Psychotic Without Knowing It
Surviving the Rollercoaster of Untreated Mental Illness
The last twenty years of my mental illness have been slowly progressive.
It all began while serving in the military in 1993. I started to have this feeling that I was being talked about and followed by others. After the military, in 1995, while living in Berlin, Germany, these feelings continued along with the sense that someone was spiking my food and drinks as a joke. At that time, I could only hold a job for a couple of months at a time.
In 2005, I went to London. There, I started experiencing an on and off sensation of fingers touching my body (known as tactile hallucinations). Soon I started believing I was a victim of witchcraft. In London, I began to think that someone was angel-dusting (putting PCP in) the places I would sit to cause these hallucinations as a prank. I thought it was a newly developed hallucinogenic that was being soaked through my skin. This was the beginning of my psychosis.
I started to have delusional thoughts, believing things that were unreal, but which I perceived to be real. It was while I was living in London that I first became an inpatient at a mental hospital. I started to believe that street signs were put up to remind me of the past (delusions of reference). This is when everything becomes a coincidence. I also started believing that I was a victim of a prank and I was being left out. I started to believe that behind my back I was famous (delusions of grandeur). I was paranoid but hid it well. When I would go into a grocery store, I would believe all the customers and employees there were waiting for me.
After London, while in Washington State, I started reading license plates and brand names on peoples’ clothing, and thinking that there must be some sort of hidden meaning. I started believing that the things said or seen on the television had secret meaning about me. In Washington State I tried to commit suicide a few times and was sent to the mental hospital. California has section 5150 which allows a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person suspected to have a mental disorder that makes him or her a danger to self, a danger to others, and/or gravely disabled. In Washington there are no 5150s. The justice system in Washington will put a person in jail for having an episode and give misdemeanor charges. I went through a vicious cycle of mental hospitals, emergency rooms, ICUs, jails and courts in Washington State.
When I got to California I got real sick. I started to believe I was on camera 24/7 as a prank (which is The Truman Show delusion) and that my family members were switched by impostors and wealthy actors (which is Capgras syndrome, aka delusional misidentification syndrome). I then started to believe I was a POW and that I was still in Germany and WWIII was happening behind my back—because Anaheim is in California and Anaheim is a German name. Heim means home in the German language and Germany was also involved in WWI and WWII. Then I started to believe that the military was looking to rescue me from Germany and that enemy snipers were in the trees. So I started crawling around my condo in the dark to avoid being shot at by snipers through my window (as I had learned to do in boot camp while having live ammunition shot over my head).
Sometimes in my condo, I would hear machine guns firing and black hawk helicopters hovering right outside. I would also hear people speaking the German language outside my condo. So I got a baseball bat to sleep with to protect myself and destroyed my heater/air conditioner, cellphone and computer internet modem and turned all electricity off in my condo. I avoided human contact and believed any and every person I saw was an actor. I thought that if one person was on a cell phone walking by me, the person was talking about me.
Last summer I became gravely disabled. I thought that if a person was driving next to me, behind me, or in front of me, the drivers were following me. I thought it was all arranged with cell phone communication. I got diagnosed with psychotic disorder, then schizoaffective disorder, then bipolar, and schizophrenia. My current diagnosis has reverted back to psychotic disorder. However, it does not matter what I am diagnosed with at the moment because most of my symptoms are gone, thanks to the medication that I only need to take once a month.
Presently, I think like a normal man as I did when I was younger. I have very rare audio hallucinations and rare tactile hallucinations but I am not delusional or paranoid any longer. I also do not believe that everyone is an actor trying to fool me, like in “Rosemary's Baby.” After I moved to Citrus Heights from Washington State a year and a half ago I had three 5150s in a four-month period in the summer of 2013. Since October 2013, I have found a medication that works, an injection once a month. I can easily slip off of an oral medication, thinking: "Oh, I am better now, so why should I take the medication? There is nothing wrong with me.” Luckily, I have no side-effects from the medication and I do not even notice a medication in my system.
I now realize that alcohol had played a major role in my dramas during my vicious cycle of mental illness. Now I do not need to drink so much because most of my symptoms are gone. Since 1994 I have had a very slow progressive illness, so slow that I had a condition known in a neurological study as Anosognosia, a deficit of self-awareness, a condition in which a person who suffers a certain disability seems unaware of the existence of his or her disability (Wikipedia) and that means that a person is without knowledge of something being wrong and without knowledge of having a disability. Up until October, 2013 I was in complete denial that I had a mental illness. It was then that I began reaching out for help and got the help I needed. Talk therapy seems to have helped the most.