Undermining Myself: Schizophrenia and Loss of Self-Confidence

Schizophrenia is a mental condition that can lead me into dangerous or disastrous thought patterns. Over the years, it has done so repeatedly. I can’t trust my schizophrenic thoughts to ever lead me to a good place. The problem with schizophrenic thoughts is that I can’t generally distinguish schizophrenic thoughts and thought patterns from healthy thoughts and thought patterns. I can’t trust that my own thoughts are in my best interests. This is a bizarre way to live. I have no self-confidence in my simplest thought or observation. I can’t. If I want to finally break the endless cycle of suicide attempts, hospitalizations, ruining my life, and starting over each time with a little less then I need to minimize the potential harm of schizophrenic thoughts and thought patterns.

Generally, this means I’m neurotic on a day to day basis. I bother my friends, seemingly ceaselessly. I need corroboration of my simplest experiences. Is it too cold out? Does this taste awful to you? Can you understand me? Did that make sense? I ask these kinds of questions repeatedly. I don’t ask these questions because I need validation. I ask because there are times-lots of times, sadly-when I honestly get the answers to these questions and many others wrong. And that’s just the little petty irritating stuff.

Bigger, more important issues have traditionally caused me much bigger problems. And my track record with bigger issues is even worse than with the petty stuff, and, of course, the consequences are disproportionately larger. Let’s face it, if I eat something that tastes yucky, so what? If I go out on a cold day without a coat, I’ll be uncomfortable, so what? But when we come to decisions-like how poorly I handle money, like whether I’m going to make a suicide attempt, like if I manage to get fired from my good job; those consequences in my life are cataclysmic.

The long and short of it is that I have no self-confidence in my thoughts or decisions. And there is a lifetime’s history of good reason why I don’t.

Drawing of schizophrenic robot sitting in total isolation
Image by: mailowilliams

So I develop adaptive behaviors. I ask petty irritating questions, and my friends forgive me. My friend accompanies me to appointments. He patiently sits through appointments with the social worker, the psychiatrist, the therapist, and others. I think his support and insights deserve much of the credit for this round of treatment going so well. His presence has been tolerated by most of the professionals I see, but the social worker seemed wary of his presence at first. (When she learned that he was not there to interfere, she relaxed.)

But some places, some appointments just make you feel like bringing another person into your appointment is inappropriate. In those circumstances, I have trusted in the professional capability of the people there. Thus, I have successfully gotten mammograms and PAP tests done with no issue. I also anticipated no issue when I began seeing a dentist in January.

I could not have been more wrong.

At first, it seemed fine. The office was super clean, state of the art, although there were never any patients there when we arrived. At my first two appointments, the dentist seemed kind and competent. Then the dentist pulled four teeth and sent me home with a prescription for Tramadol. I have had Tramadol before for minor pains, and it worked well enough, and though I had never had it after dental work before, I trusted it would work adequately. It didn’t. But I just toughed it out. At the next appointment, the dentist was going to fill 4 teeth. As soon as he began drilling, it was clear to me that my mouth wasn’t numb. I told him he was really hurting me…and he just picked up his drill again. He never acknowledged my pain, and once told me roughly to ‘sit still!’

Any sane person would have run away from this dentist at this point, I think. But not me! I convinced myself that I could not be perceiving the situation correctly, I blamed the schizophrenia. I blamed the anxiety. I blamed everything except the dentist who was hurting me.

Twelve hours after those fillings, my teeth hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Of course, by then his office was closed. I got in touch with the office the next day (a Wednesday) and was told he would see me the following Monday as scheduled, but not before. When I explained that I was in a lot of pain (which seemed to be getting worse) the receptionist offered to ‘call something in.’ What was called in was more Tramadol. It did not help at all. I spent a Hellish 5 days. And let me clarify, I’m no wimp when it comes to pain, I’m heavily tattooed, I had a baby on a sofa, this was real crippling pain. When I got into the dental office on Monday, I explained that I was in more pain than I could stand. The dentist just picked up his drill. Not the Novocain, the drill. There are no words for how bad his ‘improvement’ hurt.

I asked for something for the pain, and was accused of drug-seeking behavior. I was hurting so bad, and was so appalled by the drug-seeking accusation, I finally told my friend what had been going on. He suggested that I not mess around, but that I do what I needed to do in order to see a different dentist. I think I cried with relief.

I saw a different dentist who explained that the first dentist had drilled extensively into the roots and nerves of my teeth. He wouldn’t touch it. He wrote me a prescription for Vicodin, and sent me to an oral surgeon. Now I am awaiting major oral surgery. And hoping Medical Assistance does not force me to return to the first dentist.

Mental illness undermines my confidence that I can properly respond to my thoughts, my feelings and situations I find myself in. I feel angry, betrayed, and frustrated that my distrust of my own perceptions led me to continue seeing a dentist who was causing me so much pain. I worry that if I am unable to respond appropriately to a situation as clear-cut as the dentist, am I really doing as well as I think. I feel deeply ashamed and fearful that I might never be able to have true control of my life. Now I am acutely fearful of meeting an abusive person. I distrust my decisions. I distrust my schizophrenia. I distrust myself.