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Sun 22 August 2021

Psychosis, An Altered Reality

Meet Lorna and her powerful story of psychosis.

I’m Lorna, a Mum of two amazing teenage boys, an 18yr old William and a 16yr old Frank , I’m now remarried to Anthony who was my childhood sweetheart and we all live together and get along really well as a family. I’m writing this because I’d like to help others.

1.21pm I missed a call from my 18yr old, then a random text from him “Yeah, I’ll make it all better Mum, thank you though.

I called William, he was speaking so fast, he was on a mission (his words) he said “I remember what happened to me and I know you saved me”. He was telling me his friend was evil and he knows they had raped his girlfriend. He was arguing with someone in the front yard and couldn’t get his car in the driveway. I advised him to park on the street, to relax at home with the puppies and catch up with his brother who was home.

Frank calls me, “Mum William is freaking me out, he is not right. He keeps trying to teach us maths and he is talking about the Egyptians harnessing energy from the sun.”

My husband calls me next, he has spoken to William, he is heading home to be with him.

When Anthony gets home he questions William, who admits he has taken a lot of LSD, he gives him his wallet, his phone and the remainder of the LSD, we assume this is a drug induced psychosis.

I’m on the phone to Anthony who tells me William is in his room sleeping, when I get home I notice his window is open, we then get a call from William’s girlfriend, then a call from her Dad, William has run to their house over 10km away and he is “carrying on like a pork chop” we need to come and get him. So we do.

We take him to the hospital, after 5 hours in Emergency we see a Dr, they immediately give him antispsychotic medication. For 2 months William’s psychosis powers on. He is heavily medicated. He continues to escape locked wards; scales walls, jumps off the roof, breaks through windows. It is exhausting and the most frightening thing I have ever witnessed. As his Mum I can’t see an end to it. I am unable to sleep. As his carer, everytime he escapes I get a phone call. I can still recall a scheduled visit. Arriving, ringing the buzzer, outlining who we are…

Me: Hi, it’s William’s Mum and Step Dad Anthony for our 3.30pm visit.

Nurse: William isn’t here right now

Me: What? this is a locked ward, where is he?

Nurse: He is on the roof.

Me: Now? Stepping back from the door and looking up to the roof

Nurse: Don’t worry, the police have been called, they’re looking for him.

When he was discharged from the mental health ward, still psychotic, I took him to our GP for advice, we were told he wouldn’t get in to see a private psychiatrist that day. We went home with him and he then had a grand plan to harness electricity with his drill whilst in the shower. He showered, and we flicked off all the electricity in the house, and then we drove with him to another area health service and waited in Emergency again. He was scheduled again, admitted straight away and they started treating him for bipolar disorder. I am so thankful that we didn’t give up. I am so thankful that he trusted both myself and my husband to care for him in that state. He was definitely in flight mode. I also want you to know that psychotic patients are beautiful. In Australia if a patient is held in a mental health ward for a long period of time they get their own legal representative and they go before a magistrate who speaks to everyone involved in their care and makes a decision to either extend their hospitalisation or not. When the magistrate asks to hear from William this unfolds…

William: I am wanting to be released today as I’m fine, I have a job, I have plans to rent an apartment etc. He then turns to his lawyer and says You seem very nervous, are you ok?

William’s lawyer: I am really nervous, thank you.

Magistrate: As his parent’s did you want to share anything

Mum: I am so proud of the son I have raised, we asked him if he wanted us to speak and he said he was happy to speak for himself and he has such a beautiful heart, I’m pleased he was able to share that today.

His Dr: It is highly unusual that we have someone so thoughtful and kind, he is a very emotional young man.

Magistrate: I have never seen this before, you are a beautiful young man William.

Unfortunately it was another month before William was discharged, which was extremely distressing to witness. High Dependency Wards are awful places, although I recognise they are necessary to keep people safe. Witnessing your strong, fit, healthy, capable, intelligent son medicated to the point of drooling is awful and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I don’t want him to ever go back. So please know that if you ever speak to a psychotic person and they fear going to hospital, know that it is a very real fear and one you should respect, please offer them another option wherever possible.

I also personally experienced psychosis during this time. I didn’t listen to my GP. I wasn’t sleeping and she recommended medication. I declined, as I wanted to stay alert for when the phone calls from the hospital came. I ended up walking over 40kms with bleeding feet, bruises and blisters, I was delusional and the extreme stress and lack of sleep caused psychosis. I was hospitalised for a week. It was extremely scary for my husband and son to have 2 of their family members in hospital.

I want you to know that psychosis does end. Having experienced it first hand has helped me not be judgemental. It can happen to anyone, and it can be as simple as stress and not enough sleep. Whatever the cause the person experiencing psychosis feels the same way. They have trouble trusting others, they can’t rest and their mind is constantly going. The best thing you can do to help them is to think of them as a lost toddler. If you came across a toddler who was screaming, distressed and lost and needing to find their parent, you’d help them. You wouldn’t yell, you wouldn’t judge, you’d ask them questions to help them locate their parent. Please think of the person experiencing psychosis in the same way. Be kind to them.