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.