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What It's Like to Have No Insight Into Your Mental Illness

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I noticed something was wrong when I could not keep up with time.

I had not slept in days and my mind was racing. I eventually had my breakdown in a public health facility. I erupted into words about prostitution and conspiracies in my community and former workplace. Nurses followed me out the door as I continued screaming onto their front lawn. Before long an ambulance had arrived. I agreed I needed to go to the hospital because my pulse and blood pressure were high. I continued to ramble about not trusting anyone, except one nurse who stayed by my side on the ambulance. I thought she looked nice and genuine, but moments like these were fleeting. After agreeing to a CAT scan, the nurses asked me to go into a room. Soon, I realized something was wrong. This room had a television behind glass with a video camera above it. The room had no light switch, no bedside table, no television remote and there was huge window between my room and another room; another room, where people were looking at me!

I kept beating on the door and begging for my life until my mom came in. I remember hearing her voice saying “I love you,” but I did not see her mouth move. I did, however, see a nurse watching us. I figured the nurse was controlling my mom (if this was even my mom, I questioned — I later learned this was called a capgras delusion). I had this delusion for up to five weeks after hospitalization.

While in the hospital I informed my mom the water was poisoned. She opened the blinds over the door window, so I could see her getting the water. I cried and pleaded to her it had come from a jug and was poisoned. She drank some of it; I guess to make a point that it was not poisonous. I slapped it out of her hands and begged her to go throw up. Visiting times were brief. After she left, I continued to have flashbacks and terrible memories. Basically, everyone who had been nice to me in my life had a malevolent motive. No one actually liked me. In fact, they wanted me dead.

Suddenly, I knew! I was part robot. My pimps — and I was not completely sure who they were yet — would place their hands between the correct cervical bones on my neck, turn my neck and I would turn into a violent, hankering beast. My previous job working as an astronomy assistant in an observatory was a hoax. Instead, my boss, one of my pimps, would knock me out with a drug maybe, and then place me in robot mode for willing participants. These willing participants obviously did not mind my broken neck and head hanging sideways as I had intercourse with them.

Two security guards, two or three nurses and a doctor entered the room. Because of the overwhelming number of people with gloves on hovering over me, I refused the shot, but had nowhere to go. They gave me my first shot of an antipsychotic medication, while I crouched, screaming. I was only angrier and more scared. My muscles tightened. I felt blood leaking out of my vessels under my skin. I heard voices screaming from other rooms.

This is the prostitution room, I thought. I had to find the right balance between lying perfectly on the bed to walking the floor, or else the room would shrink in. The bed had large blades underneath. If I failed the task while walking on the floor, one of these blades would come out and slice me. If I laid on the bed the wrong way, it would fold up and smash me. I played this torturous game while echoing non-sense to keep my hearing. I thought I was going deaf as well. I even prayed, though I am not a religious person.

As the delusions and hallucinations persisted, my parents made a visit. I was too scared to say much, but I did mention I thought I was at my previous workplace’s property (a delusion called reduplicative-paramnesia), and that it only looked the same as the hospital. As the orderlies came and went, my waking nightmare persisted. I urinated on the floor. I went to the bathroom several times with hopes to escape, and I pleaded for my life. I stayed awake throughout the night and into the next day. Eventually, after three shots of the antipsychotic medication, a nurse strolled another television into the room. I was ordered to speak to a psychiatrist via telecommunication. The nurse told me everything to say, including my name and the date. The psychiatrist was from another state, and was convinced I was ready to go to outpatient care. I was still convinced I was going to die. I agreed to take some medication, and fell asleep for maybe 10 minutes before my mom arrived. I woke up and said, “I’m alive!” My boyfriend was also there. My mom had to dress me and help me into a wheelchair as I was very drowsy at that time. I went home and slept well. However, the waking nightmare persisted for over a month’s time.

I saw a therapist on my free will, but it took five weeks to see a doctor. By that time, my parents had found me outside in wet grass, singing. I thought I was God. I thought I was dying. I thought people wanted me dead. I thought a lot of things. I performed rituals that day until I met an adjunct psychiatrist. He gave me a different antipsychotic. Along with the medication, I think reading a pamphlet about schizophrenia decreased my anosognosia, or lack of self-awareness. Although it has been a difficult road, especially as I was later diagnosed with OCD, I continue to go to therapy and meet with a doctor at least every three months.

No one in my family knew anything about psychosis. I never did drugs. I never expected to have a break from reality this traumatic. I felt alone until I started doing research and watching YouTube videos about psychosis.

Educating myself about my illnesses helps me. Likewise, my family still loves me. And, although it was a broken heart that provoked my psychosis, my boyfriend still loves me. I still have dreams for the future, even if those dreams are not the same as they used to be.

However, I feel better. I am alive. The false thoughts and perceptions I had were frightening and, although I still struggle with my memory, I know how to manage my illness and stress levels so that psychosis is less likely to occur. In psychosis, I trusted no one. My delusions and hallucinations fed on themselves as I questioned everyone’s interactions with me. No one believed me then. When you have lived a life where you believe your thoughts and memories, it is almost impossible to question them. Why would you? You know yourself better than anyone else.

With insight, I remind myself not everything that enters my head is true. I may never know the truth about some of my memories, but I want to continue making them. I know what it feels like to enter a storybook and become the protagonist of another life; many people never have that experience. By taking medication, going to therapy, garnering hobbies — and with the support of some of my family and friends — I plan on a having a life worth living.

Originally published: August 8, 2016
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