I had never heard of Depressive Psychosis until I lived through it




This is a very personal story of a recent experience that has changed, and will be affecting my life probably the  rest of my life.

I have worked mostly full time since I was 16. I have been a nurse in various settings for over 23 years. I have been a volunteer at the humane society weekly or biweekly for 18 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in comparative religion, an associates in nursing, a bachelors in nursing and a masters degree in nursing. 

I have been married for 20 years to my first and only boyfriend and we have raised two children together, and live in a home that is nearly paid off.

So why when I was 50 years old was I sitting in a car arguing in my head that I had to go to work (while very ill with a severe migraine that I was having repeatedly over the last two weeks) with invisible voices telling me that I had to leave town and follow the green arrow I was seeing in front of me on the road?  I ended up driving until it was dark and finally stopped at hotel near the border of my state, I also ended up having a horrible night of paranoia where I felt no one could be trusted and I was being attacked during the night. The next day and night I spent listening to the voices telling me to wait at various locations, side streets, parking lots etc while I felt things leaving me or attacking me.

I finally turned on my cellphone and got a call from my manager wondering why I did not show up for work. I explained I felt like I almost died ( I had felt like this actually and even saw a light, and wasn’t sure how to get to it) and I had been sick. She told me she would send out a resignation letter. I had been working there for3 ½ years.  .I did call a relative, but just said I wasn’t feeling well. My car battery was dead and I had a few dollars.  I spent this on some soup as I hadn’t eaten in days. This was the start of my staying in my house for over two months.

My husband, when I got home, felt I was not talking  or acting right (I wasn’t) and took my kids, my car keys, my wallet and cell phone and left. He would return off and on. My children were were gone a few weeks. I didn’t know what day it was. some days seemed to last only hours and I was being told by the voices that we were going forward and back in time.  My husband and family and an old friend I hadn’t seen for over a year started to  stop by with food randomly and try to get me to go to the doctor. I kept saying what is a doctor going to do? What I meant, but didn’t say was a doctor couldn’t possibly help me when I was being assaulted by spirits. I was afraid to leave the house. 

Since then I have learned that when a person has a psychotic episode, telling them that they are sick, and need help can be futile. Dr. Xavier Amador, a psychiatrist with a close family member who suffered from a mental illness for years, explains this phenomena in a TEDx talk entitled "I'm not sick, I don't need help"  The link is : https://YouTube.be/NXxytf6kfPM

At one point in January my birth mother (I was adopted) who I don’t see or talk to very often was dropped off by my husband from out of town to stay with me for a week or so, and this was very confusing to me. She told me I Should sign up for SSI, I didn't even believe there was still internet, or a world still going on outside around me. I thought she had dementia, and I was to now take care of her. 

One morning she said I had a doctor appointment and held the doors and my husband literally picked me up. He physically carried me kicking and screaming and put me into the car to take me to the nearest hospital. It was a horrible experience, I screamed I hated him and swore at him. At first I refused to get out of the car but eventually relented. I was paranoid, and wouldn’t speak to the staff.

At one point I went out the door and was intent on walking home in January snow with no coat, and staff called the police. The police were the same that had spoken with me before, and they were irritated by having to again deal with me and my craziness. They physically lifted me by my arms/walked me back into the room and kept me on surveillance standing in the door way of my room. I was there from 10 am until 6:30pm. During that time the nurse only came in a few times. Once to put in an IV in and get an EKG, and once to randomly jab a catheter at me with my pants down with police, other staff and security guards standing around the bed with me swearing at them. I asked  her “where did you go to nursing school”? as I knew this was not the correct way to insert a catheter. Ironically, she was wearing a hospital logo t shirt that said something like she was a 'healing angel.'

They gave me an injection of Haldol by pulling my pants down with everyone yet again standing around the bed. They put me in wrist restraints and had the bedrails up. The haldol, and being restrained  just increased my anxiety. It seemed to put me in a panic state. Eventually I convinced one of the guards to untie the restraints and give me some water. I had to ask three times for crackers as I hadn’t eaten since the day before. Eventually they released me back to my husband. I would have gone home with anyone else in the parking lot I was so upset with him. I found out later that I had been chaptered.

I called the police in February to say my children were gone and hadn’t seen them in weeks. (My husband would take my phone and bring it back.) I usually left it off anyway.  The police woman just stood and looked at me and said “you need to get some help” and left. I would spend my days sleeping, scribbling pages of symbols I was seeing and, being attacked by smells, sensations, voices and visions.

My husband would come and go and bring me food. I usually would not speak to him as I was paranoid. Sometimes he would videotape me or take my picture. He took the tv out of the house, but I wasn’t watching it anyway.

At one point my husband called 911 and paramedics, firemen and police all stood in my dining room and kitchen. My husband had said I was suicidal. I could have been, depending on how bad the assaults were by the voices, visions and sensations and if I was able to sleep through the night, but I had no plans and really no means as he had taken out all knives and pills. I also knew that I would not do that to my children.

I asked the fireman: “where is the fire?’. The police had been at my house a few times and were always rude to me, and condescending, so I was starting to be flippant which was really not like me. Standing over me and rolling their eyes and exhaling when I asked if I could say a silent prayer for a few moments because I was overwhelmed. They eventually left again and told me again i needed help.

There were other things, but I won’t mention everything. This all went on from mid December to March. Finally in March my husband kept at me, questioning me what my plans were. He was hovering over me and I was saying I wanted a divorce. I went in the kitchen and broke two plates that had written on them“Blessed” and started swearing at him and hitting him. He weighs 100lb more than me and is 7 inches taller than I am. He called his sister who came and held my arms. My husband blocked the upstairs. I wanted to run upstairs and take off my clothes so they couldn’t take me back to that hospital. I had done this before, as there were no locks on any of the doors.

The first policeman came in the front door with his hands on his gun. I said “what are you going to shoot me?” They all came at me and threw me on the floor face down, broke my left wrist and handcuffed me. I had bruises everywhere for weeks after. I screamed and screamed, like a banshee is the best way to describe it. I started belching from the anxiety feeling nauseous and repeated "I am a person and that is my house" over and over. One policeman said "don't puke on my shoes" They wrapped my legs in a strap and on the way to the car took out the stun gun because I wouldn’t get into the car. That got me into the car. Unfortunately, I knew one of the policeman -he was a neighbor and family friend. I embarrassingly singled him out and said I know you I know your son -he is a wonderful boy, I've been to your house, why are you doing this to me? I kept repeating myself. He just looked down and shook his head.

My sock and shoe came off and I asked if the police could help me to put them back on, and they said they couldn’t -they didn’t have any gloves. I was taken to the county psych and diagnosed- after the woman there asked me a couple questions -with psychosis which i couldn't believe at the time. I had only the clothes I was wearing and could only recall my brothers cell phone number who happens to be a lawyer.  I called and called him on the free public phone that was hanging on the wall.Iit was the middle of the night (I didn’t know this and there were no clocks or windows where I was) and he wasn’t picking up. Finally he called back and he said I may have to stay until Thursday. I asked him what day it was, it was Monday.

The next day, after spending the night amongst other patients all of us sitting in recliner chairs in a large room someone told me this is just a holding area.  A psychiatrist without a name tag came up to me ( I asked to see his credentials  and when he pulled his name badge out, it looked like it was ancient and said Dr.. not MD or DO or psychiatrist. )He had stopped me while I was pacing in front of all the people in the holding area, and started questioning me. I was thinking what about HIPPA?  There was also a staff member sleeping behind the desk during the night. I kept feeling I was not in the real world.

The staff and a different Doctor came and said they wanted to send me somewhere else. By ambulance. I didn’t want to go, as I was paranoid of being in the ambulance and didn’t feel I needed one and I knew they are very expensive. I said take me by car, just not with handcuffs. I refused to lie on the stretcher. They surrounded me and took me to a back room where there was a mat on the floor with four point restraints. I started crying and they gave me an injection that was a sedative, versed I think. I was just so grateful they did not put me in restraints. When I got into the ambulance I was still awake a few minutes and I asked "how many people have died in here?" His answer was not many.

I passed out  in the ambulance, and I woke up much later at the psych ward with a wrist splint on. I had been taken in the interim to a hospital I found out much later, and had a wrist xray and CT,and was unconscoius the entire time. I found this out by receiving over four thousand dollars in medical bills on that day from another area hospital.

I ended up staying in the locked psych ward for two weeks. There was a huge turnaround of patients, some obviously on drugs, others obviously with severe mental illness and they were being discharged after only a few days and I still stayed. I had to wait for a court date for hitting my husband and breaking two plates, at least that is what the police report said.The same friend that had visited me at home, and one relative came to visit me off and on during the two weeks and they were my life line. But they would both say they wanted me to take antipsychotics and that I was very sick. One kept telling me stories of mundane activities in the family and that would upset me because I was locked up and felt my world had ended. She would also say " you have to stop your behaviors"  I would then become upset and walk away. I was afraid to take antipsychotics.  

I would call other relatives on the hall phone when it was allowed, and they would all say, " you need help." I was thinking, I'm in a locked psych ward... isn't that enough? I would hang up.

In my job previously as a nurse, I  had patients on psych meds with psych diagnosis and they lived in group homes and nursing homes,  so I was afraid that might happen to me. My one friend would come regularly and hold me like a child and I would cry and cry and tell her about my experiences and she would wipe my tears. One of the staff asked me if i thought I would ever see my children again and that comment was traumatizing to me. I was even afraid I would stop being able to recall my children's faces and their voices. I had to attend group therapy which mostly consisted of coloring and sticker art and talking about how to set boundaries and relax. Another reason I felt this could not be my life, my reality.

I convinced the psychiatrist to first try antidepressants. I actually went to court (In total disbelief this was actually happening) with an appointed lawyer ,and  they argued whether I was bipolar or psychotic. The final decision was that it was depressive psychosis. I was then told I was on probation for two months I had to take my medication witnessed everyday amongst other things.I continued to hear voices, have visions and sensations while in the hospital, but I was paranoid and thought I would be locked up for life so I denied this when asked. During the night I woke up and had screams that I still had to release. I knew I couldn't actually scream out loud again as I had seen them take down another pt give her a sedative and put her in a room with four point restraints. Of course this was upsetting and did not want this to happen to me. So I would scream internally in my mind and my body somehow released them successfully because thathasn't happened to me since.

When I was finally discharged I requested to be brought to a shelter because I was afraid to return home and wanted a restraining order from my husband and no one else would, or could take me in. That was my darkest time. I felt everyone was not who I had always thought they were and I felt more alone than I ever had my entire life. For the first time in my adult life I had no job, no money and was not sure I would be able to ever work again. Finally after a few days there, I became very afraid of living on the streets.  It  was only a short term place, and some there had lived on there the streets and were often talking about having to return. I was also so bored during day I would alternate between pacing, and picking up the tons of litter outside in the streets and in the lot of the shelter with a huge garbage bag for something to do. 

 I finally called my husband. I hadn’t spoke to him since the arrest. I hadn’t called or texted him for months. He agreed to visit me. He then after a week agreed to take me home. I couldn’t believe it was actually him and that he was picking me up. I kept my medication in my pocket and even slept with it in my pillow case paranoid that he would take it and tell the court I was not following the court orders. I would have severe anxiety when I would hear sirens unfortunately we live near the police and fire station. I also would and still get upset seeing police or police cars..

After about three weeks on the medication I could see during all this time I had not been acting right. I was no longer hearing feeling or seeing  anything. When I finally felt my head was clearing  I was so embarrassed at what happened, and the guilt I felt was overwhelming to me. When my children returned I cried and held my sons hand and would not let it go for a long time. I hugged my daughter and apologized to both.  It was a few days before everything I encountered made me anxious or made me cry.

 After a month,  I really knew that my mind was so much better. My husband could tell this as well.  I called everyone to apologize. I repeatedly apologized to my husband, until he finally asked me to stop.

I started to apply for jobs and my husband allowed me to drive again. I would have panic attacks every few hours, and did not want to be at home. I was very dependent on my husband to be in close proximity and didn’t like to be alone. It took 2 months for me to get into see a psychiatrist after discharge and I started seeing a therapist weeklly on my own because that hadn’t been scheduled at my discharge for over three  months.

I can tell I am not the same person, but I am getting better everyday. I had been collecting crystals and Buddist, Christian, religious and shamanic items for years and my husband felt they may have been the probem and took them all away. He finally returned them on the condition I get rid of them. I have been selling most online, and would like to keep a few special items.

Since then I have been researching psychosis. I found a wonderful site that publishes stories of people that have had psychotic experiences: http://davidsusman.com. I am truly surprised at the general stigma of mental illness I encountered during my experiences. I would have never believed this could happen to me, or anyone.

For many years I was sensitive to visions and voices here and there, and would often see spirits or hear music, but was able to live day to day without sharing with anyone except my husband, he didn't understand and didn't want to know which I understood. I attended shaman workshops, bought books on spirit attachment and life after death, tried meditation, yoga, healers, hypnosis. I bought crystals, tried smudging my home. I even went with my husband to Thailand to get a Sak yant- a blessed tattoo by a old Cambodian Shaman Ajarn and tried just about everything to clear myself of what was continuously ‘haunting’ me over the years .It was a full time job just looking for the answer, and the solution. It consumed me to not know and in all that time  I never guessed it may be psych related. 

I know now it was psychological, but it also must be spiritual as it has changed the way I see everyone and everything. I was adopted, and recently found out in my birth family there has been a lot of mental illness in past generations even as close as my maternal grandmother. This whole ordeal has been traumatizing for me, my husband and children. One positive result however is that my husband and I are actually working daily at our relationship and marriage which we were not before all of this happened.  I still have daily anxiety attacks, but appreciate my husband, home and children so much more than I could ever imagine. I still sometimes feel not normal and sometimes get confused or anxious in some situations. But I consciously work hard everyday to improve my relationships, and of course everything  -yes everything is now put in perspective in comparison to what happened. I think if Ive learned anything, being alone in the world with only the clothes on my back for weeks, is that the most important thing in life are those you love and care about and that care about and love you. Everything else is not as important. Nurturing your relationships should be priority number one, because at the end of life what really matters is love and connection.

 

 

 

 

 

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