>Kerstin (Finland)

>Dear Sean,

It was wonderful to come across your videos about a bipolar episode being an awakening experience, they mirror my thoughts on the subject so well.

I had a bad psychosis at age 17, which put me in a catatonic state for a week, and I had to stay at a mental hospital for 7 weeks. Doctors told my parents that what I had was a reactive psychosis that might not repeat itself again. However, I had another mild episode a year and a half later, when I came off my medication. This time I didn’t end up in hospital.

What I experienced during these episodes was something very typical of a psychosis: being Christ reborn, being on a mission to save the planet, feeling I had healing energies, seeing reality in a totally different way. I felt tremendous excitement and that something very powerful was happening. Sadly, after coming down from my psychosis I totally bought the doctors explanation that what I had experienced was hallucinations and grandiose delusions.

When I was 25 I did a trip to Amsterdam where I met a man who I fell in love with, first time properly, it felt. This feeling really overwhelmed me and a few weeks later I ended up in a psychiatric hospital, after crashing my ex-boyfriends car and going swimming nude on a public beach… I spent 6 weeks in hospital. After coming out of hospital I felt quite badly depressed, and thinking this was mainly due to my numbing medication I stopped taking it some 3 or 4 months later. I moved to London, met a man, fell intensely in love – and had a psychosis again, followed by bad depression. This time I was given the diagnosis bipolar disorder.

In notes from that time I had written that I felt one with everything around me and that I had met God. I felt strongly a call to became a healer and got very interested in magic and witchcraft and borrowed a lot of books from the College of Psychic Studies in London. In one of the books, about shamanism, I found a chapter that described shamanistic initiation crises and how it can resemble a psychosis. I knew then that what I had experienced was indeed a shamanistic initiation crises and that I was called to do some healing work. I applied and was accepted to study psychology at a London university, however, I felt too restless to stay in one place for three whole years so I went travelling instead. On a trip to Central America I ran out of medication and discovered that I manage just fine anyway.

I felt pretty stable the following 10 years, I got married and I got pregnant. 4 months ago, after the birth of our son, I had a post partum psychosis, this time very mild. What was strange with this psychosis was that I experienced the full range of symptoms, started to see reality in a different way, but was at the same time anchored to normal reality. My husband, who had not seen me in this state before, got worried and called for an ambulance to take me to hospital despite my objections.

There was a screw-up with paper work and I ended up being driven around town and waiting for doctors several hours. This was too much pressure for me, going to hospital felt like being taken to prison, and I lost the grip. I thought I was in a movie like the Trueman show, that nothing around me is real, that I was being tested in this film and that I had the possibility to unite humankind if I did the right thing.

I thought the test was to chose the right path: I could chose to return home to my family and my normal life or I could chose to sacrifice myself and die and in that way save humankind. I felt very torn between the choices but in the end I was willing to die, and I was looking for a doorway out of the hospital to move into the next world because I knew that I had to go through the door myself, I would not be taken through it. No matter how many doors I tried to open and get through the transition just wouldn’t happen and it felt very hard that I was tested over and over again. In the end I threatened to kick in a window (which I really didn’t want to do but it felt like the only way) and I was given a few injections. When I was hospitalised first time years earlier I had been given injections which was very traumatising, I thought they were lethal injections that would kill me. When I was given the injections this time I knew that this was ment to happen, I had provoked this so that I could work through the trauma of the previous time. Getting the injections didn’t feel so bad, I still felt in control and knew that the injections wouldn’t hamper the process.

I fell asleep and woke up the next morning feeling fine, just not very happy to be in a mental hospital. When I saw the doctors a few days later they saw no reason to keep me in hospital against my will but still recommended that I stay there for a few weeks. I agreed because I did still feel wobbly and the experience had freaked my husband out quite bad, he wanted to follow doctors orders. I tried to make the most out of my stay, go for walks in the beautiful park, use the gym, do the activities that were offered. I didn’t feel I got the right kind of help to understand my experience but there were a few nurses on the ward with a genuine will to help and I had some good conversations. When I left and thanked the staff, one of them said: “well, you can mostly thank yourself.”

The hospital was very sorry about the lost papers and me not receiving care straight away, but I feel it was a good thing that the psychosis reached its peak. I do think that interrupting the course of a psychosis only harms the process. Now all in all, this process was very healing for me. I quit my medication a few months after the episode, which my psychiatrist agreed to. He considered me healed and did not think that the mental health services would have anything more to offer me. He also confessed that he has been “going against the stream” a lot during his career. If only there were more psychiatrists like him.

When I came home from hospital I started to look for information, I keyed in “psychosis and spirituality” on the internet search, and was amazed to find so much that related to my experience, it had just not been available last time around or I just hadn’t known where to look. I read about spiritual emergency, Stanislav and Christina Grof, John Weir Perry, Daniel Fisher, David Lukoff… It was very empowering. I don’t know exactly where I would be with myself if I haven’t found all this information. Some part of me always felt that the psychosis was not treated right by the doctors, that instead of trying to be convinced that the spirit world doesn’t exist we would need somebody to help and guide us through it, preferably somebody who has been there himself. But finding this information really helped me to understand and integrate my experience. It’s given me strength.

I very much feel that I want to help other people going through the same. I am running a peer-psychosis group in my hometown and am thinking about maybe training to be a psychiatric nurse. I also plan to do courses in healing and shamanism. My psychosis really opened up my mind to understand spiritual aspects of our existence, and fortunately my husband shares my interest in the spiritual. I feel that my experience has made me stronger and happier and given my life new purpose. Like for you, my psychosis was a great experience to have.

Kerstin

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