Wednesday, 15 November 2017

One Small Chip: Living with Psychosis, by Roiben

Psychosis is one of the biggest Taboos still around in the Mental Health world, and by extension, in the world as a whole. You don’t often hear of people talking about Psychosis, whereas nowadays you may hear more about Depression, Bi-Polar, Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD and so on. You don’t often get told “I have (or I experience) Psychosis”.

So, what makes Psychosis such a big Taboo? Is it the unknown element that comes as a part of it? By definition Psychosis is hearing, seeing, feeling and believing things which others do not experience. It is much harder to empathize with someone suffering from Psychosis because it is harder to imagine being in that situation. One can extend one’s level of understanding for example with Depression – because everyone can understand feeling unbearably sad, having no motivation, or even the emptiness of emotion that can come as part and parcel of the disease. Yes, these things are not all and everything of experiencing Depression, but one can understand that it feels more than this. One can empathize.

Psychosis is a level of unknown that is so different for each individual experiencing it, that it is much harder to generalize and fit into a box of “it must be like when I experienced X that day, but to a bigger degree”.

Mental Illness as a whole gets blamed for a lot of things – if there is a murder, or a terrorist attack, or someone steals something from the local shop, the first thing asked in the modern-day media is: Have they got a Mental Illness? Hell, even Donald Trump is candidate for having a Mental Illness, and has been couch-diagnosed by so many people, purely because he is not your standard Politician (okay, he is a terrible Politician, but we won’t go into that here).

Psychosis is a major trigger point for being considered “at risk to other people”, even in the Mental Health field. Go to any A&E and describe an experience they count as Psychosis and the first question you will be asked is: “Have you ever hurt anybody else?” and “Have you ever been in trouble with the Police?” In the “real-world” of out there, hearing someone has Psychosis definitely means they are a danger to others and more likely to cause harm. The word Psychotic seems to be treated as a synonym for “dangerous and crazy”.

Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, Prenatal-Psychosis, Psychotic-Depression and Psychosis experienced as a part of Bi-Polar 1 are rarely talked about or admitted to openly in today’s world. Purely due to the stigma that somehow this makes you a bad person who is bound to cause harm.

In reality, people who have Psychosis are first and foremost at risk to themselves. They are much more likely to cause harm to themselves than to anyone else. Schizophrenia, for example, leads to extreme social isolation and people with this diagnosis die much younger than the average for any given country.

Psychosis, in all its forms, is hard to live with. Stigma and the sheer difficulty in explaining an experience without being ridiculed or just not believed makes someone a Social Outcast, keeping to the dark places and lonely shadows, behind the mask that says “I am normal”.

There is nothing better for someone with Psychosis than hearing “I understand you are having these experiences, and that for you they are very scary” – no disbelief, no brushing aside, no “have you hurt anyone?” (Unless the person has themselves expressed desire to harm others, the chances of them doing so are, in reality, pretty slim.)

It is so rare to hear someone accept that you have experiences that others do not, without chasing after “reality” or viewing the person admitting to these experiences as a threat to every human being they may come across. Accepting it, asking if there is any way you can help, and treating the person in the same manner you would anyone else in today’s world, is pretty much the best thing you can do.

So, what gives me right to say all this, you may be wondering? I have been told more than once that I have “Psychosis”. My main diagnosis is Depression and Anxiety, however, in with that is Psychosis. I have previously been told I have Psychotic Depression (not my current diagnosis, but it has been spun around by previous Psychiatrists).

To me, the world is a pretty scary place. I see, hear, feel and believe in things I have been told others do not believe in. To me, they are very real. I have opened up about them to seek help, mostly because my experiences have led me to Crisis point on a number of occasions. I have been suicidal, actively so – and so am considered definitely at risk to myself. So much so, that I am on bi-weekly dosette boxes for my medication as I can’t be trusted with more than two weeks’ medicine at once due to my risk of Overdose.

I am open to the idea that maybe what I experience is not real – purely because I will try anything to get better at the moment. So, if the Psychiatrists are saying I am Psychotic and medicine will help, I will give the medicine a go. The other alternative is literally to kill myself. So, I am giving the medicine a try. I am communicating with people about how I am feeling at any given moment, and keeping the floodgates open for support and understanding, because I need it to survive.

I have been told that this experience may be something I just have to “learn to live with”. That at best, medicine may make it easier to cope, but not remove the experiences altogether. Frankly, I am fine with that. It beats the current Not Coping At All.

I know that many people who experience Psychosis do learn to deal with it. They get on with their lives, they (by and large) live for many years. They could be the person sitting next to you as you read this. And I say that not to scare-monger, but rather to express the prevalence of Psychosis and the likelihood that as with many Mental Illnesses, you may well know someone, or more than one person, with a diagnosis (or perhaps they don’t, and need help).

So, what is the point I am trying to make here? Mostly, that despite being a major Taboo that is unspoken in many corners, Psychosis is not uncommon. Often, it forms part and parcel of another diagnosis. Sometimes, it is the first sign that anything is wrong. It is also not an automatic Doctrine that means any given person is “Dangerous”. As I stated above, quite the opposite is true.

I think people’s experiences should be shared more openly. The Taboo nature should be broken down bit by bit and the world be more open to people whose experiences maybe do not “fit the norm”, without automatically shutting them down and telling them they are lying, or there is no such thing, or their experiences are “all in their head” or even worse that “they are only saying this for attention”.

It is only through opening up and saying “This is happening” that anyone can get help to cope with what to them in very much real. As real as the page you are reading right now. And no one should suffer alone.

This is my little bit towards that. One small chip of the iceberg.

About the Author

You can find Roiben on Twitter (@roiben).

Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash.

 

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