psizing up psychosis

Psychosis can happen out of the blue, to anyone, and no one knows why. Not even the best doctors on the planet. (Jeanine Garsee)

I like the following song a lot; it looks at perceptions during psychosis, in a calm, first person voice (also, sad boy with guitar, yey). Thanks for posting it, Annie. I’ve also added it to my manic depressong playlist.

Who are you calling psychotic?

Psychosis seems to fascinate almost everyone, although a lot of people think it means out of control batshit crazy behaviour and/or severely disturbed criminals. Those misperceptions are frequently totally devoid of malice, but of course they still hurt. I find myself saying experiencing psychosis far more than I ever say psychotic. Psychotic appears to provoke an almost visible frisson in the sort of person who dresses up in Einstein hair and a straitjacket at Halloween. Obviously we can thank the film Psycho and its repulsive iconic stabby shower scene and that fucking eee eee eee soundtrack for much of it; people apply it to psychotic and psychopath until those terms mix and muddy. I’m tired of insanity porn. Fuck off and dress up as an Ebola patient next Halloween. And if psychotic is used as an offensive term, would everyone be okay with me saying things like you cancerous little fuck? No. That’d be a cuntly thing to do, wouldn’t it? You peptic ulcer! Holy fuck but we are an extremely illogical species and we do love to victimise…

It holds a fascination of a different flavour if you experience it, or love somebody who does.

Part of the loss of reality then was an over-projection of meaning and exaggerated concentration on some aspect of reality that most of us, by consensus, choose to ignore.


A few reputable websites use the standard dictionary definition of psychosis to explain it, which makes less than no sense to me. Unless we’re hanging out with Norman Bates, please let’s use a medical dictionary? All it is really, is loss of contact with reality (hallucinations, delusions) and when we’re experiencing it, we either know it’s not real (this is known as insight), or we don’t. Different cultures tend to have different types of content in psychosis; the most negative seems to occur in Western developed countries and the theories I’ve read so far, cite the media and the individual-focused society as influencing factors. My psychiatrist tells me that, besides the emotional etc effect on the sufferer, the content of psychosis is absolutely irrelevant. If that fact was proven, a lot of hippies would be unhappy. *waits to be lynched by wind-chime wielding mobs*

When does a strong idea take on a pathological flavor? How does a metaphysical crisis morph into a medical one? At what point does our interpretation of the world become so fixed that it no longer matters “what almost everyone else believes” [part of the definition of ‘delusion’ in the DSM]? Even William James admitted that he struggled to distinguish a schizophrenic break from a mystical experience. (Aviv 2010: 37)

My trainee-psychiatrist therapist, on the other hand, seems intrigued by the content of mine. I blogged the memories I dredged up about my stuff as the memories surfaced, here’s the list so far.

I am the shit (of the bat)!

1996: my gecko tattoo attracting skinks, the skinks were real (on a path along a bay) the rest was delusion, it was a one off.
2000: being stuck in a video game, total sensory immersion, hallucination and delusion. It was a platform game and there was a lot of dusky blue around. I never remembered much afterwards, but slept for around 14hrs as a result, feeling as though I were uncomfortably drugged). I had 10 one day and felt totally fucked for days. They stuck around at various levels of frequency until 2009.
2007: the sea speaking to me, not sure how long it lasted – either days or weeks. It was purely auditory and extremely reassuring, I miss it.


2010: 7ft chrome praying mantis. Purely visual and delusion. He’d stand behind me, usually in an almost dark room, I’d be sitting on a dark, straight backed chair, at a dark table (the whole thing was a hallucination). He’d quietly use his chrome pincers to efficiently snip my spinal chord, and it was an utterly painless, peaceful and reassuring thing. He lasted about a year, was frequent, and I miss him. (And yes, after my dog goes, I’d welcome euthanasia by 7ft chrome mantis.)
2014: hearing music and footsteps, seeing lights in a wave and hearing music come from it. The music was quiet and seemed to come from various places where it most certainly wasn’t. The footsteps sounded like those above a flat my mother and I lived in once. The wave stuff was beautiful and sparkly and merry and I’d love more of it.
2015: a reef I know very well and have explored for years, suddenly looked as though it had had the top of it sliced off cleanly. I knew it wasn’t real, I tried so hard to get rid of it and couldn’t. Eventually I had to crawl off it and I’ve no idea how I got home.

Fully qualified psychiatrist reckons the presence of insight in my psychoses is a very positive sign.

I tried hard to change the ones I didn’t like, and never managed at all. The good ones felt too good to lose. I wonder why I’m discussing them all in the past tense. I’m interested in your psychoses almost as much as I am in my own (grin, it’s the truth), I’d love to hear about them. I don’t have any tidy conclusions to make, I am, as usual, simply reading, writing and thinking, in order to clarify things in my own febrile mind. And apparently I like doing it best while perched upon my own personal soapblog.


And another thing…

Here’s a quote I found fascinating, but couldn’t think of a way to include without offending and alienating my religious friends. Sorry guys, feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts.

When a ‘false belief’ is not ‘delusional’
For me, religion brings up much more complicated questions for the delusional, however. As Koenig (2009: 287) points out in an off-handed way: ‘Psychiatric patients with psychotic disorders may report bizarre religious delusions, some of which can be difficult to distinguish from so-called normal religious or cultural beliefs.’  Especially where there is a marked ‘religion gap’ between a patient population and psychiatrists — where psychological health care workers are much more likely to be agnostic or atheist than the people for whom they care — it can be difficult to decide when a ‘false belief’ is delusional and when it’s just, well, the normal kind of irrational (like believing that a person can expect others to read long blog posts).

It’s all so very meta round here innit.


I’ve been far too flippant.

I can joke; I’ve earned the right by living through things that, before I had them defined for me, frequently convinced me that I was genuinely losing my mind and that I’d lose myself entirely in the process. It taught me that the misconception that going nuts would be some kind of relief, an escape, is so far from the excruciatingly agonising truth, that to express that opinion is insulting at best. I’ve gone a joke too far today, perhaps. Psychosis is serious.

This is not comfortable viewing and it is not entertainment. Proceed with caution.

Sources, resources and interesting reading:

Slipping into psychosis: living in the prodrome. (a brilliant intro to psychosis, most of the quotes I used are from it, it contains stuff that’s rather wtf too.)
Delusions odd & common: living in the prodrome. (psychosis and culture)
Both of the above focus on SZ.

The prodrome is: the aura that precedes a psychotic break by up to two or three years. During this phase, people often have mild hallucinations—they might spot a nonexistent cat out of the corner of their eye or hear their name in the sound of the wind—yet they doubt that these sensations are real. They still have “insight”—a pivotal word in psychiatric literature, indicating that a patient can recognize an altered worldview as a sign of illness, not a revelation. 

Which way madness lies: Can psychosis be prevented? (download pdf)
Twitter can trigger psychosis (does what it says on the lid)
Crazy talk: we’re too quick to use “mental illness” as an explanation for violence. (those quotation marks make me very, very, very happy)
Bellwethers & Outliers Inc. (my sort of tongue in cheek take on people like us vs society) tl;dr the lunatics really are taking over the fucking asylum.

I think this is the third time I’ve blogged this video. I found it the day my psychiatrist casually informed me I’d experienced psychosis. I sent it to her and she now uses it as a resource. It’s completely reassuring. And I like badgers a lot.

A dream within a dream

Take this kiss upon the brow! 
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream; 
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone? 
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep! 
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp? 
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave? 
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? 

Edgar Allan Poe, 1849

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