Nicole Casha* from Malta, talks about her successful recovery story from two psychotic episodes which she experienced once as a teenager and another as a young adult and how through support and medication she managed to get back on her feet. “I came at a point where I lost my job, my boyfriend, my physical health, my faith and, yes, my mind.”
Soon after my 17th birthday, I experienced a psychotic episode. I became mentally ill. I grew tired of living life. My body weight increased. Demotivation and apathy were an everyday reality. Just making it through the day became a tough endeavour.
But in a few months, through therapy and medication, I recovered quite smoothly and my life was sailing quite plainly once again: I had a summer job which could become my prospective career job; I also had a boyfriend who gave his all for me, but who I kept unaware of the psychotic episode I had experienced earlier; I had a slender figure once again; I enjoyed a good relationship with the Father and was also following a University course which I used to take seriously.
"I had lost my job, my boyfriend, my physical health, my faith and, yes, my mind."
The first episode was an intense experience but it did not affect me as severely as when I relapsed into my second psychotic episode, four years later. A bit before my 21st birthday, life, again, took its toll on me. Continuous ruminating and obsessing, made me too tired to even carry out the basic tasks of the day. Having been suicidal, I was confined to my house, totally dependent on others to go out. In the blink of an eye, everything came tumbling down. I saw the very pillars of my life collapsing in front of me. Now I had lost my job, my boyfriend, my physical health, my faith and, yes, my mind.
It became a hassle for me to get out of bed. All I wanted was to just sleep and eat. Nothing more, nothing less. I was living in a body I detested, which was growing bigger every day. And I had no energy or motivation to take control of my life and change my circumstances – by trying to lose weight, carry out at least easy tasks, or even do things I used to love doing. I was living my life through the people who bothered to help me in taking control of my life once again. Whereas before I used to enjoy shopping, mixing and matching clothes, now shopping became an arduous task. My younger sister used to take me shopping for new clothes because I no longer fit in the ones I had. Even washing daily seemed stressful and extra during this time. My mother had to become my source of discipline and self-control.
"I had lost a lot, but not everything"
I felt like I had lost everything: my sources of fulfillment, the love I wanted and any source of hope for a better future. But one thing that I could not really understand at the moment was that I had not lost everything. My family supported me greatly every single day, each member of the family in his/her own way. My true friends stood by me through thick and thin. God was with me all the way: silently but strongly. True, I had lost a lot, but not everything.
I had always thought that one’s health is what mattered most in life. But at the point where I had lost both my physical and mental health, I found something else which was more crucial: love and support from my family and friends. When my flame was blown off, my parents, my sisters, my brother, rekindled that flame for me. When I felt worthless, my friends reminded me who I was for them throughout the past years and how they always saw me.
"Little did I know that through this experience, I was going to emerge a better person"
When I started to focus on what I had left and made a conscious effort to make the best out of what I do have, my life started taking a different twist, I started recovering. I started exercising and gradually lost more than 20 kilograms of weight. When my passion started growing slowly, my aim was to become once again the person I was before. Little did I know that through this experience, I was going to emerge a better person than I was previously.
"Today, I adjust my sails according to the wind"
Today, I take life one day at a time and do not waste precious energy to try to change the things I have no control over. In the past I used to spend a lot of time questioning existential realities. These questions led me nowhere other than in a deep well which echoed the same questions back again. If the weather is cloudy, if things do not turn out the way I planned, if I do not get chosen for an exciting opportunity, there is little (if anything) I can do. The only thing I have control over is my attitude towards these circumstances. Paolo Coelho, a prolific writer says: ‘sometimes the wrong train took me to the right destination.’ I do find myself realising I did something wrong, I do find myself in a situation I don’t like, but I know I can adjust my sails according to the wind.
"My idea of God, the way I look at people, how I see myself and my attitude, is not the same anymore"
When I experienced these two episodes, I saw my life collapse: all of who I was, all that I owned, all that I loved, all that I had control over and aspired for, melted down right in front of me. But today I see these two episodes as life-changing and life-giving experiences. The recovery has set me free by showing me what really matters. Things which used to anger me in the past, things which used to intimidate me, no longer take the best of me. My priorities have changed, my time and self-management have taken a twist; my idea of God, the way I look at people, how I see myself and my attitude towards life in general, is not the same and will never be the same as it was before.
*Name has been changed.