If you have already purchased any of my albums, you probably already know that I have paranoid schizophrenia:
1. A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relationship between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.
2. A type of schizophrenia associated with feelings of being persecuted or plotted against. Affected individuals may have grandiose delusions associated with protecting themselves from the perceived plot. The key schizophrenic symptoms are delusions and/or auditory hallucinations. Paranoid schizophrenia usually does not involve the disorganization of speech and behavior seen in other subtypes of the disorder. Typical patients with paranoid schizophrenia are tense, suspicious, guarded, and reserved.
However, despite all of paranoid schizophrenia’s negative stigmas, what most people don’t know is that with seeking counseling, proper medication, and daily mental and physical routine (i.e. taking medication, over all taking care of your body, getting enough sleep, and staying away or knowing how to deal with the physical and mental things that trigger hallucinations, delusions, etc.) my type of schizophrenia is not that hard to live with. Quick footnote a suggested movie to watch. "A Beautiful Mind." That movie will help you understand if you don't get it… It's cool man!! Well now, having that out of the way, age 16 was the year that I started becoming symptomatic.
Schizophrenia is something that you have to be born with. Then, as you grow up, life- changing experiences trigger it and bring it out. With me it all seemed to start at age 16. That was a very difficult year for me. In retrospect, that seems to be when all of the craziness began. It wasn’t only until now, that I’m much older, on medication, and seeking therapy, that I can look back at those years for the first time and slowly start to realize all of the things that really went on. Just imagine for a minute that you’re living in a span of 5-10 years, the first 4 are the most horrible you could ever possibly imagine, then all of a sudden you almost die, end up in a mental institution, and then over the next 6 years you slowly come to realize that all of the most important and true events in that period of your life never existed in a sense. Well that’s what happened to me. In those years and to this day, I have and had to experience all of the negative symptoms of my illness such as intense paranoia, delusions of grandeur, hearing voices, seeing and interacting with non-existent people and objects, and many other types of paranoid hallucinations and delusions. But looking back, it really started earlier than 16 years old. That is just really where I date it back to because that was the time when it really started to get bad. So now, I guess a common question would be,
“Well, if you experienced things that were imaginary in a sense, wouldn’t you realize that they weren’t real?”
Well, that’s the tricky part. You have to be born with Paranoid Schizophrenia and its symptoms are more of a gradual process.
Looking back (now with the self-awareness of my illness) I’ve come to realize that I’ve been seeing and hearing non-existent things for as long as I can remember. It’s pretty much been happening ever since my childhood. And it’s really hard to take notice of these types of things when they’ve been happening to you your whole life, but I will explain that in a minute. As a kid, at first, I’d hear a little something here, see a little something there, it would trigger a tiny delusion, and then it would be gone and I wouldn’t really pay it any attention because back in my childhood and early adolescence, these types of symptoms were never intense enough to make a long lasting impression on my mind. But then as I grew up and started to develop more intense emotions from my first experiences with love and intimacy, like all teenagers go through, my symptoms would start to happen more often. My symptoms would grow and develop just like my body and emotions would grow and develop with puberty. It’s just the natural process of things. Then around the time I was 19 years old, it got so bad to the point where I was living in a complete world of horrifying hallucinations and virtually nothing was real anymore. My hallucinations and delusions nearly killed me. It was horrible. So I think that it’s safe to say that I didn’t grow and develop like most teenagers. My first experiences with the normal emotions and normal things teenagers go through were a little bit different than most people because I had some extra stuff going on. And the horrible thing is that my mind, still to this day, through classical conditioning, still subconsciously associates those normal things with all of the horror and fear that the hallucinations and delusions that stemmed off of them, caused me. Like I said, my hallucinations and delusions nearly killed me at one time so you can only imagine where the subconscious elements of paranoia and fear come from. My teenage years were very messed up. Trust me, there is a lot of severe trauma and emotional scarring that comes along with the physical and emotional development of a paranoid schizophrenic. It’s a hard thing to heal from. I’m doing my best though.
However, before I trail off, in reference to my hallucinations, I guess another common question would be,
“Well, when you were 19, how could you let things get that bad without noticing?”
It’s kind of like this. You know how you can walk into a room and the room will have a certain faint distinct smell to it? We all experience that. At first you can kind of smell it but it’s really no big deal. But then the longer you stay in the room, the less and less you smell it because you become used to it. Even if the smell starts to gradually get stronger, the longer you stay in the room, the less and less you will smell it until you really don’t notice it at all anymore. You really wouldn’t be able to tell that there was a smell until somebody else comes along and they say, “Hey, what’s that smell?”
And then of course you’d be like, “What? I don’t smell anything.”
You see, that’s kind of how my illness was. People would come along and say, “Joe, you smell. Joe, you’re crazy. Joe, do you smoke crack?”
I’ve heard them all. And then I would get defensive and be like, “Screw you! Nobody smelled anything until you walked in! I think you’re the one that smells! I think you’re crazy! I think you smoke crack!”
Now, the more and more this happened in my interactions with others (Especially family, close friends, and girlfriends) the more it would feed my anger, frustrations, and give me the need to build up defense mechanisms. I then would become a very angry and hateful person constantly thinking that there was a conspiracy against me. And this would just feed the paranoid hallucinations and delusions, and make them worse. At first, it started off with simple scenarios like thinking that my girlfriend was cheating on me, or my best friend was stabbing me in the back. Then as my symptoms grew more severe, I started to think things like my family, friends, and girlfriend were trying to poison my food and send people to watch and follow my every move. I used see people from a distance following me. I would turn around then they would run off. I used to not eat food prepared for me. I used to hear voices of my friends and girlfriends in my head and argue with them. I used to hear them talking to each other in my head and they would be conspiring against me. I would think that all of these things were true and I would lash out at these people. I honestly and sincerely thought that they were intentionally trying to torture and kill me. So of course I built up my defenses and lost my conscience. I became a very hateful, intense, intimidating, and paranoid person. I had to, because I was living in a constant and agonizing fear. It was horrible.
Anyway, now I guess another common question would be, “But still, how could you not realize that the voices were not real?”
Hearing Voices Definition/Explanation
That’s a good question because as a teenager, whenever I heard the term “hearing voices”, I would always envision something along the lines of how it would sound if you were hearing someone talk to you through a pair of headphones that you were wearing. That’s partly true. It can and has gotten to that point, but at first it wasn’t like that. Remember how I was talking about my symptoms and their gradual process? At first it’s kind of like hearing a song in your head or imagining one of your friends saying something to you. Everybody experiences that. You hear it but its not necessarily out loud or like a pair of headphones but it is still a type of hearing or “perception” (to use a better word). Now, when you hear your favorite song or friend in your head, you know what’s coming next because you’re controlling what’s going on. You’ve heard this song and your friends voice 1000 times before. The main point that I’m trying to bring up is that you have complete control of what’s going on. Now imagine for a minute that you are singing the verse of the song in your head and then all of a sudden the words change. If you were controlling that, then that’s fine but if it caught you by surprise, you’d be like,
“What the hell?”
Now imagine that you’re envisioning someone close to you saying something in your head then all of a sudden they say something and it caught you by surprise. Again you’d be like,
“What the hell?”
Well, that’s kind of what happened to me. It started off gradually like a word here and there but then it evolved into whole sentences and voices interacting with each other. Then my voice started interacting with them. I would have group arguments while I was pacing back and forth on my front porch for 6 straight hours all by myself!!!! I pretty much did that like every night for about 5 years. Yeah, it’s pretty weird I know. Imagine what my neighbors must have thought!!! HaHa.
Also, now really, how would a sixteen year- old kid, unaware of his illness and experiencing things like this his whole life, be able to realize that he was the only one out of his piers that this was happening to. Let alone be able to go that much in depth, analyze himself that deeply, and have the knowledge and self expression to be able to explain and communicate a particular thought like that so clearly and concisely to his friends (Who all drank alcohol and did drugs) that would most likely be like, “Dude, I totally feel the same way!!! It’s like, we're existing, and like god and the stars… (You know how it goes).
Over The Edge
Anyway, these types of hallucinations from my illness got so bad that I eventually started to have physical interactions with people that didn’t exist and things like that. And, because of all these symptoms, combined with my unawareness of the fact that I had an illness, I had driven myself to great lengths of self- medication by extreme self- mutilation to cope . I did lots of negative things such as an over consumption of drugs, cutting, burning, and hitting myself, all the way to driving myself over 100mph with no seat belt from the highway straight into another car, then straight into the woods without applying my brakes (but I will get to that in a minute).
My mind had also developed other types of coping devices. Since everything around me was so intense and it never seemed to let up, my logical thought process started to decay and my mind started to come up with alternate explanations of why all of these horrible things were happening to me. So one of the things my mind started to do was relate everything to math in combination with my own scientific/ philosophical theories of our existence. I even created my own language which was all based around this theory that I developed in my head called the ‘Theory of 3”.
Theory of 3:
So you have one side, which is (+) and the other, which is (-). These are two opposites. (Black and white, right and left, quiet and loud, angry and sad, etc.) Now they appear to be opposites of each other. But we as humans are in the middle of these opposites standing in between them perceiving them as opposites. So now we have 3 elements… (+) (p) (-). The “(p)” in the middle stands for the idea of perception between the (+) and (-) perceiving them as opposites. So now the idea of perception would be the opposite of (+) and (-) as a whole, so this means that (+) and (-) is actually the same thing when compared to (p). I called this theory, the theory of 3.
I had become obsessed with "3" during my sickest years. I was on a quest for answers. It started off with simple things but I soon began to apply it to everything. Colors, license plates, conversation, language barriers, coincidences, biology, mathematics, facial expressions, body movements, emotion, just about every aspect of life and existence. I was obsessed. I was seeing and hearing things in this code. Experiencing things in my own language if you will. It was like I had opened up this new world, a new form of perception. I was especially obsessed with palindromes and things like that. I was obsessed with numbers and all types of things that could be read forwards, backwards, horizontally, and vertically all at the same time. Below are some examples of the types of things that I would write while I was sick:
But anyway, back to being over the edge, when I started to experience these types of extreme hallucinations and delusions (like the theory of 3), I would react to them and do very strange things by myself and in my interactions with others. To others, it appeared that I would shift my emotions, subjects of conversation, and move about randomly. My actions appeared very random and would severely confuse and scare people, but in my head it was all organized and logical because I was just reacting to all of the things that I was hearing and seeing. Remember how I made that smell analogy in reference to my symptoms and their gradual process? This is a prime example of that taken to an extreme. People’s reactions to my behavior just fed my hallucinations, delusions, and defense mechanisms and made them worse. I began to think that I was invincible and I would do things to try and test my invincibility. I would sit in my room for hours with backwards music and noises on repeat writing numbers down on paper, ripping them up in geometrical shapes and then putting them in miscellaneous places in my room, then my town, and eventually my state while driving 80mph everywhere running every red light and stop sign. I felt like I was god and I had uncovered the mathematical code behind the universe. I felt like I was controlling everything. This is what I mean when I say the phrase “delusions of grandeur”. It was horrible. Because of that belief, I was even more paranoid that evil spirits were after me and they were trying to kill me. This was when I drove into another car and then into the woods from the highway, naked (Trust me it’s a long story), with no seat belt, over 100 mph without applying my brakes. I was testing my invincibility. And then, as you can imagine, that was when I got put in a straitjacket and thrown into a mental institution. However, during all of this craziness I still found time to write my music about my experiences. Music seemed to be the only thing in my life that I never gave up on and truly cared about. I now have multiple albums out. These albums reflect upon my experiences.
My Accident Report:
I was driver number two.
On a more positive note, I’m happy to say that I’m a long way from that now. I’m headed down a very positive, peaceful, and healthy path. In these most recent years of my life, I’m living on my own, working full time, spending time with my loved ones, and most of all, writing and putting out my music in an attempt to take all of those negative experiences and turn them into something positive and productive. So thank you so much for supporting this positive cause by listening and being interested. It sincerely means a lot to me. I hope you enjoy my music.
- Joseph A. Peragine