"Maybe He Was in Love With You?": How to Talk With People in Psychosis

May-May Meijer; Femke Meijer


Schizophr Bull. 2020;46(1):6-8. 

In This Article

The Way Psychiatrists and Nurses Talked With May-May

In 2009, it was the first time that May-May was in forced hospitalization. First, she was hospitalized for a week in a psychiatric hospital in Schiedam and later on for 6 months in Hilversum, both in the Netherlands. The psychiatrists wanted to know everything about what was going on in her head. She knew that they were very interested in her ideas about the secret service. However, the psychiatrists did not really interact with her or show care. Instead, they used more of an interrogation technique that made May-May feel very suspicious toward them. She did not feel that they cared about her and really wanted to help her. She suffered severely, and she felt alone. May-May tried to behave normally to her parents, but sometimes the voices in her head were too strong so she would walk away to talk to the voices in her head, assuming that nobody could see her. It was like she was living in two separate worlds. She enjoyed the company of fellow patients who did not say much, or ask many questions of her, and who were kind to each other.

Luckily there were also examples of what May-May perceived as fine communication between her and her medical professionals. In 2013, an intern reacted different to May-May when she was in psychosis. The intern was very kind and open and showed that she cared about May-May. May-May mumbled that she was not allowed to talk from the secret service. The intern mentioned kindly: "Why do you think you may not talk from the secret service?" This nearly persuaded May-May to talk, however, she was too far in her psychosis already.

In July 2016, May-May was in voluntary hospitalization for 6 days because she thought that she was responsible for the attacks in France, Nice, in which 84 people died. Also, she had the feeling that she made love with Christ and politicians during that night and that she had the idea that this would contribute to world peace. The day after, when she arrived at the clinic, she mentioned to the psychiatrist that she had not felt sadness when she had read about the tragic news of the terror attack in the middle of the night. She was afraid that she had become a monster. The psychiatrist kindly replied that he knows May-May is a person with a big heart for fellow human beings, and the reason why she did not experience sadness was due to the mania. May-May was happy with this explanation, because she knew what happened with her and that she is not a bad person. They both decided to scale up her mood stabilizers. That evening, May-May felt very guilty about the terror attacks in Nice again. As usual, she was locked up in herself. The nurse observed this and asked her if she wanted to talk with her. May-May was happy with her invitation. She told the nurse that she felt so responsible for the attacks. The nurse took three quarters of an hour to talk with May-May about why she has this feeling and how it came to be that she feels responsible for something done in France, when she was in the Netherlands. After their conversation, they went out for an hour walk. May-May is convinced that this caring and cognitive approach of the nurse contributed enormously to her recovery. May-May also wrote an e-mail to a professor of psychiatry about her situation. She mentioned that she also had the feeling to be responsible for the crash of the MH17 and that love for 2 men of her political party would lead to world peace. He replied quickly that she needed some rest and that she should look for peace in her inner self. Afterward, May-May e-mailed the professor because she felt a bit ashamed of the e-mail she had written earlier to him. The professor gave a kind reply. May-May was so happy that he was still being so kind to her and treated her as a "normal human being" who only acts differently when she is ill.