The Reality of Psychosis

You see, my official diagnosis is severe Type I Bipolar Disorder with Psychosis. That, however, is not the point. The point is that I experience hallucinations and delusions from time to time. Not all the time. Stress can induce them, such as when I’m in a big, crowded, noisy store. (I’m looking at you, Costco.) Work was a huge trigger, back when I was working.

But what exactly is psychosis? Psychosis is defined as “when people lose some contact with reality” according to the NHS. As many as 3 in 100 people will experience psychosis at some point. There are typically warning signs leading up to psychosis, such as trouble thinking clearly, suspiciousness or uneasiness with others, a decline in self-care or personal hygiene, spending more time alone (according to NAMI). Psychosis can include hallucinations (experiencing things that are unreal, such as auditory, visual or tactile experiences) and/or delusions (beliefs in the unreal).

I’ve heard of other people having pleasant psychosis, being one with nature and such. Not me. If I wasn’t seeing shadow people or thinking the neighbors were secretly spying on me, there were bugs crawling all over my skin and in my hair, whispering awful things to me.

When many people think of psychosis (those who have never experienced it, at least), probably think of “crazy people” or people who talk incoherently to themselves. The truth is that it’s not always like that. Yes, those people may have mental illness, but we’re not all like that. We’re not all violent psychopaths out to maim and kill people. We’re not people to be scared of. We’re just humans, plagued by our own minds, trying to get by in this life. The real truth? Those with mental illness are no more violent than their non-mentally ill counterparts. In fact, studies have shown that those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence.

I’ve seen the look upon people’s faces when I tell them I experience psychosis. It’s usually one of masked horror and disgust, one that says, “What do I say to her?” I try not to hide my psychosis. If I’m having a hard time, I want people to know why I’m having a hard time. I don’t want to have to hide the fact that I’m having hallucinations.

Fortunately, however, thanks to the fact that I am no longer working, I haven’t experienced psychosis since November. (It’s January as I write this.) I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. It’s such a relief, not being scared shitless because I’m hearing a voice telling me to injure myself. I can only hope that the stability continues.

Have you ever experienced psychosis? Yes or no, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Shadow People

I recently had a bad depressive episode with psychosis. I hadn’t seen the shadow people since March. Unfortunately, I had to go for another inpatient stay, and I had to go for an unscheduled ECT treatment on top of my medication changes. I’m currently in the middle of an acute rescue series of ECT, with one more scheduled treatment.

The shadow people were watching me for several nights, and they wouldn’t relent. Finally, I got it into my head that if I cut myself, they would go away. It didn’t work. The cuts are healed, and after more than a couple weeks, they’re light enough that I feel comfortable wearing short sleeves in public again. (Although, the temperature is beginning to cool off here in South Carolina, so I’m wearing a cardigan, anyway.)

For a week straight, I wanted to die. My husband hid all my pills but one dose at a time. I also had him hide sharp objects. The intrusive thoughts of hurting myself were nonstop. I barely focused on work when at the office. This is the reality of my life. Finally, two Thursdays ago, I planned on stopping by the local pharmacy on my way home from work and picking up a bottle of acetaminophen to overdose on. I texted my husband from work to tell him, and he took me to the local inpatient psychiatric hospital to check myself in.

I was there for a week, which happens to be one of my shorter inpatient stays. There have been times when I’ve been inpatient for two weeks at a time, so I consider myself lucky this time. My inpatient psychiatrist recommended an acute rescue series of ECT, as I respond well to the treatments. They help tremendously. It’s hard to say if it is the increased dosage of medication or if it’s the ECT that’s helping more. Either way, I’m glad to be feeling back to myself (without hallucinations).

Right now, I’m not allowed to drive during the acute series and for two weeks after. It’s a pain having to get my husband to drive me everywhere when I need to go anywhere. But it’s a small price to pay for feeling better. I would never wish my hallucinations on anyone.