I haven’t been very well recently. Very fatigued, bit of a nondescript virusy feeling, quite feverish and POTSy, sleeping more in the day, and not having the brain power to cope with my emails.
But I think I might also be unwell in a different way. I have a condition called Psychosis. That’s the diagnosis I was given, not Schizophrenia or anything else like that. I remember reading years ago that we were phasing out the diagnosis of Schizophrenia in the UK anyway, and replacing it with “Psychosis-susceptibility Syndrome.”
You probably have some immediate thoughts that come to mind when you hear about either of those conditions. Those thoughts are almost definitely incorrect, so much so that they are probably the exact opposite of the symptoms actually involved.
I have definitely written about past Psychosis experiences on this blog, but I have some new readers and have connected with new people since then, so I will do a bit of explaining.
Psychosis involves one or both of these two things: Hallucinations or Delusions.
Violent behaviour is not part of Psychosis. Despite this, every day a TV character will refer to another one as a “psycho,” or say “so-and-so’s gone Psychotic!” when somebody is a bit angry. This is very harmful, the real-world effect is that people like me cannot be honest with the people around us when we are having a difficult time, because as soon as we explain that we are having a Psychosis episode, everyone flinches and assumes that we want to stab them.
Some people keep willingly perpetuating this idea. I lost all respect for someone I knew when they posted a Facebook status about wanting to “go Psychotic” at work, meaning to harm annoying customers, even though she knew very well what I had gone through, and that desire to hurt people is nothing to do with Psychosis. I’ve kept my distance because that kind of spiteful unpleasantness is something I don’t need.
Sometimes in rare instances, people do act out violently as a result of hallucinations they are having. But Psychotic people are statistically far, FAR more likely to be on the receiving end of other people’s ignorant violence. So get the violence association out of your head.
Delusions: A delusion is a demonstrably false belief in the context of a person’s culture. Religious people, for example, are not usually delusional, as certain religious beliefs are accepted in their wider culture.
A delusion would be, for example, sincerely believing that an extraterrestrial alien lives in your attic, or that people around you can hear your thoughts.
My delusions tend to have a recurring theme, that I call “The Intruder.” The Intruder tends to be a ghost, but in 2016 I went through a very bad episode of believing that an actual physical burglar was living in our spare room. I was so terrified, so convinced, that when the episode came to head and got really intense, I almost called the police and told them that somebody was in my house. Thankfully I had the sense to message my partner instead, who came home to help me.
Earlier this year, I had a delusion about a ghost woman living upstairs. I even started to worry that she was my own ghost from the future, or that she wanted to get inside my body and steal it, I had all sorts of ridiculous thoughts.
Hallucinations: A hallucination is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling the touch of, something that isn’t really there.
Psychotic hallucinations tend to be related to the person’s delusions, e.g. thinking you’ve seen the alien in your attic peeking through the hatch, or that you’ve heard it moving around above you.
My olfactory hallucinations tend to be dull and irritating, such as the smell of a bin that needs taking out, or the smell of a hob left on. It can be a bit anxiety-inducing if it smells like something is burning all day, but there is apparently nothing going on. In the past, I have been known to think that I could smell a rotting corpse, in relation to my delusion of the time.
Visual and auditory hallucinations usually relate to the ghost or burglar I think is around. Sometimes phantom sensations of being touched relate to that too.
The short version is, that Psychosis is involuntary hallucinations and delusions, it is not violent behaviour, and you can’t “feel like going Psychotic” just because you’re not a very nice person.
Today I realised I have been having an episode. Here’s what’s happened so far.
- I woke up from a nap on the sofa. I knew I’d had a weird and vivid dream but I couldn’t remember exactly what it was about.
- I heard someone loudly stomping up our stairs. I said “Freya, what are you doing?” but then I noticed that Freya was still sitting downstairs, so, who the hell went up my stairs?
The fact that I heard it at all was odd, as I’m usually too deaf to hear Will going upstairs when he’s home, and then I’m surprised that he’s suddenly not around. So, I realised I was probably hallucinating and that I may be in for a bad time.
- I tried to ignore it at my computer, and then heard a loud thump through the ceiling above me, where our spare room that I sometimes get spooped about, is.
- Then a woman started humming. There is absolutely no way that I should have been able to hear that, so I know that was in my head.
- I looked at the stairs after a postman came. I was seeing double of the stairs, as if they had an aura. I knew this wasn’t an illness-related visual defect, because it what literally only the stairs that my eyes were doing this on.
- I have a new blacklight torch, and I decided to shine that on the stairs. When I do, I can see odd luminous orbs bouncing up and down. This is obviously not real.
- In the lounge again, when I’m at my computer, the spiral Halloween decoration that we have hanging on our back door, suddenly pinged violently up and down, as if somebody had stretched and released it. Freya didn’t look at it so I know it didn’t really happen.
That’s pretty much a summary of it. I don’t know why this suddenly started happening out of nowhere.
On reflection I realised that this has probably been building for a while. Random house things have been moving from where I left them, and the religious part of me began to wonder if some sort of “trickster spirit” had infiltrated our house because of the time of year.
But actually, I know very well that this happens to me in the run-up to a Psychotic episode. My brain erases the memories of me moving things myself, and it further builds up the narrative in my head that there is a ghost or burglar.
Knowing that none of this is real doesn’t really help if I am going to experience things happening in front of me anyway. And I’m really not in the mood for it to happen around Halloween, when I’m obviously more susceptible to being freaked out.
I hope it stops soon.
I’ve had Psychosis for a long time now, so I can offer this advice:
If you start believing something odd, if you start to think there is a ghost or a burglar or a sentient shadow, if you can feel odd presences or find that your stuff is not where you left it, and it’s really starting to bother you, seek help.
The sooner the better. Make a GP appointment, don’t be afraid to go to A&E if you are terrified. Be as upfront as you can, tell someone you might be having a Psychotic episode because you are hallucinating or you have a stubborn delusion.
There’s also a chance that you might have a carbon monoxide leak, so it’s important to rule that out too.
It is important that you get treatment before it becomes like living a horror movie in your own house. Unfortunately I can’t take anti-psychotic medication, for physical reasons, so I have to live with my episodes when they decide to make an appearance. But the good thing is that I usually recognise them, like today, even if they still frighten me.
I wish there was a service you could contact during a terrifying hallucination and say, I’m having a bad psychotic episode right now, can you send somebody to sit with me for a while? But unfortunately I don’t think that exists and I don’t think paramedics would appreciate being thrust into that.
In other news, I’ve been playing this song a lot recently.