When was the last time you heard a story about psychosis? I’m guessing it’s been a while for most of you. Bipolar is a bitch, but psychosis is the bitchiest of bitches. Imagine a nightmare you can’t awake from or possibly a bad acid trip. I am one of the lucky 50% of Bipolar patients that experience psychosis. My first experience with this monster happened in the fall of 2008. I had been off meds for a few years and was in the middle of planning my wedding. The week before Thanksgiving I decided to go to my family doc because I was having some pretty intense anxiety. I briefly explained my symptoms and history of depression and he gave me a prescription for Zoloft. He patted me on the knee and said “If I were to pull over 10 cars on the street, 1 in 10 drivers would have clinical depression. This pill will make you be you without all those bad feelings.” It was a rushed visit and I quickly went to the pharmacy to get this happy pill then to the grocery for a bottle of wine which I drank all by myself (this is never a good idea when you’re having symptoms). I started the drug the next day. Didn’t notice many side effects for the first couple days, but at some point I stopped sleeping and was eating and drinking very little. I was in a full-blown manic episode (anti-depressants can induce mania in people with bipolar).
This is where it starts to get blurry. Even though I was extremely sleep deprived and was on an emotional rollercoaster, I continued going to work. I was so worried about letting people down and afraid of losing my job. I managed to complete my work, but at some point I took my boss into an office and completely went off. I have no idea what I was saying, but my anger exploded on her. I walked out and drove straight home. I emailed my boss in the middle of the night to let her know I would not make it in the next day. That was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving Day I had gone about 4 days with little to no sleep and I was officially in Crazyville. Somehow I got dressed, did my make-up and hair, and showed up at my future husband’s grandfather’s house with a smile on my face. I can remember my vision being blurry and I was talking a lot. I kept smiling and rolling my eyes back in my head. I was very confused during conversations with Chad’s family and I kept stopping them to ask questions. It was obvious to others that something was wrong, but Chad either didn’t see it or didn’t want to see it. As we were driving home, Chad put his hand on my knee and asked if I had a good time. I just smiled and nodded.
Later that night I fell asleep for a bit then awoke suddenly with what felt like an alarm clock going off inside my body. I was panicked. Something was terribly wrong. I looked in the mirror and my pupils were completed dilated. My senses were in overdrive. I was experiencing hypervigilance. I called my mom in the middle of the night and talked for hours. I remember telling her that my body had been shut down for so long and it was waking up. I was extremely paranoid. I tried all day Friday to sleep and it was torture. I went from the bed to the couch in the basement to the couch in the living room. I couldn’t sleep at all. I had racing thoughts that wouldn’t quit for second. I was obsessing over my behavior at Thanksgiving. I was filled with worry and fear. Chad took me to the hospital in the middle of the night. We waited for hours, but decided to go home. The paranoia continued and I can remember crawling around the basement in complete darkness. I called my best friend Monica for help and she showed up super early Saturday morning with her husband and three-month old daughter to take me to their house (God bless them). I got to stare at her daughter’s beautiful face the whole way there which was healing for me (I think we have a special bond because of that. Love her to pieces).
My dear friend made me a bed on the couch and took care of me like I had the flu. She called an old therapist of mine to see what we needed to do. She called my dad and had him check with my insurance to see which hospital I should go to. My dad drove from Akron, picked up Chad on the way, and met us at Monica’s. I remember yelling at both my dad and Chad when they got there. I have no idea why I was so angry with them. We all went to Kettering Medical Center. It felt like we were there all day. I told the doctor that I wasn’t sleeping and I was hearing voices. She prescribed Ambien and sent me home. I took it and slept for only two hours. I woke Chad up in the middle of the night and screamed at him for hours. I’m sure my dad heard all of this from the basement. When I saw my dad in the morning I told him to leave. I tried to sleep again and again. I seriously thought I was going to die in my bedroom.
I believe it was Sunday when I was finally admitted to Kettering Behavioral Hospital. I told a nurse that I did not feel safe at home and I signed myself into treatment. I was diagnosed with Major Depression with Psychosis. I think it was really a mixed state (depression and mania at the same time). I was also dehydrated and my potassium was low. My mom flew from Florida that day and arrived right before they took me in the ambulance over to the psych ward. I was so happy to see her. She said I looked like I just gave birth. My cheeks were flushed and my lips were bright purple. I showed up to the hospital wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, but no underwear or bra (stay classy Emily). I had a roommate the first night and I kept her up all night as got up at least 20 times to go to the bathroom. I had constant diarrhea and I couldn’t get enough to drink. It felt like my body was shutting down. The majority of my stay is a blur, but I can remember bits and pieces of my delusional thoughts and they followed the consistent themes of delusions. I believed I was dead (cotard delusion). I thought I was in hell (delusion of guilt and sin). I believed that several objects around the hospital were mine or were there to make me remember something from my past (delusion of reference). I was prescribed Remeron (an anti-depressant taken at night that makes you drowsy) and Risperdal (anti-psychotic). It took about 5 days for me to become coherent. It was a wild ride, but I survived.
I left the hospital after 8 days and my mom stayed with me for a coupe weeks while I recovered. I was on short-term disability for three weeks. I was still a little paranoid at home and extremely drowsy from the meds. I had difficulty driving and doing everyday things like going to the grocery and making dinner. It took several months to feel somewhat normal. Chad and I decided to cancel the wedding we were planning because it was too much for me to handle. We ended up having a small ceremony with only our parents then a reception with a few close friends and family. My mom told me that the night they left me at the hospital Chad played the song we intended to use for our wedding dance and sobbed because he didn’t want to go inside the house without me. It breaks my heart that we didn’t get to dance to that song.
This post was not easy to write, but it is helping me release some of the shame and guilt I carry around. I spent a long time feeling like I should have had some control over my thoughts and behavior, but this is an illness that is sometimes completely out of my control. Through this experience and others I have realized that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. My brother was right, I am a fighter and I will just keep fighting.