The Dragon is a seemingly living thing that is inside of me and is coiled into every part of my being. It is evil. It is insidious. It knows every chink in my thick armor and attacks them with every chance that it has. Since it feels like it is independent and free-thinking and has such a power, I named it the only thing that seemed appropriate.
I know that it is the embodiment of my schizophrenic disease and that it isn’t real. I know that it is only my thoughts and that it isn’t a true living entity inside of me. I know that the thoughts are not projected into my head from an outside source. I know that it is just me. But what is very real about The Dragon is that I cannot control these thoughts. They happen on their own and feel like they are beyond my own mind. It is mentally and physically exhausting and painful. I only have so much energy to put against it while it seems to be unending.
The Dragon hates me. It wants to ruin everything in my life that I enjoy. It wants me to die. It has almost killed me in the past.
At its worst, it had me convinced that the only way that my family could be happy if they were free of the detached father and husband and were financially set. The solution was for me to kill myself. My military insurance and benefits would have given them over a half-million dollars and they would be free to find a new husband and a new dad. I was within a few days of driving into a local park and shooting myself in the face with my wife’s pistol.
The Dragon was so good at this that, before I killed myself, I had a full-on psychotic break in my military psychiatrist’s office and I was sent to inpatient care for a month. The Dragon pushed a little too far that day and by it getting me sent to the hospital it saved my life and sent me onto a path that led to me gaining the strength to fight back.
But that is only an interesting back story and really doesn’t tell you what The Dragon feels like. I’m now sure that it has always been with me but only in a distant background until recently. From those times, I can remember what not having schizophrenic symptoms feels like. I can tell you by contrast what this demon is like. I almost wish it was always like this. The suffering would be so much less if I didn’t have this long period of being “normal” that I can reflect on.
When I was young through early adulthood The Dragon was small and weak. It was my inner-critic and inner-cynic. As the critic, it was a powerful part of me that was the primary source of my creativity. As the cynic, it was the source of my sense of humor and my personal brand that made me likable. Those, together with me, were a powerful team. My capacity for critical thought was enormous and well developed. I excelled at nearly everything I did, school, work, relationships, placement exams.
I had a large circle of friends. I would get great grades without going to classes. I was a valued employee everywhere I worked. All my military ratings were placing me in the top group of officers. I was proceeding in so many directions positively in life. The myth my parents instilled in me that I could do anything seemed like it was true.
I cannot pinpoint exactly when this highly functioning and valuable part of me began to grow into something else. Maybe when I lived in the dorms and I started to have a little social anxiety around the age of 20. By the time I was a captain in the Army in Iraq at around 27 it started to turn into what it is now and it grew to a peak at around 35 when, now married with two kids, my family lived in Kansas.
Its critical and cynical nature somehow grew the teeth and claws I know so well and its focus turned entirely on me.
Imagine someone going everywhere with you and telling you everything awful about you. Imagine if that person knew everything about you including all of your thoughts and all of the things about you that you are ashamed of. Now imagine that no one else can see this person and that only you can hear it. Add in the coarsest of language and a gravely and awful voice straight out of Hell.
It isn’t just hearing a voice though. It is packed with emotion too. It comes with its own feelings. It is almost like how some smells can bring back a memory. It brings back the memories of when I’ve felt the worst about myself and it can bring any or all these feelings together.
It isn’t my inner critic anymore. It has grown from a productive force to a sinister self-loathing that tries to destroy me every chance that it gets. It targets the things that I love. It tries to convince me that my children are better off without me, that my wife is sick of me and my disease, that my military career was a farce or that all my friends secretly hate me. It is all my guilt and all of my shame.
It has driven me to act extremely impulsively and act out a lot of what it told me to do. I echoed the things it would say about people to them. I began to believe in a lot of conspiracies where the military was out to get me and that aliens were watching me and somehow controlling me. I began to believe that I really was as awful and evil as The Dragon said. I disillusioned most of my friends. I grew extremely distant from my family. Since you’ve never experienced The Dragon for yourself, you may just think that I am using him as an excuse for my behaviors. Maybe I am.
There would be a comfort in believing that The Dragon was its own living thing or if it was projected into me from some other source. But I know that it is part of me. I have a boundless capacity for evil and awful thoughts. All the self-destructive things I had done were all generated entirely by me. I can try to be a good person as much as I want, but The Dragon is always there to remind me that maybe I really am plain evil. I must be since the schizophrenic entity is a creation of my own mind.
The Dragon is awful and feels endless. But there is some hope. Medications have quieted the voice, dulled its claws and teeth and chased it off to the more quiet corners in my mind. It is still there though but is more of a subliminal whisper and can still creep up in its old form if I let my guard down. I have also developed, on my own and with support, a lot of coping strategies that have helped a lot. Watch this blog because one of its purposes is for me to catalog these techniques for my own reference and to possibly help other sufferers of schizophrenic symptoms.
*Blog by Brad Pietzyk*
About the Author:
Brad Pietzyk is a retired Army Major and a sufferer of bipolar type schizoaffective disorder. He works very hard to manage his symptoms and being the best parent and husband he can be. He also enjoys doing charity work with the 501st Legion and bringing awareness to his condition and other mental health issues through his blog “some of this is true.”
Follow along with Brad’s journey at www.someofthisistrue.com