When Psychosis Returns

Hearing Voices

A few months ago, I experienced a second psychotic episode. I had a feeling that it was going to occur earlier in the year when my stress levels were much higher than usual. I also had body pains (my wrists and ankles) as well as a sore throat, which made it difficult to rely on coping skills or any diversions. I couldn’t journal or walk for more than a few minutes. Meditation was the bare minimum I could do, and even that was difficult with what was going on around me (people in my life exhibiting high levels of stress and anxiety as well). We could say that other people in our lives don’t have to affect how we live ours, but my psychosis would say otherwise.

When psychosis occurred for me, I had to be put back on medication. That was a giant step back for me because I had made so much progress off meds and was now once again relying on my parents or the doctors for everything. Going out alone was a big deal. Tiredness was a regular occurrence. Work became more of a necessity than something enjoyable or meaningful.

Last week as I was going through my mail, I learned that our state representative, Kevin Boyle, had had adderall-induced psychosis just the year prior. I had no clue he had ADHD let alone psychosis. Something about him speaking openly and candidly of the details regarding his psychosis was comforting to me. I too want to be able to speak openly about my experiences and not let it be some gray cloud that haunts me in secrecy.

My psychosis this time and the first time were both stress-induced. I have done CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and have tried removing limiting beliefs in the past. However, it is useless in a setting where people are stuck acting in the same old ways or retain the same debilitating patterns. For example, you might be able to tell yourself that things are okay when people are yelling in your home. But no matter how many times you tell yourself that, you will experience a bodily reaction to high levels of noise in your house. Your cortisol will go up, or you might feel irritated or down. It’s natural for your body to respond in such a way. So in order to prevent stress-induced psychosis, a lot has to change, not simply within but including your surroundings and the places you go, or the people you interact with.

Despite having made so much progress in my life, I had been feeling down, mostly due to tiredness as a side effect of meds and not having the energy to do more. It took me a month or so to finally accept that I was tired and needed more rest than usual. And, to work around it. So if I had a later start to my day than most others, I would still do things like brush my teeth, wash my face, eat breakfast, write a to-do list, go for a walk or exercise, talk to a friend or family member, and more.

When I was in the hospital, I wrote a list of 101 coping skills or diversions for people who struggle with anxiety or depression. I definitely have remnants of depression or anxiety in my days. A lot of it has to do with “time wasted” in treatment for psychosis. I know time is one of the ultimate illusions in life, but still, I wish I had “done” more or I had used my time differently. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I just had a small job on the side, and how that would have affected my interactions with people. Maybe I would be more outgoing. Maybe I would hold better conversations. What if I read more? Maybe I would have more informed opinions. Maybe I would have executed grander and more impactful ideas. I try not to dwell on all the time I’ve “wasted” and instead try to “make up” for it now.

Since having had psychosis twice now, I’m pretty wary of any risk-taking activities. Some people might think that it’s not growth-oriented to exist in your comfort zone. I think there is value to the comfort zone and just slowly extending outward instead of leaping off into the unknown. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve mostly stayed out of trouble. Well, aside from when high levels of stress pushed me to do things outside of what’s normal. Otherwise, I’ve been relatively calm and collected in what I do. But at the same time, it can be crippling, such as not taking on a new business opportunity because of “what if I fail?”.

Psychosis has also got me questioning what’s important in my life. After three decades of my life, I’ve been missing “settling down”. That is, having a romantic life partner, and preparing to have a family of my own (kids). That is the cost of chasing your dreams for your career. But sometimes I think, I didn’t need to sacrifice a dating life nor my career. I could have had both, why not? Same with living at my parent’s home and dating. Or traveling and working. Or owning a business and having a side job. I think I was stuck on “recovery” for the sake of recovery, and not for all the meaningful instances that life has to offer. It’s not necessarily my fault since one of the ongoing symptoms, hearing a command voice or having a split personality, was plaguing my days. But at the same time, I look back and go, “Why couldn’t I have had it a different way?” I ask why God had chosen to give psychosis to me vs. a relatively normal and productive life.

I was confused a lot when I had psychosis. The voice would paint God, reality, and Satan in particular ways that didn’t make much sense to me. It would insist that God was perverse and that reality could care less about what happens to me. And I would have to question it like it was a politician. Because really, it was good at being deceptive and tricking me. How could I fall for it? It’s hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it directly. The mind can be easily tricked, and dealing with a voice adds to the confusion, as it is its own independent process.

Right now, I’m staying on medications and receiving talk therapy to work through any major stressors in my life. I didn’t want to be on medication, but I’ll admit that I need it for now. And, that’s okay. There’s plenty of other illnesses people have that they rely on medication for. This was a hard reality for me to accept, but I’m ready to accept it and still work on my goals and pursuing my dreams. I don’t have to push myself so hard to do too much at once.

Even writing a blog post took me, what, 3-4 months to write? My creative abilities were stunted for a while. Now, I’m slowly getting back to being creative, writing music or posting on social.

I feel normal in some ways, but I wish that I could feel like myself again completely. I guess the self is always changing though. We outgrow parts, lose some parts, and gain other parts. These days, I’m trying to tune more into my reliable self. That is, keeping appointments, being physically active regularly, eating healthy, sleeping enough, and more.

I’d like to share more about my experiences with psychosis, either as a series of blog posts, a series of (TikTok) videos, or an eBook. The hardest part is just sitting down and starting to write, since my perfectionist self kicks in with wanting to know how to organize it right away. But NaNoWriMo is coming up, so maybe that’ll be a good time to start writing. NaNoWriMo is more for novels than for non-fiction, but it might still be a good time to work on a book in general.

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