Recovery From Psycosis
November 1st 2011, the familiar gravel under my foot as I step into the institution I know only too well. It was the beginning of something that life could not have prepared me for. My mind subjected me to pains and cruelties that I never knew possible (even though this was not the first time). My psychotic episode, shifted my reality and opened the floodgates to unimaginable scariness. Through the severity of my illness I derived a few simple positive outcomes. Meds are vital, self management must be ritual and recovery is rewarded with unparalleled happiness.
Vision is very important when recovering from psychosis. No matter how stupid, just keep your ambition in your mind. Positive visualisation is key, combined with determination, grit and good doctors. I’m afraid that recovery is gritty. Its not clean or easy. You will question everything. Your purpose, you position in life and society but also questions like: “It is just too much to bear, I am happy being in bed and not trying,” or “Whats the point in recovering if it just happens again”. There are no easy solutions to these questions and unfortunately the answer is simple; you have to keep getting up and keep trying whilst also accepting that time will heal and recovery is a formulaic process.
Pyschosis is a different kettle of fish from neurotic conditions (anxiety/depression). Once you’re in the storm it is just a matter of time before you normalise but you are always steering at the helm when it comes to recovery. It is important to capitalise on the little things that keep you going during recovery.Those favourite songs on your ipod, the lyrics and melodies that distract your mind from the trauma of your illness. Your favourite coffee at your local bakery (even at first if it has to be a de-caf ;) That first trip to the supermarket.. All the colours of the fruits in the aisles of choice and the friendly staff. Walking in the gardens by the river. And of course friends.
My grandmother says friends are your greatest assets. Illness, (especially mental health illness) will separate your good friends from the more fair-weather types.Embrace your good friends and be enormously grateful and accept the limitations of your fair-weather friends. After hospital the world will seem strange. Sights will seem unfamiliar, friends will initially appear odd and most scarily of all your family may appear quite alien.Learn to accept that there will be an adjustment phase and through time normalisation will occur. Be patient and confident in this.It took me over a year to be able to function properly. It was a step by step process. Little walks, little exercise, little church voluntary work. Regular waking times, suitable environments and hard work.
Your illness will teach you perspective. It will make you understand human beings. Who people are, why they behave as they do. Their motives their tendencies their nuances. Having been through life altering mental illnesses your range of emotional understanding will be much wider. There are skills and talents to be extracted from illness. Being able to control your mood through professional care, self management and other processes will lead you to higher understanding. But it has taken me 19 years to get a handle on my condition and I continue to learn and adapt. Your illness will teach you a lot about who you are. So listen to yourself, know whats right and whats wrong.That’s not to say that your wildest ambitions will not happen, just that maybe now is not the right time. Be good to yourself and know that everything is possible, just as long as it happens in the right, measured way.
During my hospitalisation I would walk through Richmond Park with my brother. The skyscrapers of the city would seem a million miles away, almost mocking me through my situation and the impossible journey ahead of me back to my goals of successful life. The skies were broken; sights induced scary paranoia triggering very real associations of mental pain, hurt and fear. I still continue to get through those memories. Therapy has helped enormously.
I kept working hard at my recovery. For the first two years I was doing voluntary work with little or no feeling of purpose. I had no social life. I was pumped full of drugs. My anxieties and psychotic symptoms would fluctuate, leaving me exhausted and scared. I spent most my time being rushed from pharmacies to psychiatrists frantically trying to get the meds right. Doctors lounges became my routine, pain was my uninvited guest and struggle was a part of life. I was piecing together a broken mind, a fragmented life and searching for the crux to glue it back together.
I was hurting inside, going no where. But every day I did my bit – no matter how small. I was bitter inside. Furious that someone so capable as myself had been dealt such a miserable hand. Such a waste. But I kept at it. I began to exercise more. Then more and more. Voluntary work turned into paid work. Paid work turned into success and real career. Exercise turned into triathlon, work turned into pay rise, commission and stock options. All the little pieces and hard work pieced together. It took 4 years and my narrative continues to manifest (that is the exciting part of life, the journey does not end). Hard work serendipity and what I now see as a presence of God in my life has converted my once fantasies, to real jobs and real achievements. The friends and the life I always wanted, I now am truly happier.
If you can let go of the hurt the pain and the anger and open up some space for recovery compassion and love, you will find happiness sooner that you think.I used to say to my brother, “Its not fair why me, all my friends have great jobs, great holidays, great flats. Why do I have to suffer so much?” He said to me, “Don’t think like that its not good for you”.It took me over a year to hear what he was saying. Its not that he was not agreeing with me, he was simply saying that its unhealthy to compare yourself and it is getting in the way of your recovery. It allowed me to accept my situation and be at peace with my situation.
Recovery is as much about acceptance of your situation as it is about wanting to be at the next phase of your live. Maintain your visualisation and don’t let your current circumstance even deter you from that goal. Because at some point the two will converge and when it happens all the strife will seem a distant memory.