Inspired

Today I was inspired...inspired to write about my episode of Psychosis to help people, and more than that, to let people know that there is a way of getting out of it.

I don't want to preach. I don't want my story to drag on, so I will try and keep it short and sweet, as hard as this is. I will also try to inspire others, and be that light at the end of the tunnel. I hope I can help people, and this is the only way I know how.

I am not a good writer, as you can probably tell already. However I want to keep things simple so that this is easy to read, because I know if I was reading it when I was in the depths of my psychosis I would want to read something that was straight to the point, if I wanted to read anything at all.

So here goes! My story will be in parts. Before, During and After. I will also include recovery plans, timelines and diary entries from my journey. I will call it a journey, because it was one, not a very nice one, but I have come out the other side a better person.

To get a better understanding of Psychosis, go to this website: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/?gclid=CNWm9bm7jLwCFQPmwgodkwIAxQ

Before- Depression

Before Psychosis, I had depression. Depression is a horrible mental illness that not many people understand. It is hard to explain but I will try my hardest.

 
Depression creeps in and makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning. It is a grey day everyday, not a day full of sunshine and joy, (I am not saying days are full of sunshine and joy, but they should have an inch of happiness to them) but a day full of rain and tears. It stops you from doing the things you want to do, and from being with the people you want to be with. Plain and simple, it is horrible.

I had depression without realizing. A sad day would turn into a sad week, that would turn into a sad month and so on and so forth. Then one day I cracked, I came back from uni and I broke down to my very supportive parents and siblings. My mother immediately suggested I go to the doctor, and booked an "Emergency Appointment!" The doctor (my local GP) was shocked and angry that my mother had booked me into an "emergency appointment" (thought I was wasting her time) and wanted to know what I was doing in the surgery. This made me feel worse.

The GP then decided to take my side and offered me counselling and put me straight on an anti-depressant called "Sertraline." Not the only answer.

Depression lasted around 2 years, before Psychosis creped it's way in.



Before- Panic Attack

My depression seemed to subside, and the GP told me to start weaning myself off my anti-depressant. I was to take one every other day. I was only on a low dose of Sertraline- 20mg.
 
I went on a holiday to Devon with 8 of my friends. The night before we left, it was my sisters birthday and I had had quite a lot to drink. I woke up early in the morning to travel to Devon and felt very sick. So we left, got all packed up, and got into the car to embark on an eight hour journey.
 
We hit the motorway and I was feeling really sick. I had already had to pull the car over to be sick once, so I didn't want to have to do it again, especially not on the motorway. So I started to panic. So much so that I had what's called a "Panic Attack." What I failed to mention in the last post was that I was also diagnosed with "Anxiety" which was another reason for me having to take my anti-depressants.
 
My Panic Attack felt like this: My hands and feet became very rigid. I felt paralysed from head to toe. I felt like I was going to die.
 
My friends were very helpful, pulled the car over and got me in the recovery position on the side of the motorway. Then a very kind man on a motorbike pulled over seeing we were distressed, and offered his help. He used to be a medic and knew all about panic attacks, so was able to talk me through what was happening, assure me that I wasn't going to die and put me and my friends at ease.
 
My friends had called an ambulance which came very quickly and I was taken into the back of it to have my blood pressure taken etc. I proceeded to feint twice in the ambulance and they advised me to take it easy and not drink any alcohol that night.

Before- the night before

Having had my panic attack, we arrived in one piece to Devon. It was a friends birthday so we were set to have a "big night" which involved some drugs. Drugs had been in my lifestyle quite a lot when I was a student in Bristol- cannabis, MDMA, ecstasy, cocaine etc. But nothing "hardcore"...at least that's what you think when all of your friends are doing the same!
So on this night in particular there was a mixture of cannabis (skunk) and MDMA. I knew I shouldn't have been doing it but I did anyway. My anxiety had been as a result of smoking too much skunk, and my depression was probably down to drug taking too. So I would call this whole episode: "drug induced".

Things turned very strange after the drugs and the only way I could describe it to my friends was that I felt like I was in the film The Black Swan. I turned paranoid, was hearing voices, thought my friends were laughing and talking about me and felt very insecure.
 

During- the start of psychosis

The next bit is all a bit of a blur. I didn't want to see or speak to my friends as I thought they were hiding things from me. So I spent the majority of the time in my bedroom. The next thing I knew my parents were there to take me home. At this point, I'd like to point out that if it wasn't for my friends knowing me so well, I would have been stuck in this rut for much longer and I might have done something stupid.

So I was driven home. The next few days are a blur too, and i was in a dreamlike state, I was taken on walks with my parents to try to "clear my head" but I was already too deep into psychosis/schizophrenia to be able to just "clear my head." Then my parents realized I needed to go to the doctor. So we went to my local GP who decided there was nothing wrong with me at all and I was feeling "guilty about having taken so many drugs." She didn't see the signs that I was experiencing my first psychotic episode.

Eventually I was taken into hospital after my parents and siblings realising there really was something wrong with me, and there was nothing more they could do to help me. The night I was taken into hospital I tried to take my own life. It wasn't to hurt people or even to end my life. I was far too scared to do that. No...I told my Dad that I was going to get a knife, he realised this was a cry for help and restrained me until the police got there to take me to hospital.

The hospital I was taken to was Queen Marys in Roehampton, I was on a female ward called Rose ward. The next few Posts will be diary entries while I was on the ward.

Saturday Oct. 1st 2011

First diary entry:

I am in Queen Marys hospital and I have been here for just over 2 weeks. My mood is good today and I have been for a picnic in the sun in Richmond park. My paranoia is quite severe at the moment and I always get a sense people are talking about me. I'm having bad dreams that involve me being a murderer and being arrested and taken to prison. That's what hospital feels like anyway. Being cooped up inside with a bunch of people who all have different mental illnesses is very difficult.

Everyone reacts to things in different ways and people's moods clash all the time causing problems. My memory at the moment is terrible, and my social skills have gone down the drain. I can't even call my closest friends for a chat.

I have days when I will wake up in the morning and everything is a struggle. Music is helping to ease my mind at the moment as well as painting. I have painted my walls...

Sunday 2nd Oct. 2011

This morning I have woken up very early. Still feeling a bit confused as to why I am here but I had a nice chat to Catherine earlier and she said I seemed much happier. I'm going to try and do some more painting today- not on my walls this time though!

I keep falling asleep in the middle of the day and dreaming I'm the only one alive. I have this reoccurring dream bath at I have died in my sleep and I'm hearing voies saying "are you dead yet?"

I try to do my morning routing as normal but nothing helps this little world I am living in. I know all the others are feeling the same and we all deal with our problems in different ways. I am going out for a picnic later though and it's nice to know people still care about me although I am a huge burden.

I went home for lunch and had a bad experience. I felt I couldn't eat and that my mum and dad had spent ages trying to cook a meal for me that I couldn't appreciate. I feel as though I have died. I don't want my parents to have to suffer in the same way as I do.I feel like a burden to the hospital as well as to the staff. Bumpy Sunday!

Monday October 3rd

I have all my "stuff" now and I feel like a small child being packed off to school. I am at my happiest when I am sitting outside on my own. I feel like a pain when I am wandering around the ward. I feel like chewing gum on the bottom of someone's shoe. Like a bad smell that doesn't go away. The place makes me want to kill myself and I hate seeing my reflection in the mirror. It's looking out of the window that gets to me most...the fact I can't do anything with my time.

Saturday October 8th

I woke up this morning in a better mood and today is one of those days where I know I am progressing. I feel better within myself and I am starting to turn my negatives into positives. Music is the thing I use to help me out when I fall into a dark place and writing this journal helps too.

Sunday October 16th

I've been out of the hospital this weekend and I went to the V&A- it was good to get out but I felt very strongly that a camera was watching me and I couldn't escape. I only feel safe when I am in the ward and not outside. The real world is still difficult to see and I have no faith in myself but the hospital is definitely making things better. I feel as though a lot has been done to make me feel safe again but whenever I'm outside the nerves and paranoia kick in.

Monday October 17th

My world is starting to look better and I am beginning to realise that there are a lot of other people going through the same thing that I am going through. It makes me want to get involved and join in, so that I can tell my story and listen to others and what they have been through. I would like to try and help people in the same way as people have tried to save me.

I remember going to Devon and taking drugs and my parents had to come and collect me and they took me home and I went into a deep sleep. I remember them taking me to Kingston hospital because I kept them awake all night and then I tried to slit my wrists because I thought I was being filmed and I thought everyone else was dying. Then I came to Queen Mary's and I remember being asleep for a very long time and going into a really deep dreamlike world. I remember thinking Mum, Dad and my brother and sister were against me and trying to poison me with their food. Now I still have this dreamlike world that I am in and I always feel like I am being filmed. It is quite scary, I am having hallucinations and I am able to smell certain things.

Wednesday November 23rd 2011

What a journey I have been on! I have been out of hospital now and have been for 2 weeks. I am still getting some signs of Psychosis. I took the train and all the way I was imagining everyone on the train knew me and were filming a sketch show. There was a constant fight in my mind to try and ignore these hallucinations. Sometimes I will start laughing to myself on the tube, people must think I'm the local mad woman! Stay away!!!

Ted Talks

Here I would like to take the opportunity to post a link to an incredible website called "Ted Talks"- Ideas Worth Spreading. On this website there are loads of talks about different subjects, so the ones I normally watch are on the brain and mental illness. It helps me get a better sense and understanding of what is going on, and I find them very interesting: http://www.ted.com/talks

One in particular that I found interesting was this one:

Medication

When I was in hospital I was put on the medication "Olanzapine" for my Psychosis and "Sertraline" for my depression. The doctors and nurses monitored me for a few weeks before putting me on any medication to see what I was going through and diagnose me as best as they could.

The olanzapine made me crave sugar and sweets, so I was eating a LOT! It was also making me very sleepy.

We decided to change medication and so I was put on Aripiprazole which is another anti-psychotic, which I am still on today and I haven't noticed any side effects from it.

The doses of my medications have had lots of changes. The Summer after my admission to hospital, my psychosis came back a bit after not having any symptoms for a while. We put my medication up by 2.5mg and instantly I was better. At the moment I am coming off my anti-depressant, Sertraline. I am being taken off it very slowly- 50mg every 4 weeks. So far, so good! I am on my smallest dose- 25mg, and it seems to be all running very smoothly.

Recovery- Care Plan

I worked on a care plan with my doctor and care co-ordinator, who were assigned to me whilst I was in hospital and on the mend. They are absolutely brilliant.

My aims were to:
  • Exercise more: exercise helps to release endorphins, helps to manage my weight gain, gives me routine. Since writing this, I have taken part in a half marathon, and am training for my next one! I also do regular exercise DVD's and cycle lots. I find exercise really helps with managing my anxiety and depression.
  • Set my alarm in the morning: this helps my routine by not allowing me to sleep in and waste half the day! Obviously I do let myself off on the weekends, where I sleep until I wake up, but I find I get a lot more achieved if I set my alarm and get up. 
  • Read: helps to improve my concentration and build knowledge. I found that my concentration and memory were completely shattered when I came out of hospital, so reading helps me to get that back. I am still struggling a bit with concentration and memory, but it is slowly coming back, and the doctors say that is the last thing to come back.
I still have regular meetings with my doctor and care co-ordinator and I am under the early intervention service, who deal with people who have psychosis as soon as they can to help it have the least impact on the patient. They came to me when I was still in hospital, still having signs of psychosis but beginning to come out of it.

 

Monday Morning

It's Monday morning, almost a week since my last appointment with my doctor to see how I was coping coming off my medication. I have been told to keep a "mood diary", by simply writing a number in the corner of each page of my diary, rating my mood, 1 being lowest and 10 being highest. Looking at these numbers, they are fluctuating a lot. I had one day last week where I was almost too happy, and one where I was too sad.

Today I would say I am a 4. I had an exhausting weekend: not much sleep, too much exercise, and eating too much! It is also Monday though, and I feel like that has a lot to do with my mood.

We decided in my appointment to keep on the 25mg, although my mood has seemed to drop. Even though this has happened, I want to stay on 25mg because to me, going up to 50mg would be a failure. I am trying to come off my medication, a very long and slow process, so the last thing I want is to go backwards and have to go up a dose.

We also decided another session with my CBT therapist, who I used to see on a regular basis, would be helpful. A "Top-up" session! So I am doing that tomorrow afternoon.

Looking out for Depression and Anxiety tricks!

I had a meeting with my CBT therapist yesterday on how to look out for depression and anxiety tricks, and how to then defeat these tricks!

So for instance, at the moment depression and anxiety is making me feel guilty. Guilty about having "Awake Break's" (sleeps) during the day. I then have to tell myself I can have these breaks, and actually they are good for me. Research recently showed that sleep is a vital part in looking after your brain and preventing mental illness. Sleep is good!

Things that help me, and could help you, to get out of the vicious trap that is depression and anxiety are:
  • Exercise: I've mentioned this before. Whether it's running, yoga or a workout DVD, exercise helps to keep me sane. It helps me maintain my routine, when there is not much routine in my days, and keeps me happy, not only physically, but mentally. However tired, however rainy outside it may be, exercise will make you feel better.
  • Blog: blogging helps me to realize that I am getting better steadily every day. There may be steps back every now and again, where I have a bad day, but generally my mood is good, I am not hearing voices anymore and I do not feel as though I am under surveillance 24 hours a day!
  • Social fun: This is something I struggle with keeping up, because of my job and because of other restrictions. We should all make time to see our friends, and have some fun every week. Sometimes depression tells me to stay in and not go out in the rain. We must push these thoughts out of our heads since going to see friends is one of the key elements in keeping a healthy mind.
  • Baking!- Baking is something I enjoy loads, and find therapeutic. So I am going to make an effort to bake more!

An Interesting Article

I read a very interesting article in The Times Magazine the other day, by Tom Rob Smith, taken from his novel "The Farm". Well actually my brother made me read it: "Article about Psychosis in there, have a look..."

It was all about a man whose mother had an episode of psychosis. His story was interesting, and it was interesting for me to read about psychosis from another persons perspective. From someone who had not experienced psychosis.

He received a phone call from his dad describing his mothers actions using words such as "Strange, terrible and imagining." It was all about how his mum was "imagining" that the community around her were conspiring against her, a notion that I truly believed when I was in the depths of psychosis. She could not trust the one person who was her sole mate, her husband.

Tom Rob Smith talks of how they took his mother to hospital where "the psychiatrist concluded, in the gentlest of voices, that he believed my mum was sick and that she needed help."

The article brought back to me the thought of how much my family would have suffered through my psychosis and depression. One of my vivid memories from hospital is of me sitting in the family room, with my brother and father, both of them occupied with something else. Not in a bad way, but in a way that they had obviously become used to, through my inability to hold a conversation, and my distrust in them and the rest of my family. I then turned to my brother and said "how long have I been here, and what's going on?" Which was a clear breakthrough in my normal dream like state that I had adopted. My brother and father looked so relieved, that they almost burst into tears. This moment was to be followed by more, similar moments, proving just how difficult families of people going through Psychosis find it.

At Long Last...

It is with great pleasure that at long last I am able to come off my Sertraline completely!

I have been taking Sertraline for depression for over 3 years now, and I have always wanted to come off it. After endless discussions with my doctors and care co-ordinator, I have finally managed to persuade them that it is about time I came off it. I have been stable for a good couple of months now, I know that may not seem like a long time, but it's long enough.

How am I feeling?

I'm feeling Fine.