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Help me understand what happened to me - Intrusive thoughts/psychosis

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Hi guys,

This is my first time asking the internet for advice so apologies if I screw anything up and for the novel-length post.

I’m not at immediate risk - things are getting rocky again but I have already made appointments to see a doctor and therapist.

I would appreciate any feedback, comments, similar experiences, or being pointed towards useful resources.

In terms of background, I think things went a little off for me around 13. My sleep has been shoddy since. When I was 14 for a year I barely left my room, didn't go to school (not a country where it mattered), would occasionally run away, punched walls and experimented with various forms of self-harm, would spend most of my time in bed staring at the ceiling, often very badly wanted to end it but couldn't inflict that disaster on my parents who then bore the brunt of my anger when I decided that they were to blame for standing in my way. So I thought often about killing them too because that's logical. In retrospect a pretty classic case of angsty teenage depression.

At one point my sleep was very disturbed for almost a week. I went downstairs to get a yoghurt and insects started crawling all over me and I saw lots of blood. I very vividly remember that I used my fingers to push through my eardrums into my head and then pushed out my eyeballs from behind. I was terrified but internalised it and was probably in denial that it had happened or that it was me who saw that (if that makes sense). I’ve never watched horror films, have never witnessed a car accident, or in fact had anything traumatic happen to me at all. Who knows.

I eventually got over the worst of it and aside from occasional periods of depression and self-harm nothing much happened until about 2013 when things went south a little bit.

I felt like I was moving through slush and that people were talking to me underwater. It took a little bit of time, probably around two weeks, for me to get myself to a doctor (I’m stubborn and I thought I might be getting sick again and I was scared I would end up like a close relative whose mental illness has turned her into a zombie). I was immediately diagnosed with depression and prescribed ssris that I took at best sporadically, since I had a deep-down belief that relying on them would mean I was weak (more logic).

From there on things degenerated somewhat. I began to hear the radio, or someone slamming the door and moving around, but I would head on over to switch the radio off or say hello to my roommate and the radio would already be off and no-one had come home. Then I began to have episodes where I would again feel my hands were pushing through my ears to pop out my eyeballs, and I would dig holes in my chest til I could see my exposed ribs and snap them, and mushy bits would ooze everywhere and there would be a lot of blood and a lot of pain. Seeing this would often trigger a panic attack. I sometimes had panic attacks without images but never images that didn’t trigger absolute panic, since they were fairly terrifying things to witness. Once I had to be physically restrained because I was trying to scratch something out of my arm with my fingernails and by the time someone noticed I had scratched a deep enough wound to leave a pretty gross scar that won’t go away no matter how much bloody bio oil I massage into it. During another episode my boyfriend at the time had come up for a cup of tea or something and I apparently told him things were coming and that he had to take a knife and kill me before things happened. Sometimes I had to self-harm quickly because I could feel things coming and if I could see and feel my hands doing something like that then it was easier to believe that they weren’t doing something else, if that makes any sense.

I was hospitalised twice in crisis situations but the psychiatric wards were mindnumbing and I was scared that being surrounded by people with serious issues would somehow trigger or emphasise mine so I always got out as soon as I could. I was variously diagnosed with severe anxiety with intrusive thoughts, depression, bpd, psychosis, or preschizophrenic symptoms. At the time I didn’t read anything on the internet or in books as I thought I might be influenced by what I read so I let the doctors do their thing, but at a later date I started reading around and although I identify strongly with descriptions of depression and anxiety (then again I already knew that) and partially with some descriptions of psychosis, I think the diagnoses of schizophrenia or bpd were patently bollocks which has shaken my trust in doctors a little. I was prescribed with anti-depressants, benzodiazepines, and anti-psychotics but even aside from my inherent stubbornness against medication I was in no fit state to stick to a treatment plan so took them erratically, I wouldn’t take them and them someone would notice and force me to take them for a while and then I would stop again etc.

At some point I moved home and got a very manual job which left me physically exhausted and with no free time so I was in a comforting cycle of work sleep work sleep etc. I was screened again for psychosis but the symptoms had begun to subside and I found that recounting the experience was very distressing so didn’t take any form of treatment further - I was just grateful that it seemed to have stopped and that the whole thing was over.

Things have been alright for a long time now but I’m having some wobbles and in any case I can’t keep working to the point of exhaustion just to keep from spiralling. I want to be able to have free time and enjoy it without immediately sinking into a cycle where I feel happy and energetic and then flip flop into comatose and then when I get energy again I can’t enjoy it because I have to catch up on everything I didn’t do when I was comatose. I want to be able to do things that are intellectually demanding without grinding to a halt and have happy, fun relationships and most of all I want to seek treatment and finally fess up to what happened and do everything I can so that it doesn't happen again because it's terrifying and it's kind of bollocks that the fear I have of these images is enough to trigger a panic attack because honestly the way these things feed off each other is fairly toxic.

I know I’ve got depression and anxiety and panic attacks and I’ve read many accounts I identify with and that have helped me consider these things difficult but approachable and certainly not the end of the world.

It’s the episodes I’d appreciate talking through. I’ve read accounts of intrusive images in relation to OCD and anxiety and I think it must be that, but these accounts haven’t quite rung true in the same way that accounts of depression have with me. I suppose they’re not psychosis or delusions because it’s pretty obvious after that they didn’t happen (or I’d have spent a lot of 2013/14 just splopping my eyeballs back into their sockets like some deranged bungee jumper). Also they just sort of went away after a while but these recent wobbles have me paranoid that they’ll come back.

Please help me pinpoint what happened so I can try and fix it.

And if you've made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read.


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Hello, welcome to Crazyboards :)

Good for you for making an appointment with a doctor and a therapist! That's really pro-active of you, and seems like a really good idea. Feel free to let us know how it goes.

We can't diagnose you here, (we're not doctors, and even doctors shouldn't be doctoring on the internet). I'm not really sure how to fix it. I can see if I can rally the troops to find someone who might have some ideas, though.

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Hi WinterRosie,

Thank you for your response. I'm definitely aware that seeking a diagnosis here would be misguided! I'm hoping that in collaboration with the doctor and therapist we will figure a diagnosis out over time.

Because I've been misdiagnosed several times however I'd like to just hear from people who may have had similar experiences and how they've coped and also to collect ideas as you mentioned in case there's something I haven't heard of that I could read about to see if anything rings true or mention to my doctor to hear her opinion.

When I was younger I thought the only mental illnesses were either being serial killer crazy or being depressed. It's a learning curve :)

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I'm sorry if I missed this, but are you currently taking any medication?  I know you said you've been on some, ie when IP, but wasn't sure if you still were. 

I'm glad you'll see a pdoc (psychiatrist) and tdoc (therapist).  I really hope they help you!

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Do you currently have a psychiatrist? A psychiatrist should probably be your first port of call with your questions. 

I'm going to just throw this out, and I am certainly NOT diagnosing you, but there is such a thing as depression with psychotic features. I think you need to work closely with your doctor to discern whether you are dealing with some variant of OCD or psychosis. It doesn't sound like my OCD, but I have the classic OCD with compulsions. There is "pure-O" OCD but your doctor would be the best to be able to suss out what is actually going on.

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Hi Melissa, jt07

I am not currently taking any medication but I have just been prescribed sertraline, diazepam and zopiclone. I'm hoping that since I'm starting this round in a better frame of mind that I'll actually stick to taking the sertraline every day and give it a chance to work.

jt07, I did have a psychiatrist back in 13/14, but he was state-appointed and I did not get on with him at all as he wanted to sit back and let me talk but I refused to just wordvomit unless I was asked specific questions so it would always end in a mexican stand-off of silence haha (I can be a bit stubborn...) I saw him very regularly (around 3/4 times a week at my worst), but I think his main function was really just to check that I hadn't topped myself. I've now found a therapist (I think she describes herself as a psychoanalyst, is that similar to a psychiatrist?) that I think I can get on with - do you think it would be a good idea to also see a psychiatrist? 

Thank you for your suggestions of things to look at - having skim-read a few things on both I think pure O seems unlikely however I wasn't aware that there are forms of depression with psychotic features and from what I've read so far it definitely seems like something I should explore further and bring up to my doctor to see what she thinks.  

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A psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst are usually two different professions. A psychiatrist is an expert on medication and making diagnoses. A psychoanalyst is more like what we call a therapist, i.e. talk therapy.

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On 1/9/2017 at 10:27 PM, Annad said:

At one point my sleep was very disturbed for almost a week. I went downstairs to get a yoghurt and insects started crawling all over me and I saw lots of blood.

Hi, and welcome to Crazyboards! In reference to the quote above, I'll say that lack of sleep is a huge trigger for many who experience psychosis (and even people who usually don't). Getting really consistent sleep helps me a lot, as well as many people I've talked to on Crazyboards. I have mostly auditory hallucinations, but they sometimes appear as visual hallucinations when I'm really off. I messed up my antipsychotic medication (Abilify) by not taking it for a week over the holidays, and I'm still feeling the repercussions as it continues building back up in my system. We all screw up our meds at some point, whether it's forgetfulness, the thought that we're cured, etc., so I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. Just do your best.

What you're describing definitely sounds like psychosis, which can be the only thing you're diagnosed with in addition to your depression and anxiety. I have been diagnosed with "some form of psychosis" for over a year, and it's definitely intertwined with the anxiety and depression and not schizophrenia. The more anxious/depressed I am, the more likely I am to have psychotic symptoms.

In terms of coping, everyone has their own techniques. Your doctors should be able to help you come up with coping techniques, but your front line of defense is likely medications. One technique I've used consistently is making jewelry. When I'm very anxious, it puts me into a more meditative state and stops me from focusing on the voices, etc. Perhaps the physical labor you were doing was a way of shifting your focus from your own hallucinations. Do you have any crafty hobbies? Knitting is a big one around here.

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Thank you for clarifying the difference, jt07!

Hi Heilmania, thanks for reading so carefully and for your response. It's very reassuring to hear from someone in such a similar situation. It's certainly helpful to think of the psychosis not necessarily as a condition in its own right that I have to worry about, but as a reaction to the periods of intense stress and sleep deprivation that occur when I don't properly manage my dep/anx.

I did take Abilify for a while, but I felt like it was making me very nauseous and burned my stomach no matter how much water I took it with - what has your experience with Abilify been like, if you don't mind me asking? I do find medication is a 'thing' with me. When the side-effects of the pills you're taking happen to be the symptoms they're supposed to be treating (like with abilify and antidepressants triggering anxiety and insomnia in some people) and, in addition to that, you might be feeling some kind of 'negative placebo effect' because you really don't want to be on medication so you convince yourself they're making you feel worse, plus you're taking a massive cocktail of them, it can end up being quite difficult to accurately judge what impact each medication is having. This time I'm more determined to stick to the plan, even through the rocky first few weeks. Do you have any tips when it comes to trialling different medications and the process behind finding out what works for you?

Crafty hobbies is a simple but brilliant solution that I've definitely found works for me, and I think you're right when you say I was getting a similar effect from doing physical labour at work. I think in a sick kind of way self-harming during the worst of the episodes was probably the most extreme and unhealthy variant on the 'doing something with hands to redirect focus' method. Coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes eh! More knitting less knifing will be my mantra for the year then. When I was at my most sick I pushed out around 15 paintings and a whole album's worth of songs over a few months... this from someone who's most definitely not an artist and can barely play the guitar. As soon as I got fairly well the creative madness completely dried up haha. Talk about a random and unexpected silver lining.


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33 minutes ago, Annad said:

Do you have any tips when it comes to trialling different medications and the process behind finding out what works for you?

I think for me it's been my trust in my psychiatrist. I've been seeing him for about 5 years. I started seeing him thanks to severe anxiety, depression and ADD. When I started experiencing psychosis about a year and a half ago, I had already been seeing the same shrink for a while without him ever pushing me into diagnostic categories and rigid ideas about what meds one must use in certain circumstances. I hope that makes sense. I'd also been on Abilify at a lower dose before (as an add-on for depression and my maxed-out Effexor), so I knew I had an antipsychotic that didn't give me crazy side effects, and it was a smooth transition getting back on it. 

And yes, hooray for crafty hobbies! :)

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