What I would say if I could go back in time to my newly-diagnosed self.

Your psychosis ends. Hospitalizations end. Your episodes end. No matter how far away you go, you always come back. It will hurt like hell and you’ll see only one way out. Hold on. Don’t let it win. Stay stubborn enough to not let it win.

The hospital is where you go to start getting better. But all that will be accomplished there is starting you on meds and building a treatment plan for when you get out. It’s the first step out of a psychotic episode, which is what you’re in. It will end. I promise you: they all end eventually. Wait it out. All you can do is wait it out. You don’t need to do anything. Just pass the seconds on the clock.

Your meds only work if you take them on time every day, so set alarms, alarms, alarms. Set backup alarms. Set backup alarms for your backup alarms. Do whatever you need to do remind yourself to take them on time.

Your doctor is only as good as the information you give him. Take notes on your symptoms, your moods, your sleep, and your side effects. Keep a mood chart, and update it daily, because your memory is going to be awful. When you have an appointment, write down your summary of your notes and give it to your doctor. Take your mood chart with you to show him and for you to reference. Your appointments will only be 20 minutes long, so make sure you use your time wisely. You are your best and only advocate as the patient. No one else can advocate for you unless you bring someone with you to your appointment. If you do need an advocate because you’re out of your mind on the day of your appointment, bring your mom with you. That way, you’ll have the information the doctor gives, afterward. Otherwise, your appointment will have been for nothing, because you will have no memory of it after the fact.

You’re going to have memory loss, and it is very inconvenient and can be scary. In fact, the next few months of your life will be so traumatic that in 5 months, you’ll come out of a blackout-like haze at the 4th of July celebration during the fireworks and have no memory of the time between now and then. This is your body protecting you from things you can’t handle yet. It gets easier with time, but I know that doesn’t matter right now. Right now, all you can do is let the time pass and do your best not to hurt yourself.

There’s a funeral you’ll go to next year. You’ll see Wesley smoking a cigarette. Don’t try it. You’ll smoke for the next 13 years if you do, and you’ll ruin your singing voice.

Do not take handfuls of pills. That should be avoided, no matter how much you want to.

Over time, you’re going to build coping skills and develop tools that help you get through episodes. They will make the episodes more bearable. You’ll get better and better at coping, and your pain level overall will go down over time. It won’t be this painful forever, and every episode ends eventually, not matter how deep your psychosis gets. You don’t have to kill yourself to escape. You just have to wait it out.

You’re about to lose everything you’ve worked for your whole life. All your achievements are going to be dashed against the rocks of your illness. Your dreams will be snatched away from you by simple chance and cruel fate. That’s okay. It doesn’t make your life worthless. You’ll rebuild, and someday your pain will let you help other people who are struggling like you are now. Your pain means something. This is not for nothing. This just leads to the next part of your life.

In 15 years (yes, you’ll make it to at least 33!), you’ll be in partial remission and able to prevent most of your episodes. You’ll get so good at it, and so used to your remaining symptoms, that you’ll be practiced at how to cope. You’ll be able to comfort yourself. You’ll be safe enough by yourself to live alone, unsupervised. It will still hurt like hell sometimes, and you will still struggle. But there is a light ahead in this tunnel. The tunnel doesn’t ever actually end, but you’ll find a lamp. And that’s the best news I can give you.



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