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Attention Psychosis Sufferers: Get Well Beyond Medication
Posted by barry-curtis
7th Jul 2016

It’s been a turbulent time for me since suffering psychosis back in 2001 when I was sectioned for over 5 weeks. The problem wasn’t then as such, but a general failure to make a full recovery, and I’ve been wondering for ages what the heck is holding me back.

Post-psychotic symptoms have included intense agoraphobia that had been slightly mitigated since last year with the help of Citalopram and hypnotherapy. But really there were still deep lingering problems. I don’t wish to insult psychiatry, I know they mean well and the medication definitely helps, but to be honest in my therapeutic sessions with psychiatrists is that they haven’t probed my mind enough. Instead most sessions’ time is occupied with moralistic lectures about how much I smoke and drink, nowhere near enough psychology.

So I’ve had to cure myself with my own logic – possible because prior to 2001 I was an outstanding philosopher, the first undergraduate to address the Philosophy Society at the University of Kent, no less.
OK, see here goes. This is what was holding me back, and probably you too:

Psychosis sufferers experience that dark period as almost like a vision comparable to those experienced by prophets depicted in religious literature from Moses’ burning bush in the desert to Mohammed’s experience in the cave in Islam. Realistically these events did not occur, but it is quite possible Moses and Mohammed and other prophets believed they occurred. They happened therefore subjectively rather than objectively. Perhaps these were early cases of psychosis in the ancient world, probably I’d wager.

So if these events happened subjectively, does this grant them a level of reality we should take seriously? No. These people were already thinking religiously and therefore the form taken by their psychotic episode was one of religious vision. This is true of me, and maybe you, if you’ve had these symptoms. Psychiatrists know that traditionally psychotic episodes took a religious form, and then in the 20th century they have increasingly taken a science fiction form after science fiction became mainstream in society. With my psychosis, it included these elements but also had a narrative of humanist revolution. My episode included visions, delusions, and hallucinations, both visual and auditory. And now I know why. It was these kinds of ideas – religion, sci-fi, and human emancipation, I was thinking about prior to becoming mentally unwell. It doesn’t mean in the slightest one should avoid these ideas, it’s just that if you think in these ways and are unlucky enough to suffer a psychotic episode, then those fantastic ideas will shape the content of what you experience when you are unwell. Therefore, I insist on the following formula that psychiatrists ought to take seriously to find new ways to help patients:

The content of a psychotic episode is determined by the thoughts one was having prior to becoming unwell, distorted and magnified in a fantastic form.

The trouble I have had coming to terms with my psychotic episode is that this was never made clear to me. Only now have I unravelled the mystery. I was thinking that perhaps it wasn’t really mental illness, that I actually had a religious vision! That idea leads one to think there are supernatural layers of reality, which there aren’t, and that kind of sustains post-psychotic symptoms for a long time.

So the kind of “phew!” moment that occurred to me several hours ago before I wrote this blog was in recognising ‘yes it was just psychosis!’ This may seem strange to someone who’s never experienced mental illness, but actually to discover it was only a brain process, and that I wasn’t really connected to other consciousness’s, God, or any other mystical realm came to me like a massive relief. What I experienced 15 years ago was only mental illness. Now I know that, I can call an end to it, and truly rebuild my life.

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