Spirituality and Psychosis: a Complex Relationship
When I was a child, I went camping often with my very Christian grandparents in their small trailer by the beach. We would hike trails, play cards together, make s’mores etc. They were always picture perfect little vacations away from a normally dysfunctional childhood.
Then one night while I was unable to sleep in my bunk over my grandparent’s bed, I heard what sounded like an angry mob outside the trailer. The voices sounded almost inhuman in their roaring anger, and I could make out no distinct words. I clutched my blankets in fear and turned my head to look out the window in the direction of the voices and saw what looked like the light of a burning fire. I thought it was demons coming for me. My grandparents did not stir beneath me, they were sound asleep. I began to yell for them to wake up, and by the time they awoke to tend to me, the noises and light were gone. I remember my grandparents “saving” me that trip. I spent my childhood attending Sunday school and church camps, trying to save myself from whatever paralyzed me with fear that night.
Now, years later, my beliefs have changed a lot since I was a child, but my belief in spirits both malevolent and benevolent has always stayed, and I always believed something strange happened to me that night in the trailer; and there were other occasions of unexplained sounds and visions, though none so extreme as during that trip. But something else would later shake the core of my beliefs in an entirely different way.
Recently, I ended up in a crisis center because I was hearing and seeing things beyond anything I had previously experienced. I had thought I was being haunted or followed by a bad spirit, that wouldn’t let me sleep or listen to music without yelling at me, or tapping at my bedroom door. I spent many nights unable to sleep and afraid to be alone. I only went to seek out mental health care because a loved one convinced me to. Once I did, I was told by the psychiatrist there that I was having a psychotic episode- that my mind was playing tricks on me and I was falling prey to its tricks. I left the clinic with a new diagnosis for my mental illness and a prescription for an anti-psychotic.
Learning first-hand how my brain could show me things that weren’t there and make me think things that weren’t real was very hard to come to terms with. I spent the next few weeks re-evaluating many events that had happened in my life that I thought had been spiritual in nature, and seeing them in a different light. Everything I see and hear now comes with an incredibly heavy dose of salt as I try to decide whether or not what I am experiencing is real, or all made up in my head.
I have begun to really think about my beliefs – particularly spirits, magick, astral planes, etc. and I have had to decide whether I am going to put my faith in them and stand behind my existing beliefs, or go the safer and easier route of blaming these more recently flourishing beliefs on my psychosis. I have to admit to myself that I have had less intense spiritual experiences since I have been put on the anti-psychotics, which could mean that everything was all in my crazy head all along, all the way back to my childhood; but I also happen to know that anti-psychotics can prevent you from tripping on magic mushrooms and LSD as well, so it could just be blocking my connection to a world that I want to be a part of.
For now, at least, I want to keep my beliefs and keep practicing occultism. I admit that all of this could be deeply held delusions that are just too close to me to let go – but even if that is the case, I am alright with that for now. Perhaps one day I can make sense of it all, but if not, that’s okay too.