For personal reasons, 29-year-old Dustin didn't want his last name made public.
In 2008, the Air Force honorably discharged him after two years of service so he could care for his ill parents in Oklahoma. Upon returning home, he also started taking college classes, including biology, French, and algebra. It was a very stressful time for him.
In a telephone interview, Dustin said, “And while caring for my parents, suddenly I began having delusions that I was supposed to join a secret organization and that it had something to do with the military. I was hearing voices (in my head) a bit and thought they came from my neighbors talking.” He also had bizarre delusions about things happening to his body.
Understandably, Dustin's parents were certain he was taking hallucinatory drugs. Then he told a veteran's office employee at his college what was happening, after which he came under the care of a psychiatrist who diagnosed Dustin with paranoid schizophrenia. Dustin was convinced the doctor's diagnosis was completely wrong and would continue doubting at least two years.
The National Institutes of Health states a person with paranoid schizophrenia, a common mental health disability, often has “mistaken beliefs (delusions) that one or more people are plotting against them or their loved ones.” Other symptoms can include auditory hallucinations, jealous and grandiose delusions, and feeling socially isolated, tense, guarded, and suspicious.
Dustin said, “I went through these delusions for years before (slowly) realizing they were all in my head. I'm a lot better now. The thing that hurts me most (emotionally) isn't that people think I'm dangerous, which I'm not, but rather the ignorance they show when they think I have multiple personality disorder. People don't understand what schizophrenia is. How can you change a person's opinions or perspectives on something when they don't even know what it is?”
Dustin currently has a 3.8 GPA in graduate school while majoring in human behavior. He said he hasn't had any delusions in quite a while, and has been able to “recover” in about 30 minutes when they occur. He correlates his recent lack of having delusions with the relative absence of stress in his life.
He advised people diagnosed to be patient, adding, “You can't overcome all your struggles (with schizophrenia) in one day.” Dustin is a volunteer with SARDAA, the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America.
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