing and mindful self-talk in place. The pull to believe those delusions sometimes feels stronger than the risk I’d take to disbelieve them. It’s a choice I wish I didn’t have to make: risk riding the bus despite what logic tells me, or risk losing my mind to a psychotic delusion because I’m doing what I must to take care of myself. It’s not always easy.
Clearly, life is full of risks. If you chose not to share your feelings with your therapist, they won’t be able to afford you the guidance you might need. Don’t ask your psychiatrist questions about your meds, and you might face troubling side effects that you weren’t aware of. Keep your thoughts to yourself and you might find you’re all bottled up, wishing for darker things. That’s a risk no one should take.
Self-confidence and experience can help make taking risks less daunting. When I first started taking meds I didn’t know what to expect, but I had a willingness to try them because I wanted to feel better. Granted, I had to have come to a point where I felt they might be helpful, but I got there after talking at length with my therapist, doctor, and trusted friends. I had to have the perspective that my private world was in conflict with the common world before I could even entertain the idea of taking medication. I had been in resistance to taking meds for many years due to an unfortunate experience early in my illness. When I started being admitted to hospitals for psychotic breaks, meds were introduced to me as a possible solution to the mental anguish I was in. I was worn down to a point where I had to take the risk and overcome the painful place I’d grown accustomed to. I had to accept that schizophrenia could be controlled and psychosis didn’t have to be my super power. But first I had to risk trusting the people who were there to help me. It’s a very big step for anyone.