A Note on Insanity (Part 1)

To begin this post I’d like to share an exert from a journal entry I wrote 4 years ago. I’m sharing this because it is a true reflection of how I was feeling at the time and I want to talk about what happened after this. Here it is:

“When you are experiencing a particularly rapidly intense time in life, it’s shocking how fast time feels like it is moving. This time last year, I thought I had it all figured out. Now? I feel like I’m going insane. I mean, I think I already was and always have been slightly mad. But now, if mad were a swimming pool, I’d be at the deep end, helplessly flailing under water, unable to reach up for a hand to pull me to the surface.

I want something to blame, and to be honest, when I think about everything that I have been through in the past year, I know there have been a few significant things that are causing me to feel like I am drowning. I really feel like I’ve taken more hits in this past year than I have in my whole life. But don’t I say this every year? And haven’t we all got our issues?”

I wrote this during a time when I felt truly broken, I had just left an abusive relationship and was struggling to cope with the heartbreak and ptsd symptoms I was experiencing. I experienced physical abuse as well as psychological and I didn’t realise that the aftermath of that would send me on a journey of further torment.

We’ve all felt as though we’e going insane – right? I’ve thrown around that word so many times – “omg, that’s insane” – and still do, but I never really thought about what it actually meant, until I started to experience it myself. Shortly after I wrote the above, I started to suffer from psychotic episodes. When I briefly touched on insanity whilst journaling the months before, I saw it as something I that perhaps I could reach but never truly understood what it would mean to eventually go there, and by there, I mean Crazy Town. I say Crazy Town like it’s some fun cozy tourist town but it’s definitely less of a habitable place and more of a darkened, dingy side street in a collapsing city. What it really felt like was an endless black hole.

After coming out of an abusive relationship, I thought the abuse would stop, but it didn’t. Yes, I had escapes the abuse caused by someone else but then it felt like the real tormenting began: the torment that happens in the mind. I began to abuse myself, I developed a substance abuse issue. It began innocently, fun even, staying up all night, sometimes for days, experimenting with how many mind altering substances I could take. Of course, I wasn’t always alone and had a group of friends who were all doing it too. Most of the time, after a big night, I would be the last-(wo)man-standing and this gave me some sort of mentally disturbed sense of achievement. I don’t know who I was trying to impress, in fact, I don’t think I was trying to impress anyone, I think I just wanted to be so completely numb that any inkling of feeling (good, bad, happy, sad) was so far away that the concept of feeling or reason became completely alien to me. It worked, for a while; thought and emotion became so separate to me sometimes I forgot where, who and what the fuck I was.

My episodes in the beginning were mild (in comparison to what eventually occurred) and this made it difficult to distinguish between what behaviours were a result of a normal night drinking and taking drugs and when that began to creep into losing touch with reality. I guess there are many overlaps and in the beginning I was emotionally erratic and overcome with anxiety and confusion. I knew something was wrong when I would imagine things that weren’t happening, such as hearing someone saying my name or go on long paranoid rants about people talking about me, watching me or even doing things to me that didn’t actually happen. I would be in heated conversations with my friends upset about something that they assured me never actually happened, although in my head it had happened and I assumed my friends were lying to me.

This was an awful feeling and I started to have a severe distrust of the people around me. I was gaslit and humiliated lot in the abusive relationship and I saw myself play out this same cycle of walking on eggshells with my current friendships, even though they weren’t abusing me. I became even more confused, irritated and lonely, but like I said, these were my mild symptoms and at this point I hadn’t begun to recognise my fluctuating moods as psychotic episodes.

I knew something was really wrong the week before I was fired from my job. Because of my erratic behaviour and serious drug dependancy, I hadn’t been doing a good job of running the shop I managed. I was called in for a meeting about my progress and was asked why I had changed the rota so many times in the space of two days. I had changed the rota because I was in hospital, laying down in a ward singing to some imaginary figure on the wall and listening to the ricocheting voices that sounded like I had tiny people sat on my shoulders whispering in my ear. I was too ashamed to admit this at the time so I sat there and cried. I managed three quiet words through my sobs “I’m just struggling”. I never wanted to quit, or admit that I was struggling so much that I needed to stop. I expected them to offer me some more assistance, but they had already approved my request earlier that year to work a 4 day week instead of the 5 day contract I had originally been employed on and so they offered to let me go with one months full pay. I had no fight in me to protest the offer, so through more sobs, I finally agreed.

This set me back hugely. I felt I had failed, and realistically, I had. My work was the perfect rug to which my drug taking was swept under. My job allowed me to fool myself that my lifestyle was okay. If could still hold down a job that meant I was somewhat grounded, my work gave me direction, purpose and a reason to get out of bed, therefore taking drugs every week was okay, right?

Everything became hazy after this, I started flitting between thoughts of ‘this is great, I can now do whatever the fuck I want’ and ‘I’m so lost and have no idea what the fuck I’m doing’. It was at this point that I should have told someone how badly I was suffering, but I was in a state of destructive denial, too much pride to admit defeat, too much ignorance to truly give a fuck. I wasn’t ready to face myself yet, I only wanted to console myself with the best way I knew how; medicating with more harmful substances.

It would be a whole year and a half after this where I finally managed to get sober and clean, and actually stay sober and clean but I managed it and I am reminded of my strength everyday. I will continue to tell my story but I want to write it in parts because it is difficult to me to go back into these memories without bringing up a lot of discomfort. I write about my experiences not only to process what happened but to also reduce the stigma attached to subjects surrounding addiction, psychosis and mental health.

Part 2 coming soon…

Peace and love – Emily xoxo

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