When I was at my peak of psychosis everything was a sign from God- that truck making a U-turn meant go back, that taxi cab driver telling me to stay out of trouble meant he was in on it too. While I was psychotic I heard conflicting voices. When I would ask someone a question on the phone the voices would give different information. I was extremely paranoid. And almost everyone was a threat. I couldn't confide in relatives because they would tell my secrets, I couldn't trust friends because they wouldn't believe me. I couldn't keep a journal because someone would find it and read it. I was mentally trapped. I remember trying to escape from family, for reasons that I cannot make sense out of, but the belief was that they were after me, and I was scared.
Wondering about the city I spotted a man with a bike, (I thought to myself I could take his bike and escape from everyone), I asked this man questions about his bike. It was early in the morning and I wore a short sleeve top, he asked me if I was cold and gave me his sweater. I took the sweater then eye-balled his newspaper, I was anxious to know what day it was. He asked me if I wanted it and I said no (I don't know why I didn't take the newspaper). By this time I re-evaluated taking his bike, (this man must be an angel- he gave me his sweater because he knew I was cold, and offered his newspaper when I really wanted it, to know the date). We talked about nothing, I asked him random questions like if he was married with children. He told me he was divorced. I asked why didn't he have children, and he replied because his wife was on birth control. I felt at peace with this man. Finally, I told him I had to go and went my separate way.
If he had known I was psychotic and offered support I would have wanted him to say what my therapist suggested: "What can I do to let you feel more safe?" My therapist also suggested that an individual ask the person experiencing psychosis if there was another explanation for their situation, such as why the FBI would be following them or why their family or anyone would try to harm them.
It is important to show empathy by telling the person with psychosis that "I understand you feel like everyone is after you (or whatever the scenario)..." DO NOT PROMISE to keep information confidential because if that individual who confides in you is a danger to them self or to others I would strongly recommend that you contact a professional ASAP.
My therapist also said to try to maintain neutral facial expressions and tone of voice to not come off as threatening. The man that spoke to me was very kind, warm, and concerned for my well being. Also, do not encourage the delusions. Instead, remind them that it must be scary for whatever they are experiencing, but just show your concern for them and how you are there to support them.
I hope this post gave you some insight into how someone feels when psychosis takes over and what you can do to support them. I appreciate you for reading my posts and would love to hear from you- whether it be a question, comment, or simple "hello".
If you would like to learn more information about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).