Erin's experience of psychosis
Guest blogger Erin explains about her experience of drug-induced psychosis.
Psychosis snuck up on me in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. I was 25 and uprooted on all levels. One morning, I woke up beside a stranger. The guy I was living with and had planned a future with was not who I thought he was. Leaving him, I went on a three month backpacking trip around Europe. While travelling that summer, the job I had taken unpaid leave from had ended. With a change in relationship, home, and now job everything that defined me was now a question mark.
Backpacking meant a constant change in location, new sights, new people and foods. I was a stranger in foreign lands and also within myself. The more I travelled the more I searched for answers about life: my questions were greeted with silence. Reading spiritual and meditation books, I began to look to the world for ‘signs,’ a sense of direction. In an effort to find myself I got lost in the process.
The switch of ‘enlightenment’ came in Amsterdam at the end of my travels. Ironically, it was the joint that broke me. Smoking legally in a local cafe, marijuana put me over the edge. At first it was in a good way. For days after I was on a natural high, seeing bliss and universal connections in everything well after the drugs wore off. All the answers I craved came flooding in, so did extreme levels of dopamine, our natural ‘bliss chemicals.’ I began losing sleep and lost my appetite, as if I had too much coffee for days.
Returning back to London to family, a week before I was due to fly home to Canada, the switch hit again. This time I became paranoid and thought I was in hell. No longer recognising my family, I sought a way out of my own mind. Because of the risk I posed to myself and others, in the middle of my darkest night, the police and ambulance showed up to take me away.
I was admitted in a UK psychiatric ward for a week. My mum had to fly out from Canada to get me. Luckily, the diagnosis was a ‘temporary, drug-induced psychosis’; stress was the underlying cause.
Throughout high school and university I was a perfectionist, which created constant layers of stress and anxiety. I kept this at bay through the unhealthy outlets of drinking and smoking at times, and through a healthy outlet of running regularly, but that wasn't enough. As someone who would bottle up strong emotions rather than face them, layers of stress compounded over the years unaware.
Within six months of my psychosis, after tests and therapy, I was cleared of any potential long-term mental health issues. Often drug-induced psychosis can trigger long-term mental illness, especially in young people. Early intervention is a vital aspect to recovery. After six months I also went off all medication. Learning Vedic Meditation from a teacher, practicing yoga and Reiki, all supported a solid foundation of wellness that even now, eight years later, I have yet to relapse. As an HR professional, I advocate wellbeing initiatives and speak out about mental health to educate holistic ways of recovery. For years I kept silent about my experience due to shame and fear of judgement, now I see how my breakdown truly was a breakthrough.
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