How am I not myself?

(Originally posted on 4th November. I am feeling much more like myself more often these days)

Content warning: brief description of things I did while I was psychotic.

Back in July of this year, I had what could be described as a psychotic episode. I wasn’t myself. It was night-time. Finley was asleep in bed (he didn’t wake up the whole time, thank God).

Here are some things that happened:

I thought Finley’s teddy was possessed by evil spirits and I wanted to send the evil spirits to America to stop Trump from being so confident. I made Matt put the teddy outside.

I was scared to wee on the toilet because the toilet was a symbol of the American empire. I didn’t want Matt to wee in the toilet either. I broke the lock of the toilet door trying to get in while Matt was in there to stop him using the toilet.

I was violent to Matt when he was calling for help. I punched him in the belly and I scratched at his shoulder so hard it drew blood.

I wasn’t myself.

I am not ready to share everything that happened in a public forum, and I probably never will be. I am still embarrassed by some things that I did when I wasn’t myself.

It was hard for me to reconcile what happened with my previous understanding of psychosis. I realised that this is because I had only ever learned about psychosis from an outsider looking in, and from the outside it doesn’t make any sense. But when I was psychotic, everything I was doing and saying made sense to me. But it didn’t make sense to anyone else. I was trying to express myself through metaphor, and all anyone could see was that I was seriously unwell. Which I was.

That was over three months ago. In those three months I haven’t been working, I haven’t been responsible for my child, I haven’t been in charge of the mental load of the household. 

I have been looking after myself. This fragile shell of myself. What was left after the mental illness savaged everything who I am.

One of the most difficult things about mental illness is that it damages us in the mind, which is where we keep our sense of self.

In the past three months, I have had to keep my sense of self in the daily rhythms and supportive people in my life. I have been going through the motions of looking after myself, I have been going to social events. All the time I have been holding space for myself, waiting for the real me to come back. I have been in pain. Mental pain. Existing as not-me has been painful.

As well as holding space for myself, others have been holding space for me. I have been like caterpillar soup. When a caterpillar goes into the cocoon, it doesn’t just sprout wings and emerge a butterfly. It loses all consistency; turns into a liquid. From liquid form it rebuilds, cell by cell, to become a butterfly. In this time of recovery, my support people and my routines have been my cocoon.

On Monday, I was sitting eating breakfast with my parents-in-law and my son, and I felt a new/old feeling. I felt a flicker of feeling like myself again. It was only brief, but it felt so good.

Yesterday, this feeling of being myself was like tuning an old-style radio knob to your favourite station. I kept dipping in and out of the Emmeline feeling.

Like a new mum starting to re-emerge from her baby bubble, I am starting to re-emerge into the world as my new self. I know that I need to take it slow. I need to keep preserving as much energy as I can. I need to keep energy in the bank instead of bursting forth back into the world, powered by small flickers of Emmeline-feeling.

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