A Life Lived Vividly Series – I Can Do Anything! Delusional Thinking And Me

A Life Lived Vividly

I live with bipolar disorder, but also have symptoms of psychosis, which includes delusional thinking. I describe what delusions are in the post A Life Lived Vividly Series – What Is Psychosis?

When I’m manic I experience delusions. I think I can do anything. I have what’s called delusions of grandeur, where I believe I’m better than everyone else. I will think that I can do no wrong, that I’m always the smartest person in the room. Actually it’s more than that. I’ll truly believe that only I have all the answers, that I’m the smartest person that ever existed. This type of thinking causes me to react to people irrationally and often aggressively.

“How dare they think they’re better than me!” I will say to myself.

“How can they possibly question me when I have all the answers!”

“Everyone around me is ignorant and stupid. They should all listen to me.”

This isn’t arrogance, or an inflated ego. I don’t believe these things about myself most of the time. In fact, I’m pretty insecure. I’ve written an example of this type of thinking in the post A Story of Self Sabotage

What mania makes me is incredibly confident. Sometimes this confidence turns into delusion. I believe that everything I am creating is like gold dust, and must be seen and shared. I have written reams and reams of notes of ideas for a book, at the time believing them to be the best ideas I’ve ever had. When I look back on them at a later time all I see is scribbled nonsense, a stream of consciousness, misspelled and a jumble of words. It’s like the pages of these notebooks are a reflection of my manic mind. My mind is constantly darting from one idea to another, and never finishing my original point. My mind is distracted by the smallest spark of an idea, and every thought that comes to mind grips my attention. I show everyone what I’ve been working on, with a pride that verges on narcissism. 

Other times when I’m manic, the delusions I encounter put me in danger. A recurring belief is that I can stop traffic. I believe that if I step into a road, every car, bus and lorry will immediately stop and I can walk safely across. I also think that even if this power  becomes faulty in some way, I will not be hurt. I don’t believe there is some greater power watching over me, but instead that I’m so important that I have become invincible. I live in Reading, a busy town with it’s fair share of traffic, so you can imagine the danger I have put myself through. I’ve had many near misses as I’ve walked along busy roads and have stepped out with no fear and no thought for the repercussions. I’ve been run over twice, and had a near miss with a double decker bus. On both occasions of being knocked over, I was extremely lucky not to be seriously hurt and came away with just a few cuts and bruises. Unfortunately, not being hurt on both occasions fuelled my belief that I was invincible.

Everyone experiences delusions in a different way, and no two experiences are the same.  I have learnt to recognise when I’m beginning to show signs of mania, that I’ve written about in the post The Warning Signs of a Manic Episode

Even though I can recognise what’s happening, I’m not always able to stop it and I still have episodes of mania that can lead to me experiencing delusions. Luckily I have a supportive husband and family that can keep a close eye on me and stop me from putting myself in dangerous situations.

Any questions about delusions or want to share your own experience? Then comment below!

A Life Lived Vividly Series – What Is Psychosis?

A Life Lived Vividly

Welcome to the start of a new series of posts on Stumbling Mind, dedicated to psychosis. I’ll be sharing the lived experiences of others, discussing delusions and what they mean and describing some of the more surreal occurrences I’ve had when hearing voices.

In this post, I’ll start at the beginning; what is psychosis?

Psychosis happens amongst people with the mental illnesses schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, post partum psychosis, and sometimes those with bipolar disorder and severe depression. Psychosis is experienced in two different ways; hallucinations and delusions.

Hallucinations are when a person hears, sees, smells, tastes or feels something that isn’t really there. It’s a sensory experience that happens without any outside stimuli. The world around them is perceived differently to everyone else, with others not being able to see, hear, or feel what they can. The whole experience feels very real to the person experiencing it. One of the most common hallucinations is hearing sounds and voices.

Those with psychosis often lose touch with reality and suffer delusions. Delusions are when you believe wild theories and beliefs that often have no evidence based in fact. People may have what’s called ‘delusions of grandeur’ where they may feel like the most important person in the world, or they have powers or intelligence above and beyond anyone else. Paranoia can also be a part of delusions where the person feels threatened by an outside source that wants to hurt or control them in some way.

People can suffer from one or both experiences. Psychosis can be frightening, bewildering and surreal. It can be incredibly isolating and can make people feel distrustful and nervous. However, it isn’t always negative and some people find it to be a positive, life affirming experience. The one thing to take from this is that each individual has their own unique experience.

Psychosis ranges from being a one off experience, to something people encounter regularly. For me, I experience short episodes of psychosis when I’m either in a manic or depressive bipolar episode.

Over the course of the ‘Life Lived Vividly’ Series, I will try and cover as much of the above as I can and in more detail. I want to shine a light on this often misunderstood condition in a sensitive way and to create a safe place for discussion. You can already find several posts about this on Stumbling Mind in the Psychosis section of the blog. Anything else you’d like me to touch on during the series? Then please let me know in the comments!

My Hearing Voices Journal Entry 2

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Yesterday I had a an episode of psychosis. It came in the form of auditory hallucinations, as it does with me. I’ve journaled my experiences before in the post My Hearing Voices Journal and felt as I sat in bed last night trying to sleep, but too anxious to do so, it was time to journal my feelings once again. It started as I finished my shift at work. I could hear a murmuring coming from all around me. These are my initial thoughts on the experience.

Hearing murmurs is something I experience often with psychosis. It’s frustrating more than anything. It’s like sitting in a busy restaurant or bar. As I’m a people watcher and yes, very nosy, I like to listen to snippets of people’s conversations. I find it fascinating listening to how people interact with one another. These murmurs are like not quite catching the conversation of the people at the table next to you. even with your best efforts to strain to hear what is being said. All you can hear is a low murmur.

It’s a constant background noise, like the hiss of an untuned radio, but I can’t turn it off or find another station. I’m stuck with the same incessant, nonsense sounds. The noise/murmuring follows me; it doesn’t dissipate if I move. That’s how I know it isn’t real,  that it isn’t coming from an outside source, but from inside my own mind. Trying to ‘turn off’ the noise makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. I’ll try to convince myself it isn’t a hallucination, pacing back and forth with more and more urgency looking for the source of the sounds. I begin to talk to myself, to firstly come up with a logical conclusion and secondly to calm down. It doesn’t work and I can feel the frustration rising. Why is this happening to me? Is it too much to ask for to just be normal, whatever that is. The noise after an hour or so, disappears, without my noticing. I’d grown accustomed to it and over the years during an episode I’ve learnt to carry on as normal when I’m out in public as much as I can.

Now it’s gone I feel on edge. I know I’ll feel this way for the next few days. What if a more sinister voice presents itself? What if it happens when I’m alone and there’s no one to comfort me and help me through it?

I’ve gone to bed, but I can’t sleep. I feel too emotional to sleep. I could burst into tears at any moment. I can feel my heart beating in my chest. Sharp pains streak across my chest, which suggests the beginning of a panic attack. All of this because I heard some murmuring. Psychosis fucks with your head in so many ways. It’s not just the actual experience, but the anxiety and the real fear that follows. I feel tense and uneasy like something or someone unknown is watching me, ready to shout and attack. I don’t like the dark. I was never afraid of the dark when I was younger, in fact I was a pretty fearless child. When you begin to hear auditory hallucinations, especially when you hear that first voice come out of nowhere in pitch darkness it is unbelievably terrifying. The fear I feel, the total vulnerability leaves me in a state of shock. Now I’m afraid of the dark. What if, just if, that voice is real this time. That there really is someone in my room whispering in my ear “I see you.” I will hear voices from what feels like all around me and for all I know they are very real. Surrounded by a wall of voices it’s easy to start to imagine what they look like. Eyes open, they start to adjust to the low light and play tricks on me. That shadow in the corner starts to form into the shape of a person, towering over where I lay.

All of this is circling my mind, so how could I possibly sleep? I know what I need to do. I need to get up out of bed and out into the light.

As I’ve made clear before in the post I’ll Keep Talking About Psychosis Whether It’s Relatable Or Not I won’t stop writing about my experiences of auditory hallucinations. It’s cathartic and journalling my experiences helps me make sense of them. If you know someone who is struggling with hearing voices, my post How to Help Someone When They’re Hearing Voices could be helpful. There’s also plenty of information out there, and I personally found MIND’s website to be full of helpful information.

I Gave Up Alcohol For My Mental Health

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My last psychiatry appointment was a tough one – I was told with certainty that I should, no, needed to give up alcohol. My response was a hopeful one, surely half a bottle of wine on a Saturday night was alright? The answer was a definitive no, even that amount of alcohol was far too much. We agreed that I should go sober, and I agreed reticently. I left feeling dejected, grumpy and silently cursing my psychiatrist. Although I felt fed up, I had known before my appointment that this change needed to happen.

Why go sober? 

My psychiatrist explained that alcohol reduces the effectiveness of many medications. Alcohol is a depressant, and pretty much cancels out the work my mental health medication does. In other words, I might as well not bother taking my medication every time I drink. If I have three days in a row of drinking, then that’s three days without medication. For me that can cause the beginning of withdrawal symptoms, that feel like having the flu. Or, more seriously, it can cause a bipolar episode of severe depression or mania.

The mental and physical effects

After a heavy weekend, or a number of days in a row of a ‘few’ drinks in the evening to help me unwind and relax I start feeling the negative effects of alcohol. I’ve noticed a correlation between heavy drinking and heart palpitations, that often leads to a full blown panic attack. Panic attacks are a debilitating and exhausting experience, and I’ll feel drained for days afterwards. Another experience I’ve had after drinking is psychosis. Earlier this year I drank heavily over my birthday weekend and at the end of it began to hear voices. I wrote about the experience in this post, My Hearing Voices Journal Alcohol free, I wouldn’t have gone through these experiences, and would have stayed mentally well and stable.

How I did it

I literally just stopped! Seriously though, it’s been tough, especially on nights out and at family celebrations. I’ve been drinking since I was fourteen, so to just suddenly go completely sober was a massive challenge. I was open about it with everyone, and my partner, family and friends have all been extremely supportive. I reached out to the twitter community and was given heaps of advice and tips on non alcoholic drinks so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on nights out. Soda and lime cordial has been my saviour when I’m out at a bar, along with flavoured sparkling water when I’m having a night in. It’s taken a terrific amount of self determination and will power, but I knew it was something I had to do for my mental health.

How I’m feeling now

Two months later and I feel fantastic! I’m clear headed, have more energy and haven’t had any palpitations or panic attacks. I’ve been stable and haven’t experienced psychosis or any depressive or manic episodes. I feel physically healthier and I’ve lost weight. I know my medications are working as they should be now, and that’s given me the impetus to stay sober.

I may have left my psychiatric appointment with a feeling of dread and wondering how the hell I was going to go sober, but I’m so glad I stuck with my decision.

My Hearing Voices Journal

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Last week I had an episode of psychosis, where I suffered from auditory hallucinations, or hearing sounds and voices. To help me through it, I journalled the experience in a notebook. Some parts are written during the episode, and some are written directly afterwards. It helped me make sense of what I was hearing and to ground me in reality and to help me deal with the shock when it had stopped.

“I think I’ve found the worst combination ever of physical and mental illness. Migraine, room spinning and doubting my sanity as I hear voices whilst sat in bed. I’m feeling very vulnerable and scared. I’ve felt physically ill all day today. We went out for a meal with friends but had to cut it short because I thought I was going to pass out or fall over from being so dizzy. This week has been an emotional rollercoaster with my moods all over the place. I’ve been ecstatically happy and hyperactive, busy working away on new projects. In a startling contrast I’ve felt hopeless, useless and deeply lost.

Now I’m home, and sat in bed. The noises have started. I can hear creaking. It sounds like it’s coming from the bed, but I’m not moving. It won’t stop. I’ve turned on my laptop and found the easiest, light hearted programme I can find, Friends. It reminds me of my childhood, before the voices started. I remember when it was first aired on a Friday night and I was allowed to stay up and watch it. If I can focus on this maybe the voices will leave me alone.

It isn’t working. Now the creaking has turned into banging on the bedroom window. The banging is urgent, fast and incredibly loud as if a fist is pounding on the window. The blinds are closed and I’m paranoid now that the banging is real and someone is playing a joke on me. Should I get up and check? I really should. I’ve been to open the blinds and there was nothing there. It’s windy outside, and all I could see were the bushes and trees swaying. The unpredictable and forcible wind today is mirroring my state of mind. The banging is making me really uncomfortable. I’ll turn the volume up on the laptop to try and drown out the noise. It’s not working, Fuck. What is my mind trying to tell me? How can I rationalise this or tell it to stop?

It’s suddenly stopped, thank fuck for that. I can breathe again. The cat has leapt up on the bed and has curled up next to me. It’s like she knows something is wrong. Stroking her and listening to her gentle purr is calming me down. I’ve just realised it’s getting dark outside and I’m sitting in the bedroom with no lights on. But I don’t want to get up because right now sitting here I’m not hearing anything scary or confusing. I don’t want to jinx it.

Now it’s dark and I’m still sitting in the bedroom, still too afraid to get up and turn the lights on. I can hear footsteps coming into the room, it must be my husband. I hear the bed creak as he sits down on it next to me. He says to me “Do you want any carrots? I think we need some more carrots for next week.” I’m confused. Why is he talking about carrots? I respond, “Yeah ok, I’ll put carrots on the shopping list next week.” I hear him get up and walk out the room. I’m not sure if that conversation was real. It was weird and random and now I feel really muddled and confused. I’ve turned the light on now so I could write this down.

Oh yay, hear comes the shouting. I close my eyes and try and focus my mind. All I can hear is “Fuck! Fuck!” “Get the fuck out!” Can’t take this anymore. I’m getting up. I realise I’m trembling and I feel as if I’ve been shaken roughly by someone much stronger than me. I sit down next to my husband on the sofa. I ask him, “Did you come in the bedroom earlier?” He replies “No, I’ve been in here the whole time, why?” I can’t be bothered to explain what’s been happening. I’m still feeling overwhelmed by voices. I’m asking him about his game. He’s playing Elite. I love how passionate he is about this game and the idea of space travel. I make myself listen to him intently, and the shouting starts to fade.

The problem with hearing voices is the paranoia afterwards. Is that banging from outside or in my head? Is that whispering in the background of the tv show I’m watching or in my mind? Unknown noises set my teeth on edge. I’m jumpy, full of panic with the fear it will start again.

At least I’m talking about it.”

How to Help Someone When They’re Hearing Voices

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I have bipolar disorder and along with this psychosis. This means I hear voices that aren’t really there. Sometimes the voices are comforting, and urge me on to try new things and motivate me. At other times they can be malicious and terrifying, criticising me and goading me to hurt myself.  I talk about my experiences in the post Doubting Myself – Hearing Voices and in this post Hearing Voices During A Manic Episode I also describe how I was in denial for many years in this post ‘I thought the voices were normal.’ Realising I had Psychosis To learn more, check out MIND Their website is full of information about hearing voices and psychosis in general.

So how can you help me and others like me when we are hearing voices? 

It might seem daunting, but there are simple things you can do to help someone when they’re struggling with voices. Sometimes all I need is for someone to just to sit and be with me. If I don’t know you I’m not expecting you to have a full on conversation with me. I just need someone there so I’m not feeling alone. When you hear voices you feel out of touch with reality. It is an intense and genuinely scary experience. You’re not always sure what’s real and what isn’t. It creates a surge of fear and anxiety. So to counter this having someone sit with me helps to ground me. It’s a really simple act that can make a huge difference. Helping someone doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to fix them or make the voices stop.

Don’t panic.

If I said to you I’m struggling with hearing voices, don’t visibly panic. If you’re panicking, it will make me panic, and I’m already struggling with the anxiety of what is going on in my head. I’ve told people before when I’ve been hearing voices, and I can almost see the gears going into overdrive in their head. Like I’ve already said, you don’t need all the answers. If you’re worrying about what you can do; ask. It’s far more helpful for someone to ask me what they can do – rather than sitting panicking and stressing out.

What can you say to help?

Talk to me about anything. Talk to me about the surroundings. Tell me your life story. Tell me how your day is going. Tell me what you’re up to tonight. Anything. It can be as mundane or as interesting as you’d like. It can be the first thing that pops into your head. Treat me normally, and if you know me treat me as you usually would.  I want to be distracted from the voices. Distraction is key. Put yourself in my shoes and think how you would like to be treated.

What do I do to help myself?

When I’m low and the voices are vicious and scaring me, what I try to do is rationalise it in my head. I think yes it’s scary, but I know what it is. The experience feels very real but it can’t do anything to me, the voices can’t hurt me. It’s like if someone was having a panic attack. They’re not going to die. In the same way I know nothing bad is going to happen to me.

Often I hear voices at home, when I’m alone. I will try and have a conversation with someone – I’ll call a friend and ask them to talk to me. Again it’s all about distraction. If no one is available I’ll do something creative. Painting, drawing and writing all help to ground me and distract from what I’m hearing.

Painting ‘Bear Repeat’ by Anne Wilson

Breaking the Silence

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Too many people with mental illness are silent. Silent with friends and family, Silent at work. Silent from their doctors, silent with themselves. Breaking that silence can feel like the hardest thing in the world.

We worry about what others will think of us, and that they will judge us. Maybe they’ll think we’re attention seeking, exaggerating, or crazy. What if they recoil from us or decide they can’t deal with it. We worry breaking the silence will make work life difficult, or even cost us our job. Maybe our doctor won’t believe us, or won’t have any answers. We worry that being truly honest with ourselves will mean we will have to face the reality of our illness. All of this circles our minds and paralyses us from taking action to help ourselves and to reach out for help and support.

It all comes down to stigma and discrimination. It is such a huge issue for people with mental illness. We fear the repercussions of breaking our silence. If we start talking and sharing collectively, we can hold each other up and give ourselves the confidence to use our voices.

When you do break the silence it can be freeing and empowering. To finally share your story with someone, even if it’s just one person, can come as a huge relief. Sharing your struggles lifts a weight off your shoulders and has a positive affect that staying silent will never do. I do this here on this blog, and share my experiences of bipolar, psychosis and bulimia. I first started journalling my experiences in 2012, but only shared with family and friends. Last February, I made the decision to go further and set up this blog and to be more active about it on social media. Now I feel supported by a larger community, of people I have never even met. I have received messages from across the world of support, and others asking for advice.

In most situations, people are generally supportive. However, this isn’t always the case and we have to be prepared for this. It can be deeply hurtful when someone doesn’t understand, or refuses to make an effort to. If we feel capable, the best thing we can do is try and inform and educate. Stigma often comes from ignorance or a lack of information. We need to make sure we provide people with the right information so that they can make informed opinions. This can be from sharing your story, or from highlighting resources from charities such as MIND and Time To Change

Not everyone with mental illness feels capable of being open. We share our stories to varying degrees, and even if we tell only the one person closest to us, that we can confide in, that’s ok. We don’t all need to put ourselves ‘out there.’ We’re all different, despite our shared illnesses. Breaking the silence means talking as much or as little as you want to. It isn’t a competition and no-one should feel pressured to tell everyone they meet about their illness. Do what you can, and you’ll find it makes a difference to not only your life, but to the people you care about.

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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.

My mental illness Q & A

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1. What is your mental health issue?

I suffer from Bipolar Affective disorder. It first manifested as depression, but I was later diagnosed with Bipolar. As part of Bipolar, I also have psychosis, where I have times when I experience auditory hallucinations. I also suffer with panic attacks and bulimia.

2. Do you have medication and/or therapy?

Currently, I am only receiving medication for Bipolar. I take lamotrigine a mood stabiliser, aripiprazole, an anti psychotic and sertraline, an anti depressant. I am hoping to receive some form of therapy organised through my psychiatrist.

3. What therapy/medication have you tried and has any worked for you?

The combination of medications I listed in the last question are undoubtedly the most effective of all the medications for Bipolar I have been on. The side effects are minimal; they make me extremely tired, but I take them before I got to bed so they help me to sleep. Before this I was on quetiapine, which I can only describe as making me zombified. I was constantly tired and lived in a haze of forgetfulness and had a complete lack of concentration. I was then on respiridone, which initially worked well, but because of a hormonal balance I had to stop taking it.

For panic attacks, I found CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) to be helpful. It helped because the panic attacks I was experiencing at the time were environmental. After stressful periods of time I would have an intense and painful panic attack. It taught me how to change my thinking when I was stressed.

4. How long have you had problems for?

I was first severely depressed when I was fourteen. I became a school refuser, and was referred to a psychologist. I had multiple bouts of mania (which I didn’t realise was mania at the time) during my late teens and twenties. I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar aged twenty seven.

I started experiencing panic attacks when I was twenty, and developed bulimia during my early twenties.

5. Do your family/friends know?

My family and friends are all aware of my mental health problems. I encourage them to talk to me and read my blog if they are unsure or confused about my illness.

6. Does this affect your work and daily living?

In a word, yes. I am currently unable to work a full time job, with my income coming from sporadic freelance writing jobs, selling my artwork on Etsy and DLA (disability living allowance), now known as PIP (personal independence payments). Daily life can be a struggle if I’m in a depressive episode, where I’m unable to do anything, let alone work or socialise with friends. Relationships can become strained when I’m unwell. I’m difficult to be around, because I either shut down completely, or become angry and rude.

7. What makes you feel calm?

Listening to music, especially alternative eighties and nineties songs, as they remind me of happier times. Bubble baths are my absolute calming, safe space to be in. Snuggled up reading a good book, especially an old favourite.

8. What do you do in crisis?

The number one thing is to tell someone I’m in crisis. Being alone during these moments can be unbearable. I need someone to give me a hug and talk to me, even if it is innocuous and dull.  If I’m alone I’ll ring or message my husband or my mum. I try and distract myself from the intense feelings I’m experiencing.; whether that’s listening to music, having a bath, or playing a video game. Sometimes this isn’t enough and I have to ring the local crisis team, or my psychiatrist, who is awesome at organising emergency appointments when I’m in crisis.

9. What advice would you give to others suffering?

My advice is to find support as soon as possible. At appointments sometimes you need to be confident and assertive to be taken seriously and to be given a diagnosis or support you need. I know it’s incredibly difficult to do that when you’re ill, so take someone close to you that understands what you’re going through.

Become an expert on your mental illness. The more you know, the more you will understand and find solutions to combat your mental illness.

10. What makes you smile?

My husband, my family and friends. My hyperactive cat, Matilda. Animals, especially ducks, bears and otters. Nature, hot summer days, music and art.

11. Describe your mental health issue in 5 words –

Debilitating. Bewildering. Complicated. Painful. Terrifying.

12. Insert a picture to make people smile –

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‘I thought the voices were normal.’ Realising I had Psychosis

 

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I suffer from Bipolar disorder, well known for it’s symptoms of mania and
depression, but what many people don’t realise is that some sufferers also
experience psychosis. These could include delusions, auditory and visual
hallucinations. For me, I hear voices. This happens during periods of extreme
moods, so when I’m manic or severely depressed. I may hear voices that are
comforting or spur on my mania. Sometimes the voices are just a jumble. When
I’m depressed, it becomes disturbing. Voices will scream and shout at me,
or sneer vindictive threats. I write about one such experience here: Doubting Myself – Hearing Voices

When I was younger I thought having someone talk to me in my head was normal.
Then, as I grew older, I believe I was in denial. Something like this
couldn’t happen to me, it just didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t until I
stumbled upon an article that explained the symptoms that I began to truly
except this wasn’t right. I sat reading, with tears welling up as the
realisation dawned on me; I had been experiencing psychosis. I cried for a
long time. The idea of telling anyone I had psychosis terrified me. What if
they were afraid of me? What if they thought I was dangerous? My fear of
being labelled as ‘mad’ or ‘insane’ stopped me from being honest with
the people closest to me. I didn’t want to lose friends or have family
treat me any differently.

Even as a sufferer my view of psychosis had been skewed by pop culture
representations. You were a disturbed, dangerous individual that didn’t fit
into society if you heard voices. It couldn’t be further from the truth in
my case. I was just an ordinary woman; I was in a long term relationship, I
worked, I went out with friends. Yet I felt stigmatised before I even reached
out to anybody. I stayed silent for years, only telling my psychiatrist after
a year of treatment for Bipolar.

I eventually opened up to my partner. It was an awkward conversation, with
many pauses and silences as I struggled to explain myself. Although he
initially found it difficult to understand, he was supportive and caring. He
could see how upset I was becoming and how much of an internal ordeal I had
been through keeping this bottled up inside, and knew all I needed from him
was a hug. Later, I told my family and they excepted it with an ease I
wasn’t expecting. I have begun to be open about my experiences on social
media and the outpouring of support from friends has been incredible. I am
truly lucky to have such open minded family and friends.

I know there are people out there who don’t understand and some that are
scared of psychosis. If these people opened themselves up and had a genuine
discussion with someone like me they wouldn’t be afraid. I have met people
who believe it is edgy or cool, or use it as fashion statement. It is none of
those things and  is not something you should ever wish on yourself. It is
debilitating, bewildering and terribly frightening, but with support can be
tackled.