Thursday 14 April 2022

Peter & Psychosis: My Story

Peter shares his experience with psychosis during his time at university.

- Peter Goddard

This blog post is hugely important to me, and I hope it can help others. This subject matter is going to be a difficult one to convey. First and foremost, the stigma around psychosis is large, especially in the current media. So, all I ask dear reader is to keep in mind the context of my breakdown and to keep an open mind. Psychosis is also an underrepresented mental illness; however, strides are being taken to halt this.  I am writing about an experience that shook my whole world, which resulted in me landing in the mental illness abyss for the last three years. 

I wish to convey some details from what I remember about my breakdown. You are under no obligation to continue reading, some of the details I am about to reiterate are quite upsetting and I wish to cause no harm to anyone who might be easily triggered by past trauma. This is my trauma laid bare for everyone to read and hopefully take some lessons from.      

I can't smell any smoke in the flat but this special voice in my head is telling me there is a fire in my university accommodation. The voice told me to get up from bed and escape through the window. I got up and started shaking and pulling the window latch trying to make my escape from the impending inferno. There was no fire. It was all in my mind. I could see the writing on the walls. It was my flatmate trying to communicate with me, or so I thought.  The voices focused on death in retrospect. Mine, my peers, and a smattering of others.

At night, the voices became very prevalent. One night amongst others the voices made me get out of bed, stand by my door and shout "I love you" to the person living across the hall. I must prove my manhood by doing it and ultimately save her life. I thought that she was dying and if I said "I love you" then she would stop killing herself. I hallucinated a gruesome image of her cutting herself very seriously. I did it. I said the words. Much to the confusion of my fellow flatmates, I am sure. This unsuspecting girl, my flatmate, I had fancied for a while at this point.     

I had just finished a phone call from my mother all the while thinking that she was dying in hospital and that this was the last conversation we were ever likely to have with her. I said my heartfelt goodbyes much to the confusion of my mother. I immediately gathered some things together and caught the last bus out of Aber. This was the strangest and saddest I have ever felt in my entire life. I thought that my mum had died. I must clarify that my mum is very safe and very well indeed. 

However, the voices then convinced me on that day that she had died of cancer. I of course took it upon myself to leave University and go home. My head was filled with the most unbelievable sadness, I was physically shaking and did not even realise that I stole a Twix from Tesco Express in Aberystwyth. I was completely unavailable at this moment in time. I took the bus home. When I got back, my dad greeted me on the phone with the words, "are you okay." I was far from okay. I was amid a breakdown. 

I was taken back to Aber and referred to a mental health clinic. I needed a hospital bed apparently, however, I was not paying much attention to that. The voices in my head wanted me to kill the girl I fancied. I refused knowing full well this was bad. I needed a hospital bed. I needed help. I was sectioned under the mental health act. While in hospital in this strange place I tried to escape several times. The voices convinced me that I needed to get out of there, that my life was in danger.

My delusional mind thought I was famous worldwide and assassins were coming to kill me. What I will say now is that mental health nurses who work in these types of environments every day are heroes to me. Early intervention with psychosis is paramount. The patience and resilience they show in the face of sometimes extremely ill people is commendable. They save lives. After that the medication I finally accepted started to help and now over three years down the line I am very much a changed man. The voices used to lacerate my mind constantly and I still hear them from time to time however now they do not have the same impact as before.  

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend, help is available.

My name is Peter and I graduated from Aberyswyth University in 2020, and I am sharing this story because I feel like we need to break the stigma surrounding Psychosis.    

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