Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Worst Part of Recovery

During my second hospital stay, most of the staff there were wanting me to recover as fast as possible. There was the odd member of staff who cared more about magazines or TV than patients, but thankfully there weren't too many of them. Unlike my first hospital stay where you were lucky to speak to a member of staff for an hour a month. Because I was an emergency at the time of my second hospital stay, the support was more intensive and I would usually be seen twice a week for an hour each time. Yet, all most of the staff were concerned about was helping me to recover. Why is that a bad thing? I hear you ask. Because, they were only concerned about my recovery, and not the impact my recovery would have on me.

I'm guessing that probably hasn't cleared the confusion any! But consider that when I went into recovery, I had heard my dominant, 'devil' voice for four years (and during the last year, I heard him constantly). The first two years of hearing it, I had believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I was hearing was the actual devil. Especially as I had seen a psychiatrist just after I first started hearing it and after talking about it, he told me I was essentially fine. 'Mild depression' maybe, but nothing severe. When I was sectioned the first time (two years after that psychiatrist appointment) and told that my voice was a symptom of mental illness, I didn't believe it. This so-called 'voice' was the devil in my eyes. Not a hallucination, not mental illness, but the devil. However, I quickly learned that describing him as the devil would end up in an argument with a short-tempered member of staff. Once I deduced this, I began reluctantly referring to the devil as a voice.

I couldn't accept that what I was hearing wasn't the devil. The way I heard him wasn't crystal clear, like the way I would hear a person who was talking to me whilst stood next to me. Instead, it was akin to hearing my thoughts, but more amplified. I believed that hearing voices would be like hearing a person talking beside you when there wasn't anyone there. I believed that the way I heard the 'voice' meant that it wasn't actually a voice but the devil himself. Plus, there had been things he said to me that came true, for example, one evening when I was driving home from my parents' house, he told me there was a spider in my bedroom. Sure enough, when I got home that night, there was a spider in my bedroom. That (and other incidents) was solid proof to me that what I was hearing was the devil. However, I quickly tired of the arguments with the staff, and started learning other 'correct' answers too.

By the time I was sectioned the second time, I knew most of the correct answers to give. When I was asked about the devil, I would say that it was a voice. When I was asked about my daughter (who, unknown to me at the time, was a delusion) I would say that she wasn't real. It was only when I had a proper chat with a nurse or psychologist that I would admit I believed the voice was the devil and that my daughter was real. They cottoned on quite quickly that I was often giving 'correct' answers rather than 'true' answers, but so long as I didn't act up, they would usually leave things be. It wasn't that they didn't care, it was that they just didn't have the time to sit and talk to me at length everyday. I was quite fortunate in the sense that I was usually asked how bad my 'voice' was everyday. When the other two voices started up (the ones that was general, incoherent chatter), I was usually asked about those too everyday. But it was just a case of 'How loud are the voices today?' to which I would be able to give a true answer.

When I did finally start recovering, around 15 months after I was sectioned, I was relieved that the two 'noise' voices left. I was even more pleased that the devil voice drastically reduced in volume and intensity and that I now had the power to make him go away. I wasn't pleased however, to finally realise once and for all that my daughter wasn't real. Despite the relief at the silence in my head, I now had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to see my daughter again. In fact, I had never truly seen her at all. I was ecstatic at being discharged from the section, 16 months after being sectioned and even happier when I was discharged altogether and allowed home. However, the staff I saw in the community were only concerned that I continued believing my daughter wasn't real and that I still knew I hadn't been hearing the actual devil.

They didn't seem to be bothered that I still missed my daughter, or the fact that things I had believed in for years weren't true. They didn't seem to care that I was questioning the reality of other parts of my life, from events in my childhood to things that had happened recently. To be honest, I still have moments of panic where I remember an event in the past, which no one else remembers. When there is no evidence to support the reality of the event, I really question whether it happened or not. I never know whether or not the event I remember is just another delusion but I can't dwell on these thoughts as that would just open up a can of worms. My general rule of thumb is, if the memory is pleasant or funny, it happened. If it's a horrible memory, it didn't happen. Then I have to forget about the momentary panic, and just accept that I don't have all the answers in life.

Whoever said, 'You can't miss what you've never had!' clearly never had delusions. I've technically never had my daughter but I still miss her, and probably always will. She would have turned seven in June, but there's no point looking at birthday cards or presents for her as I've no idea what she would have liked. Would she have loved Disney princesses and the colour pink, or been like me at that age and loved trains and the colour blue? I just don't know what she would like and will never know what she would like. The worst part is not even having a picture of her. I really wish I could draw what she looks like but the most I can draw is a wonky star. Definitely not her fine, almost-invisible hair or her big, blue eyes.

So while I am in recovery and know my early warning relapse signs, nobody tells you how to deal with the aftermath of delusions or hallucinations. How am I supposed to deal with the 'memory' of my daughter and the dreams I occasionally have? Am I to look at them and smile or should I try and forget about them because they didn't really happen? Should I grieve for my daughter because I will never see her again or should I stop being daft because I've never actually seen her? Just what am I supposed to do? The recovery from depression was a piece of cake in comparison as I was just so relieved not to be like that anymore. Yes, I did have the worries that it would return but mostly the recovery was easy. However, the recovery from schizophrenia was much harder. Maybe because it's an 'SMI' (Serious Mental Illness as they call it, either schizophrenia or bipolar), it would be accurate that it's harder than depression to recover from? But should it also be difficult to deal with the recovery, not just to recover?

Like I said earlier, I don't have all the answers in life and all anyone can do is to muddle through the best we can. I don't know whether or not it's right that I look back on my 'memory' and dreams of my daughter with a smile, but it's what I do. So long as I know she's not real, it shouldn't be a problem. I have grieved for her many times in the past but to be honest, I don't know how to move on. I guess it's about making the most of what I do have, rather than dwelling what I no longer have (and technically never had). I just hope that one day, I'll either be able to draw a lifelike picture of her or technology will become so advanced that I could download my memory of her into a picture or video. I wonder, is anyone actually working on that technology?

Answers on a postcard please.


  1. Unfortunately,all they care about is voices,but schizophrenia can affect in,many areas eg memory loss,lack of social cognition etc..

    If you don't mind asking,how did the "devil" voice start and does the things it say match your own thoughta about yourself or differ?
    Eg:if it said your worthless for example,do you also believe that about yourself or not?

    Also,do you have any physical symptoms-eg sore throat,or burning feet,tummy pain or anything else?

    1. I'd have to disagree with your statement that all they care about is voices, the staff were very interested in 'treating' my delusions too. The 'devil' voice started in around November 2006 (ish) when I was 18, but my memories of that time are very vague. The things it said were similar things to stuff high school bullies had said to me, for example, high school bullies threatened to kill my family and I, and the voice would tell me to kill my family and I. It did say things about me being worthless and never amounting to anything etc, but they weren't too bad, it was the threats and commands that were worse.

      I don't remember having any physical symptoms at the time that voice started, but I had dealt with depression for about 5 years at that point.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hi Katy,
    I've been reading your blog and I think it's completely amazing. You're awesome and so insightful!

    I am also very moved by your grief for your daughter, which I think is absolutely legitimate. I was thinking about your desire for a picture of her, and while I don't know how to download thoughts, maybe face-drawing software could help?

    Good luck to you!!