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My Experience with Psychotic Depression: Part 1

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Several posts ago I wrote about my experience with psychotic mania (‘My Manic Summer’) and now I want to write about when I was psychotically depressed. I said in ‘My Manic Summer’ that I have only experienced psychosis once and that was when I was manic, but I was wrong. Recently my counsellor told me that during the winter of 2014 I had become psychotically depressed. I had forgotten about this either because of ECT or because when I become severely unwell I find it difficult to remember the episode afterwards. Either way, I pushed my counsellor to tell me about the psychosis I had experienced. It didn’t take long for everything to come flooding back in so much clarity and when it did, I immediately regretted convincing my counsellor to remind me. The memories that returned made me feel physically sick. 

That episode of depression was the worst I had experienced and it felt like it lasted forever. I knew it was inevitable after having experienced a manic episode weeks before. Its slow, insidious onslaught began and everything started to become hard. Getting up was hard, getting dressed was hard, looking in the mirror was hard, going to work was hard, studying was hard, social occasions became hard, until finally it was too hard to get out the door. 

Not only was I physically tired (even though I slept well over 12 hours every night) but I was mentally drained too. My thoughts and reactions were slowed. I felt handicapped at work and in social situations. I couldn’t focus on the next hour let alone on my studies. Making decisions became impossible and it would take a huge amount of time to make up my mind until eventually I would give up. And then I gave up trying to do anything. It was all I could do to keep working and that was all I did for a while until I stopped doing that too. 

My ‘what’s the point?’ mentality turned into ‘life’s not worth living’ and then that turned into ‘I don’t want to live.’ My world had turned grey, nothing had colour and nothing had a spark. Suddenly, like someone had turned off my lights, my grey world turned black. It was like someone had put an uncomfortable heavy sack over my head that muffled my senses, suffocated me and made me blind. I felt that I had a dead weight on my chest, restricting my breathing and weighing me down, making every movement heavy and forced. I was hopeless and thought I was helpless. I couldn’t get out of bed and the inner voices screamed a constant barrage of self-hate. 

I had experienced these depressions quite a few times before but my desire not to live was much stronger and I think my severe lack of motivation to do anything (even rolling over in bed was too much of an effort) saved my life. The paranoia and hallucinations also set this depression apart. 

Slowly I started to become paranoid about people. I thought people were following me in my car, or when I was walking. I believed they wanted to lock me up and suspected they were working for my psychiatrist. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, everyone was working against me. Eventually I started to believe that people could hear my thoughts. I was so paranoid that I never told anyone because I worried if they found out that I knew their plan, then I would be taken away. 

The day the hallucinations began I was walking around our botanical gardens at dawn. As I was walking, I noticed something in a tree ahead. As I got closer I could make out a clear, immobile, transparent object in the tree. It looked like a ghost was hanging from the tree. I was shocked, scared and panicked and ran a small distance from the figure. When I looked back it was no longer there. But these figures kept popping up in the trees around me. They were even in the trees on the side of the road as I drove home. 

After months of unbearable numbness and longing to feel something, the disgust and terror I felt was so overpowering I would have given anything for the deadening apathy to return. When I got home I pulled the blinds down in my room so I couldn’t see out my window and took some sedatives to sleep. I so desperately wanted to escape. 

They weren’t like the fleeting shadows you sometimes see out of the corner of your eye that turn out to be nothing. They didn’t disappear as soon as I focused on them, but stayed fixed in their position and were as real as if a person was standing in front of me. It wasn’t until later that I realised and accepted they were visual hallucinations. 

I don’t really know how it happened, but I ended up in a covering psychiatrist’s office with her giving me the option of going to hospital as a voluntary patient and if I refused then she said she would hold me under the mental health act. So I agreed to be admitted into hospital for the third time. 

In my next blog post ‘My Experience with Psychotic Depression: Part 2’ I’ll be writing about the turning point of my depression and how I recovered from that episode and regained normality.  

Sally also blogs for bp Magazine and has written for Youth Todayupstart and The Change Blog. To read more of her IBPF posts, click here.

Comments

My daughter who is 15 years old suffers from psychotic depression. Like the author, she sees ghostly apparitions in the trees. The author's description of her hallucination is exactly the same as my daughters. I am bipolar, but my daughter has not been diagnosed as such, yet. Her father also was, and he killed himself nine years ago in a relentless depression. Thank you for writing this, and for allowing me to comment. Marycooney1961@gmail.com

Thank you for your fine efforts...your writing is easy to read...I am happy to find "others"

I feel like you are describing my mother. At a young age I'd witness her mania. Paranoia was prevalent. I never knew, still don't, anyone else that has this. Reading your words made my heart stop a moment. She was paranoid of the same things you described. I never believed her. It drew a line between us. I wish I could understand her more, but mostly want it to be as if it never happened.

I've always felt as if I've looked in through a window at her. Thank you for a glimpse into her mind. She's been episode free for almost 16 years now.

Mine is not as bad as yours but it is good to know that other people get psychotic when depressed. Thank you for writing this. It must have been difficult to write this. It will help many people like me

Thankyou for sharing your stories. My son(now 21)has struggled with bipolar hi whole life. I feel like this story and others help me gain insight as well as help him see what others experience. Whats different/whats the same. My son recently began hearing voices. After a pretty bad psycotic episode we realized this. It is a very difficult and ever changing disease and I truly applaud anyone with it for their strength.

I to suffer from this disease. Thank u very much for your article. it was very informitive.

I seem to struggle so much more it seems the older I get. I am in the hospitality industry because I love meeting others. How ever struggling to get out of my apartment is like getting a child to take a bath. I feel I am fighting with myself to just get going. I have such a sucicidal mind that when I get I that down I fear I will lose my battle and give up. I have so much in my life to be grateful for yet it doesn't seem that great when I fear as some kind of force is holding me down . People don't understand this is crippling . I was a productive person in life and such a people person. Yet I find those days are becoming fewer and I would rather be locked up in a safe environment with people , than left with myself in the darkness of the shadows. If I hear how just take your meds it will be fine one more time from a "normal" person I may just lose it. Taking meds does not cure it! If anyone knows not to get off my meds is me ! As without them I would surely be engulfed and give up.

I once had psychotic depression/rapid cycling. Hallucinations. It was horrible. I ended up in hospital for fourth time. Now I can recognize it for what it is and try to take action/switch antidepressants etc. Sometimes, too, you have to wait it out....the meds take a little while to work, but lately the last few antidepressants have taken less than a week to work so I hope that if this happens to you again, that you find quick support and relief.

I have a difficult time with psychotic depression I really thought I was the only person who suffered from this. I also received ect and I believe that it helped me a great deal I haven't had an episode in almost 2 years along with medication management. Thank you for your writings they do touch and help people that are struggling.

I think my mom has this. It sounds so much like what she is going through... Well what my whole family is having to go through... She has been paranoid, hateful, has had hallucinations, and even has been violent(sometimes it's so bad she seems possessed) and suicidal. I really want to help her but she has said and done so many awful and scary things I have to keep my distance for my own emotional sanity and the safety of my children.
I feel like there has to be something causing these episodes weather it's physiological(she had a major stroke in her late 30s but made a full recovery), emotional(severly abused as a child and as an adult), spiritual(she is in to tarot cards and ouja boards etc.), or substance induced(she binge drinks and has a pain pills addiction) and if we could get to the root cause then we could help her to recover. Any info or advice for our situation would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!

Thank you for making me feel like I'm human and not alone.

I had this twice as well. I've had it while in mixed episode and had forgotten about it. Mixed episode is most dangerous spot to be in.

I want to thank you for writing this. I really feel alone in this. When I was reading it seemed to come out of me. Like as if i were writing. The only difference is i dont hallucinate. Every thing else is spot on. Again thank you for letting me see that i am not alone.

I experienced and continue to struggle from the remaining but better much better depression with auditor halusination and paranoid thinking. I went into psychosis 6 months ago and finally 3months ago halusination subsided only to return recently usually by stress and severe anxiety. Is this ever going to stop?

I am a 18 year old girl and I have always been diagnosed with depression. Last summer I had a undescrible experience. It felt like someone had taking control over me and used me. I have now been hearing voices almost everyday. My brother recently lived with me for a week and I have past experiences with his wife that traumatized me. When they left I started hearing my niece winning and being yelled at in my room. I hear them as clear as day. Then I also hear my own voice processing my thoughts. Its strange because its like someone is responding to me and my thoughts. The voice is a childs voice and encourages me daily. I don't understand what's hapoening

You need to tell a doctor you are having delusional thoughts. This needs medication to make it stop.

Please remember that your depression is not the real you, the real you is a unique individual person who is loved for who you truly are. Learn to love yourself, Counter every negative thought with a positive one such as the one above.Dont let the illness define you.

Just reading the above expierences had helped me grasp the serious side to this sad state or condition. Has helped v much my perception an new outlook.

I really appreciate people like you sharing these experiences. It helps me not feel so alone or different. Thank you.

An antipsychotic medication is needed to help this condition, not just an antidepressant.

most helpful people hav thus was scared to tell my dr

i am 21 male....i was diagnosed with psychotic depression..its been 1.5 years and counting...the hallucinations,pain,paranoia,psychosis and all the other things have completely killed me from inside.its too much difficult to live like this...every second is painful...from the past 1.5 years i have been through hell..complete hell..but i managed everything...i am fine now..because i have learned how to live..how to survive in this condition....pain makes people change....i have also changed...now i see myself as highly potential person...a lot more productive than others without this disease...every day my will power is increasing towards bigger goals...hallucinations and pain is there...but i dont know why....u just dont have to compare..there is a big reason for your life...a disease cant stop u..if u really want something in life....reach out and grab it...i remind myself the entire day that i read somewhere how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong

Ask your Dr for Haldol medication 2 mg at bedtime to stop this. Good luck.

I was a certified peer support specialist working in the mental health field doing home visits. I've always had depressive episodes, but that one back in 2013-14 was the worst. My sister had recently passed away from cancer, I received a very stressful promotion at my job and I was taking care of 2 teenagers and a husband that worked all the time. I became psychotic with visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations, if I was awake, I was experiencing them, yes, usually all of them at the same time. I continued working and didn't tell my therapist, psychiatrist or husband for months. I finally told my therapist. I continued to work until I realized I was much sicker than all of my clients and I begged for help. I went inpatient and they suggested ECT, as my depression has been treatment resistant and I've been on everything that was available. I very hesitantly agreed. At some point I was transferred to my local hospital to outpatient ECT. I had a total of 23 or 24 weekly sessions. I had lost all short term memory and a lot of long term, I couldn't put a sentence together. I used to "kid" and say that my brain was being fried. The psychoses lasted nine months! After all of the ECT the psychosis was gone and I was no longer depressed, but I was also a shell. It took almost a year for me to have a full conversation. Fast forward...I now have severe balance and coordination problems and depleted feeling in all extremities and many Drs cannot figure out what is going on. I'm starting to believe it is after effects of the ECT, but I have no proof. Without the ECT I would have died, right now I'm in a wheelchair. Even though I chose not to ever have ECT again, it did save my life. I can never work again, but I'm overall quite happy.

Its really scary how far untreated depression can go! I am also one who has taken antidepressants in the past only to find they do nothing for me! I feel that my depression has and is getting worse as i letbit go...lately im not connecting with people and even my own daughters i feel i cannot connect..just get irritated with everyone! Pushing everyone away! I dont know what to do at this point..i have no faith in anything despite being raised strict catholic. I dont know how things got this hazy and out of control im soo overwhelmed

Penny,

I have listed some of International Bipolar Foundation’s resources as well as a links for finding a therapist and support groups near you. Check out: http://ibpf.org/article/what-do-if-you-think-someone-might-have-bipolar

 

Psychology Today – Psychology Today’s website has a wonderful therapist/psychiatrist/ treatment center database that allows you to search various parameters. For instance the link below leads to a list of therapists based on the criteria of being located near you and treating Bipolar Disorder.  You can play around with the parameters for more options. I suggest calling and interviewing them before booking an appointment to see if it’s a good fit. Some common questions may be: Have you treated Bipolar Disorder patients before? Are you familiar with current medications/ treatments for Bipolar Disorder? Will you work together with my therapist/psychiatrist?

https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_results.php?sid=1495234728.5723_785&zipcode=84041&spec=168

 

https://psychiatrists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_results.php?sid=1495234781.5365_785&zipcode=84041&zipdist=30&spec=168

 

Treatment Centers:

https://treatment.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_results.php?state=UT&spec=168

https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/specialty-programs/treatment-resistant-mood-disorders-clinic/

 

Finding a support group:

 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Free General consumer and family support groups: https://namigo.org/programs-events/support-groups-2/ 

 

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): DBSA has peer led support groups for individuals, friends and family for Bipolar Disorder:  http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=peer_support_group_locator

 

Online support groups

7 Cups of Tea Online Therapy and Counseling: http://www.7cups.com/

Mental Health America Online Support Group and Discussion: https://www.inspire.com/groups/mental-health-america/   

 

IBPF Resources:

 

IBPF Book:

Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder book An overview of all aspects of living with bipolar disorder, including nutrition, medication, travel, and more. Available in PDF (attached), Kindle or hard copy.

 

IBPF Webinars:

We have over 200 free recorded webinars on various topics surrounding bipolar disorder at http://ibpf.org/articles/educational-videos   

 

Examples of some of our webinars:

http://ibpf.org/mental-illness-mental-wellness-story-hope-and-recovery  

http://ibpf.org/bipolar-101-how-manage-bipolar-disorder-day-day   

http://ibpf.org/being-woman-resilience-bipolar-disorder-resiliency-mind-body-and-spirit  

 

Examples of our blogs:

http://ibpf.org/blog/are-you-ready-diagnosis   

http://ibpf.org/blog/advice-newly-diagnosed

http://ibpf.org/article/what-do-if-you-think-someone-might-have-bipolar

http://ibpf.org/blog/explore-your-options-affordable-psychiatric-care

http://ibpf.org/blog/staying-afloat-during-depression

http://ibpf.org/article/self-management-techniques-bipolar-disorder  

 

I hope these are helpful. Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions.

 

People put me through severely psychotic terrorisms. And I am unable to heal from what they caused me falsely wrongfully unjustifiably horrifically and viciously as people who do not know me. And they were blaming me for their severe psychosis too. I need help fighting against them. And they are severe psychotic predators as people too. And they lied in order to attack and terrorize me too.

Julia, we can imagine how tough this must be for you. We are deeply concerned about you and we want you to know that help is available to get you through this. If you are in a crisis, please call this number which is a crisis line with listeners trained to help you: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), as we are not a crisis center. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page:http://iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

If you are not in a crisis and would like someone to talk to online, we recommend the websitewww.7cups.com It’s a free, anonymous online chat with a trained listener.

As I read your description of your psychotic episode I can't help but feel like I am reading about my own experience. It made me feel less alone. Thank you.

I had one episode of phycosis, for 5 days I had no memory of anything other than believing there were people making me do things in my home. It’s too much to explain but I ended up in a lock up ward for 8 days. That was in August. Before I had the episode I was manic and felt elation. For weeks before I felt brilliant. Too good now looking back. I made some really irrational decisions. I was on the radio live a lot, I joined a political party, my behaviour was mad. Now after having the episode. I’m stuck in the house, I haven’t been able to go anywhere. My sleep is all over the place and I don’t feel like me. I’m depressed all the time. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I had two appointments with Mental health that I was able to attend but my memory is so bad I don’t remember much about them. They closed my case when I couldn’t leave the house to go to them. I don’t know what to do. I can’t go to the doctor as I can’t leave the house. I have zero confidence and I’m always thinking what’s the point. I have an 11 year old daughter and if it wasn’t for her I would be far worse. I have to keep going for her. I just don’t understand what happened to me.

Hi Naomi, we are sorry to hear about what you’re going through. We want to let you know about some resources that are available to help you. Please call the Crisis Hotline or Text Line you can access by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting START to 741-741, as we are not a crisis center. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page: http://iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

If you are not in a crisis and want to talk to someone online, we recommend the website www.7cups.com It’s a free, anonymous online chat with a trained listener.

I don't have bipolar disorder, but I do have psychotic depression. It's much worse than major depressive disorder. I've had delusions of guilt and an olfactory hallucination of something burning. It's very difficult when you're in the midst of it, but the right medication regimen makes a huge difference. So if you're depressed, and especially if you're having psychosis, hang in there and seek help. It will get better.

I haven't had a psychotic episode in six months, although I remember them all so vividly. I still can't process what has happened, two therapists have not been able to help me get past it. All the dead bodies, the blizzards, the bomber planes, I think about all every night. I don't know anyone who has gone through this, thanks to this article now I do. Anyone have any advice on how to get past the past?

I’m in research. Reading all this makes me wou set what you people have gone through to be so messed up.

I was severely depressed throughout childhood (I come from a dysfunctional & abusive home) until about age 30. It's been a number of years now that I haven't felt that depressed or fantasized about dying -- I honestly wasn't ever sure if that would ever change for me, but things have gotten better for me and now my depression is rather mild in comparison, really mostly only getting bad based on my hormone fluctuations because I also have PMDD. For me what worked is CBT and Lexapro, and it took a LONG time for both to finally work. I find my current state really manageable & I have good support and tools now. I do fear relapse, but I try not to dwell on it. I especially fear relapse of the delusional aspect of my depression, which I never told anyone about during and only mentioned in passing to my husband not too long ago, and didn't know for sure, until researching tonight that it was related to MDD. This is the first site that I've found people actually discussing what it is/was like for them. From what I remember, my episodes were delusions that lasted weeks/few months at a time, I never had hallucinations. I was also very aware that what I was thinking/feeling wasn't reality, even though I kept thinking/feeling it, which is one of the reasons I didn't tell anyone, bc I felt fairly self-aware. In college I used to go weeks without touching anyone, I felt really isolated & would question if I really existed, that maybe my whole existence was only in my head or that no one could see me. After college I had the Truman Show Syndrome where I thought maybe there were little cameras all over watching me and that some people were actors or set-up in my life. I sometimes also wondered if I was really a robot and everybody knew that but me. I don't remember when all those thoughts would begin or fall away, but they'd be around for awhile and then be gone. And as I said, I knew logically they weren't true, and, for me, I think it helped that my background is in hard science and even before that I was always methodical when I analyzed things, so I constantly tried to weigh what was happening in reality versus in my mind/feelings and that helped me not manifest my delusional thoughts/feelings outwardly; but they did make me feel weird and paranoid sometimes. Anyways, I haven't felt like that in such a long time, I can only imagine it's because my MDD is being managed better now. I know this post is old and there haven't been any recent posts , but thank you for sharing your stories; I really appreciate it and wish you all well in your recovery and health management!

I wanted to add that if my delusional symptoms ever return, I will most definitely inform my healthcare provider in the future because I believe wasn't taking care of myself as well as I could have by not discussing all of my symptoms with a qualified professional. Hindsight is 20/20 and maturity helps :-)!

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