Although not everyone with bipolar disorder will experience psychosis, many people do, and it is a common part of schizoaffective disorder.
Psychosis is sometimes referred to as losing touch with reality and typically includes hallucinations (hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting or smelling something that isn’t really there) and delusions (fixed, false beliefs such as believing that the CIA have been tapping your phone and monitoring your every move).
Everyone’s experience of psychosis is different, due to the individual nature of both hallucinations and delusions, but I want to share with you just one experience of psychosis to help you understand what it’s like to experience psychosis.
I was seventeen when I experienced my first episode of psychosis. I had no idea then what was happening to me, and I certainly didn’t know anything about bipolar disorder. It was many years later that I was diagnosed.
I’d just come out of an episode of mania, and was sinking deep into depression. It wasn’t a good state of mind to be in in the first place, and my brief episode of psychosis only made matters worse.
I remember standing in the school yard just six months after I sat my GCSE exams, seriously wondering whether there was any point to life any more. My moods had been swinging rather rapidly between mania and depression of late – since my first serious depression six months or so before.
‘Stupid bitch,’ a voice hissed suddenly in my ear.
I whirled around, but there was no one around. I’d just walked out in the middle of class because I felt as though I was suffocating, and the rest of the school pupils were safely inside. I felt my heart start to pound erratically.
‘Stupid, stupid bitch,’ the voice said again. I backed up against the wall, gasping. ‘Of course there’s no point to living,’ the voice went on, almost conversationally. ‘You’d be better off dead.’
I don’t remember how long I stood there, shaking, but the voice continued to tell me that I should be dead, until suddenly it deplored me to ‘Look! Look! They’re coming for you!’
I looked. On top of the school roof there was a television aerial, and all of a sudden blue sparks of electricity were flying out of it, each and every one of them flying towards me. I turned tail and ran, ran until I couldn’t run anymore. When I got home, the house was thankfully empty and I retreated to the safety of my bedroom, where I stayed until the psychosis had passed.
I hope this little example of psychosis has helped you to understand what it’s like! Check back next week for more blog posts on bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.