4 MIN READ | Mental Health Stories

Gabrielle von Bernstorff-Nahat

How Can We Heal One’s Inner and Outer World After a Psychosis

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Gabrielle von Bernstorff-Nahat, (2021, August 26). How Can We Heal One’s Inner and Outer World After a Psychosis. Psychreg on Mental Health Stories. https://www.psychreg.org/heal-world-after-psychosis/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Psychoses leave us in inner and outer turmoil. While the afflicted undergo deep inner transformations, often accompanied by heightened spiritual and sensory awareness, called auditory and visual hallucinations in medial language, these inner experiences are often accompanied by outward losses, such as losing one’s family relations, friends, work, or even home. The outward changes accompanying psychosis are often a falling out of one’s personal, familial, social, and economic network. 

Healing from psychosis then, encompasses two facets of life: the inner and the outer world. To join both worlds is no easy task, because ultimately, they are interdependent. How to experience a safe haven for inner healing when the outer world has crumbled, when the familial, social, professional, and economic worlds have fallen apart? At the same time the outer world cannot be engaged with fully, when the inner state of being, the soul, the psyche, heart and mind are suffering and fragile.

During my two-year psychosis I lost my relationships to my partner, his son, and to my immediate family and friends. I also lost my job and home. After living on the streets for a few months I got admitted to a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt. After the hospital I entered and accompanied housing where I had a room for one year. This place gave me the space to work on my inner healing, I meditated a lot, and went for walks in nature as much as I could.

At first, I could not walk for more than 10 minutes; after six months, I was out for 4–5 hour walks in the woods – a great healing experience. The accompanied housing provided me with a protective environment to work on my mental well-being. At the time, I was still in strife with many loved ones, family members, and friends. At the time, I decided to let the mending of these relations wait and I concentrated on myself. Being with nature, meditation, mindfulness practice, and a lot of art work helped me immensely in the healing process.

Instead of reaching out to my family and friends I reached out to psychiatrists and self-help groups. I also deeply appreciated the social interaction with other human beings at the accompanied housing. This environment made me realise I was not alone and that I could share the experiences of my psychosis and its aftermath. The aftermath of my psychosis manifested itself in a form of what I would call a PTSD particular to psychosis survivors. I had countless flashbacks and reoccurring visual and auditory memories of the hallucinations and visions I had experienced while being psychotic.

Unfortunately, my psychosis was filled with racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic voices and imagery; next to the beautiful epiphanies and revelations I experienced at the time. These negative experiences deeply troubled me and threw me off-centre. I was emotionally very fragile and hardly able to be with myself or other people. For example, the sexist voices and images I had to endure left me not being able to touch myself when I washed. It took about one year to be able to do so without the fear of having these images and foul language reappear. My nervous costume was so fragile, that I could not ride the bus or subway or be in crowded places.

With time the walks in the woods, the support groups, the talks with the psychiatrist, art work, daily meditation, and mindfulness practice made these symptoms recede drastically within about one year. It is after a year of self-care which the accompanied housing allowed me practice that I began mending my familial, social, and professional network. This took time and still is not yet completed two years later. In the beginning of healing my relationships, I sat down and made notes of everyone I have ever loved, known, and liked. I imagined how I would like to relate to them again, a new, after my psychosis. I practised a lot of mindfulness forgiveness meditation in order to heal hurt on both sides, because psychotic breaks tend to bring in anger and resentment on both sides of the afflicted, the family members, friends, and professional network as well as for the person undergoing the psychosis.

A lot of trust gets broken, and it takes time and a lot of care to heal these relationships. I have also changed my relationship to my work and have become independent again. Today, I live as an artist; I have a home again. I am still healing emotionally every day, and I am mending and have mended relationships on a daily basis. The important thing is not to give up and to engage all the networks available in the process of self-healing and mending one’s relations and life’s networks. At the beginning each step was arduous, and it seemed an impossible task. However, each day, week or month brought progress in one area or on some level. And even with the occasional setbacks, if we do not give up and remain hopeful, success is bound to set in. Important is, that you focus on your inner and your outer world. No matter how small or clumsy your first or ensuing steps are, keep moving along.

I am fortunate, I live in a country where the social welfare, public healthcare system, and mental health care system are of a high quality. I have often thought, what would I have done would I not have been living in a country where I am blessed with a strong social network? I would have sought out more non-for-profit help-groups. This is so important when returning to life after a psychosis, to reach out to all help-networks that are available, individual and institutional. This is not an easy task for someone recovering from a mental health crisis, because psychosis tends to breach the trust in others and in institutions.

My advice is to reach out nevertheless. Because we cannot heal either the inner or outer world after a psychotic break on our own. We need to mend our trust in others and reach out for help. Over the two years of my healing, I have had a good 50 human beings helping me on my way to recovery: doctors, psychiatrists, support-groups, guardians and most important, family members, loved ones, and friends. All of them are essential and important, and I am eternally grateful to all who have helped me along my path of mending and joining my inner and outer world and returning to living a full and happy life again.


Gabrielle von Bernstorff-Nahat is an artist, based in Switzerland. She is the author of My Recovery Work Journal, a workbook on how to recover after a mental health crisis.


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