Wednesday 23 July 2014

Suicide - what's the big idea?

I started a course of psychotherapy three weeks ago.  I'm fortunate to have found a local(ish) perinatal psychologist who seems adept at working through trauma: the sessions have evolved into a form of PTSD treatment.  To facilitate this, my homework task this week has been to go through the medical notes and letters I was given during my inpatient stay in the Mother and Baby Unit, and try to remember how I was feeling at the time.  As regular readers will be all-too-aware, I talk about my psychosis experience often and openly: to the extent that I have become quite detached from the memories.  Sometimes, it is as if I am recounting events that happened to a different person.  As if it never happened to me, and to my son.  

The first stage of the PTSD treatment is to re-establish the memories, the events, as real experiences that happened to me.  To be honest, the results of this exercise have been too dark and too distressing to publish here on the blog.  However (as I mentioned briefly on twitter) I'd be happy to share my written thoughts privately, particularly with any Health Care Professionals or psychosis sufferers, if you send me a message.

I just want to explore one specific theme here: suicidal ideation.  The word "suicidal" was peppered throughout my notes.  This came as a bit of a shock, I explained to my therapist, as at no time in my illness did I want to kill myself.

We don't generally like to talk about suicide, as a rule.  It's uncomfortable, upsetting and, well, plain awkward.  So to find the word staring back at me, in black and white, was difficult.  I thought about The Boy, and how he might feel if he ever reads that his mum was "suicidal" in the days and weeks following his birth.  No, it wasn't quite like that son.  You see, mummy's brain was playing tricks on her.  It wanted her to think that bad things were happening.  Really bad things.  She thought she was being tortured, and no end was in sight.  She was so scared of all the terrible things happening, that she would rather have died.  She even thought that if only she died, perhaps the rest of the world could be saved.

Quite literally, I wanted put out of my misery.

Do you see the difference?  I didn't want to die, not at all.  It was not "Goodbye, cruel world" but a desperate search for an escape from the unending torture my brain was tricking me into experiencing.  I couldn't live in the psychotic reality I inhabited: a world where I was slowly suffocating, for eternity, in a small locked room.  Or where I had caused the end of life on earth.  I would have gladly chosen death over that.

Psychosis is a cruel disease.  It plays on our worst fears, and turns our most gruesome nightmares into chilling realities.  If I tried to explain it to the most twisted cult horror film director, he would not be able to begin to recreate it.  

When I read about a person suffering a psychotic episode who went on to kill themselves, I feel acutely sorry for them.  When psychosis is involved, it's not necessarily an act of severe depression (someone "wanting to die").  In my (very limited) experience, it's the act of someone petrified, perhaps thinking it's their only escape.

As I read my notes, and see the words staring back at me, all I can think now is just how lucky I was to have been in such a safe place, under one-to-one observation and 24-hour nursing care.  It's one (very important) reason why we need to ensure access to such facilities for anyone (not just new mums) experiencing extreme psychosis.

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