'Simple misunderstandings preoccupied me and seemed sinister' 

Andrew is in his 50s and lives on the south coast. His early psychotic experiences lasted a number of years and had a profound effect on his life.

He got better, however, and has been free of symptoms for more than 15 years. He recently completed an MA in social policy.

"The first time things didn't feel right was when I was in my early 20s at university. I'd got some compensation money following an accident in my teens when I lost a leg.

"My friends were trying to persuade me to buy a house. The idea of going to see an estate agent was intensely frightening. They seemed like oppressive 'non-beings' who could expose me as inadequate in some way.

"This uncomfortable feeling got stronger. I stopped going to lectures because I thought it would be too much and failed my degree as a result.

"I then fell out with my parents because of my mental state. Simple misunderstandings preoccupied me and seemed sinister. I was mistrustful and thought they were deliberately not looking after me and trying to make things difficult.

"I ended up living in my car. As I drove around, it seemed that other drivers were singling me out for observation. Certain features of the landscape, like radio masts, would also make me feel suspicious.

"I neglected myself. I felt disadvantaged by my circumstances and by the fact I couldn't have the happiness that a good job and a relationship would bring. I thought this could make everything right, but nobody understood.

"I went into hospital a number of times, was given injections, improved a bit, and was then discharged to a hostel. I would get a low-paid job and after a while stop taking my medication. My false or erroneous beliefs became more powerful, and at the time they seemed very real.

"I used to imagine that the place where I worked and the people in it weren't what they seemed, that it was all hiding something else going on beneath the surface.

"My colleagues seemed to drop significant words or phrases into conversations and give each other signals that excluded me. I would interpret personal or distinctive features as clues to hidden identities, part of another secret world.

"When these false beliefs became stronger, it became too difficult to stay in a job. I became a vagrant. The delusions preoccupied me, and I travelled around the country trying to uncover signals or evidence of enemy plans to assassinate the Archbishop of Canterbury and bring down the state.

"I believed that people in public sector jobs could live for 500 years and had spent a period of their life as a monarch. The phrase 'Jesus Lives' also took on a literal sense.

"In 1991 I ended up back in hospital. I was given tablets I'd never tried before. They made me feel better, and after a few months I was discharged.

"Since then, I've never needed to go back. I take my pills every day. I see a counsellor once a week and don't have any more strange ideas. I enjoy my independence and the choices I can make for myself."

Page last reviewed: 31/07/2014

Next review due: 31/07/2016