Learning to adapt
I have a diagnosis of non-organic psychosis, this basically means that I have psychosis – it’s not been caused by drugs or brain damage, but I also don’t fit into any of the usual diagnosis boxes.
I hear things that no-one else can hear, I regularly believe that people are following me or that I have trackers inside my body, it can be terrifying and isolating experiencing reality in a different way to others.
Now I am on medication and these experiences are not as vivid or all consuming, now I am able to rationalise them and look at them a little more objectively, I started to look for others who had experienced similar. I wanted to know others had experienced similar, I wanted to know that it was not just me…
So I went online, I read books, I looked for others I could relate to, and to a degree I found them. But at the same time I didn’t… I found all these stories about people who had been through similar, but all these stories were of a very particular narrative. Person got ill, person got better, now person is totally fine. I can’t relate to that, even on medication I still hear voices, and I still feel like I have to actively chose my reality each day, there are 2 realities in my mind – the one everyone else experiences, and the one only I know.
Before my first episode I was at university and wanted to be a doctor, in fact a surgeon. That will never happen now, and that’s ok. Well it’s not, its not really ok, but it is what it is. I have tried for years to force myself to function to the same standards as everyone else. I have gone to college, I have done an apprenticeship, I have had more jobs than I can count, but every time I end up ill. I average 3 to 4 months of full time work before I end up going downhill mentally, slowly becoming less able to do the work, missing days, acting “oddly”, then I either get fired, quit, or essentially stop turning up entirely.
I have had to learn to adapt, to find new ways to live and cope, to find new life goals. And this has not been easy. We live in a world where what you can and can’t do is seen as being an intricate part of our being. We are judged on our successes, on our education, on our career. So when we lose that and become unable to succeed by the capitalist standards of society we can feel like a failure. Then to go online and only really see these stories of positivity, it felt almost like I was being taunted.
I feel we need to increase the spectrum of experiences and stories that we tell. So I have started writing, writing blogs about my experience. I started volunteering with a local mental health anti-stigma campagin (York Ending Stigma) speaking openly about my experiences, writing blogs, doing youtube videos, and taking part in their podcasts.
I found others on twitter who also wanted to see more variety in the representation of psychosis and teamed up with one to start a website and podcast (Reality Tourists) where I speak to others about their experiences of psychosis. I want to help others to feel less alone, I hope that when others do the frantic searching, looking for others who they can relate to, that my writing and podcast will help them. I may never be able to be a doctor, I may never be able to work full time, but this is something I can do. I can write, I can share my experiences, I can help others share their stories, I can volunteer. I feel like I have a purpose again, and on a more selfish level doing this has helped me feel more able to claim my illness, to feel able to speak about it openly, and to accept my new limitations.
My mental illness has affected almost every aspect of my existance, it has limited me in so many ways. But through finding a community and feeling able to speak openly with people who “get it” I feel I have found myself again and have found some level of acceptance of my new level of funtionality.