Psychosis Isn't All Bad: How I Find Meaning Battling Realities
Do not let people take away the profound meaning from your psychosis.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, one could call it an adventure, this back-and-forth with psychosis. Through many involuntary hospitalizations and treatments, I’ve become scared. Scared of hospitals, naturally, but also scared of exploring the profound meaning I had experienced. To me, being told my experiences were not real, not only took away my self-trust, but also harshly discounted my deep understanding of the world around me. Many of us hear voices, see visions and have unique beliefs, and they are very real to us, even if it’s not a reality shared by others. Anil Seth said in a TED Talk, our brain hallucinates our conscious reality, and “it’s just that when we agree about our hallucinations, we call that reality.” So what makes what we experience as people labeled with psychosis different, or unreal?
Before we ponder why psychosis may not be all bad, and there are gems we can learn to extract from these unique experiences, I want to acknowledge psychosis is unique to each person. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have had persistent negative verbal hallucinations, which I understand to be extremely distressing for someone. And I hope with medication (although it doesn’t work for everyone), time, learning and support, people who have persistent and distressing experiences will be able to better cope with living with these experiences.
My “psychosis” mainly focused on a few themes — the world’s responsibility weighs on my shoulders, I know the answer to life and I must purify my body and sacrifice myself in order to become omnipresent so I could rejoin Mother Nature/the Universe and save all of humanity. These beliefs were labeled as delusions. But what I want to try and encourage people to see here, is these experiences gave me profound meaning, and let me have an incomparable connection to the Universe I could never have imagined. It would make me feel understood and validated if others could acknowledge, yes, she has psychosis, but in that, she also experienced a very real enlightenment.
I’m not trying to say psychosis is not real and people don’t need treatment. I’m just hoping to get across there are positives that can come out of psychosis.
Learning to trust my brain again was probably, and still is, one of the hardest tasks in my recovery. A good friend once told me looking at taking medication as a death or loss of the person who experienced all that profound beauty doesn’t have to be true. I can still explore other avenues (that encompass more structure and safety) of experiencing that all-knowing connection with the Universe, that sense of oneness, the vastness and insight. They encouraged me to find ways to remain in this world while still having insights into the “other.” And they shared how being fully in the “other,” makes us ineffective in this world. The image that came to my head was Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Pensieve — their feet are firmly planted in the present reality even though their heads are inside the Pensieve experiencing a whole other world of memories.
My doctor told me last year it’s not so much the beliefs and experiences I had that were a problem, it’s more the behaviors and consequences that were problematic. In other words, what makes psychosis “wrong,” is the impact it has on my physical being and the people around me; simply having these unique beliefs and experiences isn’t in itself a negative thing. Lots of people have differing beliefs, no matter if they experience psychosis or not.
I must constantly choose to stay in the shared reality, when I could very easily dive down deep into my unique reality without a care in the world. But I choose to stay, I choose to be grounded, I choose to cherish my human body. Why? Because in my unique reality, where I become omnipresent, I’m actually being selfish. Yes, I would reach my goal of being all-knowing, part of a cohesive consciousness, constantly connected to everything and everyone at the same time all the time, but becoming omnipresent would no longer let my loved ones be connected to me in my physical form. When I was struggling with a return of audible thoughts that tempted me toward my unique reality a few months ago, I did a lot of thinking, and I realized to deserve the love and care everyone imparts on me. And to live up to that love and care, I need to stay.
So, I choose this shared reality — it’s hard for me to even type it out. I will need to grieve the other reality, it won’t be easy, and maybe it will be a forever fight between realities, a cycle of acceptance and reacceptance.
Still, I choose this shared reality.
Unsplash image by Tyler Nix