Why are we afraid to talk psychosis?

Imagine you have been in a long deep sleep, filled with far fetched dreams-maybe even nightmares.  Did you ever wake up and say, “Wow!  That dream was so real.”  And maybe it takes a little while to regain your sense of consciousness.  To decipher between what was a dream and what was not.

Now imagine, you’re awake and your mind begins to have an altered reality.  You’re thinking and believing things that aren’t really true.  Maybe you believe the world is coming to an end or everyone is trying to kill you.  Paranoid about everyone and everything.  The mind you relied on to take you to a high level of success is now playing mean and cruel tricks on you.  But it’s all too real.  You can’t tell you’re brain is malfunctioning.

People are starting to look at you strangely.  You’re still perceptive and know they’re looking at you, questioning your sanity.  But that only adds to your paranoia.  The filters you have are gone.  Everyone is surely out to get you.

Then, to make matters worse, you hear a voice in your head.  A voice that’s not an inner voice of wisdom, but an extra voice intended to confuse you.  But only you know it’s there and no one else knows you are hearing it.  It’s as real to you as you are breathing.

Now add a sprinkle of mania to those thoughts.  Not only are the thoughts not based in reality, they’re coming faster and faster.  Only you can interpret what is going on in your own mind and now it’s off kilter.  The reality mirrors have broken.  There is no waking up from a bad dream.  It’s now a real live nightmare and those who love you are freaking out.  They can see you, but you can’t see yourself.

The real problem begins when you start acting on what you believe.  The thoughts start turning into actions.  The actions are bizarre and out of character.  Loved ones start to get scared.

It’s a medical condition to have a psychotic episode.  Yet our culture treats it like a scene in a bad horror movie.  Did you ever notice the bad guys are usually the person with mental illness who escapes from a mental institution?  The person with a mental illness is often portrayed as the deranged killer.  And here it comes…the words are finally uttered…he’s a psycho.  Psycho.  The really bad personalized word for a person having a psychotic episode.

For the most part, people who have not had any experience with a loved one who has a severe mental illness, like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or PTSD, will not have any understanding of psychosis, and even then, many loved ones really don’t understand either. The media does well to play over and over when a person with mental illness commits a crime, but they do very little to explain the most severe mental illnesses.  The most severe symptoms.

But yet, we are all still so afraid to have a real live conversation about psychosis.  Those of us who have experienced psychosis are scared to step-up and explain what happened during an episode.  We don’t want to be labeled as crazy, whacko, looney, psycho or nuts.  All disparaging words that do little to explain the malfunction of the brain.  That’s right.  The brain is responsible for how we think, feel and behave.  It’s the control center for our bodies.  But we treat it with so little respect.  And when it makes a misstep we label it with nasty words.

I contend we don’t talk about psychosis because we are afraid.  And that fear is perpetuated by our silence.  This is why we need more people to speak up about what it’s like to experience a psychotic episode.  Survivors testimonies are the key to better understanding, improved treatment and a cultural shift.

We fear what we don’t understand.  I write to help people understand.  I write to stop the silence.  I write because I care.

Living well with bipolar disorder

Over three years ago when I first started blogging, I never shared my blog post on Facebook, I had not given a talk on mental illness and I was a ways from living well.  I was still angry I had been dealt the Bipolar card and I was struggling to accept myself.

I wanted desperately to feel apart of a community.  It meant something to me to be involved in helping other people.  I had a vision for what I wanted my life to look like, but getting there was a ways off.

Now, a month away from launching my book “Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor,” I can honestly say my vision has become a reality.  I feel free from all the baggage from the past.  I have learned to accept myself and all the things I am proud of and all the things I am not.  

I love helping other people learn about mental illness and I enjoy the mental health first aid classes I teach.  This week I’m teaching a group of principals.  I’m excited to continue shedding light on mental illness.

But what has changed for me in the past few months is that I now have a drive to also have some fun.  I realized more aspects of myself were coming to life.  I’ve been spending more time outdoors and really loving it.  Things have been coming together and I’ve felt blessed.

When I wrote that blog post three years ago about recovery-this is the life I had imagined.  I’m more than grateful I get to live the dream.  And excited to say recovery is possible and living well is a realistic dream.  

I love it when things work out the way I imagined they could.