“Some people call me mad”

Jessica, one of our STAR Communication Assistants, writes about remaining hopeful in the face of a psychotic illness

I’m mad. At least that’s what some people would call me.

From a clinical point of view, this means that I experience psychosis, a condition where someone interprets reality differently from those around them. For some people this might be delusions, for others, hallucinations.

Me? My mind plays tricks on me. I might think that music is sending me messages or think that people are following me. This can make me act erratically.

It’s strange really that psychosis is often called a ‘psychotic break’.

It doesn’t feel much like a break if you ask me.

I guess the word ‘episode’ works well though, particularly if you’re anything like me, and spent most of your time in psychosis thinking you were on the telly!

Psychosis is unique to every individual, but during mine I thought the worst was just around the corner: a plate of food would mean I was going to be poisoned, a box of matches would mean that I was going to die in a fire. And I really believed these things were the case — I spent much of my psychotic episode convinced I’d be killed or maimed.

When my family and friends told me they loved me I assumed they were being sarcastic and that really they were part of a plot to make my life a living hell.

I thought that the things around me, from roadsigns to people’s clothes, were ‘signs’ I needed to follow and listen to, from someone wearing a ‘Be Happy’ t-shirt, to a right arrow on a road sign, nothing escaped the strange ritual of decoding information.

In retrospect, this strange process of interpreting the information around me like a spy cracking a code, reminds me a little of closer reading a text in English Literature. Each object had a greater significance, each symbol a sign of the foreboding to come in the later chapters. After all, I’d lost the plot. Hell, I’d lost the genre too. 

And despite all this — even in these difficult times — I strive to have hope.

In fact, hope is the singular most defining feature of my recovery. Both its presence and its absence. And it comes and goes in ebbs and flows

Hope that I don’t experience psychosis again. Hope that I will recover my cognitive dexterity. Hope that I can rebuild my life. Hope that I can rejoin the workforce.

Hope for recovery.

Hope for the future.

Note from Second Step.

Thank you once again Jessica for your insight and humour. We love your blogs and hope that your words will resonate with others at this time of the year which can be so tricky for many of us. Jane.

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