Talking About Psychosis

Yesterday my nieces asked me about when I was sick. They had moved back into town just after I became floridly psychotic. My niece said, “You weren’t the Deas we knew in Dallas.”

It’s really hard to describe to people how psychosis can be so devastating. Descriptions of strange thoughts or beliefs and hallucinations don’t really delve into the emotional fear and confusion. Similarly, describing something to older teens who don’t have the benefit of many years of lived experience makes it even more difficult.

One of the things I told them was to call an ambulance next time I start acting strange, which launched a conversation about how they felt I had “wanted” to be in that crazy state in which they found me. Horrified, I quickly corrected them and, as best I could, tried to describe how when I was psychotic I didn’t know I was sick. Agnosia often plays a role in schizophrenia. Nobody chooses to suffer like that.¬†Intervention is what I want.

Forced medications and forced hospitalization is a big topic for people with psychotic disorders. Many families and loved ones struggle with the issue as they watch their friend, brother or sister, child or parent spiral into madness. While there is not a single clear-cut answer, I do think achieving a functional stability should be the end-goal for anyone with psychotic illnesses, especially when we can’t make good choices for ourselves.

Healing the Mind

While researching, I happened upon The World Health Organization (WHO) 100-some odd page 2012 document about rates of schizophrenia across the globe. The problem is, largely half of the report is about depression. The WHO apparently thinks sz and depression are similar enough to lump together in one large bucket. To further confuse things, I looked up Mood Disorder and found it includes alcoholism and substance abuse along with bipolar disorder. “Mood Disorder” is a term psychologists like to use. My own neurobehaviorist preferred to call sz a “thought disorder” — a status it shares with psychosis. Let’s not make this more confusing than it already is, however.

Schizophrenia is a neurobiological disorder, in the same company as Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Autism. I did not learn this from my doctor, for as you recall, he prefers another term, a term which some argue is vague and circular along the lines of “psychotic disorder.”

To make matters worse, schizophrenia shares common characteristics with brain injuries, such as confusion, disorientation, and poor judgment. Agnosia, or an inability to know one is sick or injured, can also be present in both psychosis and schizophrenia, but it is a hallmark of brain injury. Schizophrenia can be present with a brain injury, also called comorbid schizophrenia. Very few people argue diseases or injuries to the brain are not among the most serious, debilitating ailments. Right? The question is, why is schizophrenia, more often than not, placed with depression and alcoholism, than with true, physical changes in the brain that cause permanent disease and disability?

The myth persists that schizophrenia is a result of some emotional trauma and the person who suffers is simply not a resilient person. We must dispel this myth and displace psychosis and schizophrenia from the likes of an out-of-control scary Hollywood outburst to where it rightfully belongs, as an injury to the most crucial and critical part of the body. As long as we continue to lump sz together with emotional upsets, we strike not only at the heart of the individual, we also miss the target entirely. In this way, we will never find healing.

Bad Memory

I have a bad memory, not to mention that my memory is poor as well.

Unfortunately, since my psychosis, my memory only seems to serve up the worst leaving no room for the new. I was also so inundated by sensory experience (and extensive auditory hallucinations) I could hardly pay attention to what was happening around me, outside of myself; these events were among the first to bypass my memory altogether.

As the psychosis subsided, I started to notice an inability to focus or concentrate. Conceptual information never entered into my memory, for it simply didn’t exist. As the side effects from the medications wore off, I find now that my memory simply doesn’t work like it once did, before all of this happened. It seems the associations I make now all refer back to that shattered space.

Be patient and forgiving of those with schizophrenia and psychosis — their memory may be affected by any number of things, to include psychic trauma, overwhelming symptoms, sedating medications, changing brain chemistry, and that one thing that gets us all in the end. Age.