Disabling, not disabled

Resilient. I’m resilient. For someone with my type of mental disorder, I am very resilient.
 
I don’t drink (like I am supposed not to do). I take my medication (like I am supposed to do). I take my medication despite the side effects of headaches, weight gain and lethargy.
 
Many people with my mental disorder do not survive it. They commit suicide. They give up on themselves and everything. Having schizoaffective disorder is twice the fight of a normal mental disorder since it is a combination of two mental illnesses, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. And if there is one thing I am is a fighter against this disease.
 
Medication simply may not be the issue. At times I wish I was fully medicated in a coma like state, drooling on a hospital bed. But we can’t always get what we want. I have to be able to drive my car, go to work/school, and function in some way.
 
Many people with this disorder are on disability, not just because of the medications side-effects, but because schizoaffective disorder itself is very disabling.
 
So, my choices are to be not medicated, medicated and functional, or a drooling medicated disabled zombie.
 
I struggle with this disorder, everyone who has it struggles. Nothing concerning it is easy, or fun, or relaxing. Your mind can be constantly in motion and chaos. Then there is the tiredness, the headaches, the anxiety, the overthinking, the disorganized thinking and so on and so forth.
 
I choose to fight this disorder, but to not be disabled from it to the best of my ability.

Normally, not normal

Schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder.
 
Unless you have these mental disorders, you do not understand me.
 
It is not as simple as to ‘go do this’.
 
Go change that.
 
Stop behaving this way.
 
Start doing this instead.
 
These mental disorders are not imaginary, they are not just created up in my head to keep me busy. I do not sleep for 14 hours a day because I think sleep is fun. Having two separate mental illnesses is exhausting AND if you count in my anxiety disorder(s)… make that three different mental illness I struggle with on a daily basis. Essentially as time continues to go on, regions of my brain are deteriorating away, when compared to the brains of normal people. It can become difficult to think clearly and quickly.
 
It can be difficult to hold a conversation. To maintain attention. To attend a party. To maintain a job. To stay awake.
 
It can be difficult to initiate and maintain relationships with people. It can be hard to keep up on daily tasks and chores, including my own personal care.
 
Nothing about having these mental disorders is fun. Everything concerning having them is work. Think of having schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and an anxiety disorder as a full time second job. A second job you never have time off from… because it is constantly wrangling around in your head.
 
Unless you have these mental disorders, you can not understand how tiring it can be to do things, maintain concentration, hang out with people, and move through this so called life.
 
Nothing prepared me for eventual onset of these mental disorders. I ended up becoming long-term homeless because of them.
 
It is amazing to me how normal non-mentally ill people can be quick to criticize or ridicule my life, as it is today. If you were in my shoes dealing with this mental illness shit, I’d really like to see how you’d do better than how I am managing to do on a day to day basis.

Being mentally sick

I am mentally sick. I have been mentally sick since high school, or even since childhood. Even though I am currently on medication for schizoaffective disorder, I am still very, very mentally sick.
 
None of my behaviors and actions are normal. Nothing about me is normal… nothing about me fits into a realm of what you people would consider normalcy.
 
I used to tell myself (daily/every minute) that I was not good enough for a job, for friends, for a girlfriend…. that I was not good enough for many, many different things. I still do this behavior to this day. Everyday. A lot.
 
When you keep telling yourself something enough, over the course of the years… it becomes truth. And that ‘I am not good enough’ is the current truth for me.
 
In many ways, by repeatedly telling myself that I am not good enough for anything, it also feeds my anxiety. By continually telling myself that I don’t deserve friends, or a girlfriend, I further hunker away into a comfort zone of further isolation from others and society.
 
Unless you are as mentally sick as I am, you can not understand what I have been through, and am going through, on a day to day basis. I doubt very few people on this list can indeed say that, yes, I am as sick as you are Tony.
 
Will anything ever change for me? Who the hell knows. Everything that schizoaffective disorder is, no one else wants to be near it, deal with it, or even hear about it. It’s a brutal mental ilness… and nobody wants to be around it. I don’t want to be around it, or deal with it myself. Nothing is fun considering this disorder.
 
This is my life that I am talking about. The day in and day out struggle that I go through is not understood at all. Sure, medication can take away the symptoms of a mental illness, but it can not cure the type of thinking that having a mental illness for years trains your brain to think in a certain way.
 
Will I ever get a job in science? Will I ever have real friends again? What about that girlfriend? How about some level of success and a meaningful career? Kids? A house? Some level of normalcy?
 
I hate this disorder. I hate what it has done to me since it first put it’s claws into me in highschool. And it has never let go… nor will it ever let go. It will always be there… everwatching for it’s opportune moment to strike again.

One Day at A Time… slowly

Some of these schizoaffective disorder facebook support groups I am apart of are a mixed bag. I can get so frustrated with people aiming for disability as an end goal with this mental disorder. Admittedly, this mental disease is incredibly debilitating, as I know first hand… and I often wonder how long I can remain ‘high-functioning’ in my continual fight against this disability.
 
So often I hear, ‘Tony why don’t you try blah blah blah top-of-the-line anti-psychotic?’ and try this therapy regimen?
 
Ok? Who will pay for it?
 
Not my insurance, which as a current student, barely covers the generic medications I am currently on. And, new drugs don’t always offer a symptom improvement… they can be… just newer on the market than the older stuff.
 
Thankfully, I am in a very good mental health program where I have someone to talk to about what I have been through, and am continually going through.
 
I’ve been able to manage for 8 years or so on Abilify (which is now generic). But, I have had an increase of symptoms lately. First, it was my typing that got all screwy if I type too fast… the doctor’s recommendation… type slower.
 
Then it became my speech getting distorted… again… I need to slow down.
 
I’m grateful today to be back in school and back in science. I take things day to day. I take things slowly today, because it is the new speed in which I live.
 
And there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

Schizoaffective what?

One of the problems with having schizoaffective disorder is that it doesn’t go away or get better over time. Sure, the medication can alleviate some of the symptoms, but it does not work on all of the disorders symptoms.
 
I’m one of the fortunate ones having this disorder that react well to the prescribed medication to treat it. But it isn’t easy. The disorder makes you constantly tired. Very tired… as does the medication used to treat the disorder.
 
I still occasionally see things… fleetingly. As do the voices that come back into my life from time to time. I just heard something yesterday. Another symptom of this disorder has affected my ability to type. I’ll think of something, type it out, and different words will appear in their place. By the time this is posted, I will have proofread it at least three times looking for words I didn’t type. It has become, unfortunately, a common occurrence that I need to look out for. It is commonplace for people who have this disorder, for the disorder to affect typing.
 
Anxiousness, paranoia, delusional thinking are up there as symptoms. While I still suffer from the first two, thankfully, (I hope) my delusional thinking has gone away… partly due to the medication I take.
 
Another factor in all of this, and the effectiveness in which I can battle this disease, is that I have been sober for over eight years now. There would be no way I could handle school, or life itself, if I was drinking again. The disorder would run out of control, and I would be useless similarly to when I was homeless. Fortunately, I take my medication and I do not drink alcohol… consistently for the past eight or so years. It the primary reasons I have stayed out of the hospital because of this mental disorder.
 
Every day it is a struggle to deal with schizoaffective disorder. Taking my medication and not drinking alcohol is the easy part of dealing with this mental illness… but, dealing with the symptoms that persist even though I take medication is exceedingly draining on a daily basis. Some of them are intrusive thoughts, disorganized thinking, anxiety, paranoia, mania, depression… just to name a few. The disorder is also known for it’s ability to make people very lethargic and tired… I fight this by showing up to work every weekday and trying to accomplish something. At least, I try my very best.
 
I try not to let schizoaffective disorder run my life. I do what I am supposed to, and more, in the constant battle to stave off and defeat this illness. I’ve come back from homelessness and joblessness… to holding a job and now being back in school. If I continue to fight back against this mental illness, I can hopefully have a normal and fulfilling life, despite this disorders worst intentions for me.

Harvard School of Hard Knocks

Usually I do not write too often when things are going well. And, fortunately, they have been. I’m reminded this week that I have survived schizoaffective disorder for nine years now without somehow finding myself back in the hospital because of it.

A large part of my success in battling schizoaffective disorder stems from the fact that I have been sober for the past eight years. No alcohol, no drugs. It’s a formula for success, for me at least. If I were to go down the drinking and drugging road, my entire life would unravel… not just because I would be using, but because my mental illness would run totally out of control. I just don’t have an addiction issue to deal with on a daily basis, but a huge, huge mental illness problem that requires daily maintenance and sobriety in order for me to be successful.

In the end, no matter how bad things can get for me mentally struggling with this disorder, I am constantly reminded (through my own life experiences) that things can and will get worse, if I turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with life’s issues.

I’m sober eight years now. I’m out of the hospital for nine years now. I’ve been from Harvard to hardcore homeless, and everywhere and everything in between. Living on the street, to livin’ it large. From grad school to the school of hard knocks.

I can’t change what has happened to me and what I have been through. I’ve learned that there is no point on dwelling on the hardships I’ve have been dealt to deal with.

Importantly, I have overcome most of the difficulties that I have faced. And I will continue to overcome obstacles, provided that I follow the path to continued mental well-being and sobriety.