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Psychosis to pandemic

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

About three months ago I crashed into a psychotic episode. I was convinced I was patient zero of the corona virus and thought myself responsible for every bad thing that happened in the world. Any type of crime and murder was planned by me, and I was pretty sure I organised the biggest international drug cartel this world has ever witnessed. The news showed collapsing houses in Malta – I was convinced I was the one that planted bombs under them. I was a dangerous criminal, and that’s why I was being followed everywhere I went.

I spent a little over a week in a psychiatric hospital, where my mind could run freely. At this point I thought I was held hostage by ‘terrorists’ (my psychiatrist and doctors), that there was a war going on and I was a war prisoner (the showers looked like what I’ve seen of concentration camps), and that I was the subject of medication experimentation (because I sure didn’t believe these pills were going to make me better). The worst of my fantasies was the one where I realised my visitors would be chopped up after seeing me, and I had to eat them for dinner afterwards. The best one was where I believed I was being transformed into a cyborg, and Elon Musk was about to send me to Mars as the first human to live there.

Anyways, I was allowed to go home fairly soon as my mum had promised to stay with me, as I wasn’t allowed to be left alone. I was scared of everything and the medication turned me into a zombie, so most of my time recovering was spent in bed, and occasionally the living room. It took me quite a while to be able to go outside, and then to go outside by myself. But overall the recovery process was extremely quick, and I felt my psychiatrist was proud of me. Even after my mum left I stuck to a very strict sleeping schedule, and I wouldn’t go out with friends if that meant staying up after 9 pm.

At some point I was even well enough to go back to university and take some classes. It took a while before I gained back my ability to focus. Earlier on I didn’t understand simple comedies – it was near a miracle that I understood what my lecturers were talking about.

It was then that Italy had become a major victim of COVID-19. Having Italian flatmates and living in the neighbouring country, I soon realised that this time the threat was real. The Maltese government immediately took adequate action, shutting down university and all schools. Which meant I was back to being at home again.

It’s been a while, and even though I first believed it would really just last two weeks, it seems we have to adjust to these new realities. Being tested for temperature everywhere you go and wearing a mask to enter supermarkets and hopping on a bus. I can’t complain, I’m incredibly privileged to be living in a safe house on a sunny island these days. But it still, obviously, feels weird. I went from having psychotic ideas about a virus in China, to having to actually adjust my reality because of it.

Luckily I’m getting through the days alright. Some are bad, some are good – we’re all in the same boat. I spend my time stuffing myself with home-made hummus, trying to avoid eating chocolate and the idea of exercising, and scrolling through the infinite well of tinder profiles. My cash flow steadily consists of receiving my student loan and spending it on food delivery and loads of books. I read, write, think, and dream. I’m planning a bit of my future, or am at least fantasizing about the things I could do. And I’m in touch with my family in the Netherlands, a lot.

When I had a panic attack on New Year’s Eve of 2019, I thought to myself: “It’s okay, I set the standards low. From now on this year can only get better.” Little did I know. And still, I am grateful for everything I’ve been through in these few months. I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere. Honestly, I’m just glad to be alive. It’s been a roller coaster and maybe this is the part where it pauses for a bit. Anyhoo, I’m sure we’ll get through this altogether. Bring it on 2020.


1 Comment

Wat kan jij jouw ervaringen goed verwoorden, Belle! ik begin daardoor beter te begrijpen wat je hebt doorgemaakt, maar ik zie ook hoe sterk en moedig je nu in het leven staat en naar de toekomst kijkt. Jouw verhaal kan voor anderen een inspiratie zijn. Houd je taai. opa Peter

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