What group therapy did for me

A couple of months after my second psychosis, when the medication had settled in and I’d stopped drooling all the time, I started group therapy. The hospital arranged it as an IMR-course, which stands for illness management and recovery, and it helps you pave a way forward. If you have schizophrenia and can find a course like this where you live, I highly recommend it. In my case, it was a small group led by two psychiatric nurses with six participants that met every Tuesday evening.

The real value in the course didn’t come from the writing material we consumed but from hearing about other people’s experiences. I learned that my experience was not unique. It was an eye-opener, but at the same time, it was terrifying. My delusions still lingered, and a part of me wanted to hang on to them. After all, without them, I was just another person who had gone insane. Unfortunately, this is the realization you need to come to at some point to rebuild your life. The sooner, the better.

One thing you learn about psychosis is that it’s very difficult to articulate your ideas. Mine included that I was someone else who was hypnotized to make way for another person that was rich and a lot more successful than me in life. The present me would disappear through a merger between my two personalities, and I would go on to live the life of the rich and successful me that had a leading role in society. Hypnosis had worked to build up a middle-class me that I could identify with the common man and lead for the best of the people rather than self-interest. As bizarre as the notion sounds, it’s very seductive, especially for someone like me who struggles with finding their place in the world.

I wasn’t the only person on the course with delusions of grandeur. In fact, we all shared a similar experience of being someone else, something more. Talking about it made me feel less lonely. I couldn’t talk to the psychiatrists or my friends about it. When I tried to, I felt embarrassed, and in my mind, I escaped back to the idea that maybe I really was someone else. I was in a sense alienated from other people, and suddenly, there was a whole group of people who understood me. Left to my own devices, I’m uncertain that I would have found the way back. It helps to know that you’re not alone.

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