Know the Changes
Let’s face it. Psychosis sucks! No one chooses to have it, and it is just an illness – like diabetes. The symptoms of psychosis affect the brain and may cause it to play tricks on you. There is a lot of hype about psychosis in the movies and online, but in reality, it is a manageable problem. The important thing is to do something about it right away.
Notice changes that could be signs of psychosis
You might be the first to notice that something is not quite right. For example, your mind may seem to be playing tricks on you, such as…
· Making you hear or see things that are not really there
· Getting you to believe things that do not make sense (like
the FBI is watching me)
· Jumbling up your thoughts or words so that it is hard to talk
· Making it harder to pay attention
· Making it difficult to tell the difference between what is real or unreal.
Or, a family member or close friend might observe changes in your behavior, like…
· Struggling with school work that used to be easy
· Acting uncomfortable around friends that you used to hang out with
· Avoiding family and people that you are normally close to
· Making big changes in how you dress, bathe, or groom yourself
· Losing interest in the things you used to do with friends (e.g.,
movies, sports, shopping)
· Picking up new, perhaps unusual interests in things that you do alone
Tell an Adult
Tell an adult that you trust
Just because you sneeze, it does not mean that you have a cold (maybe you are in a dusty room) and just because you have experienced one of the changes listed above, it does not mean that you have psychosis (maybe you dress differently to keep up with the new fashion). You need to tell someone about these experiences and get more information to find out what is going on. So who do you trust? Who can you tell?
· Who listens when I speak?
· Who is easy to talk to?
· Who has helped me before?
· Who stays calm when there is a problem?
Make sure that at least one of the people you tell is an adult that can link you up with help when you need it and are ready to receive it. A lot of times, that adult is a parent, but it can also be a grandparent, foster parent, a friend’s parent, an older brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, or a pastor – any adult that you can trust to listen and help.
Who and When to Tell
Decide who to tell and when
Everyone has to come to their own decision about whom to tell, what to tell and how much to tell. Here is what other teens decided about talking to their close friends about their psychosis:
"At first, I felt like my friends deserved some kind of explanation about why I was staying home from school, but my mother convinced me to wait until I was ready to go back. I did and it worked out better. It was easier to tell my closest friends when they could see that I was feeling better."
"The one thing about telling others is that it is up to me to tell people or not. I use to feel like I had to tell everyone. I do not feel that way anymore. Now I only tell on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. If there is any doubt about it, I usually keep it private."
"It is just my opinion, but I think it is better not to tell your friends until you know your symptoms good enough to describe them to people. Now that I understand my symptoms and where they come from, I can help others understand better."
"It is too bad, but it is true. People get all kinds of ideas about people that have what I have. When I tell them I have it, I also remind them that a lot of people have it. I also have to tell them that it is a brain illness and that it does not make me dangerous. I wish people would check their facts!"
Know the Facts
Know what psychosis is and is not
A lot of what people think they know about psychosis is just hype. Take this True or False quiz to get the real story.
1. A lot of people have psychosis.
True: In Delaware, about 9,000 people have it. That equals 32 school bus loads of people with enough left over to fill every seat in Frawley Stadium where the Wilmington Blue Rocks play.
2. ‘Psychosis’ is a made-up word that teenagers use as permission to act ‘crazy’ and get a lot of special attention and treatment.
False: Psychosis is not an ‘act’. Teenagers that have it are like anyone else; they do not want to draw attention to their personal problems. They would rather fit in than stand out. If their symptoms are noticeable, it is not on purpose.
3. Once you have psychosis, you never get better.
False: It is true that there is not a complete cure, but it is a mistake to say that you cannot get better. These days, there are ways to bounce back when symptoms bother you and other ways to stay well longer. Teens in the Delaware CORE program learn and practice these skills a lot and get really good at feeling better as a result.
4. Psychosis has nothing to do with how smart you are.
True: Psychosis and intelligence have nothing to do with each other. John Nash was a world famous mathematician and he had psychosis. Nash learned to take it easy when his symptoms were acting up. But when they were not bothering him, he could solve some of the world’s toughest math problems. Psychosis will not turn you into a genius, but it will not keep from being one either.
5. People with psychosis are weak.
False: Go tell that to Lionel Aldridge. Lionel Aldridge played professional football in the 1960s and 1970s. He weighed 250 pounds, and was one of the few rookies to be allowed to start as a linebacker in his first year of play. He played for 11 years in the NFL and helped the Green Bay Packers win 2 Super Bowls. Aldridge had psychosis.
6. People with psychosis are dangerous.
False: If you said ‘true’ to this one, you have been watching too many movies! People in treatment for psychosis are no more dangerous than anybody else. Actually, a normal person on drugs and alcohol is more likely to cause violence than a person in treatment for psychosis. That is a fact.
7. I can have psychosis and still have a good future.
True: Yes! That is right! Keep setting goals, and plan for them, but give yourself a little more time to reach them. When athletes get injured, they do not give up playing sports, but they do back off for a little while to give their bodies time to recover. So plan for the future and set your goals, but be patient with yourself and give your brain time to heal.
8. Teenagers with psychosis have to live in hospitals for long periods away from family and friends.
False: Teens with psychosis live at home 99% of the time. Once in a while, a trip to the hospital is needed -- but that is the same for lots of illnesses. For example, diabetes is a disease that causes people to have too much sugar in their body. Sometimes, teens with diabetes have to go to the hospital to bring their sugar levels down. In a similar way, psychosis causes too much activity in some parts of the brain, so teens with this problem might have to go to the hospital once in a while to bring that activity down to normal levels. In most cases, hospital stays are short so teens can get back to their routines quickly.
You are Not Alone
If you ever start to feel like you are alone in this fight, remember that there are nearly 4 million people in the U.S. and 9 thousand just in Delaware that are fighting right alongside you. The truth is, you have already run into people in your neighborhood, in your school, or in the mall that have psychosis. Because these individuals manage their symptoms, you did not know they experienced them. Many of these people are still in school like you; others are working jobs and raising families. In fact, some of the world’s most famous musicians, writers and painters had psychosis. Here are just a few:
o Margot Kidder Actress, best known as Lois Lane in Superman
o Vincent Van Gogh Famous impressionist painter
o Darrel Hammond Saturday Night Live cast member
o Brian Wilson Lead singer for the band, “The Beach Boys”
o Jack Kerouac Famous author who wrote “On the Road”
o John Nash Nobel Prize-winning mathematician
o Peter Green Lead guitarist for the band, “Fleetwood Mac”
o Lionel Aldridge Super Bowl-winning football player
You can also visit the following sites for more detailed information about famous people with mental illnesses:
Remember, be kind to yourself. Visit these other sites for more information and advice.
Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) : http://www.earlypsychosis.ca/
Mind Check: http://www.mindcheck.ca/
Teen Mental Health : http://teenmentalhealth.org/learn/mental-disorders/schizophrenia/