Med Management

I’ve been on Clozapine for about a week, going up on the dosage as my doctor had instructed, when things took a for the worse. I started running a fever, my body ached, I had chills, and I wasn’t making sense. When my mom woke me up this morning, I had a temperature of 104, and irately told her, “Avocados!” when she asked me if I knew where I was.

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Katherine’s Guide for Holding onto Your Fraying Sanity

Sometimes, I feel like I’m walking a knife’s edge, constantly on the verge of falling back into psychosis. Last night when my magical amulet/lightbulb broke, I was hysterical. For about five minutes. As soon as the shock wore off, I realized I was fine. Why is it so hard to stay grounded in reality? I have no idea.

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Monsters, Men, and Modern-Day Magic

I was never sure if the lightbulb was a magical amulet or just something I needed to take to Lowe’s so I could find a match for the burnt-out fixture in my bedroom. Once I put it in my purse, I felt very sure that it must never leave my possession.

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Deer in the Headlights

Quitting smoking is hard. It says so right in the nicotine replacement therapy packages I kept buying at CVS for two years straight so I wouldn’t have to go without my nic fix at work. I’ve switched to a vape, and tonight I ran out of my 3mg e-liquid, so I headed to the vape store to replace it with a 0mg liquid. I’ll hang onto the placebo effect for as long as I can.

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The Sunshine Cat

I spent most of my morning with my mom at Quest Labs waiting to have my blood drawn for the second time this week. Clozapine, the drug that is supposed to stitch the seams of my sanity back together, requires extensive blood work. It seems there is something wrong with my liver, most likely caused by Depakote, the mood stabilizer that sometimes makes me vomit because swallowing pills is hard and those pills in particular are about the size of my thumb.

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How to Help a Friend with Psychosis

I am lucky enough to have a very supportive network of family and friends who have been there for me through the good and the bad. There’s Jon, the best friend who came to visit me the first time I was in treatment, even though I was thousands of miles away from either of our homes.

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Jon flew down from Atlanta to come to my junior prom. Isn’t he handsome?

 

There’s my neighbor Colette, who listens to me agonize over questions about sexuality and offers her advice.
There’s Diana, who appreciates my self-deprecating humor about psychosis and endures my rants about professors who throw around the terms “crazy” and “psycho” to describe unusual art.

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Diana also acts as my photographic muse.

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My GSA friends and me at Pride Prom. The girl in the blue tie is Christin, my lovely girlfriend.

There are my GSA buddies who totally understand how sexuality and gender are not only

colette
Colette is sitting on some tofu, which I cooked for her during her Morrissey-inspired vegetarian phase. It was gross.

fluid, but confusing as hell! And of course, there are my
parents and brother who have visited me in treatment and hospitals, who have done everything they can to support me through the wild ups and downs that accompany my various and sundry mental health issues. I am so, so grateful for everyone in my life who has offered their support, guidance, and friendship as I try to find my way through the challenges

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A photo I took of Mom, Adam, and Dad in NYC. 

of being mentally ill.

I know a lot of people who deal with conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harm. But I don’t know anyone outside of the internet who deals with anything on the schizophrenic spectrum. For this reason, I have a limited number of people who I can go to for support when I am hallucinating, delusional, or paranoid. My friends aren’t at fault here. They want to help, but they don’t know how. Thus, I present to you, Katherine’s guide for helping a psychotic friend.

A few weeks ago, things went downhill really fast. I was home alone, and I was convinced that there was a Bad Person in my backyard who was going to break into the house, rape and murder me, and film the whole ordeal to put it on the internet. To make matters worse, my dogs, who normally bark at everything, weren’t barking because they had been replaced with fake dogs who were going to attack me if I tried to defend myself; and to top it all off, my dad, who I love very much, was a robot working for the Bad Person. I had no evidence for any of this, but I was afraid nonetheless.

I called my neighbor Colette, who was at a loss for how to help. She encouraged me to take a sedative (for which I have a prescription), and suggested locking myself in the bathroom until my parents came home. She said if I locked the door, it would have an “impenetrable lock,” through which no bad person could enter.

People with psychosis are not stupid. We may be somewhat out of touch with reality, but most likely, we are not going to believe any old thing you tell us. You might try to instill a fear of monsters in a young child in order to teach her a lesson, but people with psychosis are not children. When Colette told me that the bathroom door had an impenetrable lock, I knew she was making it up right away.

Encouraging me to take a sedative was definitely the right thing to do. As-needed medications can quiet the paranoid thoughts, and sometimes even quiet the voices.

One thing Colette kept repeating was, “But you know it’s not real, right?” If I knew that the Bad Person in the backyard wasn’t really there, I wouldn’t have called her in a panic. Just like you should never tell someone with an eating disorder that they don’t look like they have one, telling a person with psychosis that their delusions/hallucinations aren’t real doesn’t help. It’s just frustrating for everyone. The best thing to do if your friend comes to you and says, for example, that there is a stalker in the backyard would be to tell them that they are safe, or ask them what evidence they have for this. Sometimes, people with psychosis can realize that their fears are unreal or irrational on their own, but it’s nearly impossible for someone else to convince us that we’re being unreasonable.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone trying to comfort a psychotic person would be this: just listen. If your friend came to you and said they were sad for no reason, you wouldn’t try to tell them that they’re being stupid or that their feelings are invalid. The same holds true for people with psychosis. When I called Colette, I was alone and afraid. All I needed was someone to listen to my fears and tell me I’d be okay.


Epilogue:

Colette is an awesome friend. She convinced me to call my parents and tell them what was wrong, and she called me back to make sure my parents got home. She talked to my mom and told her what was going on so that my mom could hear it from someone who was making a little more sense than I was at the time. She’s one of the few people from high school with whom I’m still friends, and I’m very grateful to have her in my life.