You are surrounding all my surroundings,
Sounding down the mountain range of my left-side brain,
Twisting the kaleidoscope behind both of my eyes. – Holding On To You; Twenty-One Pilots
Psychosis – n. – a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.
My doctor told me back in 2012, “I wouldn’t tell people you were in psychosis, because people think psychosis, they think psychotic, and they will label you as psychotic.” …So naturally I went and did the exact opposite! Ignoring Doc’s advice, I told most everybody about this crazy thing that had happened to me.
If anyone who knew me back then remembers, we really did think for a long time that it was onset by a severe adverse reaction to ketamine in anesthesia from my wisdom teeth surgery. That is an insufferable sentence to both read and write. Anyway, it wasn’t until 2014 that it became clear this was a product of my bipolar (though it still could have been charged from the surgery).
I started writing a book about this experience in the mania following. I don’t think this book will ever get finished for a lot of reasons. Psychosis takes the cake 100% for scariest time of my life…but also the most fascinating. It wasn’t until this experience that I fully came to know just how powerful and complex the brain is.
So, I’m going to give a very brief account of that summer.
I got my wisdom teeth out August 1, 2012. I was admitted to the hospital on August 16. This would be just 2 days before I was supposed to move in to Clemson University. Upon my arrival, the hospital thought that I was on drugs (Side note: I have never done drugs). I actually thought that my parents had drugged me, which they would obviously never do. Once they scanned me and found I was clean, it didn’t take too long to figure out what was really taking place.
Rewind to the night before I went to the hospital. I hadn’t had but maybe 4 hours of sleep in 3 days. I couldn’t sleep because my mind would not shut down. I started having all kinds of delusions about my life. The main one being I thought that the guy who I had just broken up with was proposing to me (yikes). I simultaneously thought my life was being recorded for a TV show. I started to go on a Twitter binge saying personal stuff about me and my family that didn’t make much of any sense. I Facebook messaged maybe 30 people saying mostly incoherent things. I was talking in code and constantly decoding what people were saying to me (when, in reality, there was nothing to decode).
I went to a second hospital, and things only got worse. I was in a walking nightmare. I thought everyone was watching me and things took a turn for the scarier. Suddenly, some kind of Nazi Germany scenario took over and my mind applied it to current day. My parents were allowed to visit once a day, but I just wanted to get out of there.
Once I finally got to go home after about a week, my delusions spiraled further out of control. My sight and hearing became monstrously amplified. Everything, colors and light, were so bright and vivid. Sounds were way louder. My delusions grew and played off each other. I wasn’t seeing people who weren’t there or anything, my mind was simply ascribing to real people things that weren’t true. Anything anyone said to me was something I had to decipher.
I remember my mom read the same couple of verses to me when I woke up terrified each morning. I remember saying I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. One of verses was Psalm 94:19, which says, “When anxiety was great within me, Thy consolations delighted my soul.” I held on to that truth when I had nothing to go off of but lies my brain was telling me.
I walked around different settings in this state with my parents. I remember going to the nearest shopping center and feeling like everyone was watching and talking about me–they weren’t. I remember going to my old high school’s football games and thinking they were all staged for some kind of ploy that furthered the story-line in my mind. I was in the middle of a sham of a war. But to me, it felt real. My parents would tell me over and over again, “You are not believing the truth.” or “That’s not real. We will help you tell what is the truth and what is real.”
When I finally came back to reality– almost a month after its onset, I was shattered. What in the world just happened to me? And why am I not allowed to talk about it?
I was supposed to go on with my life like nothing had happened at all.
If anyone asks, say, “you weren’t yourself for a while.”
Psychosis is a strange phenomenon. I don’t think it’ll ever be completely understood. The brain is far more paramount than we will ever be able to comprehend.
So that was the sparknotes of what happened–the kaleidoscope behind my eyes.(never again.)