They say experiencing psychosis is like being in a waking dream; where one cannot discern the world around them from an altered reality created by a disordered mind. I’d use the word nightmare to describe mine. You see when you think your insides are being eaten out by parasites which are spreading to every organ of your body it is hard to be reasonable. They’d already invaded my lungs, my brain, and my eyes and within minutes I would surely drop dead. This was my thinking as I rushed to the emergency room only to be whisked away to the psychiatric ward after several drug tests and many visits from angry doctors refusing to take my concerns seriously. Delusional parasitosis was the official diagnosis. The hospital staff was not prepared to deal with my situation as it is rather rare and many things happened that were not ideal. In essence I wasn’t treated properly but at least I eventually received treatment and for that I am eternally grateful.
The psychosis came on gradually; I’d say over the course of two or three weeks as I began obsessively researching every kind of parasite that could invade the human body. Believe me, when they say paranoia is simply knowing all the facts, it’s true. The countless pages on the internet dedicated to this topic only served to fuel my paranoia and delusions. Being unable to sleep and eat properly (remember the parasites were in my stomach and by eating I would only worsen the condition), are telltale signs of mental illness and I experienced these as well. Hallucinations of seeing things moving that normally would not move were another sign that I was not well but in the moment everything seemed real. It wasn’t until I began taking medications and talking to the inpatient psychiatrist that I began questioning my views. This breaking down of the delusions was also a gradual experience that occurred maybe over the course of a week or two because the thoughts had become so engrained; it had been a life or death situation. ‘Letting go’ of my delusion was one of the hardest things I have had to do as it is difficult to accept that something you take as absolute truth despite all the evidence to the contrary is actually just something made up.
My hope is that by reading about my experience you would become more compassionate and understanding of people with delusional disorder; or at least more aware. Sadly many with this disorder do not seek treatment because they do not realize anything is wrong, but this is not from a lack of effort. I was fortunate enough to end up in the hospital on my own volition because of the physical nature my delusion had taken. Had this not been the case I have no idea where I’d have ended up.
Mental Vagabond is a 24 year old who suffered from psychosis and delusional disorder. He is currently receiving mental health treatment and is on the road to a full recovery. He hopes to share his experiences to help those who may be going through similar problems to learn that they are not alone and that there is hope. Follow his story on HMC's Supportive Minds Blog.