‘My mind was running away with itself’

Sarah is 29 and lives in the north of England. She had a significant psychotic episode in her early 20s, during which she was abducted and assaulted. She has since made a full recovery, worked in fundraising and events management and is now studying for a PhD.

“I had a phase of depression while I was at university but when I finished my degree that lifted. I got a very competitive publishing job, moved to London and had a cool social life.

“I was everyone’s best friend, had huge amounts of energy and was staying up later and later. Nobody really noticed anything, especially as my work wasn’t being affected, but mania was creeping up on me.

“After a row with my boyfriend at three in the morning I decided to head for my parents’ house in Yorkshire. Outside my flat I got into what I assumed was a cab. It wasn’t.

“My memory of what happened over the next three days is very jumbled. My mind was running away with itself and I was developing full-blown psychosis. I became convinced that the man I was with was Stevie Wonder’s son and that he and I were secret agents on some sort of secret mission.  

“I had developed something of an obsession with royalty as my mania emerged and kept thinking it was unfair that they had so much money and influence. I remember feeling very powerful and that my secret mission was to redistribute their wealth.

“This was my first experience of losing touch with reality. It was made all the more extraordinary because the man I was with seemed to be my closest ally at one moment, then the next he threatened me with a knife and raped me. My psychotic mind couldn’t make sense of what was going on.

“I was found three days later and spent the next month in hospital, eventually being diagnosed with manic depression. My hospitalisation was, I believed at the time, part of a role-play to trick the authorities and hospital staff. The mission I thought I was on was so top secret I wasn’t allowed to know what it was.

“For a while I thought the side effects of my medication were a deliberate attempt to disable me, because people were afraid that I was a threat and might see through my mission. It was as if I was doing something important that others didn’t want me to do and I needed to be controlled.

“Reality started to come back slowly. The police were interviewing me to find out what had happened. I thought I was doing some part-time espionage before getting back to my regular life, but when I heard I’d lost my job something clicked and I realised my psychotic thoughts hadn’t been real at all.

“About a year later I stopped taking my medication and had another episode of mania. I am still on medication and did self-management training with the Manic Depression Fellowship. It’s odd having a chronic mental health diagnosis. I have been well for much longer than I was ever ill, but the diagnosis is with me every day.”

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