Nash turns 40 in 1968 after a year of living in Roanoke, Virginia, near his family. Exhausted and cut off from all friends and colleagues, “he had nowhere else to go.” Nash continues to experience delusions, though—consistent with symptoms of schizophrenia—he is also able to discern certain aspects of reality, and seems to be aware that his “insights,” or delusions, are not comprehensible to others. Nash suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which causes him to feel “uniquely powerful” at times and “extraordinarily weak and vulnerable” at others. Though Nash’s delusions are “bizarre,” they also seem to have a coherent logic and shared features, and by attempting to understand patterns in them, Nash seems to be playing the role of the “theorist, the scholar trying to make sense of complicated phenomena.”
Nasar emphasizes that Nash’s schizophrenic episodes are seductive to Nash’s skills as a perceptive scholar and researcher. His delusions seem to contain similarities and features that lead him to look for patterns in them, just as he looked for patterns in mathematical problems. In this way, Nash’s mental illness continues to be compounded by his genius as a thinker, making it all the more difficult for him to acknowledge that his delusions are fictitious; like math problems, they seem very real.
As he continues to experience schizophrenic episodes, Nash often feels that he has been “cast out” and “ostracized,” fearing that he is being threatened by external forces. He also experiences feelings of guilt that he attributes to the “really dubious things” he has done (including his homosexual relationships). Nash seems to be waiting for some kind of “deliverance” from the prison of his own mind. Ultimately, though, medication prevents Nash from existing in a “zombie”-like state; without medication, he would have become a shell of his former self. In 1969, Virginia Nash dies. Eleanor obtains a court order to force Nash to continue child-support payments, which Virginia had been paying for Nash. Nash moves in with Martha and her husband, but Martha finds the arrangement too difficult; she arranges to have Nash committed again, this time to a state hospital in Virginia, from which he is released in February 1970.
Though Nash’s schizophrenia leads him to believe that he is being “ostracized,” he also begins to feel intensely guilty about the ways in which he has alienated others, including Alicia, Eleanor, and his friends and family. He also continues to worry about his own homosexual desires, with which he has never been able to come to terms. Nash suffers not only because of the delusions that he experiences, but also because of his own actions in the past, which come back to haunt him; mental illness only worsens his own struggles with his identity.