Psychosis is a special word isn’t it? It certainly conjures up scary images of insanity. Like bipolar disorder, psychosis exists on a spectrum. I am either a little psychotic or a lot of psychotic. Either way, it is a definitive state that is disconnected from time and space; meaning, I have been disconnected from reality. I have experienced psychosis in two episodes–one last summer and another just last month. My clinical diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) with Psychotic Features. (Read my first post titled, “Rattlesnake, Dreamer, Child and King”)
Being told I had psychotic features, sent me quickly into denial. I mean, basically telling me I had Bipolar Disorder for rest of my life was hard enough to handle, but to tell me I had psychotic features was another twist. Of my mind. The word itself “Psychotic” sounds well… like the center of all things insane. Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder and psychosis is another realm of the mind. “Psychotic” each syllable sounds surgical and succinct. Like a drill. I have spent many nights researching the word Psychosis. Psychotic means having psychosis. Medline plus defines it as
“Psychosis occurs when a person loses contact with reality. The person may:
- Have false beliefs about what is taking place, or who one is (delusions).
- See or hear things that are not there (hallucinations).”1
What I learned is that psychosis occurs from a chemical imbalance in the brain and not from an internal disposition. Studies have shown cause and effect with an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin. That’s why anti-psychotics are used for it. They balance the dopamine and serotonin. Medication treatment is the only way to not experience psychosis. No herbal remedies, sleep, yoga or meditation can prevent psychosis from occurring. However, my psychosis is triggered from mania–I have to be in mania for psychosis to occur. I have not experienced it in the reverse order. All the stars have to be completely fucked up and misaligned.
So what does psychosis feel like? I can assure you that when I experienced it, I knew to be terrified by the disconnect from time and space. Terror becomes the basis for my irrational behavior. It swallows me up whole. Psychosis is an intruder. It is an invader that enters and quickly removes the ropes that keep me firmly tied to time and space–reality. I cannot tell when it starts happening because the ropes are released all at once. All this while I’m in the throes of mania.
At the time, I am not able to say, “okay, I need to chill cause I’ve disconnected from time and space” and then go lie down or stay quiet. However, as I lose grasp, I will scream at you “What is real?” or “Is this real?” or ask if what you are doing “Is it real?” The first psychotic episode this past summer, I thought I was back in Iraq and thought it was 2008; but really, I was laying on my carpet in the middle of my living room and crying. These behaviors are my cry for help and indicators that the ropes have unraveled. I am in great distress as it happens.
I have not experienced auditory or visual hallucinations or maybe I did and that is why I believed I was in Iraq. I am not quiet sure because I cannot remember. My manic response to the delusions in psychosis is paranoia. The two start working together to assault my understanding of my “self.” My being. My identity. The worst part is that they play off each other like dominoes slamming down next to each other. I think I know I have lost a grip with reality and that explains why I am terrified. I must feel like there is nothing to hold on to but not for certain because I cannot remember. I cannot stop it and probably feel like I’ve fallen into worse than an abyss–an unknown.
Each episode ended because my good friend was there to somehow help me out of it. In a psychotic mania, I can be dark, abusive, delusional and irrational. I have not been physically violent and have not felt an inclination for it.
The second time, he was a godsend at at our expense, but his presence and words also perpetuated it too. Anyone’s presence and help would perpetuate it. It gets tricky to help me. During this episode, he gently took my hand, and my psychosis ended in the snap of a finger. Like the ropes instantly tied me back to reality again. I have come out of each episode not understanding what I’ve just said or done. Out of sorts. Confused. Tired. Later on, I had flashbacks of what happened during the psychosis, and that is how I start to remember these episodes and a little of how I felt–through flashbacks.
The first time I think I was in psychosis for less than an hour, but the second time I was in psychosis for one hour. After each episode, as I sifted through the insanity of what I said or felt, there can be no doubt that I felt terrified. Mania with psychotic feature is an assault of the mind on the “self.” On my beautiful, hypomanic, joyful self.