What Not to Do When Someone You Love Is Psychotic

November 29, 2010

There have been a couple of disturbing news reports lately about terrible crimes committed by people in psychotic states, including the actor Michael Brea’s savage murder of his mother and a Seattle killing that took place in front of school children.

Although it’s been proven that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it, these reports underscore the fact that untreated psychosis can lead to tragedy.

It’s imperative, then, that you do everything you can to get your loved one the help he or she needs.

When John became psychotic due to a manic episode that escalated into psychosis, I learned a few hard lessons about what not to do when you’re trying to help a loved one beat this frightening illness.

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Tetris Soothes Psychological Trauma

November 14, 2010

Every year at my dad’s office Christmas party, my sister and I would beg his secretary to let us play Tetris on her computer. We could play it on a Game Boy anytime we wanted, but that was in black and white. On her computer: glorious color.

After about the age of 13, I didn’t play Tetris for many years. In high school, Sim City was my video game of choice. In college, I discovered computerized Solitaire. A few years ago, I became obsessed with digital Scrabble.

A couple of months before John’s breakdown, I rediscovered Tetris. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he was working a lot, and even when he was home on the weekend, he was often obsessed with work. I needed to find things to do to occupy my time. A Web search for “free Tetris” bore fruit, so I played the occasional game here and there.

But when John went into the hospital and my anxiety was so high that I lost seven pounds in a week eating the exact same amount of food as usual (I know because I weigh and measure all my meals as part of my Twelve Step recovery), Solitaire didn’t help, Scrabble didn’t help, and I didn’t even have access to Sim City.

No, the only thing that helped calm my anxiety and prevented me from reliving the weekend prior to John’s hospitalization over and over again in my mind was a combination of mindless TV and Tetris.

In light of some new research released by Oxford University, I don’t think this was an accident.

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Staying Calm During a Psychiatric Crisis

October 3, 2010

People often reflect each others’ moods, which is why it’s important to stay calm during a loved one’s psychiatric crisis.

My husband’s psychiatric crisis happened in two parts. There was the initial breakdown and one-week hospitalization, after which he came home for about two weeks. During those two weeks, he started seeing a psychiatrist who—for whatever reason—didn’t believe he’d been psychotic. She told him that he was on the wrong medications, and that she was going to take him off Risperdal and put him onto an antidepressant called Pristiq. A couple of days into this transition, his psychosis took root again.

But the doctor didn’t believe me when I told her what was going on. As John got more and more manic and psychotic, I got more and more panicked. He was calling his co-workers and frightening them with talk of his delusions. I was terrified that he was going to get himself fired, that he was going to ruin his life.

Desperate, I convinced him to call the psychiatrist. At first, she told him that he should go back on the meds the hospital had prescribed, but when he expressed some reservations with this course of action, she told him that she “wasn’t that concerned” about his behavior and explained that he had the right to continue with the Pristiq.

I was horrified, and I let John know it.

Which was a mistake. A big, big mistake.

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