Delusions of Grandeur and 'religious experiences'

I have often wanted to share these aspects of my own illness in 1988. I wondered if anyone else had similar delusions and experiences that they can also share. Early on before I was sectioned and diagnosed I thought I had won the lottery in the Today newspaper we were coming into a great fortune. I also thought there was a stream of people at the front door wanting to come and see me and I kept going to open the door and looking out - there was no one. As the days progressed I thought I had supernatural powers for healing, communicating with my daughter in a psychic way and at one point thought perhaps I was Mary and the baby was Jesus. I was hallucinating dead relatives and was sure I was going to die if I slept. I was obsessed with heaven and hell and a place of judgement. On good days I wanted to wear white and on bad days it was black. During the illness in the psychiatric unit I was convinced I was actually in hell. As the illness continued I thought I was God and was quite comfortable telling my psychiatrist and CPN. I thought the Queen wanted to meet me and also that President Reagan from the United States wanted to hear from me. At one point I thought I was in hospital because there had been a major catastrophe in the area and I was needed for the collection of breast milk to feed the babies. I can smile about this now but at the time it felt so real. I just am interested to hear if anyone else had similar thoughts.

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  • Hi HelenMW

    Gosh, your experiences sound very similar to mine. I'm interested to know whether you were a religious person beforehand or had a religious background? (I'm a churchgoer)

    I had many similar thoughts to you - I believed I could heal people, or even be responsible for the new heaven and earth coming. It was incredibly exciting in some ways, but awful for my family. I definitely felt very spiritual and 'enlightened'. Other delusions included redemption themes such as being the character Trinity from the Matrix or taking Jesus' sufferings into my body.

    I often wonder if we can get these themes as women just after childbirth partly because it has been such a powerful experience bringing new life into the world? I know some mums who don't become unwell describe the feeling that they could achieve anything after going through birth. It interests me that maybe this biological 'sense of purpose' just becomes far too heightened in the brain in PP leading to 'grandiose' delusions.

    I often think I got off lightly in some ways with my delusions, as I know many women experienced far more frightening spiritual themes whereas for me it was weird but joyful.

  • Hello Naomi and thanks so much for answering! I was not a church goer at the time of the illness but had had what I would call a standard Church of England upbringing in my Primary School. No other involvement other than weddings and funerals.

    I have the clearest memory of standing in the psychiatric unit and looking at my watch and telling people that the end of the world was coming in 5 minutes . . . . it didn't!

    I went on to have two more children in 1996 and 1999 both girls, and I used progesterone therapy and had no psychosis. I went to get my middle daughter Christened routinely choosing a Methodist church because it had a good outreach for children, and that is when I met a minister who was to become very significant in a real spiritual enlightenment in 1998 when I became a Christian. When I had Hannah in 1999 the same midwife who had been wonderful during the psychosis just happened to be my midwife again and talked about her faith and her prayers during my illness in 1988. I think I have had involvement in most denominations now and have been christened, confirmed, affirmed and finally baptised!! I am now settled in my local Baptist church.

    Again thank you so much for answering I really appreciated your comments especially on the idea of the powerful experience of bringing new life into the world. I do look back and can smile at my own delusions but I know of others for whom it was terrifying.

    I support APP and have one of their purple posters which highlights the number of mothers who die after child birth as a result of PP and that is a shocking statistic.

    Thanks again for taking the time to answer. Helen

  • My wife also had an appointment with the Queen, they were going to sort out world poverty between them. She also wrote a letter to the prime minister (Tony Blair at the time) to tell him she was taking over the running of the country, "because you obviously can't do it properly yourself" (in her own words).

    Both very real at the time but now a source of much laughter :o))

  • I must admit, I was very impressed with the letter to Tony Blair, so well written. I kept it and put it somewhere 'safe' but do you think I can find it!!!

  • Most likely it will turn up when you least expect it! I must see who was Prime Minister back in 1988, who ever it was I didn't feel it necessary to include them in my delusions just went straight to the USA!!

  • Hi, it`s so interesting to read all the comments. Sounds very similar to my experience.I also thought I`d won the lottery. I saw myself on the telly on an early morning news programme with a picture of me and my family the day my son was born. It was so real to me at the time. I then saw my GP who was dressed very smartly and I thought she had dressed up for the cameras because I`d won the lottery.

    I also thought at one point in the Psychiatric ward that I`d died. I couldn`t work out what was happening and was trying to work out if I was dead or alive. Then I thought I was possessed by the devil.

    I used to think that people were talking to me when they weren`t. For example if a Doctor asked another patient a question, I would answer!

    I also thought everything on the telly related to me.

    I thought I was getting married and when my partner got to the Psychiatric ward to visit me one day I was pulling up a pair of american tan tights over my clothes. My partner asked me what I was doing and I said hurry up we`re getting married in an hour and he said not in those you`re not!

    I then thought a patient was my friend pretending to be a patient and I told her to go and get changed and said she looked ridiculous in those clothes!!

    I laugh about a lot of the things that happened although so scary and real at the time.

    It`s amazing some of the similarities and very interesting to hear about everyone`s experience. Thanks for the interesting comments x

  • Thank you, all for sharing your experiences. Mine, too, were very similar. My psychosis started with me thinking I was in labour again and that my baby hadn't been born (I now think that was possibly because I found the experience of childbirth quite traumatic, and wanted to re-imagine it). When we arrived at the psychiatric hospital, I thought I was being taken to the Portland...it was only a day later, when my husband had left, that I suddenly realised I was in a mental hospital....That was very scary.

    And pretty soon, throughout that day and when I was sectioned and in hospital, I had many religious experiences: I was obsessed with the different colours of things (resembling the different seasons of the church) and then became convinced I was Archbishop of Canterbury and that the nurses were coming to see me for confession (!). Then I thought I was in purgatory...heaven....hell...and yes I think I was God at one point too. I also became obsessed with this character in the bible, Nicodemus, who is the person in John's gospel who asks to be born again...(which I suppose was what I thought was happening to my baby).

    It would be interesting to unpack some of these thoughts and experiences at some point.

    Helen MW - it's good to hear that you've gone on to have more children. I'd love more but at the moment (my daughter is 10 months) I feel like I've only just recovered from all of this, and the thought of going through it again is just so scary.

  • Hello Clooney and thank you so much for sharing. I just find this aspect of my psychosis so memorable and fascinating. The similarities are so interesting and it is good to share. At the onset of my psychosis I thought that my baby had died, then that I had died. It was all so confusing. It took a great deal of thought to go on to have more children. I did ask to be sterilised in 1988 but fortunately my GP pursuaded me against this. I read up on the possible treatments which were oestrogen, progesterone and lithium. My decision was for progesterone as this was the only treatment that would enable me to breast feed and I had felt so robbed of that joy when I work up in the psychiatric unit and all my milk had gone. I also followed a 3 hourly starch diet to keep my blood sugars steady. My bag for hospital contained ampoules of progesterone to be administered immediately following deliver and lots of starch snacks! We had an amazing support package all in place and I had a space at a mother and baby unit organised just in case. Thanks again for sharing. Helen

  • H Helen,

    My delusions centred around the news on television. Everytime I saw the television news, I was convinced time and time again that I already knew before anyone else that these things had happened. I remeber feeling helpless that no one believed me. I would also wake in the early hours many times and draw the curtains as I believed it was morning, even though it was pitch black outside.

    My parents thought I should stay with them and so I went with baby, to stay with them in their first floor maisonette. My G.P. at the time would not visit me as I was out of his area and my parents' G.P. would not visit as I was not his patient. I heard a voice telling me I was a bad mother, commanding me to do things to myself, too traumatic to record here. I was only ever a danger to myself, not to my son.

  • Thank you for sharing. I also had the voice suggesting I kill myself and come up to heaven of all things! My psychiatrist called it a 'command hallucination'. I lived to tell my story though thanks to a quick thinking Mother and excellent A and E care. Thanks again, Helen

  • Hello, it is so fascinating to hear everyone's experiences, as what happens during the psychosis seems to show a number of similarities within this illness.

    At first when I was sectioned I thought I was psychic and that I was going to change the way the NHS operated, as there had been so much wrong doing with family and friend overs the years with mis-diagnosis, unfair treatment etc. I also thought my baby could understand what everyone was saying and was really clever.

    I imagined I was in the papers and this theory was escalated by another patient (who had PP) who also said she'd seen me in the paper. We bounced off each other which probably didn't help with my recovery. And my family made it worse because they wouldn't let me read the paper! I kept thinking I was famous!

    I would make butterflies and stick them all over the hospital doors to protect patients but an other patient found this distressing and pulled them all down.

    I made lots of people laugh with my 'wacky' behaviour but many also thought it very sad to see me go from a very well-balanced individual to a very poorly one so quickly.

    I had many unusual beliefs about all kinds of things and I thought I was in hospital to keep me safe from 'people' that were after me and when I returned home I would be on 60 minute make-up and my house would be transformed. However, upon returning home it was a very different story. The house was messy and had not been decorated, and all my post was there that had built up over the 3 months I was in hospital - back to reality!! And not a great one for a while!!!

  • Thank you so much for sharing! Helen

  • Seeing as all of these posts were made about two or sum years ago, I'm hoping any sort of reply to this.

    I have a serious dilemma.

    My brother and I haven't talked for years because of all of his problems. To put it shortly, he has been on drugs, drinking, over doses, and many other things that have slowly but surely burnt out his brain due to the fact that he started at the age of 13. Because he is now reaching the age of 24, still on and off psychosis medications (because he doesn't believe he needs them/wants to take them), I believe that he hasn't had the chance to have a fully developed brain function. That being said, his friends have also gone through rounds of drug abuse and selling, on and off for years, and no matter what he or my family and I do, we cannot get him away from them. That's one of the problems that we've recently tried to absolve, sending him to live with my father down in South Jersey while my mother and I live in North.

    He has done a number to my whole family, breaking us all down in the most negative way possible from his drugs, manic episodes, and emotionally manipulating/draining my parents to receive what ever it is he wants. My parents biggest problem is that he never sticks to medication, and when he does, he doesn't believe in getting a job. His income is solely made up of stealing and selling our household items.

    Finally, two days ago, I had a breakdown with him and had a long, in depth conversation about my concerns of him, learning more about what he believes because this time I played along with what he believes his self-worth is.

    The reason why he won't get a job is because he quote and quote believes "he's the greatest man alive, and some day he will be a billionaire and the most famous man alive, when everyone finally sees it."

    I asked him why he believes that he is the greatest man, since there are so many people in this world, and it's almost illogical to even believe such a person could be nominated with true conviction, and his reply was "I got a message, I don't believe in God, but I am God's right hand man, and everyone will love me because I love myself, and everyone will one day finally believe I am the greatest man alive because of the things I've been through. It was meant to be. This suffering, all of these problems, were made to happen because I was made to overcome it, and that will make me the greatest man alive."

    His solution to all of the problems he has is to fast. He's been trying to fast since the exact month and year of February 2009, and he has not been able to succeed because he has not been able to start.

    He refuses any professional help, he has been a danger to not only himself, but to us and the public. Every time he gets checked into a hospital for mental evaluation, he stays for about a week, month, and either checks himself out or gets released because he's figured out how to lie to the doctors into believing he's fine.

    I am at the end of my rope on this. My parents are emotionally drained, I have had a couple of mental breakdowns myself, and I need someone's help, preferably someone who either has had experience with this sort of illness or has some sort of encounter of the sort.

    Please, please help me figure out some sort of solution to this matter, because he is now making himself a home in my mother's two bedroom apartment on the couch while her and I are working our asses off trying to climb out of our financial struggles. Time is becoming a serious issue.

  • Sorry to hear that you're having trouble with your brother. I hope you can find some help. This forum is actually for women and their families that have suffered from postnatal psychosis. Although we have had some experience with psychosis it is more of an acute episode which resolves itself usually without developing into an ongoing illness.

    My understanding of the type of mental health issues that your brother is having really require him to own it and want to get treatment otherwise it will be as it has been and be in and out of hospital.

    I really do feel for you and having to deal with mental illness on a continuous basis. Hopefully your brother can find himself in a better frame of mind soon.

    From someone who has been where your brother has (although over a much shorter time frame) I'm sure your brother must really appreciate you and your mother sticking by him. I'm sure it's not easy sometimes.

    Good Luck.

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