I’ll Keep Talking About Psychosis Whether It’s Relatable Or Not

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I suffer from psychosis. I have auditory hallucinations, so I hear voices, either when I’m manic or depressed. It took me a long time, over a decade in fact, to face up to this reality. I was in denial that I heard voices, and convinced myself it was something everyone experienced. Now, I’m open about my experiences. I’ll talk to family and friends about it, and I can even joke about some of the stranger sounds and voices I’ve heard. I have shared my story online, notably here on my blog. You can read more about how ‘I thought the voices were normal.’ Realising I had Psychosis and Doubting Myself – Hearing Voices

It’s not an easy subject to talk about. Even starting a conversation about it can seem unbearably daunting at times. It can feel jarring to suddenly start talking about it, as it can seem like such a alien topic for people who haven’t experienced it. I have to judge the atmosphere and the mood of the person I’m talking to. I shouldn’t have to, but that is the reality. If striking up a conversation about psychosis is badly timed it can shock and jolt a person and yes, unfortunately, distance them from you. Sometimes the reaction is simply silence. Sometimes you can see the fear of what to say next in a persons eyes. Sometimes they ignore what you’ve said and start on another topic.

It’s all about really, truthfully communicating and educating others. If I can sense how uncomfortable someone is, I’ll ask them,

“What is it about psychosis that scares you?” Or,

“Why does this conversation make you feel uncomfortable?”

If I didn’t ask, and just let it slide and quickly moved the conversation on, I’d never know the answer. People need to understand that having psychosis doesn’t make you an insane, crazed killer. It doesn’t change you as a person. I’m still the same person as before anyone realised I heard voices. Most of the time confronting someone with these questions is positive. They know me, and want to hear me out. I’ll explain when it happens and what it means for me. For instance, once when I was manic I could hear voices coming from my phone. They were speaking loudly and animatedly, like they were at a party. Initially I thought somehow I had rung someone by accident, but looking at my phone, there was no call in place. It went on for hours whilst I tried to distract myself by watching tv. Every time I turned the volume up the voices matched it. I was already feeling irritable and this added to my frustration. I remember being beyond relieved when the voices finally stopped.

I’ll be completely honest here; it’s not a relatable subject. It can be a curiosity for others, or they can try and sympathise, but unless they have experienced it, they will never completely understand. The best I can do is to keep talking and sharing my experiences. I want to try and normalise it as a subject, so people no longer feel afraid to talk about it. I know that not as many people will read this than if it was a post about depression or anxiety, but that’s ok. Like I’ve said, it’s just not as relatable. People don’t have a frame of reference for it.

Educating others is key. The stigma attached to psychosis left me paralysed with fear and terrified for over a decade before I sought out help and support. I’m not afraid anymore and will continue to spread awareness.

16 Comments

  1. ashleyleia January 2, 2018 / 3:52 pm

    It’s interesting that psychosis is more stigmatized and less relatable than mood disorders, yet a fair number of those of us with mood disorders have experienced psychosis at some point. When I had psychotic symptoms it was certainly disconcerting for me, so I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising that others find it a bit weird. But you’re right – education is so important, and the more we talk about it the better.

    • Katie Conibear January 5, 2018 / 5:21 pm

      Mood disorders are definitely stigmatised and it’s so frustrating to see. I think with psychosis if someone has never experienced it, they can find it difficult to relate. The same goes for mood disorders. Thanks for reading and commenting x

  2. JH January 2, 2018 / 6:27 pm

    Thank you for talking about it.

    • Katie Conibear January 5, 2018 / 5:21 pm

      No problem, thank you for reading x

  3. orangewallsblog January 3, 2018 / 3:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 Psychosis is not only difficult to have others relate to, but it’s so stigmatized that some can’t even empathize on any level…

    • Katie Conibear January 5, 2018 / 5:23 pm

      I totally agree. I think many people find it difficult to empathise with something if they can’t relate to it in some way. Thanks so much for reading and commenting x

  4. Wendy January 6, 2018 / 7:31 pm

    I’m so proud of you. Being afraid of our mental health problems is something I think many of us can understand, hearing that you are no longer afraid, even with psychosis, that gives hope that we can all be less afraid.
    I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your honesty and thank you for sharing your experiences.
    No, you won’t get as much traffic because it’s not as relatable to as many people as depression or even bipolar disorder is, but it’s important. and if just one person reads this and relates to it, you have made a huge impact.
    I have psychogenic seizures. I don’t have them often now, but I was having them quite often a couple of years ago. At that time, I wrote about it on my blog. I don’t know if it reached anyone who really needed to see it, but I think it’s important that we testify. It’s important that we make it known that we are not going to hide because of these things, we are just regular people with something extra.
    Best to you. wendy

  5. Niki June 19, 2018 / 2:44 pm

    Hi Katie, good to read your story. I have a question but it comes from the opposite view, I have a friend who experiences psychosis and paranoia and the problem is to be able to talk to them about their condition as they do not accept the reality that they have a disorder and believe their condition is reality. I would long to have that conversation and really be able to help, but they do not except their diagnosis and believe the voices are real. Any thoughts on how to help!

    • Katie Conibear July 4, 2018 / 8:44 am

      Hi Niki, thank you for the question and sorry it’s taken me awhile to reply. If your friend isn’t ready to open up and accept what is happening to them there isn’t much you can do. Keep being a supportive friend and make it clear that when they are ready to talk, you will be there for them. I hope they are keeping safe and are not putting themselves in danger. If they are, then it would be best to find them some expert help. We need more people like you who are accepting and non judgemental and really want to listen, thank you. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me in the comments or via email 🙂

  6. Catherine June 20, 2018 / 12:20 am

    Hi Katie, thank you for being brave enough to share your experience with psychosis with not only your friends and family but the world at large via your blog! I agree the stigma attached is enormous, and “coming out” about it ultimately encourages us to be more open about this type of mental illness which is so little talked about generally, to help dilute the stigma and encourage understanding and compassion for what for many is a super scary diagnosis. I was first diagnosed with depression with psychotic features in England in 2002, which was re-diagnosed as schizophrenia later on. I too hear voices which have progressively got worse when i have come off meds for short periods of times in the past. Very few people apart from my family know i have schizophrenia, and i often weigh up the pros and cons of “coming out” about it, believing that people will treat me differently if they knew, but i think as my children get older and can stand on their own in society, i will feel more comfortable about sharing my experiences. I count myself blessed to have found, with the help of good psychiatrists, a combination of meds which work well and save me from the mental hell of full-blown psychosis.
    With gratitude,
    Catherine

    • Katie Conibear July 4, 2018 / 8:39 am

      Thank you Catherine for sharing your experiences with me. I know how you feel and how scary it is to experience psychosis and the fear of telling family and friends about it. There is absolutely no pressure on you to tell loved ones about it. I took the step to talk about it after many years of keeping it to myself. Do it in your own time and when you feel ready x

  7. Gill Allbutt June 20, 2018 / 11:00 am

    Thank you Katie it was brave of you to share something that must have been so scary for you when it first happened. I think you’ve created a good environment for people to be curious and learn more rather than be frightened about something they can’t imagine. Well done for doing that.

    • Katie Conibear July 4, 2018 / 8:35 am

      Thank you for your comment, it means a lot. It’s important to me that people feel comfortable talking about and asking questions about psychosis.

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