I was in hospital two and a half years ago. Since then I’ve had a kind of grimy time of it. I’ve been low and flat and I haven’t been looking after myself well. I failed to eat to the point of malnutrition, and then developed TB last year. A terrible stasis kind of crept in around me – huge inertia and fear of doing almost everything. Big anxiety.
But in recent weeks, as I said before, I’ve started running a bit high again. A few days ago the first thing I heard in my head when I woke up was ‘I’m brilliant!’ In that moment I had complete certainty – I was completely sure that this was unswervingly true. It was such a blessed change from how I’ve been thinking about myself this past few years. A small micro-manic gift.
It was a fleeting moment, and the feelings attached to it faded quickly too. But the certainty of the experience was the thing I noted most strongly about it. It feels delicious to be so certain about anything. Humans in all walks of life crave certainty, but often, damagingly, find it in fundamentalism of one type or another. ‘Real life’ comes in shades of grey. People experience psychosis differently, as John described in his last post, but I’d say that one feature that’s common in psychosis is the fact that you can become completely certain of the things you’re experiencing. You may be certain of something concrete (eg believing you’re Jesus Christ) or you may be certain of something less tangible (eg believing that you are incredibly important to humankind or have a special mission) but I think the potential for certainty is the common binding factor. When I’ve been manic, but not psychotic, I’ve similarly felt that ring of certainty about aspects of my world, and in deep depression that degree of certainty can also feature, although I then become completely certain of my lack of worth.
I’m in danger of painting a picture that psychosis is this fantastic place where you feel sure of everything and worried about nothing, but of course that would be hugely mistaken. We have varying degrees of insight while we’re psychotic, varying degrees of pain and distress. If you are certain that you are in danger from whatever quarter the world becomes a terrifying place, and no-one can convince you that you’re safe.
I will no doubt talk about meds down the line, but just wanted to raise a question based on what I’ve been saying. Many people with bipolar disorder struggle with meds, and many go off their meds only to drift high and get unwell. I’ve done it twice and ended up in hospital twice. The reasons for people coming off their meds are varied and complex. But my feeling is that this might partly be to do with a search for that certainty you only get when you’re high or psychotic. I’ve experienced this certainty, and it’s intoxicating, and I’d love to experience it again. But I have to accept that in a well state I won’t experience that certainty – have to accept that ‘real life’ is far more complex. Right now I’m struggling to take the meds I need to keep this baby high under control – I want more of that voice telling me how brilliant I am, but above all more of that certainty…