A Letter To My Psychosis

Jessica, one of our STAR Communication Assistants, writes a letter to her mental health condition

Dear psychosis,

You appeared in my life slowly at first. The surreal feeling I was being followed. The unshakeable belief I was no longer quite sure what was real.

We didn’t know I was sick at first. Numerous psychiatrists and psychologists missed the signs that you were slowly taking over, like a parasite burrowing into my thoughts. They called you anxiety and depression at first. But I knew deep down that I was losing my mind.

I lost my grip on reality and it was you that was responsible.

You made me think that everyone in the world was against me. You made me think I was on the telly and that all the people around me were actors. You made me think that things such as graffiti and newspapers were sending messages just for me. You made it difficult to listen to Spotify and watch Netflix because I felt like there were codes implanted in the music and the plot. You made me think I was on an episode of Derren Brown, that I’d been kidnapped by a cult. The story of what was happening kept changing and evolving and each time landing on unreality.

You took my reality and twisted it like a kaleidoscope so that I was no longer sure what all the pieces meant. The delusions took over.

You are the reason I’ve spent many months in a mental health unit. You are the reason I almost died by suicide.

In hospital I was still in denial. I thought the problem was with the world and not with me. You can be deceptive.

When they told me your name I thought they’d made up the term. A strange and unfamiliar jumble of letters – I found myself not believing I was ill at all. For weeks I put my medication under my tongue or spat it covertly into the water glass convinced they were poisoning me. Eventually my friends managed to convince me to take the tablets and reality came slowly and haphazardly back into focus.

And now? You flitter in and out of my life carelessly. Any time I am tired or stressed I find myself falling to rock bottom yet again.

We’re in it for the long haul, you and I.

The majority of people who have two episodes have many more. Even on medication you can weave your way around my reality to distort things. And so, I must learn to function living in fear of my own mind. I am an unreliable narrator in my own life story.

Things are mostly calm now, for which I am grateful. The medication that fights your cruel tendrils of unreality – antipsychotics – makes me pace back and forwards. I do 25,000 steps a day and still feel restless. This is hard to live with but at least I’m getting exercise.

Alongside your reality bending powers, you also take things away: concentration, memory. I must adjust to a new life where my cognitive dexterity is not what it once was.

Even in these difficult times, I strive to see the positives. Amidst the destruction you’ve caused I find myself searching the ashes for the signs of a phoenix.

You have brought me closer to my friends and family. You have made me cut back on drinking. You have given me a newfound appreciation for life and being alive. You remind me to tell those close to me that I love them every day. You have made me humble. You taught me things about myself: that I am strong, resilient. You have given me a newfound understanding of the importance of mental health and taking care of yourself.

Dearest psychosis, you do not define me.

You are just a symptom of a mental illness and there is more to me than you. I can live, write, create, spend time with my friends. Live a full life despite this mental health condition which was once upon a time, a life sentence.

I think of this as a fight and I am certain you will not win. You can knock me down but I will get back up again. I will not let you define my life with your topsy turvy reality.

Next time, I’ll be ready for you.

Sincerely,

Jessica

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