Written By Tj Helms
People depend on their brain’s ability to accurately interpret the data sent to it. Most can trust that this sensory data provides an accurate picture of reality. This is something many take for granted. However, not everyone can trust their senses; those who suffer from psychosis can never be sure that what they sense is real.
An article written by Markus MacGill in Medical News Today defines psychosis as “An umbrella term; that means that an individual has sensory experiences of things that do not exist and/or beliefs with no basis in reality.” In other words, experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations and delusions.
The most commonly known psychosis is schizophrenia, but there are many more. According to Mental Health America, only 1% of the population will be diagnosed as schizophrenic while 3.5% of the population will be diagnosed with some other form of psychosis.
Most people know very little about the reality of what having psychosis is like. It is very rare that people see an accurate depiction of psychosis in the media, and much more common that it is simply portrayed as a something that makes a person insane or violent. People who suffer from psychosis also rarely speak up for fear of being treated poorly by those who will look down on them.
A student at our school who suffers from psychosis has agreed to share their experiences for the purpose of helping people understand what it is like to have this condition. This student has requested to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Q for this article, but keep in mind that this is not a crazy person that should be avoided, they are still a PRP student.
“I hear things like, ‘Do It!’ or ‘Turn around!’ I get told I’m stupid a lot, I’ll do something and it will tell me, ‘That was stupid! Why did you do that?’ And they get loud,” Q said.
The symptoms of psychosis are confusing and often terrifying to live with. Q has described some of what they experience and how their life has been impacted. In the following quote, Q gave an idea of how living with psychosis changes a person’s life.
“[Psychosis episodes] can last anywhere from a minute to the better half of a class period. I sometimes see a shadowy figure about six or seven feet tall. He is like the shape of a human, but just black. He also never moves. Sometimes it’s the figure I call David Bowie because of his messy orange hair and pale white skin. He is the only hallucination that talks to me. It ranges from regular conversation to asking very disturbing questions like, ‘Do you think anyone in your life really loves you?’ It distracts me. A lot of smaller tasks like writing, reading, or anything that uses a lot of concentration have become difficult. Fear is a much bigger part of my life, paranoia of having to second guess if what I am seeing or hearing is real has become a nightmare to live with.”
Those who deal with psychosis have lives that are made much more difficult because of their symptoms. Unfortunately, they also have to live with the fear that their condition will become known and that they will be looked at as something other than a regular person.
The stigma around this illness can leave people feeling even more terrified and isolated than they already were. Society creates an image of a crazy guy who hears voices, who has no friends, and who is quick to violence. It is so radically fictionalized that people fail to see the real people who are affected. The reality is that normal people have to endure this terrible illness. They do not need people to make their lives harder by not treating them as a fellow human being.