My Psychotic Break

Michael Hedrick
January 20, 2016  | Last Updated: January 19, 2016


When I was 20 years old I had a psychotic break.

It didn’t happen all at once like the flick of a switch, more like a slow buildup of gas in a closed bottle.

Paranoia seeped slowly into my world getting a tinge darker with every passing day. It was like a slow steady worry that got heavier and heavier as time went on, eventually leading to a feeling of persecution that persisted into a confusion.

I don’t know exactly what point I started getting messages but they were there, coming from classroom presentations, the radio, commercials on TV and gestures by random people in grocery stores. They were all telling me to do things, to lose weight, to talk to strangers about heaven, to research mysticism, to go this or way or that, to go on a grand mission or to kill myself.

I’d throw myself into these things thinking that they were my purpose, that by doing them I would be spreading a message of peace to the world thereby undoing the evils of society and commerce and bringing heaven to earth.

It all came to a head one Friday in the middle of March when the messages became too much, when the TV essentially screamed at me that I had to leave and go to Washington D.C. if I wanted my work to have any meaning at all. It was either that or I could end things and though that was slowly becoming a viable option, I still wanted to live.

The next week took me on a trip to the east coast as I decided the U.N. would be a better option and as I went without sleep, roaming New York City, and then Boston until finally I broke down crying on the side of the road in rural Massachusetts with only the clothes on my back, a stolen bike and a couple peanut butter sandwiches to my name.  

Thanks to the help of a stranger who took me in and bought me a train ticket, I found my way home.

When I told my parents about my mission they took to me the emergency room and from there I found myself in the psych ward of Boulder Community Hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

It’s been nine and a half years since that week in March and it would be understatement to say that it hasn’t been more of a journey to find a relative stability and normalcy than it ever was to go to New York on a delusion.

I’ve battled with depression, anxiety, paranoia, delusions and the horrors of med side-effects and it’s been a long slow process of pulling myself slowly from a dark deep hole.

I can remember when I first got out of the hospital that I was crushed that what I thought was my life’s purpose had turned out to be a figment of my imagination. Over and above that, public life, society was a meaningless act played out by people that were too scared to do anything different and I knew, just knew that they were all conspiring against me, judging me, making fun of me, laughing about me.

I’d be lying if I said that notion has gone away but over the last nine and a half years I’ve learned to play the society game too, even going so far as to try dating and to find a relative success in my writing career.

Schizophrenia has been a blessing too though, it’s given me an unshakeable foundation of self-reliance, self-awareness and it’s made me into the calm, careful man I am today.

The one thing I’ve learned completely and innately though, was that it’s ok to be myself, to feel fear and anxiety and to be completely overwhelmed by the world. Whatever feeling I have, it’s valid.

The point is, it’s been a long strange trip and that’s what I’d like to tell you about with this blog: I’m going to explore the facets of living life with a major mental illness from friends and family to dating and work.

I’ve had to figure these things out with eyes tainted by delusion and paranoia and I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself in the process.

Follow along and maybe we’ll have a little fun.

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