We’ve all had that feeling – we’re tired, just want some peace and quiet but there’s that one person who will just not stop talking! Thankfully, they eventually stop and, depending on how close we are to said person, we can sometimes help…accelerate that process. But what if this person, no matter how hard you try, just won’t stop? Even worse – what if you look at that person and realise that…actually, there is no other person?
It was late at night and I was getting ready to go to sleep, nice and comfortable in my bed after a long days worth of revision. I was just drifting off when…a voice. A very high pitched sort of voice, very clear as though someone was standing right next to me. To this day, I cannot comprehend what was being said to me. All I remember is suddenly becoming very aware of just how dark my room was. I was no longer nice and comfortable. In fact, I didn’t feel sleepy at all anymore. I was scared. Bloody hell, I was scared.
Of all my mental health problems over the past few months, this is the one I found the most tricky to talk about. I mean, I knew about psychotic depression and had briefly done some background reading in it for our Neuroscience and Mental Health course but no words, not matter how technical, could have prepared me for the reality. The feeling of utmost terror, as though someone had access to my mind and was using it to their advantage. The feeling of helplessness, just begging, pleading for it to stop but to no avail. The feeling of embarrassment later, when you start mentioning the voices to your friends, thinking they too can relate but realising they didn’t hear what you did.
It is this very embarrassment that seems to scare us from opening up to others. Not only this, but the constant fear of paranoia, as though everyone is out to get you is a significant factor. For me, sleeping at night became a massive issue. I was too scared to just close my eyes, too fearful to even bear the thought that the voices may be heard again. Even opening the curtains in the morning, staring into the daylight was a difficult task. What if my friends were watching me, trying to pick on an excuse to talk about me behind my back? Of course, now that I am thankfully recovering from this, I can see that these thoughts are not true. But they were scary nonetheless.
The media’s perception of hallucinations like this are utterly disgraceful to say the least. People suffering from episodes of psychosis, whether they’re fairly mild like in my case or very major, are portrayed to somehow be a danger to society. This is categorically not true for the vast majority of people. I mentioned in my recent blog post how the majority of people who I’ve met suffering from mental health conditions are, by in large, completely normal and amazing people. We’re just affected by an illness that could affect anyone, but this is an illness of our psychology rather than a physical illness. Why the two are treated so differently is beyond me, but perhaps that’s for another blog post. What I will mention now, however, is that the media’s portrayal of mental illness does not just have a bad influence on society as a whole. It can affect the sufferer as well, making them believe themselves that they are a danger, that they’re beyond help. In extreme cases, it could even prevent people from going to seek help in the first place.
For me, I was lucky to have had such a supporting network of family, friends (you all know who you are) and healthcare team to look after me when things seemed to be going wrong. Despite these episodes, I have been able to get through them, work as hard as possible for my exams and even managed to complete my exams in the same room as everyone else. To anyone else who may be reading this with similar issues – if you’re going through something similar, please do ask for help. There is no shame in suffering from things like this, and it’s only through admitting my issues that I’m getting through this.
We’re all in it together.