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Bas has been through a five-year struggle with psychosis. To find his way out, he had to go back to the moment when it all began. Then he made a movie under his own name (Verloren Jaren, or ‘ Lost Years’ ) about his personal experiences. Today, Bas is still learning from the discussions the movie stirs up.

My psychosis actually came very gradually. I was a film academy student, and began to believe every train passenger was an actor

This delusion gradually became worse, until I got really angry with the film academy staff: I thought they were behind this whole plot. In my graduation year, they eventually expelled me. When I officially signed out, I expected all the stalking would stop. But to my rage, I was still being followed. From that moment on, I never left my bed, started hearing voices and even thought I was gassed.

Five long months, I stayed in bed permanently and spent all my money. My parents had by then stopped supporting me financially. I kept on working in a book store, although I hardly managed it. 24 hours per day, the voices never stopped.

Despite the voices, I thought I was functioning quite well. To my complete surprise, I was fired from my job

After that period, I did nothing but lie in my room., while te voices kept on going. I failed to pay my rent and before long, my landlord evicted me from my home. I had to stay with friends whom I had not spoken in years. They clearly noticed that something was wrong with me, which eventually lead to my voluntarily admission in a closed ward.

Looking back, someone from outside should have had taken action right away. But people around me never saw what was going on. Most simply got angry with me. Especially because they were not familiar with psychosis. I had confronted the staff of the film academy, so they surely suspected something was wrong with me. Yet out of respect, they left the responsibility for my wellbeing to myself. For instance, they strongly urged me to get medical attention, yet left it at that. They meant well, but as a result, my situation did not change for over five years.

At the closed ward, I felt fine. For the first time I had the feeling that someone seriously wanted to listen to me

The nurses told me I had to take some rest and that they would take care of everything for me. For example, they arranged a new home and informed my parents. This period may have been the heaviest. Suddenly I woke up from all the psychosis and confusion. I was faced with the fact that I had wasted the last five years of my life by living in a false reality. Additionally, I was incredibly scared that the psychosis would return. Since I was left with nothing, that first year was hell. I almost started to long back to my life as it was.

Luckily, I was in good care, and my parents were dragging me through. After this admission, I strongly felt that I had to ‘escape from it all’ and accepted any kind of care available.

In this phase, it was all or nothing for me. I immediately requested another chance to graduate at the film academy. It was rejected, and I got very frustrated about the fact that I could not finish what I had started. My psychiatrist, although he shared my disappointment, initially said that by pushing through, I would only trigger my psychosis.

My psychiatrist suggested to make a documentary about my psychosis. It was incredibly important that he gave me something that provided me with a sense of purpose

I got all the support I needed to create this documentary. Doing so had a hugely positive effect on my recovery process, and helped me understand what had actually happened. I can still get very angry when care workers say they are afraid to let patients try out and get active. In my eyes, that is just saying: ‘ you can forget it. Go live in a cabin somewhere far away, because what you’ve gone through, means there is no more hope for you.’

If my psychiatrist wouldn’t have dared to give me the green light, I would have never been so well as I am now.

Making that movie is what got me out. I got such as kick out of it. When I realised how well I was doing, I even wanted to quit medication. All my successes made me so confident I no longer wanted to take those stupid pills. At those moments, you only feel their side effects and no longer think about all the positive effects the medication does for you.
I was functioning well, but failed to realise that my medication was actually playing a part in that. All I noticed was trouble sleeping and being unable to sit still.

With approval of my psychiatrist I quit my medication, way faster than I should have. It felt as if all my emotions had been put in a balloon, that suddenly exploded

Gradually quitting medication is much better, because then you can slowly realise what the medication is actually doing for you. All sorts of issues that once plagued me, suddenly returned. Yet for me, it was also positive that I got my emotions back. Before, everything was numbed. Meanwhile, the cognitive behavioural therapy proved incredibly valuable. This helped me see what was happening and retake control.

It is dangerous to quit medication too quickly: four out of 5 people relapse and become psychotic again. I can also notice I am much less stable since I fully quit my medication, with stronger ups-and-downs. However, due to luck and the right treatment, I do see an improvement. All in all, I am happy that I made this deliberate decision.

Verloren Jaren (‘Lost years’): Dutch movie based on director Bas Labruyère’s personal experiences.

Trauma en Psychose (‘Trauma and Psychosis’): This mini documentary is also made by Bas, in cooperation with the researchers of the Treating Trauma in Psychosis Study (T.TIP).

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