Psychosis isn’t usually a diagnosis of itself, but often a group of symptoms found in various different mental illnesses. People most often think of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder with psychosis, but mental illnesses like bipolar, depression and personality disorders can have psychosis as a part of them. Or people can have a one of psychotic episode.
Psychosis can manifest itself in different ways in different people, but the main element is that you experience or perceive reality in a very different way from those around you, but there are the general overal symtpoms:
* Disordered thinking and speech
Hallucinations are not just about seeing or hearing things, but they can also be touch, taste and smell.
Delusions can be delusions of grandeur (believing you’re very important, can control things or people, or rule the world) or paranoid delusions (believing you are being controlled, or harmed or trying to be killed)
Disordered thinking and speech can include racing thoughts, flights of ideas (thoughts move very quickly from one idea to another and making links others don’t)
So often terms such as ‘psycho’ ‘schizo’ etc are casually used and so often people associate those terms with dangerous people, or people doing dangerous things. In reality psychotic people are far more likely to hurt themselves than others.
So what is it like having psychosis.
Well firstly it is scary, really scary.
For me I feel my psychosis has two elements, there is when I am in an acute psychotic episode and this is when my psychosis has been it’s severest, when for several weeks to several months i am in this episode. Then there is what I call my day to day psychosis, the symptoms that I experience either daily, or very regularly, that aren’t as severe, still frightening, but I can try to rationalise them a bit and I can just about cope with it, but this is chronic (long term)
So what are these two elements like for me.
Well my day to day psychosis is like this:
I hear voices, one main voice (who is called Malcolm) he talks to me and at me, he is usually very nasty and mean. Then also background voices, as though I can hear a meeting in the background, these voices tend to just talk to each other, sometimes they talk to Malcolm and rarely they talk to me, but this is background chatter, that I cannot make out.
I am terrified of cameras, of being followed and being watched, of others in my flat (mainly strangers) of being spied on and of being taken away. Whilst I experience these paranoid delusions on a day to day basis, when in this chronic psychosis I can usually try to rationalise them and persuade myself why they aren’t true, it is hard to do that though and takes a lot of effort and hard work.
I get delusions of grandeur in day to day psychosis but to a lesser effect, I believe I can effect the scores of sport matches by either not watching or watching them on the television. I get thoughts that I can fly and thoughts that I can control others minds. Again I can do my best to try and rationalise these.
I may have other types of hallucinations as well as the voices I hear, I sometimes start smelling things really strongly that others cannot, I often smell the dentist when just randomly sat in my flat. I do tend to see things, mainly horrible things, but when in this day to day psychosis luckily they aren’t regular and often I’ll see something for a few seconds and then it’s gone, then I may see something else later, but only for a few seconds again.
This is very different from an acute psychotic episode (some of which I have been hospitalised and sectioned during)
During an acute psychotic episode Malcolm yells at me pretty much non stop, he tells me all this horrible stuff about myself. I have seen Malcolm during some episodes, he has told me unless I kill myself he will kill those I love. I see really horrible things pretty much constantly. I taste blood even though I am not bleeding. I have believed that aliens are coming to take me away so the government can experiment on me, that everyone I see is a spy waiting for the best moment to take me away, that I am being monitored by cameras. After people have left my flat I have searched it over and over for hidden cameras and for it being bugged. I have been convinced I am being hunted to be killed, that my medication is poison (and therefore stop taking it) That strangers are all plotting together to kill me. That my mind and thoughts are being controlled. I have believed I have murdered people.
That I rule the world, I can fly (during one episode I nearly tried to fly by jumping off a bridge) and am magic, I can control others with their minds. That I am rich and powerful, that I can solve everything in the world all by myself, that I am better, smarter than all others and everyone else should be my servants.
Now during these acute episodes I most likely won’t experience paranoid delusions and delusions of grandeur during the same episode, but they have been very much present and there during different episodes.
During all the psychotic episodes I have had, the person I have hurt, nearly killed and wanted to hurt or kill is me, no one else.
Now writing this I know I cannot fly, I know I am not rich, or magic, I am taking my medication and therefore do not believe they’re poisoned. Yet Malcolm is there, he’s in the background, but I can hear him and I am paranoid to a degree, but I can mostly say to myself it’s paranoia and/or delusions, but every camera I see makes me anxious and scared even when like this.
I really wish that whether I am in an acute episode or my general day to day psychosis that people wouldn’t judge me for what I believe is real. Maybe to you aliens coming to get me for the government to experiment on me is the most ridiculous thing, but when in that episode I believe it is completely real and it is seriously scary. Don’t dismiss what I am telling you as silly nonsense, I am not saying don’t say it’s real when you know it isn’t, but do it in a way that lets me know you understand that to me it is very real. Because when people brush aside what I tell them I remember and don’t trust to ever tell that person again. To brush aside what I am believing as completely true hurts, as to me it is completely real and one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. So for you to brush it aside as nonsense, feels horrendous and as if you do not care.
So please be there, I won’t be dangerous to you, understand that to me it is real and very scary so assure me you understand to me it is real but also tell me I am safe from whatever I am believing, but please be aware I’ll likely insist I am not safe from everything as I cannot rationalise that it isn’t real.
Lastly remember the vast majority of us who experience psychosis in some form are likely to hurt ourselves, not others.