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Every time I spoke, it was as if I was putting on an act

[Trigger warning: this blog talks about suicide and psychosis]

Blogger Alice Mowse describes her battle with depersonalisation and psychosis and where she thinks researchers should focus their efforts.

Every time I spoke – it was as if I was putting on an act. I used to look in the mirror and I’d know that it was my reflection staring back at me – but I wouldn’t connect with that person. I felt completely un-centred, detached… and scared.

I was 19 when these symptoms first arose and I became increasingly withdrawn from my friends.

In an attempt to understand what was happening I turned to Google. It was a huge relief to see forums where people were going through the same thing and to know that they’d got better. It even had a name – depersonalisation.

I asked my GP to refer me to a psychiatrist. I got an official diagnosis of anxiety and depression and was prescribed an antidepressant. 

Initially, I found the medication really helpful, in the afternoons my mood was lifted. Slowly over time the depersonalisation symptoms went away and I came off the antidepressant. 

But sadly, my mental health spiralled in my final year of university and I ended up being sectioned. 

I had a manic episode where I thought I was in a play or a reality TV show. I remember thinking that someone had switched all the numbers in my phone so I was messaging the wrong people.

I can see now that it was psychosis, but at the time I really believed it. 

To this day, I am mortified by what I said to the people around me at the time. 

My mental health has caused huge relationship breakdowns, bullying and suicide attempts. Having anxiety and depression together is really hard because they feed each other and I’ve spent months waiting to see a psychiatrist, desperate for my medication to be changed.

But now I’m on the right treatment and I’m slowing clawing my life back. I’m volunteering and going to choir. And I have an art therapist who encourages me to keep going and I can talk about how I’m feeling. 

To me, mental health research means paying attention to individual cases, looking at the backgrounds of people, not just as a number or patient, but as a person with ideas, feelings and a life story. I would hope that by researching mental health, we can not only reduce suicides, but also help to give people with mental health issues a better quality of life.

At MQ, we’re working to better personalise mental health treatments with numerous projects including our work with Dr Miranda Wolpert getting young people the right care, Dr Bronwyn Grahaminvestigating hormone levels, Dr Robert DeRubeis creating an algorithm to get people to the best treatment and Dr Claire Gillan matching people to the right antidepressant for them.

Last updated: 22 November 2017

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