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Julie’s Story – My Psychosis Experience

I have battled with Depression since my late teens and I had my first major episode in 2010. Three and a half years after my first major episode, unbeknown to me, I was to have my worst episode yet!

In October 2013 (after weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation due to stress), I was diagnosed with Severe Psychotic Depression. I had up until this point ignored every early warning sign of Depression (sleep deprivation, lack of appetite, disinterest in hobbies) and this lead to Psychosis development. I had become paranoid that the people around me were out to get me and I was deluded that I would be in trouble for doing something bad. As a social person, I had shut myself off from everyone. I was convinced that I smelt bad but I could not say what I smelt of. I was convinced I had made people ill with my sheer existence.

The tip of the iceberg was on 24 October 2013. After weeks of physically shaking, staring into space and feeling incredibly paranoid, I went to work and I had forgotten my password to my computer. In addition to this, our company had new phones installed and I had no idea how to use them despite reading the manual. So I was in a complete mess and had no idea what I was going to do. I had lost all confidence in my ability to do my job and forgetting my password only accentuated this. I was sent home and told not to come back into work until Monday. My boss took me home. I told her that my mum would be home as I had forgotten what day it was and had no concept of time. She reluctantly left as my mum was at work and wrote a note for my mum explaining why I had been sent home. I contacted my fiancé (Martin) and told him that I had been sent home but I could not tell him why. I only remember sitting on the stairs and him walking through the front door. By this point I had made a doctor’s appointment because “I kept forgetting things” but I couldn’t get an appointment until Monday (28 October).

Martin had bought me a box of Lindt Lindor (my favourite chocolates) and a Fleetwood Mac album earlier in the week in attempt to cheer me up but I couldn’t listen to the album as I felt the lyrics were aimed at me – I couldn’t get any enjoyment in music anymore. Later that evening I became increasingly paranoid and for some reason I believed that I could no longer trust Martin, so I asked for his key and sent him home. I watched out of the window to make sure he left and I spent quite some time looking out of windows scared that people were coming to get me.

The next morning Martin came round to look after me but in my mind he was out to get me. My mum asked what was wrong to which I replied “nothing”. She left for work making sure that Martin was going to stay and look after me. Martin had made an appointment for the doctor’s but I could not get ready as I was convinced that ALL of my clothes were dirty and smelt and that I could not possibly leave the house as a result. I became obsessed with keys and I guarded my handbag as I thought that Martin was going to take my keys. I kept telling him I needed the keys. I was scared that I would not be able to lock the doors. I can only assume that I wanted to shut people out. I was also obsessing over the news, thinking that there would be a report on the end of the world or some such. I was convinced that reporters would come to my house about the “bad thing” I had done. Martin called his sister (Miranda) as he didn’t know what to do. She came round and they tried to get me to eat and drink but they had to keep prompting me. I was convinced that all the food was out of date as I knew I hadn’t been shopping in quite some time. Miranda called the doctor and when she came off the phone she said we needed to go to the hospital. She told me I could trust her and that she wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I was very reluctant given my earlier concerns, but they eventually got me to change and get in the car.

When we got to Accident & Emergency, Miranda went in whilst Martin & I sat outside. She came and took us in and we went into a side room. A nurse came to see me and asked me questions, most of which I don’t remember. I remember her asking about the medication I was on in 2010 for Depression and I told her Mirtazapine. She said that someone from the Psychiatric Unit would be with us as soon as possible. A man came in and asked more questions – Miranda seemed to know the man and implied that “if” there was anything wrong with me, they would get to the bottom of it.

I felt like everyone thought I was lying and time wasting and that there was nothing wrong with me. A final man came in and did a psychiatric assessment on me but at the time I thought he was making it up and that he was playing along with my alleged hypochondria. After the assessment we were taken to another department to get 1 x Mirtazapine and I was sent home. I had no concept of time or how long we had spent in A & E. I don’t really recall much of the next day. I know that Martin had stayed the night and that in the evening we watched X Factor – my mum had remarked how I appeared not to be watching the programme. I could not concentrate at all, I felt completely empty.

The following day I don’t think I even got out of bed. Martin & Miranda kept coming to me and all I wanted was to be left alone. By this point I was truly convinced that I had done something massively bad and that I wanted the dream (or nightmare) to end. The out of hours doctor was called and in turn, he called an ambulance. I refused to leave the house but being only 8 stone by this point, my 6 foot 4 partner and his 6 foot sister had no trouble coercing me out of the house and into the ambulance! Miranda came with me in the ambulance and I felt like her and the paramedic were giving each other knowing looks. We arrived at AMU where I was monitored. I was given an ECG and my blood was taken throughout the night. I still thought it was all being done for show and that no-one believed anything was wrong. There was a toilet in my room but I was convinced that it was not real and so I couldn’t use it. I was also convinced that people wouldn’t be able to enter the room and that somehow, without touching the door; I had managed to lock it. When the nursing staff came round and moved things in the room, I thought I would be in trouble for it. Simple things like moving a cup or jug, table or chair – I thought I would be in trouble for moving them even though I had not touched them.

Over the next day or two, Martin and Miranda came to visit and tried to get me to eat. I was convinced that all food was out of date and that the world was ending. I thought my presence in hospital would make everyone ill and that the hospital would have to close. I thought this due to my delusion that I smelt and was dirty. I was also convinced that I had lost my job and had no friends left. I thought that Martin and I weren’t together anymore and could not understand why he and Miranda kept coming to see me.

The Crisis Team came to visit but at the time I had no idea who they were. I thought they were pretending to be healthcare professionals. There were 3 people, a male and 2 female doctors. They questioned me and the question that remains with me was when one of the doctors asked “Do you feel guilty?” It was as if the penny had finally dropped and someone finally understood. I told her that I had done something very bad but I did not know what this was. She then asked if we needed to involve the police which I told her we did not. Martin and Miranda were outside the room looking at me and crying. I thought they knew what the bad thing I had done was and that I would lose them as a result of this. I felt angry that they would leave me when I needed them most.

After more questioning the same doctor told me I would be sectioned under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act and that I would be institutionalised for a period of up to 28 days. She said that I could appeal the decision but I would have to go to Court before a Judge. I was read my rights but of course I didn’t understand any of this. I still didn’t believe I was ill and thought I was going to be in a lot of trouble for not saying anything. I was left in AMU not really understanding what anything meant. I had no understanding of simple everyday things so had no idea what had just happened – no amount of explanation could have helped.

Later that evening/the next day, the doctor and Miranda came to get me for the transfer of care. I would not walk so they put me in a wheelchair and when we got to the front door, I was once again reluctant to move. They eventually got me in the car and took me to Hospital for Acute Care. When we arrived I remember seeing lots of people sat around a table and we (Martin, Miranda & I) went into a side room. I was increasingly scared and did not want to be there. A male nurse came to us and we were showed to my room. I was sure that I had soiled myself and thought I had been doing this for some time. In my head I could not stop this. I asked staff if I was dead as I thought my hair and nails had stopped growing.

When the doctors came to see me I got even more paranoid. They asked if I was in pain and I daren’t tell them for fear of them pulling out my teeth or something similar. One of the doctors kept trying to test the “strength” of my muscles so I doubted her expertise (sorry). I was given medication but at the time I didn’t understand what for. I was on Olanzapine (anti-psychotic), Lorazepam (anti- anxiety) and Escitalopram (anti-depressant). Regardless of my lacking knowledge, I took the medication when I was called for it.

In the coming days I was too scared to leave my room. I was scared of the patients, the staff and the thought of everyone knowing I “wasn’t” ill. I thought the patients could hear my thoughts and that this would be how they knew I was not ill. I refused visitors except for Martin and Miranda; even then I didn’t want them to visit. As I was convinced that Martin and I were no longer, it only confused me when he visited everyday. I struggled to sleep as I kept having night terrors and was woken by loud bangs which at the time I thought were because I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping. (I later learnt that this was just bedroom doors when people were going to the loo in the middle of the night).

After a few days I started to come out of my room a bit more. I was still very untrusting of people and would often return to my room to try to escape. I would usually leave my room for medication & meal times and then scurry back as soon as I could. I would usually sit in the Ladies Lounge and found a couple of ladies who seemed nice. Unfortunately for me, the nice ladies seemed to leave the ward pretty quickly. I was introduced to colouring to keep me occupied. I found this very therapeutic although I thought I had the worst combination of colours. I was introduced to Rachel & we were encouraged to play Scrabble – I quickly learnt that Rachel was AMAZING with words!

Rachel was very quiet which I think I found great comfort in because whenever someone spoke to me I got scared. She would complement me, like how she liked my dressing gown (despite my thinking it was filthy!)

After a number of weeks I started to believe that what people were saying to me in conversations, was actually in my head. I thought that my thoughts were being transposed onto others. I thought that I had come up with dehydration and that it wasn’t real and that when the nurses were telling me to drink, that this was just my imagination and I wasn’t hearing what they were actually saying. When the Early Intervention Service (“EIS”) came to visit me on the ward I explained my thinking to them. I don’t remember the outcome of the conversation. I only know that more people from EIS came to see me and at the time I didn’t understand why. Again I felt that I was in some sort of trouble.

Most of my time in hospital is a hazy memory – maybe a coping mechanism of sorts. I remember closer to the time of my discharge there was a night I could not sleep. I had taken Zopliclone (which I had now been prescribed due to my sleep problems) but this had not worked. I sat up and wrote out my care plan and noted all of the occasions I had ever suffered from Depression. I also wrote a letter to Martin and Miranda, thanking them for all they had done and suggesting things I’d like to do for outings off the ward. By this time I had been made an informal patient and so was allowed to take allotted time off of the ward.

The following day I asked the nursing staff if I could go home to get some clean clothes and toiletries. I was allowed to go but had to let them know when they should expect me back. When I arrived home my mum was shocked to see me and asked who was with me – no-one. She could not believe I had walked home alone and insisted I get a taxi back with my things. Instead I asked my neighbours for a lift. When talking to my neighbours I ended up crying as I had been so nasty to Martin. They reassured me that I was not me at the time. (To this day it still upsets me that I kicked him out and pushed him away – he is my world!) My neighbours took me back to hospital and I unpacked.

Later that evening Martin and Miranda visited and we had a meeting with my lead nurse. I hadn’t felt so positive in weeks or even months. I was on a complete high. I felt so bad for being so horrid to Martin and Miranda. Martin seemed really pleased that I was more me. Miranda and the nurse were a little more sceptical and for good reason. Little did I know that the very next day I would come crashing back down. It is clear to me now that the lack of sleep had left me elated and that what goes up must come down. I had thought that I could be discharged soon given my mood but that was not to be the case. I have no idea how long the period of time was between this incident and my discharge from hospital. Shortly before my discharge I had started to make/change my bedding twice weekly and also started doing laundry – things I had not done the whole of my stay. I had also started to socialise more and cared less about people reading my thoughts. There were still occasions where paranoia would take over but then I was still unwell.

The EYE Project is a research project supported by:

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Swandean, Arundel Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3EP