Living with a mental illness – My first psychotic episode

When I was asked by Warya Post to write about mental health, I was more than happy to contribute; I’ve lived with a debilitating mental illness for the past four years and no one around me seemed to understand what is happening to me at first. I tried very hard to come up with something that may help or enlighten others on the subject. It wasn’t easy though. I found that the subject of mental illness and mental wellbeing is so broad and complicated that unless one is a mental health professional, it would be difficult, and even dangerous to discuss [it] without using one’s own personal experiences. I hope that in sharing my experiences through this series that others who have gone through a mental health crisis can also talk about the subject and get rid of the stifling and unhelpful stigma that is attached to a number of surprisingly common health problems.

What you are about to read is not dramatized in any way and it is not meant for entertainment purposes. It is an honest account of my very first experience of Schizo-affective disorder – an illness which can lead the sufferer to experience symptoms similar to that of Schizophrenia and Bi-polar Disorder. In attempt to heal my negative memories, I wrote down my most troubling experiences and my intention in sharing this is to illustrate to a wide range of people, one single experience of mental health crisis and is therefore not intended to be interpreted as a common experience. Terms like ‘delusional’ and ‘psychotic’ are terms used in psychiatry, I use them as I’ve understood them in relation to my own personal experiences. After a period that I describe as trial and error, I’m finally on the correct medication and I’ve made a meaningful recovery. If you are worried about someone or you are experiencing anything similar to this account please do not hesitate to go to your family doctor, the nearest Accident and Emergency or call an ambulance, whichever you think is the most suitable for the situation.

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My First Psychotic Episode

One day I was completely myself. I was working in short term, but rewarding jobs that I undertook to support me during my undergraduate studies while I also interned for an organisation that I had loved and admired for all the years that I’d been there. Life was eventful and I loved every second of it. I was really excited when I was hired for a research position in an organisation that I respected, before I’d even received my final degree qualification and I knew that the experience was going to be worth it. Unfortunately, I did not have time to learn much, in fact I barely experienced the place at all. In my third or fourth day at that office, I began hearing two childlike voices, right there, as I was in the lift. The first voice (which would later on tell me that [it] was –a completely made up- “childhood friend who died 1993”) said “be careful Filsan” the second one, a girl (who explained to me that she was me, when I was friends with this other voice) warned me “they’re trying to kill you” in this totally believable tone, as if she really cared about me and knew something that I didn’t. For a moment, I even believed them, but within a few seconds, I’d already relegated it to a joke; something like “wow, do you really think they’ll be that tough on me?”

 I had no choice but to shrug this strange experience off – my overdraft had to be paid back and despite knowing that hearing voices was something that I urgently needed to discuss with a health practitioner, I walked into that office like nothing had happened. I gave a forced smile to everyone as I passed and then I took calculated steps towards my desk.