Psychosis Takes Up Residence & Leaves An Unpleasant Residue

I’ve been going through a rough time, as have many people who have emotional challenges that pre-date this pandemic.  I’ve weathered a bunch of obstacles pretty well.  These included such adult tasks as buying major appliances like a new refrigerator and new microwave.  It turned out the fridge was too big for the space in my kitchen by less than an inch ( yes, I measured it, but apparently incorrectly).

I returned the fridge, but the store didn’t have another one that fit into my space.  I was without one for several days while I searched the Internet madly and finally found a one at a better price, but in the meantime, a couple of hundred dollars of food had to be tossed.  It also took numerous calls with being disconnected and put on innumerable holds to get my refund, but finally it showed up.

I was telling Dr. Lev all this and she said I handled it well, but that was on a Tuesday, several weeks ago.  On that Friday I got hit with about thirty new cases, without warning.  I watched the computer dump them into my queue, three or four at a time.  I couldn’t keep up with processing them.  I felt powerless and resentful.  Inadequate, as I felt as though the old me, with my old brain, prior to the stroke, would have been able to handle this with grace and ease.

At one point I gave up, turned my back on my desk and started sobbing.  My rescue dog, Shelby roused herself from her nap on my couch and trotted over to give me a slobbery kiss.
Several months prior, with the support of my neuropsychologist, I requested an accommodation  from my company, on the basis of the disability caused by the stroke in the realm of residual cognitive deficits.  I’d asked that my caseload be capped at 50 which was denied.  And here, my caseload was climbing past 60. 

It seemed to me as though I had to make an untenable choice.  Do a subpar job onboarding the new cases and just get it done, or do the job correctly and risk not finishing in time.
The thoughts in my head grew loud and overpowering. After the Friday when all the additional cases poured into my queue , actually early Saturday morning in the darkness, I began having the thought that my company was doing this on purpose because they were trying to force me out.  The thoughts came in a staccato-like rhythm.

You’re washed up.
They want you to quit.
You can’t carry your weight.
Your co-workers resent you.
They’re laughing at you behind your back.

Source: © Sangoiri | Shutterstock

I knew what was happening, but I was in no position to stop the flood.  My thoughts were outrunning the logical part of my brain, like a kayak being carried along by cascading rapids.  
This has happened before.  It’s not psychosis in the way a person diagnosed with schizophrenia might experience it.  It’s more major depressive disorder with psychotic features.  I have one toe in the ocean and one toe out.  I’m having these irrational thoughts which I know to be irrational and yet, I am powerless to stop them. Yet the part of me that remains on solid footing has an inkling that yes, this is not reality.

In the moment, the unreality seems much bigger than any possible reality.  I struggle ineffectively, then give in. I wish I could shut down my computer, but that’s not possible.
For the rest of the afternoon, I peer at my monitors through a curtain of tears and function by performing tasks that require only a modicum of effort like scheduling phone calls for my clients.  If we don’t do that each day for all our clients, first thing the next morning, five days a week, I get an e-mail from my manager “asking” me to correct the ones I missed.

I e-mailed Dr. Lev asking for another session and I missed the e-mail she sent back, saying she had a morning appointment open.  By the time I saw that e-mail, the appointment time had passed and I was upset with myself. I became convinced there was now a conspiracy and she was a part of it.  The conspiracy was feeding these delusional thoughts into my brain and colluding in keeping away the one person who could help me.

“I’ll show them.” I decided to adjust my meds myself. (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.)  And about five days later, the thoughts seemed less intrusive.  They were still there in the background and every once in a while when something triggered me, they banged against the inside of my brain, making their presence known.

We’re still here.
Don’t forget about us.
We may not win this time, but we’ll be back, chanted the collective we.
When I finally was able to see Dr. L., she was actually okay with me having adjusted my meds, especially when I told her it felt as though the increase was helping.  She was particularly interested in my perception that she was part of this conspiracy and as we unpacked my thoughts and feelings some more, I told her that I’ve felt incredibly alone and adrift during this pandemic.

“I know I’m not the only one and look at Michell Obama, acknowledging that she is going through a low-level depression. I’m zooming with my ED support group and my entrepreneur support group, but those are only once a month.  I went up to see my brother to give him his birthday present – and you know him, he’s a big guy and I can usually count on a bear hug from him and…and nothing.”

“It’s a good thing you have Shelby,” Dr. L. remarked.  

Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft

I smiled for the first time during the session. “Yeah.  Forty-something pounds of sweet mush inside and fierce guard dog outside.  She’s a solid warm body to cuddle with.”
I hesitated before I added that the medication for which I raised the dosage doesn’t seem to be helping the depression.  We agreed to slightly increase the dosage on one of my other antidepressants.

“I’d rather be proactive.  We can always reduce the dosage later.”  Dr. Lev agreed.
We both know from my history how quickly I can drop into a suicidal depression, like a sky diver, whose parachute has failed her.
Before we ended, I asked her if she had any openings for the following week.  We scheduled a time for after the weekend.  I’ll be back at work and I’m anticipating I’ll need her support. I fear once I’m back at my desk, I’m in danger of falling down the rabbit hole she helped me climb out of.

Source: © Pushkin | Shutterstock

Spoken by The Queen in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
This blog post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, treatment or medication and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

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