Image above: a praying mantis that appeared right near the handle of the back door to the mental health facility that I stayed in during part of 2017. It was past midnight and I had just stepped out to have a cigarette alone in the night, or at least I thought. The Carl Jung quote is there because I love his theories and ideas, particularly about synchronicity and the concept of meaningful coincidence.
What does it mean to be in psychosis? Usually it’s a combination of things that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) would call “delusions”, “ideas of reference”, “hallucinations”, “grandiose thinking”, “loosening of associations”, as well as other such symptoms. Taken in isolation, none of these on their own would point to a diagnosis, but together make for some pretty scattered states.
I am asking myself sometimes, “Am I in psychosis? Would I know if I was?”. The problem here is that I haven’t recognised it at least until it came to a crisis point and by then, I’m usually pretty far gone. I think it’s key to get help early on, but the right kind of help. If it is an emergency, medication may help to bring back some semblance of “normal reality”. Hospital is an option if I am feeling particularly unsafe, but presenting at the emergency department is daunting and it takes forever to get seen, unless you want to make a scene. We need more services that are readily accessible for people to be able to reach out and get help in the early stages of an episode, that don’t involve sending someone to hospital or over-medicating.
Psychosis disrupts our lives in so many ways. We get pushed into a system of treatment that sometimes has worse side effects than the medications they use to suppress symptoms. Then if we are particularly unlucky, we lose relationships and feel isolated and alone, unable to speak of what happened for shame and embarrassment. The stigma around mental illness, particularly psychosis, is real and harmful.
By making it about being a part of the human experience, we normalise it so that sharing and healing is possible. Psychosis is an extreme experience, but one that we can learn and grow from given the right environment and treatment.