When I was 18, I visited Thailand to meet-up with my housemates from Australia, a British man called Tom and an Irish bloke called David. David had a friend from home called Jim, who was doing a similar trip so they planned to meet up in Koh Samui.
*Names have been changed to protect identities*
I met Tom and David in an Irish pub on Khao San Road in Bangkok, back in its more seedier years, as it’s relatively tame now compared to other Southeast Asian cities. Their new girlfriends didn’t like me much so I was glad to head to the South and leave Bangkok behind.
We travelled down to Koh Samui and I met Jim at our shared hut on Chaweng Beach. The four of us joined forces with two Canadian women and a Scottish bloke and spent the week drinking together.
I found Jim passed out by the door one night and tried to get him to come back in, he was covered in insect bites but refused to come in.
Every night he would drink whiskey buckets and disappear for a few hours before returning with fistfuls of Lithium from the pharmacy.
He bought a clown mask and ran up and down the beach like a four-year-old but I thought nothing of it.
I didn’t realise he was in a psychosis because he’d been fucked off his head the whole time I’d known him.
Then my other friends were flying home so I got stuck with him. We got the bus from Koh Samui to Phuket together and it soon became apparent that something was very wrong.
Firstly he kept saying the police were after us and talking about bodies being buried on the beach. He then spotted someone with a guitar on the bus and asked if he could play it. The bus was full of Thai people who were keen to see a farang play the guitar so they all turned around and looked at us.
Even though I didn’t know him well I felt sure in that moment that he couldn’t play the guitar. And it turned out that I was right.
The whole thing was so cringe-making that when I made eye contact with the guy in front of me I ended up rolling my eyes at Jim’s behaviour. The Thai guy took this as a come-on and clearly thought I was easy as he threw a condom at me and pointed at the toilet next to our seats.
I threw the condom back at him and then he wrote me a note that said ‘I MISS YOU’ in English writing. I threw that back as well and I aggressively stared out of the window avoiding all eye contact with him for the rest of the way.
When we eventually arrived at Phuket we were supposed to be staying with Jim’s cousin but she wasn’t there. When we spoke to her neighbour who had a young baby, Jim was telling her not to panic. She said she wasn’t panicking and shut the door.
We sorted out a beach cottage on Bang Tao beach and went to bed. Jim grabbed my bra strap and said he wanted me so I wrestled myself away from him. I wedged myself between the bed and the wall so that he couldn’t sexually assault me in his crazed state. The next day I moved into a different cottage for my own safety and left him to his own devices. As I was only 18, I had no idea that he was mentally ill, I just thought he was on a serious bender.
Bang Tao beach was heavily damaged by Tsunami aftershocks and people looked at me with pity for being on my own, so I moved to Patong and went diving.
After a day of diving, I had all these missed call notifications. I didn’t know what they were until I started getting text messages from Jim’s cousin. I totally panicked because I was afraid that I hadn’t done the right thing in leaving him.
Anyway, it turned out that it was me they were worried about, as he had told them that I was dead and buried on the beach. They had reported me as missing to the British embassy and even tried calling my parents but got the answerphone. Luckily I’d filled my parents in on some things but they probably would have panicked anyway. My mum was already convinced someone would put drugs in my bag and I’d go to prison.
I agreed to go to the hospital where he was having treatment to tell him that I was alive. I asked for him at all three hospitals and they all claimed not to have heard of him. He turned out to be at the first hospital I’d visited. As soon as I walked in he threw a bag of crisps at my head as a welcome.
He wouldn’t drink anything that had been open for more than a few minutes in case it had been contaminated. It turned out that he was in a drug-induced psychosis caused by a Thai drug known as ‘mira’ that they use to torture people as it keeps you awake for 10 days straight. I’ve googled it and I can’t find any solid information on it. I know it is made from a leaf but I can’t tell you anymore as it may go by a different name to the one I was given all those years ago.
His family were looking for answers from me but I didn’t have any, he had so many delusions that it was impossible to get to the truth. They thought the Scottish guy had given him drugs but I had to break it to them that he had searched them out himself. His dad even had his notepad out but there were no answers to do found.
I phoned our mutual friend David up afterwards to tell him about it and he asked me if it was true that Jim’s dad looked like Saddam Hussein and I said yes, it was.
A bizarre note to end on, but typical of our teenage mentality as we were so naive that I worry about young travellers now that I’m a grownup.
As Jim was a young man, he was more susceptible to psychosis and I don’t know if he ever recovered. They didn’t know then what they know now about psychosis so they were concerned that he wouldn’t come out of it.
He took large amounts of drugs without knowing what was in them, and it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, there are unscrupulous people everywhere. I always tell backpackers to be safe, as I’ve seen some awful things, look after yourselves and look after others. I only wish I could have done more at the time.
Are you affected by these issues?
- What to do if you think someone you know is having a psychotic episode
- What is psychosis?
- Mind’s information and support on psychosis
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- My friend went into a drug-induced psychosis on the Thai island of Koh Samui