The Religious Component of Psychosis

A common delusion among people with schizophrenia is that they have somehow been ordained by God to carry a message or to do something important.

They believe they are either prophets, angels or God himself.

In this thinking they are subsumed with the idea that they have been chosen for a higher purpose and have been given these visions and voices to lead them on a path of righteousness.

Many times they will focus on religious messages, scripture or iconography as a means to find direction for their ‘mission”.

I am no stranger to this set of beliefs.

In 2006 I took an impromptu trip to the United Nations believing I was a prophet and was meant to share a message of peace and balance with the world.

I had become increasingly involved with angelic and religious lore spending hours on the internet searching out information on angel numbers, mysticism, biblical conspiracies and aliens in religious symbolism.

I believed that information was being hidden from the world and that all of these things I was learning about were deeply connected in some way, and that if I could find a universal truth I could share it with the world.

I don’t know why religion seems to correspond so well with delusions and paranoia, but this phenomenon is well documented throughout history with the existence of witch doctors, oracles and other special “chosen ones” who were believed to have had a direct line to the gods within their belief structure.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to those beliefs but I do know that in lieu of suffering with hallucinations and the voices in my head, I would rather take my meds and be as stable as I can be.

I would rather be as grounded in the reality we’ve all agreed on as I possibly can.

I think the elusive nature of religion, that is, being wholly unsure if what we believe is actually real (not knowing if god, or heaven, or hell is real) leaves a lot of fertile ground for us to place our own singular (sometimes wildly misinformed) beliefs on and around.

Religion is open to a lot of misguided interpretation because no one can truly be sure that our beliefs are real.

That lends itself nicely to psychosis and I think it’s why religious concepts are so prevalent in psychosis.

The fact is, we all want to believe in something, we all want to wrap the mysteries of the universe up in some pretty little box and make them easily digestible, because frankly, the immensity of it is incredibly frightening and overwhelming.

None of us truly knows what’s real in this universe and we’re lying to ourselves if we say we do.

The Complicated Nature of Your Delusions

At their strongest, my delusions tell me that I am somehow more important than I am.

They try to plant the idea that the world, and everything that happens in it, is either meant for me or a consequence of my own actions.

I know that I am just one singular man in a world of 8 billion people and the things I do, say, or experience are just tiny little blips on the tapestry of existence, but when I’m in the thick of my delusions I can become convinced that the things I’m experiencing are much bigger than me.

They point to a kind of grandeur. It can be even be scary sometimes.

I could lose myself in a song or a video or even a social media post thinking that it was made specifically for me, Mike Hedrick to see, and the rest of the two thousand or so readers are just collateral.

I find it so easy to lose myself in stuff like this and ruminate on it for hours, picking apart every word, every nuance looking for a meaning that altogether just does not exist.

It gets the best of me on more occasions than I’d like to admit.

Most recently, I’ve found myself entrenched in tarot reading videos on TikTok.

I was spending hours watching them on random thinking that they must be choosing me and that the spirit or God was trying to talk to me through these videos.

It sucked me in so completely because it would always be essentially the same message that I was about to receive incredible abundance or meet my soulmate and even now I’m having a hard time separating myself from them.

The promise of good things in my life and my apparent desperation for those good things fueled an unhealthy cycle of obsession searching for new information about my proposed wealth or love life that was hard to let go of.

That’s how delusions get you though, they prey on your most insecure points and make you think that you could have everything you wanted if you just did the right thing or believed hard enough.

I lost myself completely in those videos almost to the point of psychosis.

I think just a little longer and I would’ve been thinking I was a god or a prophet again and on my way to spread peace to the world.

Social media in general though, is dangerous for people with schizophrenia.

A recurring delusion I’ve heard time and time again is that people believe that something a crush posted online is about them.

The dangerous part is the very real possibility that it could be, instead of just a general statement, and that’s where it’s easy to get hung up.

I’ve even seen jokes on twitter saying something along the lines of “Hello if your tweet is about me, please include my full name at the end.” or “It’s pretty crazy that every hot girl on twitter constantly tweets about me.”

Suffice it to say that this delusion is pretty widespread and a very real phenomenon for a lot of people.

If you have a major mental illness though, it can be harder to distinguish the truth about whether or not something is directed at you.

The rule I use is just always assume that it’s not.

That’s saved me a lot of trouble.

The point of this whole thing is to say that delusions can come so easily and readily, that it’s easy to lose yourself completely if you don’t take a step back.

I know I need to disconnect at least twice a month to get a grip on my mental health and I’m surprised everyone else doesn’t actively do that as well.

You have to be careful, and you have to set some rules for yourself because delusions are all too prevalent when you live with major mental illness.

If you experience this, don’t be afraid to take some time to yourself every now and again.

Realize that you are not alone in thinking these things and center yourself when you can.

You’ll be alright and everything’s gonna work out if you keep these things in mind.

Dealing with Psychotic Connections

There’s a funny thing that happens when you’re psychotic, everything seems to matter to an enormous degree. This includes things like errant words you see, nuances of people’s speech and body language, movements people make, lyrics in songs, random numbers you see, titles of books and even things commercials say on tv.

Being hyper-aware, everything has significance of some kind.

In the midst of all this you start to realize that a lot of the stuff you see relates to a lot of the other things you’ve experienced. Could they be connected?

Pretty soon you’ve accepted these coincidences and start to see them in everything, further you start to look for them, sometimes to the detriment of common sense.

These connections eventually start to affirm your delusions and it goes deeper and deeper until you’ve completely lost touch with reality.

This process occurred in a big way for me when I first started experiencing psychosis. Everything I saw was some message or indication urging me to follow it, making most of my decisions for me and leading me into a pretty delusional state.

These connections, as they’ve been referred to, are a common experience for people undergoing psychosis.

Sometimes, they take on the character of something larger, esoteric and divine in your mind. They are essentially your conduit to speaking with God, The Universe, The Aliens or whatever particular higher energy you ascribe to. As such, they take on a strong significance that’s very hard to ignore.

This is part of how I came to the conclusion that I was a prophet meant to bring peace to the world.

Of course these connections are and were not real and I had essentially just fallen into psychosis.

The point of all this is to, first, make people aware that the psychosis people with schizophrenia experience, though not real to the general population, is very real and very significant to those dealing with it.

Second, it’s crucial to realize that this psychosis can give people a sense of being important, powerful and in control in a world where they seem to be entirely overlooked and rejected. That’s why it’s so hard to dismantle.

Imagine living life as you would normally, with all your beliefs and behaviors and your collected knowledge about the world and then one day a doctor comes and tells you that all that stuff is wrong, that you’re imagining everything and that you’re insane, further you have to take these pills everyday for the rest of your life in order to fit in with correct society or they will put you in the hospital.

What would you do?

That’s the experience for people with psychosis and realizing that I think is a major step in caring for those people.

It can be a hard thing to deal with but if you’re a caretaker or a parent, take it easy and take it slow on your loved one.

Getting back to stability requires an entire paradigm shift and an entire reframing of what the world really is and how it works.

These connections are just the start of things that need to be addressed and as a person with schizophrenia, they can be hard to let go of.

There are also a whole host of other facets of the illness that need to be dealt with but connections are a start.

Patience is key and it’s ok to get overwhelmed whether you are patient or a caregiver.

Trust that everything is going to be ok and it will eventually work out.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and though it will take time, you can get there.

What Psychosis is Like

Imagine being under the belief that everything that happens in reality somehow ties back to you and an action, or series of actions you took. Further, imagine that every single person you encounter is, for some reason, steadfastly fixated on you, the world is fixated on you. This is a delusion of grandeur, and delusions are the main facets of being psychotic.

A delusion is a thought or a set of thoughts that have no basis in reality as we know it, are actively untrue, but for some reason have weasled into our brains to make us think things are different than they are.

Superstitions are delusions, they may not be necessarily as harmful but they are set of beliefs we’ve ascribed to in order to find higher meaning in the world.

For example, there’s no proof that rabbits feet are lucky but but we’ve ascribed that notion to them regardless and by now it’s a collective societal delusion.

As a person living with schizophrenia, I am no stranger to this and have loaded up (perhaps to a detrimental degree) on superstitions about the way things are.

The danger comes when we start spiraling on the basis of these superstitions, holding them as unshakable truths upon which we pin more and more superstitions and delusions until we are, essentially in our own world, motivated entirely by thoughts that have no basis in reality.

Having been at a place where I thought that I was a prophet sent from God, to be king of America, I can tell you that it’s easy to start believing in things if they make you feel good and important like that and it’s easy to take it to extremes.

Psychosis is essentially like being in your own personal Truman show scenario. In fact, that movie is a pretty perfect representation of how it feels when you start to experience psychosis. The difference between the Truman show and real life though, is that the things you are suspecting about yourself, being the central point in a universe made up entirely for you, are not real.

There are times for me, where I wish my delusions were real. There are also times where I get confused about what’s real and what’s not. My brain is so reactive to even the smallest stimuli that sometimes little nothings become completely overblown. It’s like my brain feels the need to assign some greater meaning to the smallest most inconsequential events. Sometimes to the point where the meanings of these events signal some greater hidden truth.

These events though, they don’t actually mean anything and I have tell myself, at least a couple times a day that I’m being delusional. It sounds scary but I’ve been dealing with this for 17 years now.

The main point is that when you have a mental illness it’s easy to fall into psychosis, it’s easy to start believing things that aren’t real. You have to be aware almost constantly about the actual state of reality and the things your brain is manifesting. Which for some people, is extremely hard.

If you’re a parent, sibling or caretaker wondering what it’s like to have psychosis, your empathy is valued and as a person with mental illness I can tell, we greatly appreciate the concern. Just know that we’re, just like any other person doing our best with what we’ve been given.