August 3, 2017

Jenny blogs about her experiences with psychosis and the reactions people had to it

Sometimes people can misunderstand psychosis. There are so many misconceptions. People who suffer with psychosis are violent, unpredictable and the most debilitating assumption of all, they can never recover.

I would like to challenge these stereotypes by telling my story. I come from a difficult background and have a long history of mental health difficulty. By my late teens I'd been diagnosed with many conditions namely OCD, anxiety, depression and emotionally unstable personality disorder. I'd been given more labels then Tesco's!

By my 20th birthday I had been in hospital countless times. I would often attempt suicide, self-harm, I was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I made reckless, impulsive decisions. My self-esteem was on the floor, I had no friends and was estranged from my family.

Then I got a second chance. I was admitted to a therapeutic community. It was a truly amazing place. There were group meetings, individual therapy and psychosocial nursing. It was like a family. Safe, supportive but also challenging. For the first time in my life I felt accepted for who I was. Living with the patients was tough at times but I can honestly say that I made some great friends.

Psychosis consumed me for months

After I left things were so much brighter than before I got admitted. People think it's a risky time for addicts when things are going badly. This is true but it's also difficult when life is going well. I felt so happy after so many years of despair I thought I could use drugs to have fun and enhance that happiness.

I was so wrong. After taking drugs one night I became extremely unwell and lost touch with reality. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I thought people were going to kill me. That people were hearing my thoughts. Paranoia was an understatement. The illness totally consumed me and I dropped out of life.

After five months my medication was changed and gradually got better. I still, to this day sometimes feel paranoid, hear voices and have odd, disturbing thoughts. But I'm very open about my mental health and am not ashamed of it. Why should anyone be? If you had a physical ailment would you be ashamed about that?

Even my friends wrote me off

My friends reactions were difficult the cope with at times. They automatically assumed I had schizophrenia. They told me I should never have kids. They made me feel that I was abnormal, not like everybody else. They'd use words like crazy and make jokes at my expense.

Finding work was tough too. I was offered a voluntary job mentoring teenagers. The manger told me I could start straight away. Then my disability came up in conversation and he said, "oh, maybe you should come back when you're a bit more well". This angered me a lot because although I was suffering with a disability I knew I was fit for the job.

Now, I'm in part-time paid work, I'm going to university, I volunteer helping other people have mental health difficulties. I live independently and I am happy. Yes, I still hear voices and have bizarre thoughts that distress me.

I'm also an ordinary person living an ordinary life. I don't hurt anyone. I'm stable and calm and most importantly of all, I have got better. Just because a person hears or sees things that others do not, it doesn't mean they can't live a happy independent life.

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.