I had an interesting experience at work the other night that I wanted to share. I think this is something that most people don’t know about, at least I didn’t know it could happen until I started working here.
When I arrived at work the other day I was told that among our 10 patients on the Unit we had received a new one that day. I will call him Sam. Sam is a High School math teacher. He is a tall lanky man in his mid 30’s with short brown hair and glasses. They informed me that he did not have any history of mental illness and had never experienced any psychosis before in his life. He was an extremely normal, average person, just like you and me. These cases are always the scariest because if the person doesn’t snap out of it within a few days they could stay like that forever. Our job is to make sure they get a lot of sleep so that their brain can heal.
I walked out onto the Unit and Sam immediately walked towards me cornering me into the wall. He was repeating something and it took me a few seconds to realize that he was repeating his own name over and over again. He stared at me with an intensity that scared me for a second. Keep in mind I didn’t know yet if he was the aggressive type yet. So in return I put out my hand and said, ” Hi Sam, nice to meet you. Do you want to go watch some T.V?” He stopped, stared at me and then began saying, “T.V, T.V, T.V….” He followed me to the dayroom where other patients were sitting around watching T.V and coloring.
Throughout the next few hours Sam followed me everywhere I went. He became fixated on me, staring at me and repeating the last word of every sentence I said. He would also randomly fall to the floor bursting into tears for minutes at a time for no reason at all. He would eventually get up and then go back to repeating random words over and over. At one point he was staring at me repeating a word over and over and so I decided to try something. I clapped my hands twice as hard as I could in front of his face. He immediately stopped and jerked his head towards me and looked at me as though he had just woken up from a deep sleep. I did this a few times throughout the night if I needed to get him to do something. When it came time to eat, I sat with him and spoon fed him jello. Even when the jello was in his mouth, I would have to mimic ” chewing” so that he would mimic me and be able to eat. After I got some jello and a piece of pizza into him I decided to test something. I began asking him simple questions like, ” Is my shirt blue?” ” Are you a boy?” ” Is this pizza?” Each time he answered by saying either Yes or No and he was incorrect each time. I then decided to make a face by sucking in my cheeks and pursing my lips. He imitated me perfectly! I continued to do this and he mimicked everything I did perfectly! I found it so interesting. I went back to the nurses station and told my nurse about it. She told me that he was exhibiting two things. First, Echolalia which is the automatic repetition of vocalizations made by another person. And secondly, Echopraxia, which is the automatic repetition of movements made by another person. I loved learning something new!
The amazing part of this story is that when I came to work the next day Sam had completely come out of the psychotic episode which was AMAZINGLY fast. Normally it takes up to at least a week to ten days to clear. Sam had cleared in 2-3 days! He had completely cleared, but of course could not remember anything that happened. He just wanted to use his labtop so that he could submit his grades for the summer semester. The doctors didn’t know what had sent him into a psychotic break and they may never know. It could have been biological, psychological…I guess there are some things we will never know the answer to but I was so happy to see him back to his normal self, and he was a very nice guy!
- Breaking from Reality: Responding to acute psychotic episodes (organicrecipesforyourskin.com)
- Cognitive Dissonance? Or Mass Dissassociative Disorder (zengardner.com)
- House of Leaves — Mark Z. Danielewski (blackjayne.wordpress.com)
- Bargo trial: his mother testifies about an abusive husband (ocala.com)
- #OK2Talk: Join the Mental Health Movement (manicmedicblog.wordpress.com)
- Records detail events that led to man’s death at jail (heraldnet.com)