Alika, 31, lives in London where he has built a life he loves. In addition to raising a young family, he has pursued his passion for music, and you can find him on Instagram @AMNOWFREE. He also recently embarked on an apprenticeship and is a mental health campaigner too.
The year I turned 21, a number of events in my personal life took their toll on my mental health. I had all these different stresses in my life. In just 12 months, my auntie died, my five-year relationship crumbled, my savings were stolen, and two friends of mine were killed in violent attacks. It all started to overwhelm me, and I began to feel and behave differently.
Looking back now, it’s a bit hazy. My mind was buzzing with questions. I couldn’t tell the difference between what was reality and what was a dream. I was going through depression, anxiety, manic episodes, self-harm, and voices and illusions in my head. But I kept it all to myself, and over time I became more withdrawn and erratic. I retreated from the world around me, focused on survival as I tried to work things out for myself.
It all came to a head. An ambulance was called. I ended up in the hospital, where the doctors told me that I was experiencing psychosis.What was psychosis? I had no idea. The first time I ever heard about psychosis was when I was going through it. I’ve since learned that it’s happening to many of us. I know that a lot of young Londoners, especially Black males, are moving along a similar trajectory to the one I was on. And there’s not enough information about the support that’s out there.
The Early Intervention Centre really helped me, it gave me space to look at my situation. With professional guidance, I could work through questions which led to a lot of eureka moments and helped me understand what led to my hospitalisation. I could trace back through the steps that had led me there.
I’m also very solution-driven and it offered a lot of things that helped my recovery. I learned the hard way how important some of the basics are. You start exercising more, you go to sleep early, you eat better. If you’re spiritual, not necessarily religious, then pray or meditate. I realised I was bottling things up because I was scared, but talking about my feelings also helped.
In total, I spent four months in hospital, where I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was a very scary time for me, but I was able to pull through thanks to my mother, other close family and friends, and the great staff on the ward. My faith, music, reading books and learning new coping strategies really helped too. I also threw myself back into youth work and music, my first love.
In some ways, I was lucky because I got the help I needed. But it would have changed my entire trajectory if I’d received treatment for psychosis earlier. I might not have needed to go to hospital. It would have helped me to understand what I was going through so I felt less alone.
I nearly lost everything when I was in crisis. But now I’ve brought life into the world, I have a young family, I’m following my dreams. That’s why I’m supporting this campaign. We need more awareness about psychosis because getting support early means a better chance of recovery
Psychosis had a big impact on my life, but I’m proof that you can get back to good health. You’re not stuck. It might feel hard to see past it, you can feel like you’re lost in a weird maze, but there is a way to get back to a better state. It’s not necessarily going to be easy or happen overnight, holding on to that hope is very important. Your life is not worthless. So don’t give up.
1 in 100 people will experience psychosis in their lifetime, yet with the right support, recovery is possible. Today, we are asking our supporters to share our campaign and help us ensure that young people get the support they need when they most need it.
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