At a barbecue yesterday I bumped into a psychiatric nurse.
"Forgive me asking," I said, "but how would you define psychotic?"
"Losing touch with reality," she said. "Be careful," she added. "A guy from Oxford has been with us preparing his doctoral thesis, and he's started showing signs of psychosis himself."
She herself was researching the relevance of physical health in the early stages of mental illness. Keeping physically healthy is so important, but is often forgotten in the quest to offer drug treatments. I think she said that those taking antipsychotic treatments are particularly susceptible to heart problems.
It's a fine line, she said, between paranoia and psychosis. Perhaps just a matter of degree. And people get better, she said. Or start off fine, and then relapse into psychosis at times of stress. It's often pressure that does it. Things become too much, and the mind starts altering reality in a misguided attempt to cope.
She was very calm and factual about it all. As though she saw it every day, and it no longer surprised her. Compassionate, though. The easy, calm compassion you get from a good, experienced nurse. It's nice there are people like that. People for whom life is care and understanding, not profit and control.