Examples of Psychosis

When you’re living in another reality it is easy to get lost in the world you perceive to surround you. There is no way to understand the people who try to reason with you that you are lost in a universe created entirely by your mind. In fact, this can lead to much hostility from the person in psychosis.

Here are just a few things I wrote about during psychotic episodes:

“It sucks you in but you know it isn’t real. Suspension of disbelief cannot work when you know you are disbelieving. You see the rush and push along that is guided by another’s hand to show you only what you need to know and hides secrets to the end.”

“So watching the world is a screen but more than that it is cinema and bright and dazzlingly loud.”

“I am losing myself in thoughts of taking off escaping. Gravity is an illusion, head to the stars and to a better place.”

“The void is the space within matter the empty space in the atom. That’s where the answers are and that’s where I’m going. It is big and scary and exciting and so tempting.”

“Are thoughts mind or matter? They are the influence of mind on matter perhaps? Your mind is setting off the impulses to create the thoughts.”

As you can see, there’s no cohesion in these thoughts. Reading them back, they make perfect sense to me; because I experienced them and understand the (flawed) logic behind them. But I will be happy if I can live my life without experiencing that alternate reality ever again.

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Examples of Psychosis

So Why Me?

It’s a question anyone with any health issues has asked at some point – why me?

When it comes to mental health, the short answer is that there kinda isn’t one. Lots of research has been done over the years to try to determine why people’s brains do what they do, but it seems no conclusions have been reached. Here’s a run-down of the major theories.

Genetics:

  • There is a school of thought that supports the idea that mental health issues run in families. There have been many studies that look into the genetic make-up of families that have more than one person with mental illness. Within the general population, occurrence of bipolar is roughly 2-3% of the population; when looking at the offspring of a parent with bipolar the risk rises to 15%. If both parents are bipolar, this goes up again to 50%. [NSW Government Health Facts – Fact Sheet 58]. Twin studies have shown that genetics seems to play a major part in the development of schizophrenia too – there’s a 41% – 65% chance of the occurrence of schizophrenia in a twin who’s sibling has the illness [American Journal of Medical Genetics, Vol 97, Issue 1]. However, Peter R. Breggin states that normally you would expect to see a 100% occurrence in genetically identical twins in order to support a genetic causality.

Nurture:

  • Going against the argument for genetics, the nurture argument suggests that one’s upbringing is responsible for mental illness. In families where the children were adopted and had no genetic relation to their adoptive parents, a study saw a correlation between the occurrence of bipolar in both generations. A 40-year study in Finland looked at the nurture causality in-depth, and found that children with a genetic predisposition to developing schizophrenia (that is to say they had the genetic markers identified by studies) saw their risk reduced by up to 86% by a protective family environment. In this study, 36.8% of high-genetic risk adoptees living in a dysfunctional family environment were found to have developed a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, compared to only 5.8% of those in a healthy family environment.

Trauma:

  • Stress has been shown to trigger the illness in those already susceptible to it. High-stress, traumatic situations such as sexual abuse seem to show a link. Jim van Os at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, ran a study comparing self-reported childhood trauma and the prevalence of schizophrenia in young Germans. There was a dose-response relationship, that is that as the frequency of traumatic events in childhood increased so did the proneness to developing the illness.
So Why Me?

Coming Off Meds

Medical professionals advise that stopping any medication is done gradually and under supervision. I learned the hard way that the doctors know best.

I first took myself off the pills around late November 2011. I’d been on Risperidone (an antipsychotic) for around six months and all in all it was working for me, but I was missing the highs of manic psychosis. The few months prior to my first referral to a mental health team had been terrifying and wonderful all at once. The paranoia was awful, but the feeling of being so very special beat it hands down. So after I started taking Risperidone and things calmed down, I couldn’t help feel like something was missing. Looking back at it I believe that I was hitting a depressive phase at the same time. All in all I felt pretty awful and my mind went straight to blaming the meds.

The effects were almost immediate. I would say maybe a week later was when it really started to hit me. To my mind, I was fine – I had that wonderful buzz back and was loving it. But I was getting paranoid (the neighbours are aliens), delusional (I can save the world by killing myself) and hallucinating (the stars were talking to me from across the galaxy). I was becoming seriously psychotic and it was only to get worse.

Somehow I managed to keep working. I was on my way to the skies and felt incredible; I had reverted to working 12 hour days and sleeping maybe 3 hours every third night. I couldn’t slow down enough to sleep, but I didn’t feel I needed to either. I stopped eating regular lunches and dinners (though I’ve never been a breakfast person), and instead upped my coffee intake to many, many cups a day. None of this was healthy behaviour but I was so high that I never saw the crash coming.

It was around late-December coming on early-January that it started to feel overwhelming. My mind was off on another planet most of the time by this point. My work was suffering, as were my relationships with colleagues and friends. I was on a plummeting plane and I didn’t have a parachute. The only way I knew how to get some respite was hurting myself, and so I turned to my old habit of self-harming regularly (i.e. every day as soon as I got home from work). On top of this I was drinking to try to slow the rollercoaster down.

I should mention at this point that I was under the care of what is called ‘secondary services’. Specifically I was with the Early Intervention in Psychosis team, and my case was looked after by a Care Co-Ordinator. So I wasn’t on this ride alone, I had people keeping an eye on me the whole time. But as is often the case with over-stretched mental health care teams here in the UK, my Care Co-ordinator saw me once every 1 – 2 weeks, for an hour. And because I had been feeling so good, those meetings were full of positive energy.

Eventually my husband called me out on my behaviour, and called the Early Intervention team to get someone to assess me as soon as possible. The consultant psychiatrist came out the following day, and the whole story with my stopping medication came out. She arranged for me to get back on the Risperidone, with a slight increase in dosage, and signed me off work for two weeks.

That’s my experience with coming off of medication ‘cold-turkey’. It’s not the last time I tried to stop taking it, but looking back I should’ve learnt from the events of those couple of months. The US National Library of Medicine states that ‘abrupt discontinuation of antipsychotic drugs in patients with schizophrenia is associated with earlier, and often more severe, illness episodes’. And that’s not to mention the potential for physical side effects, such as motor disorders, sickness and so on.

The right way to come off medications is firstly with the support of your psychiatrist or medical doctor. They will discuss the possible side effects, and work out a way to taper the dose down so that it isn’t a shock to the system. This can take several weeks to action, so patience is key. In the end, it is your own health at risk.

Coming Off Meds