Mental Health’s Bad Boy Is Cute, But He Has a Nasty Streak


Psychosis can be exquisite.

Once, I was at Marigold yum-cha in Chinatown, Sydney, and I’d powered through about 16 prawn and pork dumplings, and a pot of special gunpowder tea. For few solid years it was the number one food destination for me and my boy. But one particular day something was very different about Marigold. I was on my lonesome, and that’s precisely when Marigold began to play a song just for me.

Truly. Everyone in the joint was in on the symphony. It was the sound of chopsticks on bowls. Chink, chink. The ting, ting of teapots on tea cups. Ting, ting. It was the rattle of trays as Chinese women pushed steampots of food around the restaurant. It was the chatter of the people queued up waiting for their chance to get a seat and eat the scrumptious food.

But collectively the culinary acoustics of Marigold became my full audio hallucination. Marigold could have been the Sydney Opera House for its classical music ensemble which rolled something like Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2, but with a New York busker edge. I’d throw notes out on the footpath to hear that again. In fact I could be seen at Marigold at the time gliding and moving and sliding my way across the floor in between tables trying to capture the pristine essence of that music, which was in fact, the start of a psychotic break.

I had another interesting, but gentle, brush with psychosis on a flight between Brisbane and Sydney. When I’m manic, I start to hear rolling waves of sounds which I refer to as “The Hum of the Drum”. This was the case when I jumped on a Qantas flight and settled into the sweet sounds of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It was brilliant, but not loud enough. So I called over the flight attendant and asked if she would be so kind as to turn the volume up. The hosty just looked at me and said: “I’ll see what I can do Sir.”

That’s when psychosis is playing nice. But he doesn’t play nice often, or for very long. My experience with psychosis is that he turns on you like a fighting dog and what you can get instead of restaurant orchestras is hard biting paranoia and demon faces. I’ve chased furry neon animals across my roof while the neighour watched in horror, and I’ve had a complete disconnection from the human race, where I held no belief that I would ever get my sanity back.

Serious psychosis changed my life perspective forever.

Yes, it wasn’t the pretty stuff that did it. For several days I’d been fading away, or it felt that way. I stopped speaking to people and started seeing them as different to me. It was like they were actually losing their outlines around their bodies and heads. People were becoming less definable. But so was I. It was like becoming part of a painting and disappearing into it.

Then I had a pre-planned appointment with my extraodinarily insightful psychologist, Sally. I’d been awake, more or less, for around three days when I started walking into the city to see her. This was when I started to become aware of them. Do you know them? They were the ones who were following me. I’d turn real quick and catch them occasionally. They were the ones with black pearl eyes, no whites at all, just black and sharp, jagged teeth. Like big wolf teeth.

But they didn’t catch me, and I’m pretty sure, with some speed walking and deft turns down alleyways, I shook them before I got to Sally’s. But this is when things started to turn for the worst. There is no person on Earth whom I trusted more than Sally. She is the only person I could sit down and explain my situation to knowing she would get it and she would not judge. Sally might have me sent to hospital but if she did, I’d know it was for the best. I’d do whatever Sally said.

So I sat down in front of her, relieved that I’d made it to her in one piece, relieved that I could speak my mind and explain what was going on with the people following me, and that small issue about me starting to think I was actually moving toward a different dimension and becoming a piece of art. I could describe the new blurred lines of life and how everything was losing clarity and definition and beginning to dissolve into space and time.

Sally listened intently, for quite some time before I realised what was happening. She turned sharply to collect her notebook from her desk, and her eyes turned to black pearls and her teeth became jagged like a wolf’s. Sally was in on it. My Sally. Oh no, not my Sally. Her face was horrific. I was terrified of the one person I  trusted implicitly with my mental health. But only for a moment.

In truth, it was indeed my absolute faith in Sally that made me realise that what I was experiencing was not real. I was psychotic. I really did trust Sally more than anyone else. And so with that I questioned my own judgment, the very things I was seeing with my own eyes. I questioned the black pearls and the wolves and the people hunting me. With a prayer-like promise to Sally, I went straight home and used sledgehammer medication to get me to sleep and then I did it again, and again, sleeping for much of the next few days. I didn’t need the hospital this time round. Sleep and Sally put the psychosis in its place.

But I will always know psychosis remains somewhere deep, and ready, within me. He will return to play yummy or play naughty. But he will return.

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