Psychosis (young people)

Emily

Female
Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 21

Brief outline: Emily started having unusual thoughts at the age of 11 and heard voices for the first time when she was 14. She has had two hospital stays and although her psychosis is worse than when she was younger she now feels better able to manage it.

Background: Emily is white British.

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Emily remembers when she was 11 years old starting to feel very anxious after her parents went away to China for a short period. She began having flashes of thoughts that were violent and unlike her usual thoughts. When she was 14 she was sitting in a class at school and heard a voice for the first time. The voices she heard from then on were always negative, telling her she was fat, or saying she should self-harm or kill herself. Emily describes it as like “being in an abusive relationship with yourself”. Emily stopped attending school and studied from home, which she found suited her better.

When she finished school, Emily went to college, but found that her mental health “got in the way” and she left after a month. She worked in a hotel and then in a shop but as she progressed in each job she was asked to take on more challenging work and her managers didn’t understand her mental health needs. Emily was eventually signed off work. She began drinking more and taking drugs to try and cope with her symptoms. 

Emily found it difficult to speak about her voices and was worried others would think she was “mad” so she didn’t tell anyone about the voices until she was 19. She first spoke about it in detail to her mother, who has supported her through her experiences. She started seeing a psychologist after that but her psychosis was getting worse as was her drinking and use of recreational drugs. The psychologist could see that she needed more help and got her referred to a hospital.

Her first experience of hospitalisation was “terrifying” and although she went in voluntarily she was sectioned for her own safety. It was during her first hospitalisation that she first started having visual hallucinations and hearing voices “outside” of her head. However, over time she felt better and she made many good friends who she could talk to about her voices because they understood.

Emily was given a diagnosis of borderline-personality disorder. She was prescribed quetiapine (anti-psychotic) and diazepam (benzodiazepine), and takes other medications for anxiety. She thinks she’s on too much medication and gets the side effects of medication but it’s hard to say if they are having an effect. However, she does take them because she thinks the voices might be worse if she stops.  

When she was discharged from hospital Emily entered supported living accommodation. The staff were always checking on her and she found this too intense. Within eight months of leaving hospital her self-harming got worse and she overdosed on six or seven occasions, once pouring petrol on herself. Emily was admitted to hospital again and remained there for ten months. During this hospital stay she attended a living skills course and learnt coping techniques such as mindfulness which made her feel she could help herself. Although the psychosis is worse than it was before, Emily feels that she is now more open about it and better able to deal with it. 

Emily hates being on benefits and wants to work. In the past she wanted to join the army but was not able to because of her mental health history. In the future she would like to work in mental health because she wants to share her own experiences to help others.

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