There is a torment in waiting for the psychosis to break.

You can never heal completely from that wreck. I can tell you what it is not. Psychosis is not a polite madness. It is not going to go away any time soon. You will recover but then again you will relapse. Psychosis is I am afraid another dimension, a violent dimension, in which we are dealt the cruel blows of hallucinations and voices. I wish that it could only be my potential, food, music and love that affected me deeply instead of psychosis. I have discovered that a woman and an inpatient of a mental hospital must always keep a diary. I have discovered that within me there is always this struggle for creativity, extraordinary innocence, and unchanging hope. I have to be better. Better than sane and the mania. I have to be better than when the hypomania triumphs.

I have discovered when I do better everything begins working coordinated. My parents are my guardians. In the great house where once my childhood ruled, my mother’s love is my anchor. My lifeline. It features goals, my adolescent potential, sanity and sleep. For a long time I lacked awareness of what having psychosis would mean in the long term. I know now the depression would make me an ordinary woman but what gives me the creativity. I have never been in love like other women. I have never married like other women. I have never had those children with the white picket fence but I write books. They pour out of me. I dismantle marriage and give it a bad name in my short stories. All I know of life is empty fields, waiting rooms. Waiting for doctors to see me. Psychiatrists. Still I am left overwhelmed.

I have been damaged, filled with anguish, bittersweet angst, filled with manic energy and I have written with a spontaneity. Family life, keeping diaries over the years has saved my delicate psychological framework. Given me the motivation for my intuition to dream again, when all I have to offer the world is my sadness. I know what the word ‘lack’ or rather the words ‘lack of’ means. The lack of being there so completely in the present. I know what the sensation of being caught between fantasy and illusion means. I spend a lot of time on my own now. I do not call the pain and the wounded feelings that stir deep within me loneliness. Psychosis is a nightmare. I cannot really bring myself to explain the parts of this non-reality that is also very much a frightening reality for some.

It is only a voyage. It is only a voyage into eternity. There is winter in my heart. Ice in my lungs. The horrors of depravity in my chest. All holding me down. This is an acute system. Psychosis is like suffocating in the dark. Drowning with despair on your left-hand side and hardship on your right. Studying the case studies of people who experience psychosis must give you a profound take on humanity. How much of our soul we give away. How much we take and take and take from the people around us. The people who love us. The people who treat us, the doctors, the nurses, after all are they not strangers. These are all rhythms that go by the name of love. These are all rhythms that are a return to love and normalcy. I think when I say that I mean it to be factual.

People could never see the brightness behind my eyes. Why I kept to myself. The quiet me. Perhaps all they saw was the intelligence. I knew early on how dangerous it was to make friends, to have relationships. I was scared to death of the boyfriend and girlfriend relationship because this would mean now I would have to come clean. I would have to confess. I was always the confessional type though especially throughout my poetry. I could not see what others saw. I knew I would be no good for anyone. No good for domestic life. No good as a wife and a mother. Sacrifices would have to be made. I think my children would have been too independent at a very young age. They would have had to look after me. I do not think that men really have it within them to take care of a mentally ill wife.

I know every day what I have given up in the pursuit of sanity. Mostly I feel the hunger in the dark. The hunger for closeness, for contact, for love but I know I would not have been able to deal with it or accept it. I cannot even accept praise for my writing. I shy away from it. I painstakingly crush it. I know I must or else the art form that has become part of the perspective that I have of the exterior world will not survive. All those drawings of people. Am I tragic? That is hard to escape. Not with the wealth of ideas that I have though. With my battle with psychosis, I have encountered coma, relief, disaster and horror. I write about what I think intimacy is. All I know of intimacy is the partnership of my parents. Sometimes I feel that all I am are fragments pieced together.

Fragments of dopamine, serotonin, burnt out nerve endings and flashbacks to times when I was happier. When I was a child not having to deal with trauma, depression, my dad’s depression, pharmaceuticals and lack of parental supervision but you must understand I was dealing with all of these things at some level or other even when I was a child. Life was stressful when I was a child. Life became even more so when I grew up. What is despair compared to love? We all want to be accepted. I mean it makes you begin to question the distance between self-love and fear. I have lived my whole life in fear of what others might think of me, what they will say, and what their opinion of me is. Fear just programmes the psychosis. Fear just becomes another reality. What I wanted for all of my life was to live in your world.

All I wanted was to have thoughtful parents who loved me; thought the world of accomplished me. Parents who clapped every time I won something at school. Every diploma I received. My goal was to perform excellently. Even as a child, I was a perfectionist. The doctors never spoke about the hallucinations. The hearing of voices. Maybe they wanted to protect me. Maybe they wanted to say. Perhaps this will never happen to you although it has happened to other people whose diagnosis played out the same way that mine was about to. Perhaps psychiatrists do not believe in the future. Perhaps they only believe in the now. Perhaps they only believe in fixing the now. I made a normal life up for as long I could when I was in high school. It worked. Then it did not. Now I write for a living. Psychosis banging at the door.

Abigail George

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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