It’s World Mental Health Day today and I want to share some of my experience of being sectioned with psychosis and how I got through it.
Mental health difficulties can be challenging, even without having to face social stigma and a lack of understanding about the nature of mental health.
This World Mental Health Day is focused on ‘Mental Health for All’ and I love that tagline. It’s a reminder that each of us are influenced and affected by mental health in some way, and I think a little bit of kindness and recognition of that can go a long way.
I was detained under a Section 2 of the Mental Health Act in 2014. This meant that the hospital could keep me detained for up to 28 days while they carried out further assessments to determine whether I would be in need of longer term care. I went through an appeals process to be released from hospital early because I was finding it more distressing the longer I stayed there. After about three weeks I was allowed to go home to continue healing there.
It took a while for the active symptoms (hallucinations and delusions) to settle down. A few months probably. I was prescribed an anti-psychotic medication to help combat the symptoms and also signed up to receive some counselling.
I found the counselling helpful. More helpful than the medication to be honest. The medication made me feel like I was numb inside so I stopped taking it after a few months. The counselling was great though because it was the first time I felt able to talk openly about my experiences and was able to make more sense of what happened to me.
The symptoms of psychosis were disorientating and confusing at times. I was having both visual and auditory hallucinations -as well as delusional beliefs about what the hallucinations were supposed to represent. I was completely entranced by the whole experience and felt as though I was being guided through my mind to discover some unknown truth about life and the universe.
At the same time my friends and family were trying to engage me in everyday activities so I could continue to take care of myself and the people I loved. It was hard at first. It felt like a battle. I’d been seduced by this mental experience. I wanted to stay in it and forget all about my everyday responsibilities. It felt like I was being made to choose between two separate worlds. A spiritual world of the mind and imagination, and the sensory and physical world of the body.
The general messages I’d received in life up to this point was that you either chose a materialistic life, and deny yourself the pleasures of a spiritual life- or you choose a spiritual life, and deny yourself the pleasures of the physical.
I believed this to be true at the time and didn’t think I was ‘allowed’ to experience both the body and the mind as one. It felt naughty, even a little bit wrong to do it, and so I would indulge my spiritual pleasures in secret.
I’d read paragraphs from books written by mystic scholars, like Rumi and Khalil Gibran, in private while dreaming about their deeper meanings. I’d listen to audiobooks about the ‘inside out understanding’ and swim in the flow of feeling spiritual joy.
As time went on my understanding of nature deepened and I started to realise that I could embody (what seemed like) the dual experiences of the mind and body.
That I could allow myself to openly enjoy sensory experiences and have freedom of thought.
I remembered that this is what it feels like to be a fully functioning human being.
Whole, complete, full, free.
It was shoddy social conditioning that had led me to believe I couldn’t have both my mind and my body together.
Since having this realisation I have been able to experience joy, a deep sense of belonging, love, peace and an inner calm that I never knew existed. I accepted that I’d had bad experiences with mental health and that a lot of people probably wouldn’t understand what I’d been through. I accepted that I’d been psychotic and it was this acceptance that gave me the self-compassion I needed to heal from it.
I realised that the social stigma we might face because of our mental health experiences in no way define us or determine what we can be and do in life.
I overcame psychosis, and being sectioned, in that simple act of accepting them completely from within. I embrace them as experiences that- in their own way- gave me an awesome insight into the power of the mind.
Lots of love, Shaneen x