Piecing it back together post-psychosis
Posted Tuesday 21 August 2012
Considering I presented in hospital, locked in my own reality, floridly psychotic and hallucinating, I had a long way from which to recover. Luckily, I responded to antipsychotic medication promptly and, although I had been sectioned, I was allowed to go home on leave after just one week in hospital. The section was rescinded after another week. It was then that the seemingly impossible task of recovery had to begin.
My life as I had known it was shattered. My sense of self worth had largely been based on my work, but post-psychosis I could barely hold thought together long enough to read a sentence, let alone work. I couldn’t even read a magazine article or concentrate enough to just watch TV. As is often the case, things got worse before they mended, and at first recovery felt as difficult and painful as walking through treacle over a bed of nails. I was haunted by traumatic memories of the hallucinations that I had experienced while psychotic, which had been very dark and focussed on abuse and death.
I fell into a deep depression. I have experienced depression on and off all my adult life, but it was generally an agitated sort of depression where I was not completely incapacitated. But now, I was so depressed that I could only lie on the sofa under a blanket, barely able to move. My consultant prescribed an antidepressant to take alongside my antipsychotic treatment and this was perhaps the first step to feeling better.
As well as medication, I also received holistic group therapy, which was advice about diet, exercise and rest etc. This was mostly common sense and not really news to me, although it was great to meet other people who had experienced severe mental health problems and I felt a sense of shared experience. I also received psychotherapy but this raised more issues for me than it resolved and I was glad when the course of therapy ended.
Gradually, I became less withdrawn and depressed, and re-established social contacts and started going to the gym again. Taking up voluntary work in a local charity shop was a significant advance for me because it made me feel useful and socially connected. After eight months, I accepted a job working as a part-time sales assistant in a local department store. It was a far cry from my previous well paid job, but I had to focus on what I was able to do and I was only able to make progress in small steps.
The most significant stage in my recovery was writing my book. Describing my experience helped me put it in context of my life story and let me come to terms with what had happened. When I was writing I found myself less shadowed by my memories of psychosis and my reoccurring thoughts and flash-backs lessened.
Catherine has written a book about her experiences called 'Psychosis Through My Eyes'.
Psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or experiencing delusions, are surprisingly common. You can find out more on our information page, which includes tips on what family and friends can do to help. If you'd like to speak to somebody you can also contact the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393.
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