Yesterday at my group therapy session we talked a little bit about what it means to do a “reality check”. We were discussing the different kinds of symptoms that we have, and how our symptoms can cause paranoia and anxiety. Our group leader encouraged us to do a “reality check” as a way of confirming that our fears (or paranoia) are unfounded and not based in reality. I shared an experience I had a few months ago before I went into the hospital, when I was experiencing extreme paranoia.
I was hearing voices quite a bit during this time, and one morning I got upset with what I was hearing. I heard someone (a voice in my head) say that if I didn’t move out of our apartment complex, they would kill my husband. They had also been making similar threats if I didn’t stop chanting. They said they had filed a lawsuit because my chanting offended them, and that many of them had complained about it to the management of the apartment complex. Apparently, the apartment complex managers had said there was nothing they could do (about my chanting).
The morning I heard that threat, I became fed up, and decided to do my own “reality check”. I walked down to the leasing office, and asked the women there if anyone had ever complained to them about my Buddhist practice or my chanting. They asked me what apartment I lived in, and then said no. No one had ever complained about me, and if they had complained, I would have been notified. This was quite a relief. While it did nothing to prevent me from hearing the voices in the first place, at least I was reassured that what I thought might be true, really was not true, and had no basis in reality.
My husband always checks with me to make sure that I don’t start to believe in the voices that I hear in my head. He wants to make sure that I know they aren’t real. I think that by encouraging us to do our own “reality check”, our group leader is helping us to realize and believe for ourselves that our symptoms are just that: symptoms of an illness, and nothing more.