Monday, December 5, 2011

From the Terrors of Psychosis to Hope and a Better Life

For me, experiencing psychosis is an experience I will never forget. In short, psychosis is when an individual cannot distinguish reality. I endured a psychotic experience at the age of 20, almost five years ago, and still remember the terrors of the illness- officially diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia in 2007.

The manifestation of the illness dominated my livelihood whenever I was extremely suspicious, confused, forgetful, irritable, distant, irrational, and hearing criticizing voices when nobody was around. In my mind, everyone was envious of me because I had godly talents. I thought I could read people's minds and understand them, and sometimes they could read my mind as well. I rationalized these strange beliefs by my faith in God and the miracles of the Bible. I believed I was on a mission for God and eventually thought I was Jesus Christ being persecuted again when I was arrested for a crime I committed while not in the right state of mind. The bizarre thoughts increased.

While in jail I thought a family member was playing a prank on me and I did not recognize I was incarcerated for a long time. Still institutionalized I began to believe authorities experimented on me and impregnated me with a shot while I was asleep. Then I went on a prayer fast. I remember reading a scripture in the Bible that said to remain still and to pray, and that's what I did for hours throughout the day. Eventually, jail medical staff admitted me into the psychiatric ward and labelled me catatonic, not moving my body limbs for extended periods of time. These are just a glimpse of some of the bizarre beliefs I had, I could share a multitude of other thoughts, feelings, and emotions I recall from my experience with the illness at its worse, but I'll share more with you another time.

The most frightening realization after the encounter was discovering that these emotions and feelings were fabricated in my mind, and mine only- the people I thought were against me were not obsessed with me and did not want any harm to come to me, like I thought. I remember slowly putting the truth together while writing in my diary and second-guessing myself after discussing symptoms with my doctor, and learning more about the illness in a state hospital. In fact, I think I cried after piecing together some of my encounters which were real to me, but not a reality for others. Schizophrenia can be devastating if an individual does not cling to faith and hope.

My doctor at the state hospital gave me a lot of hope. He said I could go back to college and live a normal life as long as I did two things: 1) take my medication regularly, and 2) manage my stress... I have not gone off my medication, I continue to find ways to cope with stress such as writing and communicating concerns with others, and I have not experienced psychosis in over four years since my diagnosis in 2007.

I reminiscence on this blog about the times I was not well in order to spread awareness and hope, because I made it and I believe many others can too with proper treatment, support, and diligence; and faith. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health concern seek professional guidance and continue to support them as you would with any other medical condition.

My hope is that people will view schizophrenia as a medical condition that can improve with treatment, support, and the right attitude... My objective is to reduce stigma, change perceptions, and to open dialogue around mental health concerns. I hope that my story encourages a change in the way people view individuals with mental health conditions and know that the illness can be managed.

I appreciate my readers and look forward to reading your feedback, thank you for making time to read my story.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., Choices in Recovery, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

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