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3 Ways I Masked My Psychosis Before I Learned Healthier Coping Skills

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Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Living with schizoaffective disorder is a challenge. I frequently experience hallucinations and psychosis that can be hard to hide. However, I have found that over time, I learned or assumed that my psychosis was “not OK” and I taught myself how to mask it. Unfortunately, this led me to a nervous breakdown, and I ended up in the hospital. Some of the ways I hid my psychosis were incredibly dangerous and unhealthy, but living in a world where psychosis is seen as something negative and almost taboo can be so hard. Almost any method to manage the psychosis can seem better than nothing at all.

The following are three ways I have masked my psychosis before I learned healthier coping skills. I have learned that the ways that I hid my psychosis are common among those of us struggling with hallucinations. My hope is that with this article, we can shed light on how dangerous it is to paint psychosis as something that should be hidden because the alternative methods to managing the condition can be fatal or at least life-altering.

1. Self-medicating with alcohol.

I have struggled with using alcohol when I would experience psychosis. I couldn’t stand being in my own body, and alcohol kind of helped me to escape my body and dull down my hallucinations. Unfortunately, this has led to various health problems and the alcohol has interacted negatively with my medications. Self-medicating is a technique I knew was unhealthy, but sometimes it felt like it was the only thing that would work.

2. Isolating myself from others.

Many times, when I experienced psychosis, I found that isolating was the only way that I could feel safe. Unfortunately, this cost me to lose a lot of my relationships and years of my life. I still struggle with self-isolating when I am experiencing psychosis, but I am more aware of what I am doing, and I have ways to interrupt it.

3) Blaming hallucinations and psychosis on marijuana.

Marijuana is another substance that I used to use to deal with my psychosis and escape my body, but I would also blame my psychosis on the marijuana to try and feel “normal” and that “nothing was wrong with me.” Unfortunately, my marijuana use did just make my psychosis worse, and I also lost a lot of time to this substance abuse as I did with my alcohol use.

To experience psychosis is scary in and of itself, but it is even worse when the world paints it as something other than a health condition, as though it is something “evil” or something to be feared and shunned. So many people who experience psychosis are unable to receive help and do end up self-medicating or isolating, which may rarely be safe. Even though I see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly now, I still experience hallucinations and psychosis, and controlling them can often feel futile.

Being more self-aware of my psychosis now just makes me more aware that what I am experiencing may not be acceptable to some people. I have had to hide my mental illnesses for so long, so much so that I didn’t receive help until it was almost too late. I wish that I had learned earlier that psychosis is a serious symptom, and that seeking help is necessary, no matter what other people might think. I just hope that sharing my experiences will help others to seek care before things escalate and symptoms become severe. No one should ever make anyone feel bad about experiencing any symptom of a mental illness, especially psychosis. We need to extend understanding and care, not hate and fear.

Photo by Naomi Suzuki on Unsplash

Originally published: April 10, 2022
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