Wow, where do I begin? Writing this very first blog post is overwhelming for me because for the first time I am openly sharing my experience of having a first episode of psychosis. It was life changing. One day everything was fine and then the next my entire life flipped upside down. This is what psychosis does to a person and what’s even scarier is that at the time the person doesn’t even realise it.
They say that psychosis is usually caused after being triggered by either drugs or a traumatic event. The only event I could think of that may have triggered my episode was the death of my Grandma. I said goodbye to her in Jamaica and then it was when I returned back to London that my behaviour started to change from being normal to being slightly erratic and paranoid. At the time it wasn’t so noticeable. But then I went on holiday to Thailand and my mental state got considerably worse. I started believing that people were whispering about me and were after me. I remember booking into a hotel and the builder next door banging nails into the walls and I believed he was planning to attack me. I turned on everyone, believing that everyone was against me and when I returned back to the UK I didn’t even collect my luggage at the airport I just ran away. I headed to London straight away, I went to a shopping centre and purchased a tent and a sleeping bag. I then went to the Lea Valley Park in Hertfordshire. It was night time. I entered the park and couldn’t see anything. I tried to put up my tent but it was impossible so I slept in the sleeping bag under a tree. On reflection I think to myself ‘what the hell was I doing sleeping in a national Park?!’ A young female on her own. But at the time I wasn’t thinking like this at all, my psychosis was dominating my mind and I believed I was untouchable. I started believing I was a revolutionist and was here to save the world. What was even crazier about me sleeping in the park was that it started snowing, I was only in a sleeping bag. I was frozen. But I stuck it out for about a week. I’d go to the local convenience store just outside of the park and get some bits to eat and then head back to the park where I would just sit there in my own thoughts. I remember one day I went to the laundrette and took most of the clothes off that I was wearing and washed them whilst I waited, everyone was staring at me but I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong. I just remember the warmth when I put the clothes back on and the smell of freshly washed clothes. I can’t remember the order of events to be exact but I do remember settling in Luton for a little while. At first I was still homeless, I joined a gym and would shower there. I eventually found a place to stay in a bed sit I only had a little bit of savings left and the landlord kindly agreed to let me pay the first month when I received my first wage packet. I started a job at Amazon and kept myself to myself. But my psychosis once again took control. I left my job and Bedsit and was once again homeless. It was shortly after then that I got my teardrop tattoo under my eye. Believing I was a revolutionist I got it as a warning to the bad people. Now I have a daily reminder of what I experienced. It isn’t the end of the world, I can cover it with make-up but it’s just unreal the extents one can go to when experiencing psychosis. I returned to Bedford briefly. At one point 4 professionals came to visit me and after spending about half an hour asking me questions they said they would be sectioning me. I was completely shocked and scared. But by this time my psychosis had me convinced that my heart was the world and was also connected to all the bad people, if I died and my heart was destroyed they would die too. So I locked myself in the bathroom, ran the bath and tried to drown myself. But I couldn’t go through with it. So I jumped out of the window and absconded once again. I ended up sleeping by the river in town and on benches. Then eventually I ended up back in London. Because the psychosis had me convinced that I was untouchable this was a kind of blessing. because I wouldn’t associate with anyone. I would sleep in shop doorways I remember sleeping underneath a statue on the embankment. I would be woken up at times by strange men. One man said he had another sleeping bag for me round the corner if I followed him. I declined politely. Another man asked for my shoes. And other men would just sit there at the end of the bench I would be sleeping on, I’d wake up, see them there, pack up my things and walk off quietly. I had an iPhone but because I started to think that it was tapped I destroyed it. My family and friends were doing everything they could to provide support and guidance up until this point, because of the trust issues I had developed I didn't disclose my locations. But once I cut off completely from the world I was on my own.They were devastated. I would sit in McDonald’s sometimes at night and drink coffee. When it started getting hotter I’d sleep in the parks during the daytime and then walk around the city during the night to avoid interacting with strangers. My psychosis really was taking over. I started having illusions that I was living amongst cannibals. And that these cannibals were eating innocent people. Really they wanted to eat me, but because they were connected to my heart they couldn’t eat me and so instead they would antagonise me, making it seem like I was the cause of these innocent victims deaths. Of course it was all in my head but netherless I still continued as if it were real. I believed that every time I crossed a road when the traffic light was red that someone would be killed, that every time I looked into an innocent persons eyes that they would be killed and the games continued. It was awful. I was completely distraught all of the time and I was completely alone, I felt that I had no one to talk to. Once I was sitting on a ledge in St Paul’s and a man came and sat next to me. I didn’t look at him because I was concerned that if I did and he was a good person he would die. So I just sat staring at the floor, the first thing he said to me was ‘no one is judging you, I just want you to know that, what’s wrong?’ I responded whilst still looking at the floor and said ‘it’s really complicated’ there was some silence, he then went onto ask when I had last eaten. I said I last ate popcorn in the morning. Another silence. He reached out his hand and tried to give me £5. I politely declined, then he put it in my pocket and said ‘go and get a hot meal ok?’ I nodded. He left and immediately I went to get a hot meal. When I walked into the cafe I handed over the £5 to the person serving at the counter and looked in her eyes. Her supervisor walked over and said ‘thank you’ and I automatically assumed he was a cannibal and I’d been tricked. The assistant walked out the back and I never saw her again. I assumed she’d been eaten. Once again I was devastated. From then on I never accepted anything from anyone, thinking that every time I did they would die. Cars would drive around and good Samaritans would hand out scarves and gloves. I would decline. Good Samaritans would also offer tea and coffee at night, I would say ‘no thanks’ and they would look at me in bewilderment. There would be food stalls for homeless people serving hot food. I would just keep walking. I remember at one point thinking that the bad people would be trying to poison me and so for a week I just ate plums off a tree in Vauxhall. One day my psychosis really took over. I was in Tescos and I started smashing glass bottles. I was convinced that the security was one of the cannibals and I refused to play their games anymore I was hungry and exhausted. The staff called the police. When the police arrived they took my passport and looked up my name. They saw on their records that I had been reported missing by my family and was also under section. They took me to a hospital in Mile End. Once again 4 doctors came to assess me. It was then that I was sent to an acute ward. I hadn’t slept for 6 days straight. I was convinced that if I did I would be eaten alive. When I arrived at the acute ward that night, they took my blood pressure etc and then they gave me a sleeping tablet. I was over the moon. I could sleep. Every night I waited until I was given my sleeping tablet before I went to bed, the medication I was on made me dreary throughout the day and So I had to fight fatigue until the evening came. Also because I relied on the sleeping tablets to keep me asleep, when I did wake up at unearthly hours I had to stay awake until the next day when I received my sleeping tablet. I was always exhausted. It was a busy ward so there was a lot of people coming and going. And everyone was at different ends of the spectrum with regards to their mental health. Because I was still Ill I kept myself to myself barely talking to anyone. The staff tried to help me and would encourage me to partake in activities etc. Sometimes I would and sometimes I would just walk up and down the corridors. I did this a lot. To stay awake. I’d eat 3 meals a day and have a snack and hot drink at supper. With this and the medication I was on I started gaining weight rapidly. At first I wasn’t allowed out of the building as I was on section 17. I felt like I was in prison. I’d be allowed out in the garden but then one of the patients jumped over the fence and so my garden use was limited. I started having visitors, who would bring me snacks and food. But I was still worried that there was some sort of trick so it just piled up in my room, the cleaning staff would joke that I could open my own shop. I had a battle with the medication at first. I can’t remember the medication I was on but it gave me terrible back pain. I couldn’t sit down for more than 30 seconds. I was on this medication for about 3 weeks. I was also taking Mirtazapine at first but this made me depressed so I was changed to Venlafaxine which was a lot better. And I was also prescribed Olanzapine which is an anti- psychotic medication. After about 4 months I was moved to a rehab unit. This is when my life changed for the better. The staff were able to support me further as there were less patients and less coming and going. The staff kindly spent 1 week combing my hair out of the dreads they were in. I was overwhelmed. After a few weeks I started to realise that there were no good and bad people. This was a huge relief. There are usually three stages of a psychotic episode; the Prodome phase, acute phase and the recovery stage. When I was in the recovery stage I started to get very depressed and became suicidal. I was tired mentally and physically. I was advised that there was no rush, what was important was that I made a full recovery before I was to leave the hospital. As time went on I was introduced to an employment specialist, who helped me to get back into work. My care co-ordinator who was to support me following my discharge out of hospital. And a psychiatrist who I would meet once a week and talk in depth about my life. I am fortunate enough to say that because of the help I received I was able to make a full recovery. And I am now in a place where I feel I can share my experience and hopefully it may help someone who has been through a similar experience or who knows someone who is going through psychosis, depression, suicide etc. When it comes to mental health you can feel very alone. But it is helpful to know that you are not on your own as there are so many people that are going through something similar. Mental health can be a taboo topic but it is increasing and should be spoken about openly. I admit that before I experienced psychosis I didn’t understand fully the extremities of it. But it is real and just because one can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If you feel that you are experiencing any of what I have spoken about please seek help from your nearest GP. There are also other sources which provide help and advice for example: Samaritans 116123 NHS 111 Mind 0300 123 3011 Rethink 0300 5000 927 Support Line 01708 765200 Also if you feel that you have an experience with regards to mental health that you believe others could relate to then please get in touch. I would like to end this first ever blog post :) By thanking my family, friends, the staff at Townsend Court and at Cedar House for your kindness, patience, love and support Without you I wouldn’t be where I am now. Zoe x