In the past 10 years of living with schizophrenia, I’ve been in numerous situations where things got to be too much.
It usually starts with a sinking feeling of paranoia that people are out to get me, that they’re making fun or that they wish me harm. This is usually where it ends, as I’ve got numerous tricks in my tool bag to help myself cope in the midst of heightened symptoms.
Every now and again, though, I’ll lose myself in the paranoia and start running around the anxiety track in my head thinking of every negative that has happened or will happen. Sometimes I’m just too overwhelmed with the paranoia that I’m unable to get a grip on reality. It usually happens in instances of high stress, if I’m already worried about something like a relationship or a work complication.
Sometimes though the paranoia progresses into psychosis. Psychosis is defined as the moment when thought or emotions are so impaired that someone loses grip with reality. Usually the way it happens for me is I’ll be running around the anxiety track, so consumed with paranoia that I’ll be present in the moment I’m experiencing but the things my brain is telling me are so wildly out of tune with reality that I start to make connections. I’ll hear a word or a sentence and my brain will imbue it with intense amounts of underlying meaning or a meaning that is so wildly out of step with reality that it’s literally insane.
It goes like this: Someone will say something regarding their food like, “This is so good.” And I’ll take it to a point where I know they’ve been made aware of my innermost thoughts and instead be commenting on the fact that I’m handling myself well.
It’s very strange. The point is, I know what it’s like to experience psychosis. I’d like to say I have a simple trick for handling the intensity of my emotions, but aside from deep breathing the only thing I can really do in those situations is escape and go somewhere where I can be alone.
That’s perfectly OK, though, if you have to escape, you have to escape;, sometimes it can’t be helped and you shouldn’t add to your stress by feeling guilty that you needed a moment to yourself. There’s something about being a lone with your thoughts that can give you a perspective that isn’t there in the heat of the moment.
The biggest thing you can do to deal with psychosis, though, is to take the preventative measures necessary so that these moments don’t happen. Try to reduce your stress when you feel like things are piling up by sacrificing one or more commitments. Any reasonable person will be willing to work with you to improve your health, and your boss or your family member should be one of them.
Take a few days to yourself to calm the storm and get back on the horse later, or even get a smaller horse, one that’s more manageable. Living with mental illness is one long exercise in balance, and we have to be aware of how were feeling to assist ourselves with recovery.
Don’t feel ashamed or guilty if you can’t fully do the things you feel like you should be able to do. Our mental health is the number one priority; work, relationships, and responsibilities should all take second chair. We have to treat ourselves well if we have any hope of recovery. The people around you should know that.
Above all, the best way to deal with psychosis is to ensure it doesn’t happen. Take your meds, and go to your doctor and do what you need to do to stay well.
It’s worth it.