I am working on a collection of essays for a school project. This is last week’s homework. The teacher suggested a few things to make it better. What do you think?
Death is Like Psychosis
I am lying on the couch staring out the window at the branches of a tree. The branches turn into Clifford the dog, a character from a book I loved as a child. I wonder to myself what message is God sending me through Clifford? I decide God is trying to entertain me.
Days before, my husband and I are at a coffee shop near the beach in San Diego. I am agitated. My head hurts but not in the traditional sense. The thoughts in my head hurt. The thoughts are circular. I become more and more uncomfortable. I feel trapped inside of my mind. My thoughts are looping, repeating, making me feel as if there is no way out. I decide that this is hell, and I have been sent here to live for eternity.
I can’t imagine an escape. I feel as if another hour of this and I will run in front of traffic or jump off a bridge (both things I have tried before). But then I realize it is hell, and there is no escape because I am already dead. Tears don’t come. Hell? I made it to hell. These thoughts that lead nowhere and loop back around onto each other like pathways to visions that end in confusion. I’m not going to make it long here. I must deserve this punishment. No chance to live my life over again. I fucked up too badly. I can’t even remember my worst sins, although I know they are grave because of these thoughts – nonlinear, backward, forward, and then all over again.
In a flash of clarity, I realize my only hope is a doctor. I ask my husband to call a doctor. I can’t sit still. I am pacing. I am going back and forth on an escalator. There is no comfort. My husband tries to get me to the car. I am both reluctant and eager. My husband calls the doctor who prescribes medication. If I can stay safe until the medication works, if I can stand these torturous thoughts, life may return to normal.
Within a couple of days, the medication kills the terror, but the doctors don’t know that the dosage is not high enough, and I am unable to tell them, trapped as I am inside my head. I am still psychotic although there is no terror. I believe I am Jesus. I believe I was sent to save the world. I spend days talking to God; we play video games. He is better than me at the games. He tells me jokes like this, “When the first person saw the golden calf that the Israelites crafted in the desert, the person screamed, “Holy Cow!” I find this joke hilarious. I laugh. God knows I will laugh. God knows everything.
I learn the voice of Jesus. I learn the voice of God, and I learn the voice of the Holy Spirit. The voice of Jesus is kind, clear, and very distinct. The voice of the Holy Spirit is the most innocent voice I have ever heard like a grown up child.
During this time, the voices in my head are all consuming. I can’t hear or respond to other people. I do not talk to my husband. I am in a world of madness. The woman he married is dead, and he doesn’t know if she will ever come back to life.
After six months on a tightrope between one life and another, I am convinced I need to kill myself. The voices tell me, “Do it! Do it!” One whole day the voices hound me. Just when I am about to go to Rite-Aid and buy some over the counter pills to overdose on, the voice of Jesus breaks into my populated head, “I am never scary,” he says. Something inside of me snaps, and I believe it was Jesus breaking through my madness. I call my husband, “Please come home. I need to go to the hospital. I need to see a doctor.”
The doctor at the emergency room increases my medication. Within two days I am like Lazarus. I walk out of the tomb of death, and I begin to piece together what my life looks like and what happened to me.
Recovery is slow. I have been in the grave – both heaven and hell for a very long time. There is still an echo of voices in my head like a wave. But there are moments of silence. It feels strange to experience silence again. The moments of nothingness get longer and longer, and I adjust to a less crowded mind.
I have memories of my psychosis. I am ashamed that I thought I was Jesus. I am confused that I spent months talking to God. I watch Christian television and try to bring my faith back into a normal realm. After having God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as my companions for months, it is hard to organize my thoughts about what Christianity is, what I was raised to believe. What is fact, and what is fiction? Of course, there are those who think all religion is fiction, but I am not one of those people. I can’t live without my faith.
I spent six months in another world. Possibly it is the world where spirits get trapped, a middle world between heaven and earth or hell and earth. The doctors play the role of the key holder. It is as if they go into the world with medication, give it to you, and then grab your hand and pull you back. The entry into reality is abrupt. Now rescued, I am left feeling confused, frightened, ashamed, and disoriented.
Well-meaning people tell me that if I pray harder, healing will come. They tell me that demons possess me. In my vulnerable state with the memory of psychosis being so fresh in my mind, it is not a stretch to think that I am demon possessed. The thought terrifies me. Will the spirits come back to get me?
There is fear, a fear of going back, or being lost forever, of being stuck between this world and another, or possibly experiencing a death of self. I am afraid psychosis will arrive on my doorstep again.
I have not gotten used to my husband’s loving voice, and outstretched arms. He knows that I am home now. He welcomes me. I do not want to be lost to him forever. He knows what it is like to see me die in front of his eyes. He knows what it is like to sleep next to a woman who doesn’t know about all the years you have been married, or that you knew one another in high school. He knows what it is like to have the love of your life turn against you like a stranger in the street.
My husband has experienced a six-month death of his wife. I was there physically, and he could recognize the shape of my nose and the color of my eyes, but there was no emotional connection. The body existed but the heart, the spirit, the mind did not.
Today after making love, I kiss my husband’s bearded cheek. We are listening to love songs. A song by Snow Patrol comes on Pandora, “If I lay here. If I just lay here. Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”
I look at my husband and ask, “Can you imagine if I slipped into madness but didn’t come back?”
“No,” he says. “I can’t imagine that.”
“It would be sad for you to see me, but not be able to reach me. To know that somewhere trapped inside was my laughter, my love, our memories. It would be awful. I would be trapped and terrified. I would be in the land of the unreachable. It is a death. To be certain, it is a death of sorts. Please help me not to get buried there again.”