Psychotic States of Mind March 13, 2015Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Psychotic.
Tags: Delusions, Psychotic
Last night, I had an opportunity to talk with two people who were either in the middle of a psychotic break or had recently suffered a psychotic break. We had a lot in common.
The important concept to understand about a psychotic break is that the reality imposed by the break is as real to the person suffering from it as your reality is to you. If we think there’s someone hiding under our porch or standing outside our bedroom window, then someone is in fact doing that. That is our reality. And it’s scary stuff.
A psychotic break isn’t just limited to the brain thinking a psychotic thought. Our senses support that reality. In my psychotic state, all my senses supported my reality. Nothing was amiss. I smelled the perfume of someone (who wasn’t there and never had been there). I felt a (nonexistent) flap of skin between my toes that made my feet into fins. When I had my mask and snorkel on in the water, people surrounding me had green skin. I trusted my senses, since they had never failed me before. As they had throughout my entire life, my senses confirmed my reality.
Right before I was involuntarily committed, I came to the realization that as a mermaid, I was in extreme danger. Over the course of a month or so, I noticed that while I was swimming in the pool next to the wall, my body emitted a pink powder that built up on the sides and in the corner of the pool. The powder, which was warm to the touch and dissipated like flour in water, was actually a form of energy that could be harnessed to generate electricity. Right then, I knew I was in danger of being captured by some evil people and hooked up to a power plant. That thought was in the back of my mind as I returned to the swimming pool for the third time that day.
As I made my way to the pool from the parking lot, everyone I passed- men, women and even babies- were all zombies. Their white skin hung on their bodies, and they had black holes where their eyes were supposed to be. I was disturbed by what I saw, but not afraid enough to forgo swimming.
That was my reality, and no one could have persuaded me that the people I saw weren’t really zombies.
Last night, all three of us shared similar delusions. All of our delusions were real to us, and they were for the most part scary and negative delusions. If you think zombies are after you, you live in terror of being captured. If you think someone is waiting outside or under the porch to grab you, you live in terror of being captured by those people. If you think the mob is trying to kill you, then you fear for your life all the time.
Delusions feed on themselves, and we start to see patterns where none exist. We notice four red cars in five minutes while driving, and those red cars reinforce the fact that the mob is trying to kill us.They confirm our worst suspicions. Patterns confirming our delusion are everywhere. We see what our reality tells us.
We looked for solutions to our common problem: how to tell if we’re in a delusion. But the problem with looking for solutions is that when we’re in the middle of a delusion, that is our reality. We don’t have the presence of mind to wonder if our perceived reality is the truth. Of course it’s the truth! And anyone who tries to persuade us differently is an enemy.
The best way to solve the problem of being terrified of our delusions is to get assessed by a psychiatrist and go on medication to make the delusions go away. But this is difficult, since the delusions include not trusting anyone who tries to persuade us that our perceived reality isn’t real. It’s a catch 22.
The real trick is overcoming the lack of trust the person in the delusion has. They trust no one, especially anyone who challenges their reality.
Right now in Olympia, legislators are debating new legislation that would make it easier to get people suffering in a delusion help. The standard for involuntary commitment- which is what has to happen in the case of severe psychotic delusions- would be lower than it is now. You wouldn’t have to harm yourself or someone else in order to start treatment. You would have to be assessed as having a likelihood of harming yourself or others rather than having injured yourself or others. This legislation would improve the quality of life of someone in the middle of a severe psychotic episode because it would force them to start their medication, which would make the delusion fade enough to stay on their medication willingly. It’s a huge step forward in the treatment of mental illness.
With enough medication, my zombies disappeared. With enough medication, the mob stopped trying to kill my friend. And I trust that the people standing outside the bedroom window and under the porch will disappear for my other young friend, if only he can stay on his meds long enough. It takes weeks or sometimes even months for that medication to work, which is a long time if you’re suffering. Sometimes the delusions win the fight, and the person is stuck in their negative reality for life.
Hopefully, you get an idea of the power of these delusions. But there are solutions, if only people let those solutions happen, both on a State level and a personal level.
It’s important that we have conversations about mental illness and perceived reality. If someone’s quality of life improves because the delusions go away, that’s enormous progress.