Psychosis is something I have been afraid to talk about with anybody, even on here it has not been easy.
I did post once whilst developing mild psychotic symptoms, which you can find here, but in this post I will explain my experiences as far as I can understand them.
When I was initially discovering (for the second time) that I may be bipolar, I saw the symptoms of severe depression and mania – psychosis, including visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations an delusions. I remember immediately thinking “I don’t have that, I’m not crazy” and left the idea at that, but began to research bipolar disorder and came across a youtuber who discussed some of her experiences with psychosis and started to realise that wasn’t quite true.
The problem was I didn’t think anything of these experiences, I thought they were normal. They happen to everyone, and this is because they do happen to everyone. Occasionally, from time to time, a completely normal person may experience one of these symptoms. The difference, I started to believe, was when these were occurring multiple times a day.
Early teenage years and symptoms
I remember psychotic experiences from quite a young age in relation to when bipolar is usually identified. Between the ages of 11 and 15 I significantly remember the following experiences.
- I would misinterpret sounds and hear my own name. This would often happen either when I was in a quiet room, or listening to music, I would hear what I think is a real sound, but my mind would mis interpret this to hear a person calling my name. I remember at 13 walking around my house with a skateboard convinced somebody was calling me from within the house.
- I saw shadow figures out of the corner of my eye. Again, similarly with the previous experience I would see what I do believe is a real shadow, but completely misinterpret it’s shape and positioning to create a shadow figure. Every time this would make me jump and check back to see what it was, unless I was alone and I would just run and place my back against the wall and stand there in complete silence..
- I was convinced that I had been abused. During what I now understand to be a severe depression episode when I was around 13-14 left me in so much pain, and so detached from the world around me that I was convinced that I had been abused in every possible way and was suffering due to this. I hated everybody around me, thinking they were out to hurt me. I would scream at my family and constantly run away from my friends, I had no way of calming down my mind that was creating such horrible realities and convincing me of their validity. (This is known as a delusion)
Teenage Years and full Psychosis
During my teenage years my symptoms became quite severe at times, it is a surprise to me that I never became hospitalised, It is difficult to remember exactly how and when these events occurred, they are often accompanied at this stage by alcohol which makes things so much worse. These occurred between the ages of 16 and 20.
- Ghostly figures. This is something that started in my teenage years that I still experience today, I see ghostly figures of people. They are clear as day, but always fade away and they are never animated. Once I was asleep and dreamt that I had woken up and there was a zombie’s hand holding on to the side of my bed. I dreamt that I woke up again and saw the same hand. this repeated until I finally woke up, and did not dare to look for a few minutes, checked that I was awake. I turned and instead of a zombie’s hand there, it was a ghostly hand that faded away leaving me feeling chilled to the core.
- Believing zombies were in the streets. Whilst I did not ‘see’ the zombies, I had delusional thoughts that the streets were littered with a zombie outbreak, I was so convinced that I would sprint home, house key prepped to get inside as fast as possible, then proceed to search the house and ensure everything was fully locked before attempting to sleep.
- Shadow figures (again). This continued but worsened as I got older. During an episode of severe depression I would lay awake at night, petrified at the sight of a shadowy figure holding a knife standing in the doorway. This image led to multiple panic attacks as I struggled to convince myself it was not real, it couldn’t be he’s not moving. If it was real, he would come at me surely?
- Seeing faces. This one is one that has developed somewhat overtime. This started off as seeing face shapes – eyes, nose mouth etc. In the shadows of walls and everyday objects. Then I started seeing these outlines in bushes, more and more objects and scenery. Now when I see the faces they range from this interpretation of shapes to full ghostly figures of faces.
- Fully blown psychosis. Disclaimer – I do not remember much of these experiences where I fully lost my mind. These occurred during a time where I was already exhibiting manic symptoms, hyperactive and destructive behaviours which included drinking too much. The alcohol exaggerated the effects of the mania and I believe caused me to go over the edge and completely de stabilise. So as I said I had been drinking, and then I would enter a fit of complete rage. I barely remember screaming at people, throwing things, lashing out at them being physically violent. I don’t remember what I thought exactly, but just that they wouldn’t leave me alone, were trying to hurt me. I was never hospitalised, only restrained until I would pass out from the alcohol. When I would wake up I would have crashed into severe depression.
Recent symptoms and realisation
So as i had been researching I started to notice weird things that were happening to me that made me question my initial reaction of ‘I don’t have this’. The confusing part is some of these are much milder as they happened far more recently I can actually remember them, they are things that do happen to people from time to time. These have all happened in the last couple of years since I started to really pay attention to my symptoms.
- Flinching or ducking from things that weren’t there. This one happened a lot a few months ago, I would find myself in a shop going about my normal business when all of a sudden I would see something come flying towards me and I would flinch, or I would be cooking and I would duck thinking an overhead cupboard was falling down. It surprises me that nobody noticed this, or if they did they didn’t mention anything, surely it must have looked really odd?!
- Hearing voices. This happened to me only the other day, I was opening the safe at work and as I was putting in the combination I heard loads of whispering to my left. I jumped and backed up against the wall then realised what had happened, it was so terrifying for that split second. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, there were too many things being said at once.
- Thinking people were plotting against me. This one is a little touchy for me because again it happened recently, and it happened to me at work where I believed my team were plotting ways to get me fired. I used to sneak down the stairs thinking I’d catch them out, I was awful and I am so ashamed of how I behaved towards these people due to these beliefs. The slightest mistake and I would think it was on purpose, I was so untrusting and aggressive. I am so lucky that things are better now.
- Feeling bugs on me. This happens all the time. It’s bizarre, I feel like there’s a spider or something crawling on me. Even if i look and see there is nothing there, or touch my arm/face/wherever i am experiencing this, it does not go away I can still feel them crawling around on my skin. It is horrible.
I am quite lucky that in recent years I have not become fully overtaken by psychotic symptoms, merely experienced milder versions. I believe this is partially due to starting antipsychotics when I was misdiagnosed as borderline.
UPDATE – MY COUNSELLOR THINKS I AM POSSESSED?!
Okay so I had to add this in. I have just gotten back from an appointment with a counsellor and I finally decided this was something I wanted to open up about. As soon as I mentioned seeing or hearing things that aren’t real he said that Jesus heals many people from being possessed by evil spirits. This is so invalidating, I have a real illness that does these things I am not possessed or insane, I still have my awareness. I usually know these are not real and they are hard to experience, what a disappointment!
I don’t know everything about bipolar disorder but I know it affects everybody differently, some experience similar symptoms to these and others do not. I believe if I lived in the USA I would be umbrellaed under either BP1 or schizoaffective BP. However the DSM5 does allow for psychotic symptoms in BP2 now so… who knows.
I’d love to hear what other people have experienced and if I am on my own with this one or not. Let me know!