Psychosis & Secrets

I’m sitting on the pavement outside my car, waiting for the RAA to come and deal with the keys locked inside. I’ve just been to Sound Minds, our local South Australian Hearing Voices Group. I love getting along to this one.

We had a pretty full room. At one stage someone was chatting away and one of the members got the giggles. Everyone was trying to listen and keep a straight face. One by one more and more of us succumbed until we had to stop the conversation to laugh. A good belly laugh, about nothing at all. These beautiful people ground me.

I told them my good news, that my GP is on board with my unconventional approach to psychosis. A couple of us chatted about how destructive the idea of schizophrenia can be, life long illness, life long medications, being forced to confront your new reality in the interests of ‘having insight’, employers unwilling to take a risk on you, friends scared of you, family confused by you. I talked about how shame and secrecy can feed psychosis because people let them run unchecked, and try to maintain their usual activity level instead of resting, driving themselves deeper and deeper into it. How destructive the idea of a life long disability with no upsides is! How secrecy can often be woven into the fabric of psychosis, preventing the possibility of sharing the details and getting helpful reality checks. People are driven to this when saying ‘I think I might be hallucinating’ or ‘I’m feeling a bit paranoid’ would scare away friends or see them fired from jobs. One group member reminds me of the saying ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets’. Good point.

I’m not saying people who have to conceal mental illness, or those of us who prefer not to live our lives publicly on social media and blogs are sicker than the rest! I’m saying that cultural shame and fear trap people into keeping the kind of secrets that can make them very sick and very lonely.

8 thoughts on “Psychosis & Secrets

  1. Reblogged this on StarkravingInsanity and commented:
    Do you know what? This lady here hits it right on the head!! Brilliantly written and applicable to a lot of mental illnesses. Seriously, the time has come for a shake-up in the way the medical profession likes to diagnose and record “disorders”. Personally, I think I have reactions to the outside world (and sadly, men) that are damaged because of bad experiences. I personally think I can heal from that, and whilst I may never be rid of the voices, I will be able to deal better with them IF I AM GIVEN THE CHANCE. Not rocket science.

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  2. YES! Good on you!! I believe that you can heal from anything, even if someone tells you you can’t. I believe some diagnoses are damaging because of the medical profession’s insistence that ‘you won’t get better’- schizophrenia and BPD are two of them. I don’t believe BPD should even be a diagnosis, and I have had my questions about schizophrenia. I think you’re brave for writing so honestly on this subject, and I salute you. 🙂 x

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    • I’m not thrilled with much of the DSM to be honest! I agree that healing is certainly possible, although some of us do live with rather than get better from things – even then treating the experience as an illness and only thinking of it in terms of deficits instead of diversity costs us something important. 🙂

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      • Seriously, you’re on my wavelength and I love it! Although I have been depressed since being about twelve or thirteen (amongst other things) I have never asked for help because I’ve always been terrified of the stigma- both from the public and the medical community. I am finally getting help but that was after three psychiatrists were ready just to throw me on the crazy pile. I think that there should be a major shake up in the way that mental health conditions are diagnosed and elucidated in the DSM. It’s actually more crazy that mental health conditions are still classified the way they are, I think, than how I feel sometimes!! Thanks so much for writing what you did 🙂

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  3. So true. If we come from child abuse, chances are we are already quite used to keeping secrets and feeling the shame that comes with them. The stigma of having an illness that other people refuse to educate themselves about, and therefore fear, does basically the same thing. Not to mention that family isn’t usually the safest place to turn for support since many family members, in order to survive, may deny the abuse they witnessed ever occurred. Then you are considered not only crazy but also a threat to their own sanity. This makes relationships with family members in denial even more difficult, since the only options given are to hide your illness or face being ostracized by the very people who should be accepting you unconditionally and providing at least a modicum of support for you as a person they supposedly care about. I’m very lucky in that I have a supportive husband and a handful of close friends who try to be there for me regardless of my sometimes bizarre (to them), behavior or voiced thoughts. The frustration I see on their faces sometimes when dealing with something I’ve said that they consider not to be reality though makes me cringe, and feel shame and anger, wishing I wouldn’t have shared in the first place. Along those same lines, I was once asked by a medical student if I was currently delusional. I responded by saying, “by the very nature of subject, do you really think I could answer that question honestly?” “Touche” was her response.

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    • It’s funny how people have such a clear idea of what is reality and what is a delusion, and how hard those ideas actually are to pin down once you start examining them! It reminds me of a great personal story Eleanor Longden tells about her experiences with psychiatrists, one day she was actually locked up in hospital for telling a shrink that she was going to be on the radio that afternoon – she was considered to have delusions of grandeur. Turns out she was involved in student radio at her uni and WAS actually going to be on air that afternoon. Funny and sad! There’s often a political aspect to labelling someone as crazy, it’s an effective way of discrediting anything they say or feel. Even crazy people like me aren’t crazy all the time. It’s not as simple as that. I’m glad to hear you have some support, and I’m sorry for the ongoing struggle around shame and anger. It’s not an easy one, but you’re certainly not alone!

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