Anastasia Vesperman - About 450 Word Salads: A Basic Primer on My Psychoses

This week we're joined by Anastasia Vesperman. From today through to Thursday, Anastasia is giving us an incredibly open insight into her life with mental illness. Here is part one of her 3-part piece:

"I was a child, and my mother was psychotic. She loved me, but I didn't really feel I had a mother. And when you live with somebody who is paranoid and thinks you're trying to kill them all the time, you tend to feel a little betrayed." Alan Alda.

Here are some of the things that I want other people – including health professionals – 
to know about my psychotic episodes:

•    Sometimes my memory is very poor during an episode. Sometimes, once an episode is over, I won’t be able to remember what happened during the episode.
•    I will often experience hallucinations, delusions, looping behaviours, and paranoias
during my psychotic episodes - which are not my usual state of affairs.

•    My common hallucinations are:
o    Black cats/cat shadows, seen out of the corner of my eye.
o    People appearing and disappearing where no such people exist.

•    My common delusions are:
o    Everyone hates me.
o    Everything is awful.
o    I am wonderful and everyone thinks I am awesome.
o    I am going to climb Mount Everest and cure cancer today!

•    My common paranoias are:
o    There’s someone prowling the streets waiting to shoot me.
o    Leaving the house means some unspecified doom will befall me.

Psychoses feel weird. Delusions and paranoias feel like absolute truth; hallucinations
feel as real as this keyboard. 

Perhaps the oddest thing is when my thinking becomes completely disordered. Words come out of my mouth that have no relation to other words that have just come out of my mouth, a.k.a. word salad, and sometimes internally it feels as though I have said something sensible – 
even if I’m not sure what I said. I also can’t problem solve, something I am usually quite
good at – I just can’t focus enough.

Another odd thing is looping behaviour. I’ll go through a set of thoughts, ideas, and emotions, 
and then I’ll loop through exactly the same set right after. And repeat. And repeat. 
And repeat, ad nauseam. And I don’t remember any of the repeats. I don’t comprehend anything except the present moment. Must be boring to listen to.

And all of it is scary. When I’m psychotic, I can’t remember not being psychotic – I
feel like I’m going to be that way forever. I can’t remember the last thing I thought or said, 
or whether it made sense or not. It’s like going into the kitchen and forgetting what you came
for, only much worse – it happens between one thought and the next, and you can’t go back into the lounge room to try and recall what you went into the kitchen for.

Worst of all – professionals who can’t cope with psychotic patients. I’ve had people tell me
(as related to me by my carer): “You are a hopeless case.” “Come back when you can stop acting like that.” Or even just complete incomprehension of what’s happening for me.

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Remember to check back tomorrow at 8am to read part 2 of Anastasia's Story.