Well, I’ve come through a second brush with psychosis surprisingly well. The process this time was very different to my first episode. This time, I locked myself in my house alone, and made art. Dark art, yes, strange art, certainly. Intense art. I painted myself and took selfies on my phone. The results resonated with me. They’ve stayed, the way a cut on the wrist stays, so that the morning after the black night, you cannot simply walk away and pretend it didn’t happen.
As soon as we shut ourselves away and negotiated the freedom to create whatever art we wished (provided we didn’t publish anything online), the psychosis eased, and an intense state replaced it. The hallucinations, the fraying, the collapse of my sense of reality all lifted like so much smoke. I fell into darkness that did not hurt, like falling into a river in my soul. For a time I was free of everything that is used to define me, free of roles, relationships, expectations, free of need, or name. In this space, art was easy. No limitations blocked me. I could see through the things that stop me from creating. My hands were alive and my mind was burning clear. Art came as easily as speaking. I did not speak. I spoke in art, in paint, in my eyes in photos, my hands.
This time there was no terror, hiding from the sky in my bed for days. No fear of the dark. No nightmares. This time once the psychosis lifted it stayed away instead of drifting through my life gently for days or weeks.
I won’t pretend it isn’t crushing to have a second experience. There’s always that hope that the first will be the only one, and for many people that is true. Yet, I am also not giving up. Maybe this is now something I will have to manage regularly. Maybe I will have only two. No one can possibly know. I’m not panicking. I’m learning. I’m listening, unpicking the knotted threads. There’s a relationship here between art and madness that I don’t understand, nuances I can’t yet hear or speak. There’s also beauty, something that deeply moves me. This is not just loss, or brokenness, not just a mind overwhelmed by stress. Maybe there is danger here, and loss, and woundedness. Such is life. There’s also fierceness, joy, freedom. There in the shadow, I breathe the night. And then I let it go.