I thought I fully understood my mental health after treating my symptoms of schizophrenia in 2019. But unfortunately, two years later, I found myself back in a similar place of mental and emotional distress. I could not understand my own mind; something “went wrong” again in my brain, causing another recurrence of my psychosis.
As I weathered the experience of another episode, I realized how important telling my story could be.
My Experience Was Traumatic
When my psychosis set in, I didn’t feel in control of my mind. Chronic stress had eroded my ability to regulate emotions and think clearly. Then, on Nov. 13, 2021, my worst symptoms began: paranoia, obsessive thoughts, compulsions and debilitating fear. Even the coping mechanisms and strategies I had worked so hard to develop could not fight these symptoms or control my psychological state. I panicked, having illogical worries about my home.
Early in the morning, I rushed and packed some essential clothes in a handheld luggage bag and searched for my passport, which my wife had hidden (knowing I was struggling with my mental health). I vividly hallucinated that mental health officials assisted my wife in blocking the exit door. In reality, my wife stood in front of the door alone. In my frightened state of mind, I shoved past her. I had vividly imagined engaging in physical combat with the officers) in a battle to escape my home. I had a bizarre feeling I was involved in physically lashing out at my wife before frantically fleeing from my house and dashing out in the gloom of the street lighting, which lifted the early morning's shade of darkness. At the same time, I was driving away at an excessive speed in our car, heading toward the passport office 30 miles away before trying to leave the country.
About 10 miles into the journey, the police apprehended me and asked me to park my vehicle. At the time, I had no idea my wife had called the police to report a person experiencing psychosis. I believed that the medical practitioners and the police were devious and engaged in corrupt practices. I believed I was hearing the voices of intelligent people telepathically. Ultimately, I was detained and transported to a mental health facility. This hospitalization did not give me peace of mind; I struggled to make social contact with fellow patients I can only describe as “odd balls.”
I Have Made Strides in Recovery, But I Continue to Struggle
My medical treatment continued until I was fully discharged in December of 2021. Although I have developed an awareness of my condition, I found it challenging to continue being psychologically resilient to live a long and healthy life. Indeed, I still I over-engage with my thoughts and emotions and get trapped in my own mind. However, I have agreed to take medication regularly.
It's fair to say it has been a tough time for my brain — a journey learning how to survive and thrive. It can be a vicious circle living with a mental health condition. Yet, I feel empowered by having the agency to manage my symptoms.
I Hope to Move Forward
Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition, but I have found my rhythm with treatment. The regimen that works best for me includes antipsychotic medication integrated with psychotherapy, practicing self-care and limiting stress. While this is not a cure, it allows me to live with minimal symptoms. In addition, I now understand how much I benefit from taking antipsychotic medications regularly, which has helped control symptoms and prevented frequent relapses. I have also found that writing about my experience empowers me and informs others about wellness and recovery.
As I look to the future, I hope there's a low chance that I will continue to have episodes of psychosis relapse. But I understand every journey has setbacks; I have relapsed before and can feel deterioration over time. So, I will stick with my treatment and continue to share my story.
Karl Lorenz Willett is a writer and father who has battled schizophrenia for over 40 years. He has always identified with his diagnosis and titled his first book, which delves deeply into his life and mental health challenges, “The Memoir of a Schizophrenic.”