What does psychosis feel like?

Content Warning: suicide

This is written purely from my own experience, in an attempt to transcribe my feelings in a way that others can understand.

Psychosis causes a loss of touch with reality and involves hallucinations (auditory, visual ect) and delusions. My psychosis began with delusions and this post is focussed on the descent into psychosis but I also experienced hallucinations later after a few days without sleep.

So what does psychosis feel like? How to describe what it feels like to completely, ardently believe something that is fundamentally untrue? I’m gonna do it by telling a story about something that could happen to any of us.

So for this exercise I would like you to imagine that you are sad.

You are sad and vaguely aware that other people in the world are also sad. You feel bad for them, but mostly you feel bad for yourself.

You don’t know how to make yourself feel better. You try a few things, cooking, going out, talking to friends, but nothing seems to work.

Then! You have an idea. And having a new idea feels amazing. What if you climb a tree? That would make you feel better!

(In fact, you consider, that would probably make everyone feel better, people don’t climb enough trees these days.)

But hang on, you tell yourself, it might not work. The idea of it seems good, but the reality of it might just let you down again like all those other things you tried.

Only one way to find out.

You go outside and you look for a tree.

You see a lot of trees but they are all wrong.

Then! You see the right tree! A great sense of peace washes over you followed by a great feeling of happiness. This is happiness like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Is this what euphoria feels like? Is this what Archimedes felt when he jumped out of his bathtub?

You have to tell everyone about it! You fixed the sad feeling! Now everyone can be happy all the time forever!

But wait. Suddenly you get hit by crippling doubt. There are so many people in the world, and they are all so different. Different things make them happy.

What if this isn’t the right tree? You have to know for sure. You have to climb the tree.

The thought of climbing the tree suddenly fills you with revulsion and dread. What if it isn’t the right tree.

As soon as you tell people they will immediately want to climb the tree, and then tell all their friends to climb the tree. What if there’s something bad or dangerous up there?

Unless. Unless the tree is so good that their first thought is not to climb it, but to tell *everyone*

After all, YOU haven’t climbed the tree yet because YOUR first thought was to tell everyone. You realise that people don’t even need to climb the tree to be happy, just to know it exists. In the same way you know it exists and is the correct tree. But the only way they can experience that without the following wave of doubt is to hear first hand from somebody that they trust, and to be trustworthy you need to know for sure, and to know for sure you need to climb the tree.

The tree disgusts you yet attracts you in equal measure. Such a thing has no right to exist. But it does, and people need to know, and you need to know that the very first thing they will do is feel happy, and the second thing they will do is tell someone else. They don’t even need to climb the tree at all! They’ll already be happy! And without the horrible fear and doubt that you feel now.

But what if you’re wrong and it’s the wrong tree. Then they will all try to climb it at once when they hear, only to be … let down? What is the worst thing that can happen if you’re wrong? With a sinking heart you realise that the only way to find the worst thing that can happen is to climb the fucking tree.

You become terrified of and obsessed with the tree. Over several days it tears you apart until you can’t take it anymore. You know that if you don’t do it now you will never do it, no one will ever do it yet everyone will want to.

You climb the tree.

Terror envelopes you. There is no end to it. The only way to escape is to kill yourself RIGHT NOW.

You scream to people on the ground trying to warn them. They run to the tree, but before they can climb up you climb down.

Then the fear changes to euphoria even greater than before. You realise that you did it. You survived the worst fear imaginable. And if you can do it, you can save everyone else so they will never have to do it. But quickly before they find out what’s up the tree. You start to panic. Everyone is going to kill themselves unless you stop them.

How can you tell everyone, right now, how important this is?

You scream to the people on the ground that you are the messiah. They need to listen to you. You are the only one who knows the truth about the tree.

You are instantly hit by another wave of doubt. What if you’re wrong about everything? What are you even saying? You need to get medicated. You need to go to hospital. You’re fucked up in the head.

You try and tell people but it takes them three days to hear you. That’s ok, you realised that you love everyone and you forgive them for everything. You just need to explain how dangerous the tree is and how good it is that you survived because now you can save them. But everytime you try to tell someone they don’t seem to understand.

They have no concept of what has happened or how important it was.

You think it’s because they don’t believe in you but over time you come to realise it’s because trees actually don’t exist at all. They have never existed in the real world, only in your mind.

You now have to adjust to a treeless world when once you lived in a forest. But it’s ok, there are pills for that.

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