Posted by: Joan Kopczynski | May 16, 2014

Excerpt from Spies, Lies and Psychosis

Connor took my arm. “Wait to open the door until I tell you,” he whispered. He grabbed his pants, zipped them up and then took his gun out of his holster. He never went anywhere without his “piece.” Bureau training had made him feel insecure without it. Kneeling on one knee, he stretched out both arms before him and aimed the gun at the door.

“Connor, you’re paranoid!” I said, smiling. “Besides, someone had to have a key to the downstairs door to get in.”

“Just do it!”

“But, I hate guns,” I whispered through clenched teeth.

“Joanie, trust me on this.”


“Do it!” he said sternly.

Connor’s intensity scared me. “Ok, ok.” Maybe he was right, I thought. Maybe he knew better.

“Ok, now!” he said.

With one quick jerk I simultaneously swung the door open and stepped to the side, freeing Connor’s line of sight.

* * * * *

The crying would stop; it always had before. My family home had bedrooms on each floor but only one bathroom on the main floor. We never turned the lights on to go to the bathroom at night but rather would feel our way down the stairs from the outside light coming in the kitchen window. One night, when I was five, I crept slowly down the stairs and stopped outside Mom and Dad’s bedroom door when I heard Mom say my name. I cracked the door open a bit and listened quietly. They were having an argument about me.

“Joanie cries all the time,” Mom said. “Over nothing. I can’t stand it anymore. I don’t know what to do with her.”

“She’s only five years old. Maybe there’s something wrong with her. Why don’t we take her to see a doctor?”

I ran into the bathroom. I shivered at the word doctor. Dad, no! I’ll be good. I promise. I’m not sick. I don’t need to be taken to no doctor. Doctors give you shots. There isn’t anything wrong with me.

I stopped my crying. I didn’t want to see a doctor.

* * * * *

Although I inherited a susceptibility to my disorder, being jilted by this FBI agent was the first traumatic episode that triggered the onset of my illness. It’s as if some of the chemicals in my brain (serotonin and dopamine) were depleted or imbalanced due to the prolonged stress or trauma. Not everyone who inherits the susceptibility develops the illness. Triggers (the loss of a loved one) help the illness surface. I learned that onset is normally between 25-30 years of age and it often takes just such a traumatic event or trigger to jump-start the symptoms of the disorder.

I also learned that my depression at this time, although severe, was not biological, i.e., it did not all of a sudden surge within me without warning. Instead it was situational depression caused by traumatic events in my life. Nevertheless, the trauma radically altered my life. There would be other triggers or traumatic episodes to follow.

* * * * *

The high level of stress caused my brain to do weird things like be overly suspicious or distrustful. This tendency is not normal but rather it is part of the illness I suffered from. I hadn’t yet realized that I didn’t know the difference between normal paranoia and schizophrenic paranoia.

* * * * *


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