How to recover from a very public psychosis.
September 19, 2012 11:04 AM   Subscribe

How can I get over periods of psychosis and depression by putting it behind me, gaining some experiences and achievements to make the relapses feel like less of a big deal?or How can I stop thinking about me?

Please offer some advice to help get my life on track so in a couple of years I can look back and breathe a well earned sigh of relief that this phase in my life has passed, and feel proud that I've moved on achieved a lot.

The last few years haven't gone very smoothly for me to say the least. When i was 17 I became severely depressed, eventually had a complete mental breakdown and was hospitalised just before my 18th birthday.  I managed to make a relative recovery and was discharged in time to sit my A levels and scrape into University.

Over the summer I began taking a lot of street drugs as a way of forgetting all the traumatic stuff that had happened (I had previously smoked weed regularly but avoided the harder stuff).  I had turned into a bit of an asshole by then and sometimes felt entitled to treat people badly because of what I'd been through.  My longtime girlfriend dumped me just before leaving to go to Uni.  Some months after that I had an overdose and nearly died, had to move back in with my parents and soon let Uni work slip and eventually dropped out altogether.  That aside, I started recovering again and came off the antidepressants and antipsychotics that I was on, under the supervision of my mental health team.  

I thought I'd had my last run in with mental illness and things were going well until I had a relapse into psychosis almost exactly 2 years after my first depression started.  This time it was different, I wasn't depressed, just stark raving mad, completely erratic.  I went from manic highs to dysphoric fits of terror and was sectioned, discharged, hospitalised again, discharged and then sectioned yet again right before my 20th birthday. This last time was worse because I broadcast the whole thing on facebook for all to see.  I would relentlessly update my status with personal stuff and unload all the shocking workings of my unstable mind on a second by second basis; worse still I was delusional, self-inflated to bursting point, and said some stuff that probably pissed a number of people off.  I had some bad reactions to the meds I was on so stopped taking them.  The psychosis went away and I was released a final time. (If I'm sectioned again I'm going to be there a long, long time, and the staff on the ward made that very clear).

So, it's over six months since then and I'm off all types of drugs and doing well; I'm exercising, learning to drive and taking some evening classes.  I'll probably reapply for University when I'm ready but I'd be really grateful if you could help me use my time productively until then and going forward.  My self esteem is understandably low, I feel completely pathetic for posting everything on facebook and feel that a lot of people that saw it look down on me. I hate that they have that over me.  I've alienated myself with quite a large group of people my age.

I think the best way to get my confidence back is to throw myself into life and actually do things to be proud of, also I want to be a person that is worthy of other people's respect (a bit needy, I know).  I want things going on in my life; goals set and targets reached; projects on the go; various passions and things I care and feel strongly about OUTSIDE OF MY SELF.  That's the thing, I'm very inward thinking to the point of self absorption and want to change that.  I want to focus on other things and I want to be able to take a genuine interest in other people. Ironically I want to achieve this by embarking on a journey of self improvement. I want to be a better and more well rounded person.  This is where you can get creative, what would you recommend I do to get moving in the right direction? Any ideas welcome whether big or small; clubs, hobbies, volunteer programs, music scenes, skills to acquire, trips abroad, NEW THINGS!! your own experiences with recovery or otherwise would be even better. Whatever, it's all good!

In a few years I want to be sat putting the world to rights with some dear friends I respect and admire who feel the same way about me.  Not in the same situation I am now, unable to truthfully hold interest in something outside of myself because I'm too down in the dumps and stuck in the past.  If I bump into someone who knows about my illness and asks me what I've got going on in my life I don't want to have to reel off all the awesome stuff I've got going on because by that point I won't be so insecure as to feel the need to. 

This is very long and broad I know, but it's my first ever post and I felt compelled to reach out here rather than on a mental health website because I really respect this community and think that you're a great bunch of people! Also perspectives from outside mental health might be useful.

 1. Help me forget myself, in a good way, by being immersed in cool stuff.  Or just stop my inward thinking by learning to draw my focus to something else.
       2. Any ideas for goals and projects to improve my sense of self worth and confidence; little ones and ambitious ones.

Or is this completely the wrong way to go about it? Any help appreciated.

If it helps I live in London, I'm male, and have a bit of money to fund any of the more adventurous suggestions.
posted by Erred to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Damn,you have a lot of which to be proud in the very nature and substance of this post--I will attempt to offer more a bit later. You are already doing many of the things that will continue to move you ahead.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:30 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

No matter where you go, there you are.

You can't escape your past, your mental illness, or yourself by going on grand adventures. It seems that you're starting anew with some really great initial first steps. Keep on that path. Stay small. Concentrate on being a good friend, a good family member, a good student. The opportunity for world-changing adventures may come around, or it may not, but that doesn't matter one bit.

When friends are catching up with you, they don't care how awesome or horrific your life is, they just want to know you're okay. If you say, "I'm good! The weather's nice and I'm reading a cool book," that will mean more to them than the grand adventure you're planning.

Just be you. Be the you you who is doing pretty well and has the ability to enjoy the everyday. That's probably the best thing, in my opinion, to strive for.
posted by xingcat at 11:42 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, that's some pretty deep advice in such a short time. And by the way, the weather was nice today, and I am reading a really cool book! Thanks for the support guys and that's some really sound advice xingcat.
posted by Erred at 11:53 AM on September 19, 2012

I'm sorry to hear about your depression and mental illness, but as xingcat and rmhsinc say, you have a great attitude and should focus on maintaining that however necessary.

You mentioned "I want to be a person that is worthy of other people's respect (a bit needy, I know)..."
I think it's normal to want other people's respect, but it struck me as I read your post - it might be good to keep in mind that what you want others to respect in you is often a reflection of your own desires, or even fears. Maybe it would be good to follow that somehow? That could help to give you some ideas about the future.

Although I completely agree with xingcat that grand adventures are no means with which to escape one's past or problems (living abroad, I know the fantasy all too well), a little travel when one has the resources is a wonderful way to broaden your mind.
As long as you think it would not trigger another phase of depression somehow - by losing contact with good friends/mental health team/family who keep you on track- it can be very inspiring.
In my case, it gave me some perspective about life and the world, which ultimately helped in the long road to realizing that many of my internal dramas (which fueled some aspects of my depression) were actually rather boring. ;-)
Along those lines, I hear and applaud what you are saying about "getting immersed in other stuff to distract one from oneself." An excellent insight, with the obvious caveat that if you are really feeling bad for a while, don't ignore, find help.

Maybe when you are feeling a bit down again, come back here are re-read your post, it has just the right tone (determined, inspired, realistic, reflective) and is a nice record of your accomplishments and goals. Good luck!
posted by Pieprz at 12:27 PM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I think it's great you chose this place to talk about your mental illness, I think it's a great community to be a part of and contribute in other ways as well. I don't know a lot about online recovery but I found this place psychforums to be a wonderful resource and neatly divided into sections.

I think one idea that I initially found difficult to accept, but ultimately found a lot of peace in, is that recovery from illness or addiction doesn't have to be a straight line. It's totally okay to have shitty days. I think finding a hobby and volunteering is a great idea - even better if you can combine the two.
posted by phaedon at 12:28 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just do one thing.

It doesn't really matter what that thing is.

Do one thing mindfully.

If you're washing dishes, REALLY wash the dishes. Take pleasure in the task. You have turned chaos into order! There they sit, gleaming and clean! You have Caused Positive Change!

Then do another thing. Mindfully. That stack of stuff you've been meaning to sort. Maybe do that.

But now you're halfway through and irritated and not paying attention and fuck it this sucks WAIT. STOP. Walk away. Refocus. Return. Try again.

Nibble at it.

Pile tiny tiny tiny successes into larger heaps, and soon you'll have built a foundation for bigger success.

But it all starts by doing one thing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:51 PM on September 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

Having suffered from psychosis and depression, and even having posted as you did on Facebook about it, is nothing to be ashamed of, and makes you no less a person worthy of respect than anyone else. Indeed, I have a huge amount of respect for everything you've been through, the progress you've made, and your frankness in speaking about it.

Have you spoken with any of your friends about your illnesses and about what you posted? There's a very good chance that they're seeing you in a much better light than what you imagine--especially if you've explained what was going on and that you're in a much better place now. While it is possible some of your friends will have trouble getting past this, it will absolutely be their loss.

Your approach to getting back into life is, I think, spot-on. There's no need to pressure yourself to do too many things, as long as you're enjoying the ones you do; all you need is to succeed at them to build confidence. (And it's okay to fail sometimes, too. We all fail sometimes.)

And if you ever find yourself struggling, please don't be afraid to seek help again.
posted by beryllium at 5:51 PM on September 19, 2012

Ok - this may end up getting very, very long. If it does, I'll try to put a TL:DR tag on it.

I read this at work on my lunch break, but waited until I was home so I could give you a good, long, thoughtful response. I'm not even sure where all this will go.

First thought: You're already a person worthy of others' respect. You've done a lot. You've overcome a lot. You're looking to improve yourself. You have my respect. Sometimes, at least for me, I find that I feel like I owe the world a reason for my existence, as though it's not enough simply that I exist. However, it is enough simply that I exist. You don't have a tab you have to pay back to the universe for the privilege of existing.

Secondly, my husband has suffered through both major depressive episodes and a psychotic break at one point. It's been hard watching someone you love go through that. I think a nice thing you could do now, if you haven't, is to tell your parents you appreciate them standing by you and helping you when you needed it. It will probably mean a lot to them, even if they don't show it, and will make you feel good too.

When dealing with your friends, honesty is probably the best policy. If you called out a specific friend in your Facebook posts, apologize. Keep it simple. "I'm sorry I called you a jerk on Facebook. I was not in my right mind. You're a good friend and I'm sorry it happened." Then let it go, let it be part of the past. I've dealt with a few friends who have gone through some pretty significant mental health issues. The ones that upset me were the ones who apologized to me every time they saw me for years for their behavior during Their Bad Time. If you apologize, and I accept your apology, and keep seeing you afterwards - this means it's ok. (it doesn't mean do it again and again and again, as you know - just - shit happens, we all do weird/stupid/socially unacceptable things. It's ok). If they still want to hang out with you, it means they recognize who you are now, and where you are now. Accept that it means it's ok and they still like you, even though you had some rough times.

Sometimes, that acceptance is the hardest thing to do. My husband had a hard time accepting that his friends still liked him, that I still loved him, despite what had happened. It's easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself.

And to be honest, I love him because of what happened. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but I love his strength, his persistence, the person who he is now - and he wouldn't be that person if he hadn't gone through Bad Times.

I digress.

As for what to do to be outside yourself - volunteering is a great way to do this. I'm from the U.S., so I will be recommending things that may not be entirely relevant to the U.K., but maybe they will give you jumping off points.

Animal shelter - our local animal shelter needs people to walk dogs and brush cats to get them socialized. Animals tend to be pretty forgiving of personality quirks as long as you're kind to them.

Food bank - stocking food on the shelves is a good way to remind yourself of the things you have that are good - parents who love you, a home, consistent food, the possibility of returning to University

Library - Libraries here often need volunteers to re-shelve books. I find it to be very meditative. Also, you occasionally get to help people find something they are looking for, and that feels good.

Medical clinic - I'm not sure if this is a good match for you or not, especially since I know the UK system is much different than the US. Here in the US, we have what we call low-income clinics for those who make too much money to qualify for state funded healthcare, but not enough money to pay for insurance or their own care. I work as a counselor to help those people apply for aid programs. I feel I do a good job because there is a lot of societal shame around needing to apply for these programs, but I was once on them myself. I am able to be kind and sympathetic and tell them my story and that there is no shame in needing help. I could see you possibly being able to do this for folks who were uncomfortable about seeking help for mental health issues. However, you'd need to be in a very good spot yourself mentally to do this, so I feel that I should be cautious in this recommendation.

One thing that I found really helpful was to read Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath and do the associated quiz. It really helped me to identify areas where I excel. You could then take that information and see where you could apply it to volunteering. Say you were really good at planning and organizing. Maybe you could help a non-profit organize their filing system or database, that sort of thing. Finding your strengths and then learning how to apply them in the world will help reinforce your recovery.

Finally, understand that you don't need to be amazing. You don't need to "make up for what happened". You went through a hellish period and worked your way out again. You've changed and grown. You can just be you - wonderful, human, you.
posted by RogueTech at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

What everyone else said. Good for you. You are on the right track.

I always recommend Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour and I think you will find it very funny and a great resource for being sure of yourself in the interpersonal realm.
posted by tel3path at 2:27 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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