Memories of Psychosis

By Kate Lynch O'Neil

Don't Forget --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Bipolar I psychosis is regularly defined as “a severe episode of either mania or depression (but not hypomania) that results in a detachment from reality and includes symptoms of false but strongly held beliefs (delusions) and hearing or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)”.

That’s great. But what do these symptoms look and feel like? Everyone’s experience is different, but in an effort to showcase the realities of my mental health diagnoses, I’m sharing just a few examples of what my mind’s eye has seen . . .

Kate’s Top Five (PG) Memories of Psychosis

1. One afternoon, the devil impregnated me via my belly button ring so, from my perspective, the only way to abort this horrible image from my altered mind was to remove the ring and hope for the best. Of course, like the other rapid blasting images, this concern passed quickly.

2. One bright and breezy summer afternoon, something . . . someone . . . told my manic mind that I was a vampire and should never leave the house during the day. When I did leave, I felt my mind melt and my body ready to dismantle. I ran home in lightning speed to safe darkness.

3. One hot summer day, I sat on the back stoop with the family dog, Sam. I looked down at my ghost-like pale leg and saw a small lump under my skin, moving ever so slowly from my ankle up my main leg arteries. Upon careful inspection, I realized it was a spider, headed directly to my heart. I figured, soon, I’d be dead.

4. One corner bar near my home in Brooklyn was always fun. So, why shouldn’t I arrive “Carrie-style” with my hair soaking wet and plastered to my face? To make matters worse, I brought my own snacks – cereal in one hand, gallon of milk in the other. When the bartender arrived, I requested a bowl. It was suggested that I leave.

5. Once I was convinced that I was being ruled by aliens as they were planning to annihilate the human race. My role as Jesus Christ made me the perfect target in their evil plot.

This list could go on for days – thinking back now to the time I dismounted my Goddess statue from the center of my apartment’s backyard garden. I dragged the rather large piece to the front sidewalk where I smashed it to bits with a sledge hammer. I have no idea why. This is what I remember.

My diagnosis is Bipolar I with rapid cycling and psychosis. My strong, love-filled life keeps me going. The ugly memories of my major episode in 1997 re-enforce my stead-fast commitment to compliancy. Without meeting tailored recommendations for behavioral change and a well-developed medication regime, this life that is happy and normal for me could crumble – a lapse back to a horrid and seemingly never-ending episode of manic psychosis.

I share these symptomatic stories in an effort to better define for you the meaning of bipolar psychosis. But for me, these memories are like a string around my finger, helping me remember why it’s so important to stay healthy. Knowing I’ve survived this experience humbly makes me proud. For 18 years, I’ve held these memories close because returning to planet mania is not an option.

The images dancing in my head have and will continue to help me be aware, healthy and honest. The worry has been replaced with confidence and an ability to thrive. So yes, thank you, mind – remembering psychosis helps.

 

 

 

7 responses to “Memories of Psychosis”

  1. Christine says:

    Tough times . . . but a tough girl to handle it. Xo MOM

  2. Shelly says:

    I have been diagnosed as bipolar with psychosis as well. I’ve bee dealing with episodes for 23 years. Like the time I thought the rapture had happened and I was left behind and my family was evil so I had to drive off without telling anyone where I went. Sigh. I am thankful for meds, a good team of doctors, and therapy, and my faith in God. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Susan says:

    So brave to share this. I hope your statement about staying healthy, taking meds and being confident that psychosis is no longer an option can reach out to those that are struggling to get to that place of safety . Bless you

  4. Monica says:

    My last psychotic event was in 2004. I don’t remember all of the details, but I hallucinated and thought that the radio and television were talking to me in code. I was agitated and could not sleep which made my psychosis worse. Thankfully, I have stayed balanced and out of the psychiatric unit with medication, exercise, diet, stress-reduction, and support from family and friends.

  5. Maggie says:

    I convinced myself once that the closing of a local homeless shelter by the health department was all my fault because I hadn’t been going to church. I went to the shelter to tell them what happened. Thankfully they were kind and didn’t call cops or something. Anyway, luckily for me my Dr. at the time was a religious man and told me I was forgetting about Grace. That made sense to me.

  6. Cheyenne says:

    My staying awake all night because I keep hearing the radio playing a song that I can’t make out, but I know it’s a woman singing.
    Yet when I try to find the source it goes farther away from me.
    And my paranoid ideas of people being out to get me, talking about me, and laughing at me, because I am on a way higher spiritual level of consciousness then is humanly possible for anyone else’s mind to even comprehend except of course myself, Jesus and dead family members.
    Yeah I am still in need of the correct medical help, but not a harm to myself or others and can’t be admitted.

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