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A Journey Into Madness… February 1, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Insanity, mental illness.
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A journey into madness begins with the first step. It isn’t a case where you wake up one morning and say to yourself  “Oh no! I’ve lost my mind!”  Rather, it’s more like someone who gains say 25 pounds over the course of one year.  It’s a very gradual thing.  One pound. Then a leveling off for a few weeks. Then another pound.  Then a pound two weeks after that. And so on.

The same with mental illness. One small step towards madness the first day. Maybe you think you can communicate with one person via ESP.  And then a leveling off for a little while, as that small step (communicating with one person via ESP) becomes the new “normal”.  Then a few days later, another person is added to the ESP repertoire. Day after day, another person or two is added to the number of people you communicate with via ESP. Then you start seeing green people. Then zombies. Day after day these small steps play out little by little.  Step upon step, all becoming the next “normal”.  It’s not like a heart attack where you wake up and your world changed overnight.  It’s more like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or some other relatively slow-moving disease where your world changes slowly but surely.

But I won’t kid you here.  The progression of my illness wasn’t in years. It was in months.   I went from being a relatively sane 49 year old professional woman (with no history of mental illness or drug or alcohol use) the first week in February 2008 to involuntary committment to a mental hospital with a full-blown case of Bipolar I with psychotic tendencies at the very end of May 2008. Almost four months from start to finish.

That would seem relatively quickly to some, but again think of weight gain.  You don’t feel every single pound of weight gain on a day to day basis. You don’t feel every single daily aspect of the loss of memory that’s the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. One little change at a time, piled upon the other little changes. And so it goes for insanity.

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Comments»

1. Jen Daisybee - February 1, 2012

I like your analogy. My illness came on differently from yours, but it was very gradual. At first it was depression (and anorexia), and then I thought I was getting better from depression, only to develop a little psychosis, and then full-blown psychosis, and then years of psychosis where I couldn’t keep a roof over my head long or hold a job or anything. When I was finally diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, it was such a relief because I had an explanation for all the bizarre things I had seen, and heard, and done. And it saved me, getting that diagnosis. It literally saved my life. I survived numerous suicide attempts before that, but I wasn’t correctly diagnosed until after I almost shot myself.

Thank you for your blog. I find your posts interesting, well-written, and definitely the type I can relate to.

2. LunaSunshine - February 3, 2012

You’re right, it does happen gradually! If it didn’t, then we all would have been aware of our disorder the very day it happened.

William Stroyer wrote an essay describing depression. He had written about how the onset for him was sixty. And it happened gradually over about six months. He had clues that something was wrong. But often, like in William Stroyer’s case, we attribute certain symptoms to something else. (Except in terms of psychosis. That is unmistakable. Hence, only four months elapsed for you.)

At least some people have a frame of reference. There is a small percentage of the population that seemingly developed their own conditions early in life. For me, there was no “before bipolar”. It always was. Like you said, you go from one thing, say, having this loss of interest in everything that once made you happy. And that becomes the norm, complete dispondancy. And then, this overwhelming grief and sadness collects in a cloud that doesn’t dissipate. After awhile, the cloud is a familiar. Just like walking through a field, shoes and clothes start to accumulate things. Dirt, leaves, grass, those spiny things that cling to everything and hurt as you try to pick them off. Until the mess and the weight of it all is completely intolerable.

It’s at the point the a person takes drastic action to shed all of that. Cutting, suicide attempts, self-medicating, anything. It is only at that point that it is apparent that those symptoms cannot be attributed to anything else.

And in hindsight, there was no before. There was no place that these things didn’t exist. It’s hard to distinguish what is the norm for the person and what is symptomatic.

And for me, that was only scratching the surface of the progression over ten plus years.

It was probably extremely beneficial that you had that frame of reference. It helped you get the best help, way faster.

3. Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC - February 20, 2012

Excellent post! You really have a gift with writing. Keep up the great work.

4. Gledwood - July 10, 2012

Your bipolar psychosis sounds really extreme. I got diagnosed schizoaffective because the dr said my psychosis, with lots of auditory and visual hallucinations, was too florid to be just bipolar (over here they use the ICD-10 that defines schizoaffective as a condition that meets the criteria for mania and schizophrenia simultaneously, not the DSM ones, that insist on psychotic symptoms in the abscence of a mood episode). I was so upset at the mere mention of schizophrenia that for a long while I just thought of myself as bipolar. Then I looked at what schizophrenia actually is and could see, albeit reluctantly that I did have the symptoms. Especially a lot of the negative symptoms, where you just do not engage with life…

I’m going to have to come back to your blog to read it properly. Meanwhile hope you don’t mind but I’m adding you to my blogroll.

PS if you come to my blog, could you please have a look at the manic video I posted up
http://gledwood4.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/what-manic-episode-looks-like.html
and tell me what you think? Also have you ever seen mania portrayed realistically on film or TV? If so where? (I don’t think I have…)


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