Diagnosing paranoid schizophrenia through the mail

About every 2 or 3 months I get mail from individuals who must get my contact info off of websites. This mail is not usually personal, though it was when we were advertising for a new counseling professor. There are several similarities to these pieces of mail:

1. The end of the world is at hand. The planet is about to crash or the world will come to an end (and they include very complex and detailed reasons from political news, astronomy, and biblical data as to why they know this about to happen now.
2. They write extremely complex sentence structures that have no meaning. You can define each word, comprehend a phrase, but it may not have much connection to the prior phrase. For example: “certain celestial & terrestrial transactional events due for occurrence in the prophetic year xxxx per the present solar calender in extension, strictly as timed in the book of XXXXX.”
3. Neologisms. Word or words that are newly created by the author. For example: angular separation; inter steller emigration purposes.
4. Persecution. The writer is being mistreated or persecuted for their knowledge.
5. Clip art/cut and paste. The writer uses multiple type-faces, colors, clip-art, and cut and pastes quotes from other sources to bolster the letter
6. Many pages. Most of these mailings have double digit pages.

These letters always break my heart. I can sense the torture they must endure because of the rate and power of their racing thoughts. Imagine knowing the world was going to blow up and everybody ignores you or calls you crazy.


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8 responses to “Diagnosing paranoid schizophrenia through the mail

  1. eclexia

    Welcome to My Country by Lauren Slater was a book that helped me imagine the things you’ve asked us to. I felt the struggle to connect and be heard and honored as a real person when all that most people see is “crazy”. It still makes my heart cry and I wonder, how is the love of Jesus communicated in a way that it is seen, heard or at least felt through all the intensity and relentlessness of the racing thoughts and gripping certainty of fears and the confusion and the overload that contributes to schizophrenia? Is it possible? What is the relevance of the good news to a person with schizophrenia? How does Jesus (and his people) connect with someone in good, loving and honoring ways, when the realities of schizophrenia seem to mutually exclude connection?

    I’m not demanding answers, nor even particularly expecting them when I ask these questions. These questions roll through my mind, and your post felt like a safe place to be asking them out loud. Whether or not they are answerable questions, they seem easier to bear when they are (1) conscious questions and (2) shared.

  2. Wow. Do these people leave return addresses so you can write back? I mean, you could definitely try to refer them to a specialist in “end of the world interstellar angular separationism” (aka a therapist). Obviously, they know you’re a doctor of psychology and a Christian, so they are contacting you for some reason, knowing those two things, right? The letters in and of themselves are saddening, but I wonder what they want you to go–that is what I find interesting.

  3. Eclexia, thanks for your wonderful response. That is the very question I ask my students. Whether one has poverty of thought, racing thoughts, dissociation, or making connections where there are none, how does the Gospel touch our lives in the present tense. In this way, I ask them how are they similar to the person who thinks they are Jesus Christ? How do they connect to someone who believes their are Jesus? If someone believes the FBI is tracking them (and that isn’t true) how does the Gospel give them comfort? What do they hang on to? I believe it is possible because the human desires, needs, and demands are the same, no matter the external covering. And you are right that sharing our secret questions brings a level of peace, because they are shared.

    Amy, I don’t think I get the letters because I’m a psychologist but because I’m at a seminary. My wife used to get them when she was the head of a University HR dept. I do think the person is looking to be heard by someone important. And no, this one didn’t have a return address label.

  4. Wow! I used to get one of those letters every 18 months. I seriously thought I was the only one to receive them. It is a tragic thing knowing how much “noise” is interfering with their perception.

  5. Don

    As I’ve mentioned earlier, I work at a newspaper, I work in Classified advertising. I have a regular customer who sends me these kinds of letters and we print them in the paper. It seems he works all week to scrape up the money to pay for the advertising. When a particular subject is inappropriate, we ask him to change it and we have special rules for his ads. I am the only one allowed to accept advertising from him, so we have a sort of a relationship. I have often wondered if I should attempt to offer help to him. He was forced to go to the state mental hospital a year ago and was kept there for a period of a few months. The letters are cryptic and filled with nonsensical language. My coworkers and I wonder if they are code for some underground militia.

    Like Tracy, I thought I was the only one to receive these types of letters. While my situation is a bit different in that he pays to advertise, the circumstances of his life and the lives of others is similar. I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on this subject.

  6. “My coworkers and I wonder if they are code for some underground militia.”
    Hmmm, maybe he IS?!?!?!

  7. You should read the book RESCUING PATTY HEART:MEMORIES FROM A DECADE GONE MAD by VIRGINIA HOLMAN. It’s a fascinating account of Holman’s mom, who is a schizophrenic. They want to this shack and set up a MASH unit for a fake war. It’s a good read. I read it during my internship at Biblical when I encountered a lot of schizophrenics, and it helped me in their understanding of things.

  8. Sharlene

    There are some seriously vulnerable people out there who if read this sort of material (the end is nigh etc etc) would become extremely distressed and well simply put would believe it to be true. Sometimes I believe in helping others by not forwarding certain things on just to semi protect their fragile minds. I am in no state “normal” or anything but my logic and reasoning is pretty good so I can put aside these types of wiritings. I do have a friend who would near on lose it if she was to be made aware on a regular basis of this stuff and would believe it to be true because it is a constant written word and published so “it must be true”. I am not wanting to protect the whole world and I do think these people who write such things are in need for some serious help…but if I can help one person stay away from such things and lead a better life then I will continue to not forward certain materials on… PLEASE dont think I am having a go at anyone who writes these things or even prints them, hands them out or anything along those lines. I am just someone who has and continues to see first hand the devastation and problems these things can cause people who are fragile in mind. I realise I may be “slammed” for this but hey I am getting used to that 🙂
    God bless you all…

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