Dave's Progress. Chapter 33: Rumours of my Death may have been Greatly Exaggerated.

" Initially when a person realises that they have been identified as psychotic and therefore different to others, a sense of loss of one's normality follows. This can feel very threatening. Cast as psychotic one has entered a taboo identity in Western society, with connotations of being socially, morally and genetically inferior. A real sense of social failure and despair can set in... Consequently, there may be a period of time when one has to mourn the loss of a former identity and reassess one's expectations and values."- Rufus May.

When I first became ill, many of my friends reacted in unexpected ways. One of them was to tell me that my life was over. Indeed, I remember the conversation that we had on that night, what must now be nearly twenty years ago, but remains as fresh in my mind as if it were yesterday.
"My God!", he said, "your life's over , Dave. What is there out there for you now?"
The truth was many years of illness. But at the back of my mind, although I knew I had been written off by many, I knew that I still had something to give. Yes, I had become "different". I had lost my "normality". But I still knew that what I was experiencing had value. And anyway, I deeply suspected the motives of the man who had said this to me. I had often suspected that he was jealous of me, and what better way for him to get some kind of perverted revenge than to tap into my own feelings of despair and compound them. As they often say, how beautiful it is to watch someone drowning from the shore.
However, what I was feeling was real. There was a real sense of loss at a previous identity I had had and this was, indeed, compounded by friends' reactions. Indeed, it was as if I were experiencing some kind of death, not a physical kind, but an emotional, social and cultural one. I was no longer "Dave", the happy, clever one who was good with girls, but "Dave", the boring, asocial one, ready to put a downer on any party. And no matter how hard I tried to be seen as that previous "Dave", it never quite worked out.
So, I think it is a very important part of understanding psychosis that, as Rufus May suggests, one may have to allow time for the mourning of an identity which has been lost, and for the creation of new ideas, motives and incentives. I cannot say how important this is, because as psychiatrists, in my own experience, tried to poke around as to why I was quite so unhappy, none of them ever came to the conclusion that I may be mourning some form of loss or lack of identity purely because of the position I had been put in by receiving a diagnosis which involved psychotic experiences.
And it is here that I must do my duty as a good anti-stigma campaigner and point out that psychosis does not mean violence, deviance or criminality, but merely describes a set of symptoms, such as unusual beliefs, hallucinations and social withdrawal.
Unfortunately this information seems to be lost on the majority of the public, where psychosis is seen as either directly related to violence or to a complete loss of ability to function.
If I may relay one incident which took place in a pub in Hanley(one of my local towns), in which while I was still in the throes of my illness I actually revealed to someone what I was suffering from. From then what had been a perfectly normal conversation turned into something else.
" What? You're psychotic?", the man said.
" Yes. Diagnosed." I replied.
" Oh well then", he said, "you're fucked".
Needless to say, I did not know how to reply to this, other than to remove myself from the situation entirely.
So, God knows how many times I've been written off by people. But, suffice to say, that I never took entire notice of their comments. But, then again, all the time, there is that nagging feeling that you have somehow lost yourself. Either you're not as intelligent, or not as functional, or just not the same person that you used to be.
All I can say to this is, though, that eventually, like everything else, you get over it. It takes time, but it can be done. And now even I find myself thinking absurd right-wing thoughts. "Oh, why can't these people just pull themselves together", I think. But easy for me to say after twenty years of experiencing the down-side.
But to those who wrote me off, to those who didn't have the time to lend a sympathetic ear, perhaps I would just say that rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
That's all for now from your normal, average paranoid and delusional man.


dcrelief said…
Dear David,
A strange thing happened as I began to rebuild my life: I began to read articles out loud. Somehow needing to hear them, lent more understanding. (It's the best explanation I have.) So as I read and 'listened' to your new post, I found my own voice crack at times when I identified. Death's door was slammed in my face but everyone thinks I walked through!
You're right about those conversations that you remember for years; though the party only remembers to 'hide' or conveniently disappear entirely, when you are seen... and I am seen. It is so obscene.
Today I work on some sort of forgiveness and getting past "their" issues. My life demands more attention and I do what I can to be the best I can be.
Thank you for such a wonderul rendering of what must be the 'norm' for many diagnosed.
In kindness and repect,
Post script: I have passed on to you, and seven others, the "2009 Friendly Blogger Award". Congratulations and thank you for supporting my own journey. dcrelief
u.v.ray said…
"As they often say, how beautiful it is to watch someone drowning from the shore"

I've never heard THAT saying before.

I like it though. I'm going to add that to my repertoire.

Very interesting piece, as always.
David said…
Dear dc,
Thanks for your continued support and am very grateful to you for passing on the "friendly blogger" award. I am, needless to say, very flattered.
I presume Klahanie gets one too!
Anyway, I will continue to comment on your blog and hope it supports you as your comments do with me.
With much gratitude and thanks,
David said…
Dear u.v.,
Feel free to steal my cliches anytime and add them to your repertoire!
But, like you, I kind of like that saying.
Anyway, glad that you found my post "interesting" and thankyou for your comment.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
david.s said…
Hello David,your post really brought it home to me ,how cruel ,and plainly stupid others can be.Coming to terms with your condition, is something you seem to in the process of ,its ongoing.I am just beginning to realise , that i can be of use to others,even though i have been written off,by the medical proffession.your eloquence ,is inspiring .there is so much that we can offer ,we need to help others realise this.Peace,Dave.s
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Another highly informative, thought provoking posting.
Cannot really add much more to what your other contributors have stated. Just that we are both dedicated in the ongoing challenge of reducing and hopefully eliminating the unfair stigma that persists regarding mental health concerns.
I can vouch that you are very much alive and it was a pleasure to see your cool, calm and collected presence at MAGMH.
With warmest regards, Gary:-)
David said…
Dear David S.,
Thanks so much for your comment and your own eloquence in expressing how cruel, perhaps inadvertantly, people can be when hearing one suffers from a mental illness.
I have often read your own blog and it would seem you have had similar deflating experiences.
However, perhaps the best revenge is to just prove these people wrong, which they undoubtedly are. I know those of us who have had such experiences all still have a lot to give, so I am glad if my blog offers some hope to you in your own journey.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks once again for your ever inspiring comments.
Unfortunately, my calm, cool and collected presence may not be felt at MAGMH this week as I am, of all things, suffering from a very bad back. I know such complaints seem to be synonymous with sciving, but I can assure you I am in genuine pain. Even as I write this I feel the need to go lie down again.
Hopefully, though, I shall be back to do more stigma-busting with you next week and I sincerely hope you are enjoying it at MAGMH and would hope that you will not be let down by the experience as you have been with other organisations.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

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