Friday, January 30, 2015

The Joys of Being Psychotic

Trigger warning for mental health issues, suicidal ideation and disturbing content

I've been wanting to blog more, but also wanted to explain why I haven't been around. The short answer is that I've been sick. I guess I've always been sick in this way, but it just got to the point where I couldn't function all that well. I have been hallucinating and experiencing episodes of delusions for a long time…since my teens. It may sound strange to say that I got used to hallucinating, but I can usually tell the difference between reality and my brain throwing bullshit at me. The hallucinations also set in slowly, so I could adapt to the nonsense. Delusions are a whole different animal—the kind of animal that is really tough to explain.

I could always throw these occasional episodes into the “maybe depression symptoms” bin and move on once they passed. I only had one other time when the delusions were severe enough to be an impairment (I was too scared to leave my apartment), but I couldn't articulate why shit was getting weird for me and at the time my main problem was the fact that I couldn't sleep. I could hear everything. And I was living in an apartment that had neighbors all around so there were a lot of little noises to keep me awake. I figured that was why I was having problems. So I got medicated and eventually I could sleep again.

Fast forward to more recent times. I have no idea when this episode all started, but for a long time—a few years—the main images stuck in my head were extremely violent. It wasn't along the lines of “oh, I read something weird so now I'm going to think about it” or even “I wrote something fucked up and it's going to stick with me.” It was “I may be walking by the side of the road and there's no traffic but a car is going to come out of nowhere and crush me against this wall and my entrails will splatter across the sidewalk.” When I'd get stressed out the image that plagued my mind was that of me smashing my head repeatedly against something until my face was gone. This was constant. But this was also something that I didn't think of as unreasonable because the images were just so unreasonable that I knew they were impossible. I didn't honestly think those things were going to happen, but the images were always there and that constant exposure to such things didn't make me feel all that good. (When the images got more realistic—as in things that I could feasibly do to myself—then that’s when I'd know I was really suicidal or could possibly hurt myself.)

So I had my regular depression and insomnia (staying awake for 3-4 days at a time), and this underpinning of fucked up images running wild through my mind whenever they felt like it. Last summer I started taking Paxil—which had helped me in the past but made things worse this time around. Then something triggered an episode of paranoid delusions…I know what it was and I don't want to talk about that. But the delusions triggered the hallucinations. And shit got real. I could no longer tell the difference between reality and hallucinations. And the more often I experienced these lapses in reality, the more intense they became. Luckily I had an upcoming therapist appointment and a medication management appointment, and I went into the psych office in the middle of a psychotic break. I barely avoided being put in-patient, but they'd been impressed with my coping skills prior to this so I got to chill at home rather than in the hospital.

They diagnosed me with Bipolar I with Psychotic Features—I think that was in early September. Since then I've been figuring out what that means exactly and trying different medications. I've had bad reactions to so many medications…strange reactions that don't make sense. Reactions that made me even less functional when I really needed to be functional. I also had a couple suicidal episodes that entered the “planning” phase. I've been close to going in-patient a few times, but I managed to get through it.

I’m on Zoloft now, which is helping in general, but without all the intrusive images and noise in my head the hallucinations have stayed pretty clear. That wasn't something I was expecting to happen. They’re not as scary as they were at their worst so I guess I'll take this improvement.

So that's where I've been. I didn't really accomplish much in the last few months, but I decided to not beat myself up over it because that wouldn't be very helpful. I'm still a First Reader for Crossed Genres and I was Co-ML for Centre County for NaNoWriMo. I didn't get close to winning NaNoWriMo though, but oh well. I'm looking forward to reading more and writing more and editing more and just getting everything back on track as I'm able to.

And I do have some kind of funny stories about hallucinations to share once I figure out how to write about them in a non-terrifying way.

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