Loving someone that is bipolar or paranoid schizophrenic is easy. Living with them, sometimes, is not. They are related conditions. I personally do not have much experience living with bipolar so I’m not going to discuss it but I have lived with someone that has paranoid schizophrenia.
The interesting thing about schizophrenia is that it is actually a construct of the ego that is present in all of us, but it is exacerbated in this case. So the basic gist is: Everyone is out to get me, everyone is plotting against me, everyone is the enemy.
I think we’ve all had fleeting glimpses of this in our lives, but we usually just snap back and realize that’s ridiculous and people only care about themselves.
But for someone that has experienced trauma or some harsh trigger that catapults them into this mindset, it is their daily reality. Both bipolar and schizophrenia are genetic but my understanding is that they can be dormant until they’re not.
Living with a family member that has PS is like living in a war zone.
You’re the enemy, the neighbors are the enemy, the waiter is the enemy, everyone is the enemy. But you never know at what moment you’ll be the enemy until they decide you are one all the time. You never know if by smiling you’ll set them off. You never know when taking care of yourself will be interpreted as doing something against them.
One day, almost a decade ago, we all went for a motorcycle ride, just exploring our state, ending up near Lake Michigan. Just before we neared the beach, this person decided someone in a black car had been following him. He decided it wasn’t safe there and he needed to go. He was screaming about being there, angry and upset. I had enough and said, “It was my idea to come here, if you don’t like it, be mad at me!” I was pretty fiery by that point in my life.
And that was enough to become the enemy. Every time I looked at him, he saw it as a threat, somehow malicious. Any laughter must mean I was laughing about him. Any anything I did was somehow plotting against him. He rode all of the way back home by himself shortly after that.
When I first became involved in the situation, I wasn’t totally aware of the severity of the warning signs. The very first night we all slept in the same house, he was sitting outside in a bush with a gun, waiting for “them.” He had moved the grill off the deck and into the garage for some reason, and had tied twine around where he was, like a trip-wire I suppose.
I knew this was messed up, but clearly I wasn’t fully comprehending how bad it was.
That incident was followed by several more. Back at his home, full-color security cameras were installed, inside and outside the house. He would sit inside and watch the tapes, waiting to catch the “them” that were after him.
- He was convinced someone was pumping dangerous gas into his home.
- Someone was walking on his ceiling.
- Someone was following him everywhere.
- Someone was killing his plants.
We spent the night there and boards and bowling bag cases were set up in the hallway as some kind of trap or alarm. He slept with a gun next to his head. At that point, I was afraid to even get up and go to the bathroom in the night.
I knew he was having a hard time in his life, and I just thought this was an outward manifestation of that grief. I didn’t fully understand that this was a very dangerous mental construct he was living in, a reality he was 100% convinced was real.
We were contacted by his local police department, obviously concerned about the reports he was making. We spoke to his doctor. He sold his house and moved in with us, and I was woefully unprepared for that. It wasn’t enough to love him and want to help him, no one accepts help from anyone they deem the enemy, especially when they don’t accept that they need help in the first place.
His own family was a little safer, but he still tried to fit them into his version of reality, which was so cold and harsh and unloving. He wasn’t able to think of anything but surviving. Everyone was a threat to his existence. He picked fights and spent all of his mental energy either fearing or complaining about everyone else.
This is a total mindf*@k for the people living with it. You just want to love them and be loved by them, but they literally exist in an entirely different dimension than you do. They are unable to love without attachment. They are unable to see how they could serve anyone but themselves because they are in constant survival mode.
Had I fully understood the strong grip his mind was in, I know I could have had more empathy and compassion for what he was going through. Instead, my boundary radar was constantly alarming and I was just trying to protect my sanity and that of my loved ones dealing with this.
It’s very hard for empathy to reach someone that is physically in your reality but mentally worlds away.
Another thing I have only recently discovered is that I am a very open empath, meaning that I am very sensitive to energy. I have a hard time protecting my energy and knowing where mine ends and another’s begins. Only now, years later, have I been shown, with the help of my beloved Reiki teacher, how to distinguish between what is mine and what is another’s. So for me, living in this kind of environment was very, very toxic. The fear and anxiety that radiated from his body was enmeshed with my energy. Even if I felt joy, it would be quickly overpowered.
The ability to remain in the present is absolutely vital if you live with or love someone in either condition. You can be empathetic to their struggle but you also must have strong boundaries. They are capable of getting and receiving help. If they can’t or are unwilling to manage their impulses, then you may have to physically detach, but without guilt. This is their personal journey. You cannot save them from it. But you also don’t have to live with it.
A very good friend of mine is bipolar, is and he has stellar awareness of it and how to manage it. He takes steps to manage like spending time in nature, meditating, journaling, introspection, support groups, and does use medication. This is his life and he’s fully capable. Were anyone to step in and enable him, he perhaps would not have taken all of these steps to understand why his brain does what it does.
Please do not have guilt if you’ve had to distance yourself from someone affected by either condition. It is okay to want to remain firmly grounded in reality. It is okay to know your limits. It is also good to understand that it is unreasonable to have expectations from someone with PS — they cannot love or support you in the way you may need because they are so trapped in this mind prison they have created. In fact, setting a boundary and enforcing it, IS the way they can give you what you need.
Knowing we are each on our own journey may sound cold at first, but it is reality. We are not here to live another’s life for them. We are here to live our life and shine as brightly as possible.
If you are struggling with a relationship like this in your life, call me or book a session today so we can make sure you’re getting the support and guidance you need to navigate it.