After being admitted to hospital in 2010, following a long period of severe psychosis, Kerry Ann Jacobs was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her book, From Psychic to Psychotic and Beyond, is the compelling story of how her experience with a complex web of psychic and psychotic episodes affected her and those around her. As a sufferer of bipolar disorder myself and the caretaker of a son with the same, I found Jacobs’s account extremely useful.
The book is divided into three contrasting sections. The first part is the author’s personal account of her psychic experiments, which developed seamlessly into psychosis without her noticing. The second part is her mother’s account of the author’s hospitalizations, and her denial and final acceptance of her mental illness. Part three contains sections from Jacobs’s diaries, written at the time of her psychosis, as well as clinical and legal documents relating to the same period.
Jacobs was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1965. Throughout her childhood, though she had loving and close relationships with her parents and siblings, she was tormented in school about her weight. After leaving school, she worked in banking for several years, then traveled to Europe to broaden her experience. Recovering from a broken relationship, she enrolled in law school. After graduating in 2005, she set up independently as a family barrister.
Three years later, her business was thriving, yet Jacobs suddenly found herself pining for her deceased grandmother. The loss of her loved one led her to Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye, by psychic medium Allison Dubois. After reading the book, Jacobs began to feel her grandmother’s presence, and to notice other spiritual signs. Within months, she was experimenting with a crystal ball, in which she began to see images and words that were to have a profound influence on her life. It was only a short time before she began to hear the voices of her spirit guide, Wes, initially pleasant and helping her through life.
As time went by, Jacobs began to believe that many of the people around her were actually spirits that had passed over. She lost the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, yet somehow managed to get through her daily routine as a barrister. As she plunged deeper into psychosis, she spent more and more time communicating with her “spirit friends,” who included Heath Ledger, Princess Dianna, and Albert Einstein. Her world was now comprised of overlapping layers where real people and her imaginings were distinguishable only by their means of communication.
Then things took a turn for the worse. The author’s fragile world became overrun by demons, whom she believed were out to kill her. Less than a year later, the demons had become more than she could deal with and she sought treatment in hospital. It would take another 12 months before she could finally accept her illness and deny her demons. Happily, she is now able to live a peaceful life, and she continues to maintain her legal practice.
In contrast to the often terrifying flights of psychosis in the first chapters, Jacobs’s mother’s story is one of grief, guilt, and harrowing concern. Beginning with Kerry Jacobs’s first admission to hospital, Pam Jacob’s story is raw with emotion as she battles with her daughter’s reluctance to accept her illness, and a healthcare system that is not fulfilling its promises.
“I felt guilty most of the time because my heart sank every time she visited me,” Pam Jacobs writes, “and I knew that I would be on edge the whole time, watching her for obvious signs of psychosis.”
While Pam Jacobs tries on numerous occasions to help her daughter, Kerry Jacobs refuses to let her be involved in her care. The mother’s chapters fill in the gaps in her daughter’s memory from this time, recounting the trauma and failure of a range of medications. Finally, after 18 months of turmoil, Kerry Jacobs’s psychiatrist changes her medication and suddenly she began a symptom-free life.
Reading the book, I had to stop on several occasions to reflection my own experiences as both a sufferer of and caretaker for someone with bipolar disorder. I wish that I’d had this book during the time I was struggling to get my adolescent son’s symptoms stabilized. Learning about Jacobs’s most difficult periods of psychosis and her subsequent stable life and successful legal practice would certainly have given me strength. Readers with a connection to bipolar disorder will feel less isolated when they read Jacobs’s book.
From Psychic to Psychotic and Beyond: A true story about my bipolar disorder
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, December, 2012
Paperback, 188 pages