A-Z

Andrew Z

Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 20
Brief Outline: Andrew started experiencing short periods of psychosis at the age of twenty, which involved racing thoughts and false memories. He also has a diagnoses of Asperger’s.
Background: Andrew is single and a full time student. He is White British.

More about me...

Andrew was acting in a play when he first noticed he was having false memories: remembering things in the play which had not happened. Although the memories felt very real, they also seemed odd, and he thought he might be experiencing psychosis. He has since had 5 short episodes of psychosis during which he experiences false memories and racing thoughts.

Andrew studies at university and being a student with psychosis has been challenging. When he first experienced psychosis he was finding it hard to concentrate with reading and listening in lectures and couldn’t keep up with his work. At the same time a specialist support tutor for Asperger’s stopped seeing him due to financial cuts and this increased his stress and contributed to a worsening of his mental health. He hadn’t been diagnosed at that point and the university were not very understanding and made him leave his course. He has since started studying at another university.

A psychiatrist has since confirmed he had a psychotic episode and he regularly sees the Early Intervention in Psychosis team. He finds it helpful to have someone to talk to.

Socialising and talking to others is really important to Andrew but when the “buzzing thoughts” mean he can’t sit still or concentrate on what others are saying and he sometimes starts reacting to the thoughts. One time when he stopped taking prescribed medication, he started having “weird interpretations of social events”. This affected his social interactions with other students, and since then he tends not to socialise as much when he is experiencing psychosis. Not being able to meet with friends during those periods has been “frustrating”, because his friends continue to socialise and develop their friendships without him.

When he experienced psychosis Andrew felt restless and walked up to 30 miles in a day. Although he thinks exercise is good, that much exercise wasn’t good for him and didn’t stop the “buzzing” in his head. 

Andrew has always managed on very little sleep. Before his first experience of psychosis he used to go to sleep at 2am and sleep for four hours. He’s always liked spending a few hours getting to sleep and reflecting on the day. But during the psychotic episodes he hardly slept at all. He could be awake for four days straight and then sleep for as little as one hour. 

Andrew currently takes olanzapine (anti-psychotic). He was given a very low dose (2.5mg) after his first experience of psychosis and it had a positive effect “literally the next day”, and made him feel “normal again”. But he now takes a higher dose, 10mg, and, although it helps, he finds that it makes him sleep in in the mornings. He has very vivid dreams which are “semi-hallucinatory”.

Andrew wants to help others. He is currently involved in setting up a peer support group at a local mental health ward. The university where he studies now also has a student mentoring scheme and he has signed up to be a peer mentor himself for people experiencing psychosis.
 

When Andrew Z had his first experience of psychosis he had some understanding of what psychosis was and didn’t think his experience fitted that.

When Andrew Z had his first experience of psychosis he had some understanding of what psychosis was and didn’t think his experience fitted that.

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Well, I had my first psychotic episode when I was 20. I'm 24 in a month. I was kind of more of an A Typical psychotic experience. I knew I was experiencing psychosis. But I it was kind of I had this I was in a play several months beforehand in February. And 'cause I got involved in some acting, 'cause I wanted to broaden my, broaden my horizons and I was interested in doing something with- people linked, and I was remembering stuff like kind of stuff that happened during the play that hadn't actually happened. Quite elaborate, quite odd things that, you know, there weren't defying like the rules of physics or anything. But it was kind of very strange happenings and it was kind of there was this massive pull factor telling me it was all real. At the same time, I was like, this is a bit unrealistic for me to have forgotten something that's elaborate and suddenly remembering it. 'Cause I was interested in psychology, I kind of knew what psychosis was and so I was thinking I might have experiences of psychosis. But at the same time, I was thinking, this isn't normal psychosis, because I knew that normal psychosis was, hearing voices, auditory visual hallucinations, normally. And it was kind of more memory hallucinations, if you get what I mean. So eventually I ended up going to the doctor and they put me on olanzapine.
 

Andrew Z, had “buzzy thoughts” and couldn’t concentrate on his studies or when he was talking to his friends.

Andrew Z, had “buzzy thoughts” and couldn’t concentrate on his studies or when he was talking to his friends.

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I started becoming kind of weird thoughts, weird interpretations of social events. Kind of getting slightly stressed. Kind of the weird thoughts were kind of affecting my ability to function with my flatmates, with my course mates with everyone and then they cut my, 'cause I had a support mentor, specialist tutor since I was, when I first went there, because I have Asperger's as well, when I was diagnosed when I was eight. They cut that, because it was- for everyone not just for me- in November. I then got really stressed, really piled up my work and I couldn't really concentrate on my work for more than about five minutes. Whenever I've had psychosis, I can't concentrate on my work and I can't concentrate socialising. You know, I mean the buzzing thoughts mean I can't sit still. I can't concentrate on conversation. Often sometimes the thoughts would be so concentrated fully on my head that I kind of will start reacting them. So, I would be talking to someone and suddenly my facial expression will start smiling or something and obviously becomes or comes across as a bit peculiar. It was just a bit frustrating, because obviously I kind of the only thing I really enjoy doing in life is kind of socialising and talking to people. And I go through periods when I've got psychosis and I kind of can't really do that, which is quite frustrating. And I kind of like the people contact. 
 

When the funding for Andrew Z’s Asperger’s support was cut he got very stressed and the intrusive thoughts in his head got worse.

When the funding for Andrew Z’s Asperger’s support was cut he got very stressed and the intrusive thoughts in his head got worse.

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I started becoming kind of weird thoughts, weird interpretations of social events. Kind of getting slightly stressed. Kind of the weird thoughts were kind of affecting my ability to function with my flatmates, with my course mates with everyone and then  they cut my, 'cause I had a support mentor, specialist tutor since I was, when I first went there, because I have Asperger's as well, when I was diagnosed when I was eight. They cut that, because it was- for everyone not just for me- in November. I then got really stressed, really piled up my work and I couldn't really concentrate on my work for more than about five minutes. Whenever I've had psychosis, I can't concentrate on my work and I can't concentrate socialising. You know, I mean the buzzing thoughts mean I can't sit still. I can't concentrate on conversation. Often sometimes the thoughts would be so concentrated fully on my head that I kind of will start reacting them. So, I would be talking to someone and suddenly my facial expression will start smiling or something and obviously becomes or comes across as a bit peculiar. It was just a bit frustrating, because obviously I kind of the only thing I really enjoy doing in life is kind of socialising and talking to people. And I go through periods when I've got psychosis and I kind of can't really do that, which is quite frustrating. And I kind of like the people contact. And I, one of the things I am interested in is psychology and things like that as well. And I then they kicked me out of the university, 'cause I got so behind with my work in February. That then sent me over the, tipped me over the edge and took quite a bad psychotic episode
 

Andrew Z says he’s had “manic phases” since he was a child and there’s always been a “high risk” factor that he would experience psychosis. But he doesn’t think his psychosis happens because of his Asperger’s.

Andrew Z says he’s had “manic phases” since he was a child and there’s always been a “high risk” factor that he would experience psychosis. But he doesn’t think his psychosis happens because of his Asperger’s.

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I suppose I've always been kind of had racing thoughts and struggled to filter things out and been quite, had manic phases in my life, if you get what I mean. 

That would have been even sort of..

All my life. I mean, as a child, as a child, but particularly more so as a teenager.

Would that be associated with the Asperger's anyway or I don't know much about Asperger's or not really. 

No, no. But I suppose I've always been, I've always been a kind of high risk factor for psychosis and things like that. For what little I know of it. I knew one or two things about it before I had it. But for like, you know, things like kind of racing thoughts and stuff like that. And quite stuff like that.
 

Andrew Z had always managed on 4 hours sleep and liked the fact that it took a few hours to go to sleep each night. But an anti-psychotic (olanzapine) made him sleep for 12 hours and gave him surreal and distressing dreams.

Andrew Z had always managed on 4 hours sleep and liked the fact that it took a few hours to go to sleep each night. But an anti-psychotic (olanzapine) made him sleep for 12 hours and gave him surreal and distressing dreams.

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Before I ever had psychosis, I was on like, you know, I was four hours sleep at night. I was going to bed at about two or three o'clock in the morning. I've always, well, I wasn't gonna sleep then, it was always all my life taking about two hours to get to sleep at night, other than when I'm on the anti psychotics and I was on, I was sleeping about four hours a night. When I ended up with the psychosis I slept for like an hour at night. One of the things I don't like about the medication is it does make you very sleepy, also makes you very hungry. And it makes me very sleeping for like 12 hours a night and I kind of all my life have liked the fact that it take me for hours to get to sleep at night. You know, 'cause I sit there and I start to actually think and reflect on the day and when I go on the anti psychotics, they send me to sleep. They zonk me out quite quickly. So I often feel quite frustrated the next day when I wake up, 'cause I, I wanted to reflect on certain things during the daytime. And I feel like I've gone to bed and I didn't even get a chance to do that. 

I don't know whether this is a common side effect, but it seems to create quite vivid dreaming. Like before I was- it might have nothing to do with olanzapine, it might something else going on in my life or something. But, I imagine it's the olanzapine, because I, you know, often have, sometimes I oversleep. It seems to, doesn't seem to affect—I take it late, I take it at night but it doesn't seem to kick in and I wake and struggle to get up in the morning. Sometimes I overslept to about twelve o'clock or often overslept to twelve o'clock. But I was, I used to leap out of bed at like 7. Set my alarm at 7 and I'd leap out of bed in the morning and so I know it's definitely the Olanzapine. But I been experiencing, it was quite distressing having these quite surreal dreams that are quite vivid in the morning where you're trying to get when you're trying to wake up. It's kind of almost hallucinary, because you are kind of semi awake and you kind of start to develop these quite weird dreams, yeah.
 

Andrew Z experienced false memories and hasn’t met anyone else with similar experiences to him, or who has had psychosis ‘full stop’.

Andrew Z experienced false memories and hasn’t met anyone else with similar experiences to him, or who has had psychosis ‘full stop’.

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Most people with psychosis are kind of the this wouldn't affect most people with psychosis, what I’m about to say. But it's kind of, because obviously mine has been quite different. It's kind of false memories, whereas most people are hearing voices and stuff and it's kind of a desire to wanna meet someone whose been through the same thing. 

Which obviously, for other people who have had psychosis obviously it's sort of like advised people who have the same thing, but I think they found it easier than, they found it quite difficult. But obviously not many people have got psychosis and you need to find a youth club, or something, or not youth, sorry, a club for people who've had the same symptoms. But, yeah, I often feel it's a bit frustrating. 'Cause, even before I had psychosis, I was quite frustrated trying to find someone with similar interests or similar, trying to find someone similar to yourself, in general was often quite difficult. But particularly since mine was quite A Typical, it's kind of you wanna meet someone whose had the same symptoms, but it's quite difficult to find someone. I, I haven't met anyone whose had psychosis anyway, full stop. So, yeah. I tried looking it up on the internet trying to read, trying to look through stuff and people on the internet who said they'd had the same symptoms and haven't been able to find anyone, so, yeah. 
 

Andrew Z talks about the difficulty of meeting up with old university friends. He finds it hard knowing that they have graduated and found work, while he is still studying.

Andrew Z talks about the difficulty of meeting up with old university friends. He finds it hard knowing that they have graduated and found work, while he is still studying.

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And the friends who you were in touch with, right at the beginning when you were sort of 20 are they still—

I'm still in contact with one or two, yeah. I haven't seen them. I'm still in contact. Obviously different cities. I'm planning on seeing one in a month in January. It would be the first time I've seen him in what, three, four years something like that, something like that. Again, it's quite difficult, because you're comparing yourself to them, because they've all graduated and stuff and you've obviously had all these mental health problems and they're working and in full time work and you're still plodding along and at university, if you get what I mean and you've had a year of unemployment, it's kinda yeah. In some ways, it's a bit annoying when you have to, 'cause you find it quite difficult not to compare yourself to them.
 

Andrew Z had an Asperger’s mentor and thinks that this type of mentoring scheme would be the best support universities could provide.

Andrew Z had an Asperger’s mentor and thinks that this type of mentoring scheme would be the best support universities could provide.

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Yeah, I mean, they kind of, you go to them with problems and they kind of say, they, they're supportive but they are not, I think it's better to have a mentor like I've got a mentor scheme and I'm also signed up to be a peer mentor myself. Helping other people that I mean, it's not a peer mentor, it’s a paid mentor through my Disability Student Allowance. I had one beforehand. This is because of Asperger's and not psychosis. But you can get one for psychosis as well.

So who pays for the mentorship?

The student finance. You don't have to pay it back either. So it's not a loan. So you don't have to pay it back and you don't have to pay for it. Just need to go through a need's assessment.

What's it called?

It's just a mentoring scheme.

A mentoring scheme. Okay.

It’s a national thing. Every university in the country will offer it. And you can go to kind of somewhere you can actually feel you can actually discuss problems with. You can actually, you know, discuss psychotic stuff with. You can discuss symptoms. You can discuss issues you're having. Someone to talk to kind of when you've got a problem, you know, it's always nice to go to a like a friend, but you don't have to, you can go to see your mentor, if you get what I mean. 
 

Andrew Z loves socialising but when he has periods of psychosis his “buzzing thoughts” means he can’t concentrate on his studies or on socialising. Being unwell at the start of college meant missed out on a critical time for making friends.

Andrew Z loves socialising but when he has periods of psychosis his “buzzing thoughts” means he can’t concentrate on his studies or on socialising. Being unwell at the start of college meant missed out on a critical time for making friends.

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Whenever I've had psychosis, I can't concentrate on my work and I can't concentrate socialising. You know, I mean the buzzing thoughts mean I can't sit still. I can't concentrate on conversation. Often sometimes the thoughts would be so concentrated fully on my head that I kind of will start reacting them. So, I would be talking to someone and suddenly my facial expression will start smiling or something and obviously becomes or comes across as a bit peculiar. It was just a bit frustrating, because obviously I kind of the only thing I really enjoy doing in life is kind of socialising and talking to people. And I go through periods when I've got psychosis and I kind of can't really do that, which is quite frustrating. And I kind of like the people contact.

I think being out of it for a while can make it quite difficult to get back into it, if you get what I mean, yeah. And it's quite frustrating when you are like you've had a psychosis episode and you know that lots of people have got to know each other in new accommodation and stuff and you've been out of it. So you kind of and they can end up assuming maybe he has been out of it because he's not interested in getting to know us, if you get what I mean. Kind of feels like it's too late, you know, over several months, he's never talked to us and therefore he's kind of maybe he's not interested. Obviously, how do you communicate to people that I have just had a psychosis episode and I am interested and I am even if you did do that and can still be several months where you haven't, where they've all got to know each other and you haven't. 

As I said, it's quite, it's quite frustrating knowing you've missed out on stuff. But it's also quite difficult because you need to get like an episode and also you can develop anxiety you haven't experienced before, because of that.
 

Andrew Z describes having gaps when he was not receiving benefits and confusion over which forms to fill out.

Andrew Z describes having gaps when he was not receiving benefits and confusion over which forms to fill out.

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I had problems with my finances because of my student, I was receiving DLA Disability Living Allowance no longer exists it's called, PIP. I was told I had it for life and it was then cancelled when I had psychotic episode and they wasn't sorting it out. So I had several months of not receiving it and I wasn't receiving other benefits I was entitled to.

That was just 'cause of the paperwork.

Yeah. And I wasn't, and I was still spending money. So I was kind of, 'cause I actually had to eat and stuff. So it was quite difficult with it. That's all sorted since then. But problems keep coming up like, you know, when I went back to university, I filled out the student finance application and they told me it was fine. And then I moved and then they got this letter telling me, because I'd taken a year’s GAP out of studying I had to fill out another form. And they said, I couldn't get my student finances. I filled out this form and I was having a psychotic episode at the time and it was my mum getting all stressed, blaming me as well, saying it was my fault for filling out the wrong form. And I was like, well, they told me I filled out the right forms. I couldn't fill out the form, because I had psychosis and very comp- yeah. Ups and downs in terms of that, yeah. 

And has anyone given you support about filling out the forms then? Or was no-one around to…?

Not at the time. No-one was. But, yeah, since then, yeah.

So who would do that sort of thing then?

It's kinda no-one has a specific job description to do that. But I suppose people can like care coordinators can, if you get what I mean. 

Is that who helped you then?

Yeah.
 

Andrew Z has noticed that his psychosis now seems to happen in the holidays when there isn’t “much going on” and he thinks it’s his brain’s way of compensating.

Andrew Z has noticed that his psychosis now seems to happen in the holidays when there isn’t “much going on” and he thinks it’s his brain’s way of compensating.

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Because we kind of notice a trend that when they, psychotic symptoms are kind of seem to appear when there's not much going on in my life, which obviously I commented that okay, frustration and not enough going on in my life as well as not being, not being able to do what I want, stuff I wanna be able to do. It does appear, they often appear when there's kind of like during the holidays and stuff like that when it's kind of not much going on, if you know what I mean. 

Engaging your brain. 

Not engaging my brain. Maybe, maybe it's overcompensating for the fact that there's not much engagement. Doesn't receive much input and so it's kind of producing its input itself or something. Quite like sensory deprivation, I suppose, yeah. 
 

Andrew Z says it’s important to be empathic and not treat all people who experience psychosis as the same.

Andrew Z says it’s important to be empathic and not treat all people who experience psychosis as the same.

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I was given a mentor at one point. And I kind of didn't work—he wasn't very good. Not to be rigid with their thinking. Not to base too much around being the—to be kind of just naturally empathetic and think on the spot. And think, not to think like, he's in that category, you know, think about the person as an individual rather than thinking about them as they are the category psychotic law. Psychotic people are the same. People like, you know, or another category to think, yeah. Kind of if he was a bit of a rigid when I was unemployed. He was a bit he was a bit, you know, he was a bit rigid. He kind of tried to develop strategies for me to help me, which didn't seem to fit into my problems or my personality. He just seemed to be the general label that I was in and this was a strategy he'd heard of, if you get what I mean. Look at the person as an individual, yeah. 

And is there anyone that has done that?

Yeah, the team, basically. The mental health team, yeah. The psychiatrist is very good here. He's very empathetic and very person orientated. 
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