Written by Martha Valiquette
Sitting poolside in southwest Mexico dreaming of buying a wee little apartment. Just a two bedroom in a nice spot. We could leave our house to our grown son or let it out for six months of the year. What a tidy little life we would have now that we are both retired, hubby and I. We would go to the beach every morning to do a bit of yoga. Swim. Eat tons of guacamole and ceviche. The odd margarita. Mmmmm. A tidy, little life.
Ah, but there’s a wrinkle in said plan.
If I’m not absolutely careful with medications, (yes, plural) sleep, sun, frivolity, bloodwork and following up with both medical and psychiatric doctors as well as talk therapy with a social worker. If I’m not on top of this thing, I could easily be poolside talking to an invisible Virgin Mary. You see, mental illness is not tidy. Nor is it little. But it is life.
I am blessed in many ways, and some have told me that I ‘have it all’. If by that you mean waking up out of a dead sleep in the grips of a panic attack with lifelike apparitions about, then, yes. I do have it all. Or being amped up such that sleep is just impossible. Then yes. I do. You see, the amped up aspect means hypomania. Hypomania is dangerous as it makes me lose my sense of judgment. I also just get downright pushy and annoying, argumentative.
Let’s touch on another true danger. Suicidal thoughts and plans can occupy my racing mind when hypomania settles into my tidy little life. In order to combat the situation, I second and third guess everything I do and say. I will often get quiet and sensitive and will overthink even the tiniest of decisions. Should I have a coffee or not. Maybe I should never have coffee again. Ok. Maybe I’ll only have coffee every other day but only if it’s sunny and definitely only if it’s before noon on Monday on my patio and only if a squirrel is watching while checking another nut. And on and on it goes. Yes, shades of Rainman.
From hypo to full on mania is just a step away. Maybe a few sleepless, lonely, frustrating and scary nights. With full on mania, I talk to and touch everyone. I call folks at 3 in the morning repeatedly. When talking to complete strangers in the street or in a shop I take hold of their hand and tell them about their life and what to do with it while eerily urging them to look deeply into my eyes. Believe it or not, some folks do actually play along. I think, ‘Bless them’. Hubby is like ‘ok Marti, this is the last one.’
The next step after mania is psychosis. Straight-jacket thrown into a rubber room psychosis. Injected with an embarrassing amount of sedative that usually needs repeating to be at all effective. I’ve been psychotic twice. I was unrecognizable even to myself. I escaped the locked psych ward of our area hospital and with a johnny coat flapping, knee socks and Birkenstocks I was running home. It was February. It was dark and minus 20 Celsius but, see, no judgment. Two old ladies encouraged me to get into their warm car then they called 911. I have no idea who they were, but they likely saved my life that night.
Text © Martha Valiquette
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You’re absolutely right. People walk around with a smile on their faces while they are dying or suffering inside. Reach out. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Nicole!
Thank you so much Pebble. Since I have started to open up a strange phenomenon has occurred. Others have also started opening up to me. The next thing they will say is ‘I’ve never told anyone that.’ We need to be open in order to help. It is improving, I feel. Thanks a mil for taking the time and making the effort to comment. (There’s more of my personal psychosis stories on my blog at playinwiththeplayers.blog category: mental illness. )
Thank you for sharing your experience with psychosis. It takes a lot of courage to open up about such a personal and difficult journey. It is wonderful to hear that you were able to receive help and support from strangers during a difficult time. It is important to remember that mental health struggles are not a sign of weakness, and seeking help is a strength. Sending you love and support.
This is beautifully written and shines a light on mental health. no one has any idea what goes inside of someone else.