We tend to think of psychosis as a delusional state of mind only experienced by those that are mentally-ill. The word has a negative connotation, being so close to the word ‘psychopath;’ not to mention, its prefix is the word ‘psycho.’ Psychosis occurs when one’s thoughts and perceptions become distorted through hallucinations and delusions.
Drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are known to cause temporary and even permanent states of psychosis, creating both hallucinations and paranoid delusions. However, while drug addicts have consciously made a choice to take the risk of experiencing what can be a terrifying state, those diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia did not have a choice in the matter, and must learn to live with it.
Most people wake up greeting a new day in the real world thinking about what they have planned; others see how those people take this daily reprieve for granted. Each day begins as a new nightmare, being immediately greeted by a barrage of voices.
Quiet, but sharp; whispering, but loud, these voices surround you, coming from all angles. Doctors tell you they are all in your head, but that doesn’t make sense. How can that be if a voice is whispered from the corner of a room, or screaming from the other side of a door? While most are coherent, what about those that are in a completely different language that you’ve never learned or even heard before? Such an experience is incredibly claustrophobic and capable of making even the most joyous of occasions uncomfortable, to say the least.
While the media and entertainment industry tend to portray such audible hallucinations in a negative, even disturbing way, with voices constantly encouraging one to harm others and even kill one’s self, in reality, not all voices are negative. However, that is one of the things that makes living with psychosis so terrifying. Many have guided you toward success, while others have led you down a more destructive path. You don’t know which ones to trust and which ones to ignore. Eventually, you learn that developing trust with a hallucination will most likely be the first step toward everything in your life going to complete shit—if you don’t think it’s already there.
You listen to the voice as it feeds you with information about a task, people, places, objects, the world, or what other people are thinking and feeling. The more you listen to the voice, the more you begin to believe it, becoming dependent on it. The voices condition you to believe everything must serve a purpose and have meaning for you in order to make sense of it. This is a common trait known as apophenia, an unmotivated seeing of connections.
Seeing patterns is something that can cause a lot of distress, and one may find great difficulty when a pattern cannot be found that works; wherein, it becomes almost obsessive and compulsive. You’re constantly trying to connect the dots of people’s thoughts and actions to figure out the reality of any given situation.
Everything needs to make sense. Everything must line-up. If something doesn’t, then it can’t be real.
Of all the symptoms that make up psychosis, the most dangerous are the delusions. Delusions of grandeur make you believe you are capable of anything, from controlling the weather and stock markets, to your actions changing the fabric of destiny. Paranoid delusions will have you believe that someone or something is out to get you. Someone is spying and watching your every move. The people around you all seem to have ulterior motives, and whatever they tell you is a lie to cover their true wants and desires. You may even feel you are cursed by higher beings or forces.
This may seem like an extreme delusion, but is it? It’s not far off from many religious or spiritual beliefs, or even the atheistic thought of each one of us being alone in the world. The reality is that we are not alone. We are not alone in changing the world. We are not alone in helping those we love. We are not alone when we attempt anything, whatever it may be.
Whatever purpose we feel we have is all a construct within the mind. It’s all a lie, but at the same time, it’s not. If you feel as if you don’t have a purpose, that there’s no reason to push any further, a traumatic event can change that. A change in the order of things can upset that. A request or demand from a loved one can create that.
In reality, maybe it would be better if we let go of what’s pulling us down and destroying us from the inside. But the idea, the construct, the delusion that this is something we must do may be the only thing keeping us going, and giving us purpose. Because without it, what are we doing? That delusion you live your life by may just be the only thing keeping you here and breathing.
When it comes to psychosis, nothing makes sense; especially for the one living with it, which is the majority of humanity. The traumas we have experienced in the past, the ones we think about everyday and compare or relate every other event in our lives to, are our delusion. We go through life looking for patterns in the world in order to make sense of everything. We each have our own struggles in our daily lives. Some worse than others, but nonetheless, a struggle—however big or small is always relative to the one dealing with it. This is where empathy comes in as the most important thing in the world—even before love.
Just as hate is trumped by antipathy, love cannot be the most crucial thing in the world. You can’t love everyone and everything in the world, but you can have empathy. We should have empathy for every human being, as well as every lifeform on Earth. We are all struggling with our own delusions, but at the same time, they are what keep us going. They are all we have in the end.