This is something that I've been wanting to do for a while, I think psychosis has a lot of negative stigma surrounding it and I'd like to try and end that. These questions are things I have been asked in the past or things I have been asked when I reached out over the Flickering Mind social media platforms.
If there is something you'd want to know, just ask! I won't get offended by anything because I actually find it more friendly to ask a question than make a judgement.
Q. What is psychosis?
A. I don't want to be held responsible for not phrasing this right, so this is a copy and paste job. The 2 main symptoms of psychosis are:
hallucinations – where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that do not exist outside their mind but can feel very real to the person affected by them; a common hallucination is hearing voices
delusions – where a person has strong beliefs that are not shared by others; a common delusion is someone believing there's a conspiracy to harm them
The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can cause severe distress and a change in behaviour.
Experiencing the symptoms of psychosis is often referred to as having a psychotic episode. However, as you can imagine, it comes with a dose of OCD, anxiety, depression and many others as symptoms.
Q. Do you need care?
A. Well this depends. Personally I think with this diagnoses there's always an element of care. Ranging from 1:1 support 24/7 to family care with GP and psychiatrist overlook. Personally, my partner acts as my carer, I have a Care Coordinator from the Local Authority Mental Health Team and a Psychiatrist which deals with medication and treatment options. Sometimes if I've been stable for a while and medication is stable, the Psychiatrist will discharge me and take me back when I relapse. Depending on how things are going I can see my Care Coordinator twice a week or once a month (maybe even every two months).
Q. Can you work?
A. When I'm stable, sure. I've actually held some high roles in my career. Of course it depends on your employers understanding and your current state of mind. Like any mental health diagnosis.
Q. Does that mean you're dangerous?
A. No. This one always gets me. Serial killers are always quick to be reported as "psychopaths" or "psychotic" and it is damaging to the brand. When I am in a psychotic episode I can do dangerous things. But things that are dangerous to myself mostly. I'm not going to say that in an episode I'm safe to be around, because some times I am not. But the actual percentage of people with psychosis who kill or harm others is very low. If anything we are more likely to harm ourselves. When psychosis gets dangerous is when you don't realise you're in an episode and that isn't always the case. Sometimes I can battle it out in my head, or with carers, and work out whether or not I'm in the correct reality. Anti-psychotic medication also lowers the amount of episodes or at least slows them down to give you preparation time.
Q. You shouldn't be around children.
A. This isn't a question, it's just something I want to address. I would NEVER put anyone or any child intentionally in harms way. If I feel my mood is anything other then tiptop I will not be alone with children, not because it's dangerous, but because I can get stressed or overwhelmed. That is it!
Q. How does it affect every day life?
A. This is a question I can only answer from my point of view. Personally, I have one constant voice which has been their as long as I remember. I refuse to name her because I know, when I'm rational, that this is an extension of my own feelings/thoughts. It's easier to have horrible feelings/thoughts if you make them someone else's. It wasn't always this way, I have used drink and smoke to drown out voices. I currently will not sit quietly, I can't be in a room without a TV or radio on and I will not fall asleep without sound playing. I find quiet very, very difficult. When outside it quiet, inside is easier to hear. I also commonly see shadow figures. On the road, in the house, outside, anywhere really. They don't really bother me, but they used to. I try to look at is as I'm never really alone. I can't go into shops alone, I can't really go anywhere new alone, my mood can be up and down throughout any day. The ups can be very up and the downs, very down. Although I am in a good place at the moment, it still happens. The only difference is I am far less erratic. Once I get an idea in my head it can consume me two examples from recent months are, "the house is listening" making holes in the walls to find the listening devices, "I need to get out of this skin" taking a potato peeler to my skin.
Q. Should I roll with someone's psychotic episode or question it?
A. This is a difficult one. Gently, gently, questioning. Maybe like okay well why don't we go outside so the walls can't hear us, then when a bit calmer, you know there is nothing inside the walls. It's a combination of half and half.
Q. Where should you go for help?
A. Damn, all I can say is get help early! I lied to a lot of professionals about how bad it was until I got to a breaking point. I firstly trusted a teacher, and school organised for me to start therapy during school hours so I didn't have to involve my family in my treatment. This was a mistake but I wouldn't have been told otherwise at the time. When my suicidal thoughts and intentions took over, my therapist involved my GP who then involved my family and my GP involved Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services. I became an adult and got moved to the Adult Mental Health Team and the Early Intervention Psychosis Team. From there I've moved from team to team but stayed in the system ever since. My advice, tell anyone you feel comfortable with, it may take some time but they'll get you there.
Q. Do you always need to seek help?
A. No. Some people go there whole life hearing voices but they're never negative so they don't feel they need support. People struggle with this but not all psychosis is bad. I've talked about a lot of the difficult times here, but when I'm feeling good my voice has told a joke and made me laugh. I have seen some comforting things that I know weren't really there. You need to seek help if you need help. Don't feel you're crazy, you're not. We have a difference in our brains, in our chemical and electrical reactions. If yours don't give you trouble then great. If I was offered a pill today that promised me I would never hear another voice again, I wouldn't take it. To me, that would be the real being alone.
I hope this has been helpful to you. Sometimes we get embarrassed or worried to ask what we really want to know but that only leads to judgement and ignorance. If you want to know something I haven't answered, please reach out.