Question of the week: What does psychosis feel like?

Each person’s experience with psychosis is different. For me having child-onset OCD & PTSD makes it difficult to pinpoint, which is messing me over. Other times I can tell.

I can only tell you what it feels like in a reflective manner. I have no-consciousness  and yet the paradox for me is that I am also painfully aware of it. Of course, psychosis runs on a scale from mild to severe in both acute (short term) and chronic (long term) time frames. This changes how I feel and the presentation.  The triggering event has a lot of influence over how my psychosis will present, the severity, and the length of time.  So dear reader, you can see that to convey how I ‘feel’ becomes almost impossible, but I shall press on.

There is a small window pre-psychosis where you can turn things around. Unfortunately it’s hard to gauge and often missed as even at pre-clinical levels (the lead up to an episode) can render a person unable to recognise the symptomology. Once the window closes your next hope is that you recognise and interveen as soon as posible. Sometimes this doesn’t happen until you’re a screaming heap on the floor being taken to the doctor.

One prime indicator of OCD is the total and utter awareness that what you are doing is daft which is further compounded by the inability to stop. The problem is no matter how many times you “check one last time” or “just straighten one last time” it’s never enough, the last time, never comes and your trapped and so the cycle goes on and on.

For people living with PTSD flashbacks, nightmares, blackouts, physical responses is how the person internally experiences yet the  observable behaviour could be the total opposite. For me psychosis is a painful paradox. I am confused yet clear headed. I pace and contemplating and muttering to myself with a cold and intense look on my face. I feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness; of being a burden and the profound awareness that I am hurting the ones I love. My beloved Mr P, he sees more than most. Being at home allows me to drop some of my guard.  It’s to explain how I feel when I see that knowing look in his eyes. And so the remuneration begins.

“Selfish” <scratch>

“Get over yourself” <pulls hair>

“You’re getting fat you know” <smoke cigarette>.

The longer this goes on, the further my behaviours move up the scale. Scratching becomes picking. Intrusive thoughts become intrusive day dreams. At times I have felt invisible. Trapped inside my own reality and an overwhelming feeling of living in the shadows of my own life. Out of control and alone. I become afraid of people touching me, that they may “catch my disease”. I am the germ. I am the killer flu.

Now dear reader, I don’t want to leave you thinking that I am in this state all the time. I haven’t had a major psychosis in years but I do have occasional acute phases of moderate psychosis. I am better than I was, which is all I am really hoping for. To be honest, I have learnt the most from my psychosis. They are revealing in ways that at times defy language, context, or logic. The void of the emotional experience.

I hope this gives a clearer picture of what it is like for me. I found it such an unusual question that I had to answer, even if not to the person because that would be heaps weird.

Yours always

Pinkelstien


[1] not their real names.

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