How would you describe yourself to the people around you? Would you give a physical description, talk about the things you are good at, and describe your internal qualities? What if suddenly, the idea of who you thought yourself was, disappeared and what you were left with was some broken version of yourself, a shadow that you didn’t know and you weren’t sure how you had become the way you were.
That’s how it felt for me when I became very ill at the age of 23 years. It began with some very bad days in the office, days I could barely get through because I just didn’t have the energy. I would leave the gym at the end of the day dragging my feet and barely able to make it home on the bus. Then I began to cry, little things would bother me and I couldn’t concentrate on work just as I used to be able to do. Then something even stranger happened people began to say extremely rude comments to me almost as an after thought. They would tell me whatever they had to tel tell me ‘ Photocopy this for me…” then something very mean. This was particularly the case with certain people. Then I had trouble sleeping, I would lie awake all night, I began to lose weight, and I didn’t feel much like eating.
What I didn’t understand then, was that this was the beginning of a psychotic episode. To this day my doctors and I don’t know why I had it but I have never quite healed from it. Everything became so bad that I couldn’t work, I had a break down. Then I would sit at home and the thoughts in my head would go round and round and I began to hear more voices not just after comments people made to me but from the Television or Radio, from my dog. When these thoughts became nearly suicidal, I went into hospital at the Royal Alex and it was awful being there and hearing things. But one day my doctor started giving me this anti-psychotic drug called Invega and the voices stopped. What remained after my psychosis had passed was the shell of a person. A person it took me at least 3 years to get back and still even today I realize I will never be the same person I was before my unexplained psychosis.
After the psychosis followed a mini-depression. I could barely read after that and I had so much trouble filling out the application for long-term disability because my writing was very shaky and looked more like a grade 4 student’s writing then someone who had recently gotten their BA in English with a 3.7 average.
I was slow to heal. At first I could only go out for 1/2 hour before returning home exhausted. I still needed to sleep a great deal of the day and I had the sharpest burning pain in my shoulders and neck. I felt entirely lost. The conversation of my friends was too fast for me. I couldn’t go to 3/4 of the events we had planned because I didn’t have the energy. I had gone from 160lbs, a healthy weight for me, to 143 lbs, I weight I hadn’t weighed since I was 15 years old and as skinny as you could get. Soon the effects of the medication set in and my weight sky rocketed to 175 lbs. I was uncomfortable in my new fatter body and I didn’t like it. I did not have the energy to do exercise or barely more than a walk or a Pilates 20 minute DVD.
And to tell you the truth, somethings I have just never recovered from. It is 6 years later and I still have trouble concentrating and paying
attention. I have days where I can get much done and days where I can’t get anything done. My doctor’s and I are pretty sure I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after the Psychosis and I have dealt with that constantly. The other possibility is since we have most likely determined my psychosis occurred because I was so depressed, is that I have chronic fatigue from depression. But most signs point to the syndrome.
In these past years I have seem my friends develop careers, make many new friends, and start families. In many ways I feel left behind, that my path changed course and I don’t know why. And I don’t why what I have won’t heal. For me this is the biggest personal sense of loss I have felt in a long time because it as if somewhere in these past 6 years, I have lost myself, my dreams, my goals, and I’m not sure what the future holds. I just take things days by day because that’s how I can get through it.