Selfie taken in 2017, during my last episode

My name is Emma and I have a diagnosis of ‘Schizoaffective Disorder’. Whilst this is a label that accurately describes my experience, it does not define who I am. It is only an aspect of my story. I have had a total of five isolated episodes of psychosis, from which I have made a full recovery each time. I want to share my experience and open a dialogue with people who are struggling with their own psychoses, in an attempt to find common-ground and a mutual understanding.

My first episode was at the age of 20 in 1994 (more than half a lifetime ago). At the time, I had been smoking marijuana on a daily basis for a couple of years, had an eating disorder and experienced a voice telling me repeatedly to “give up dope”. The voice was insistent and as such, I decided to comply which gave way to psychosis. According to hospital records the presenting problem listed by a clinician was: “high on life”. I thought I had discovered the meaning of life! Unfortunately, after a time of not sleeping for days on end, this tipped into an experience of fear like none I had been through ever before.

Ravens were gathering and watching me, reporting back to an evil force. My beloved cat was following me around and extremely anxious about the presence of negative entities. I was the reincarnation of an explorer from centuries ago. I became intensely afraid — petrified — that someone out there, somewhere, was tracking me down in order to kill me. There is much symbolism to be found in the content of a psychotic episode.

After a 6-week psychiatric hospital stint, I came out feeling as if I didn’t want to live any more. I was severely depressed and thought that was to be my life forever-after. Suffice it to say, I survived and have subsequently had another four episodes since. Whilst challenging, I believe they have each been an opportunity for personal growth and development. I now have insight into an experience that is frightening and enlightening at the same time, and have a strong desire to assist others going through similar challenges to make sense of it all and recover.