Cultured Vultures favourite Alex Davies delivers yet again with his personal account of psychosis in the latest edition of The Human Psyche series
Psychosis is is the most difficult illness for me to talk about. That is, in part, because it threw my life heavily off course. Although that was not a terrible thing in itself, it still irks me. The definition of psychosis according to my Mac’s look up feature is, ‘A severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality’. That is a pretty accurate summation.
But what does it mean really? It means severely delusional behaviour. Psychosis itself is what’s known as an umbrella term. It encompasses a wide variety or symptoms, rather than being as clear-cut as the symptoms of a broken bone. I cannot though speak for every sufferer. But my own psychosis has surfaced in a clinically clear case of schizophrenia.The difference between the two being that the latter is a long-term condition.
To liken psychosis to something outsiders can understand, I will say this. The part of the film Fight Club, where Edward Norton does not know the truth, is psychosis… the end of Fight Club, where he does know. That is the torture of fighting to get better.
There is a clear link between all of my symptoms, throughout each of the mentioned conditions, they all revolve around a concern of others’ opinions of me. A confidence issue never solved. But why I care so much – when to be honest I tend not to like the mundanity of people – is beyond me. To continue with the heartfelt honesty of this series though, I will tell you my story.
It was around this time in 2010 that I realised something was wrong with me. But it was another week before I accepted it. There is a clear difference between knowing something is wrong and having the motivation to deal with the problem. From an alcoholic who still drinks, to the walking obese eating their third double cheese burger. It takes something major for you to realise there is a problem. A wakeup call, if it is not too cliché.
In 2010 I started university. I moved from my house for the first time in my life, and I lived with other people in the same boat as I. My anxiety rocketed through the roof in those first few days, I started to become paranoid… but what I would call innocent paranoia. It was not at the level I now live with, but being concerned that every person i had met there was talking badly about me behind my back. (Or as any adult knows it, an inevitability.)
My depression, which had never been addressed previously, became more and more of an issue, and I gained a heavy compulsion to forget. I began to drink heavily, I began to smoke cannabis, I slept often and spent little time sober. An addictive personality and little self worth did the rest for me. I began to hide myself away. I drowned out the outside world with music.
The situation got much worse, quickly, but I didn’t see that anything was wrong. I was attending university, I had collected a few friends and moved there with a few. I had even found a woman who was pretty damn awesome. Realistically I had everything in life I had ever wanted, more or less. But what was by this point crippling paranoia and suspicion didn’t like my being happy.
I did not – to my recollection – become aware until what I now think of as the tipping point. The breaking point was the moment when my insanity overpowered all rational thought. And it came in the form of a broken laptop screen. I was certain I had locked my room. As I walked in through the unlocked door, I would not have been surprised had I heard the words, ‘Please return your seatbacks to their full, upright and locked position.’
It all made sense. It was finally clear. I was not just suspicious, it was real! They were laughing at me. All of them. Every, single, one. My computer had been damaged. There must have been a reason. It couldn’t have been my fault-(could it you idiot?) It couldn’t. It was all finally clear. My flatmate, an aspiring DJ who had a pair of speakers named Rockit, (a name I am sure they were given because of their ability to make their surroundings quake like Houston on launch day,) had been copying the music from my laptop, remixing it, and putting it back. Then together they laughed as they watched me listen to it. As all of their insults, and recordings of me, had been mixed into my own music, played back under my nose, and I hadn’t even noticed.
In hindsight it seems ridiculous. I know it does. But there is nothing more realistic than a psychotic delusion. Not even reality. I soldiered on, acting like usual. But in my head I knew the truth. I just didn’t know how many people were in on it. So the cycle got worse. I got worse. It built and built and built, until I was entered into my local Early Intervention Team.
People who for the first time after half a year of torture, knew what I was saying. They actually UNDERSTOOD. To me the NHS should never lose funding for them and them alone. For the nurses who pumped me full of chemicals to break down the large quantities of paracetamol in my system. For the people who didn’t give up on me, not for money, but because they cared. My family. The friends who stuck by me, through thick and thin. The people who knew I was ill. That this wreck that I am, is not the real me. The people who, now I am being treated, get to see the real me again.
As I sit here crying, but still typing, I wish I could repay the countless people who carried me through the worst time of my life. I wish I could thank them all. So yes, my life was thrown drastically off course. I am a university drop out without a job or a lady friend to warm the bed… but I am stronger, I am wiser, and I am alive. And I owe all three to the people who really matter.
So now, I take the way I am into account. I work my life around it. I write. I pour my heart out to the page in an empty room, hoping that one in a thousand words starts off in the right position… But I am happier now. Really, that’s the important thing.
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