My Life With Schizoaffective Disorder: A Form Of Schizophrenia
Many people know about John Nash, the Nobel-Prize winning economist who had schizophrenia. Many know of him because of the movie, A Beautiful Mind. It is a fascinating cinematic portrayal of schizophrenic hallucinations.
However, there is not much content out there about schizophrenic symptoms and coping skills written by someone who has experienced them; this is a niche I can fill.
I was put on prescription medication by my parents as a young child. So early, in fact, that I am not sure when I was put on them. I was at least in the third grade, but it might have been before that. I remember taking my pills in peanut butter because I couldn’t swallow them for three years, which is why the smell makes me ill.
I’m not sure if this caused my current mental state or whether it contributed to it, but I’ll never know. There’s no use worrying about it because it won’t change anything except make me blame my parents, and that isn’t something that I want to be bitter over.
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at eighteen. It is a form of schizophrenia with milder hallucinations. Usually a better grip on reality, and a mood disorder to go along with the hallucinations, such as depression or bipolar. I have the bipolar type. Even though I was diagnosed as a legal adult, I had been experiencing symptoms since I was fifteen. It is hard to say when I first experienced symptoms.
It started with paranoia. I believed I had super-hearing and could hear people’s conversations clearly when they wouldn’t be to any normal human. I believed they were talking about me in a very negative light. Gossiping, showing all my shortcomings. They were always talking about me. It started out as real people I knew and could see.
Then, the invisible attacks began. At first, “The Voices” could only be heard in certain places. But as my paranoia and distorted thinking and beliefs grew in intensity, I heard them everywhere. And they weren’t talking about what I was doing anymore. They could hear my thoughts, see how fast my heart was beating. They could tell what I was thinking about, something that was embarrassing or something I was insecure about that they could use as fuel for their fire.
For a small sense of what this is like, imagine the worst bully you ever had. Imagine they can see through your eyes, hear your thoughts, and know all your insecurities and things that push your buttons. Imagine feeling watched by them all the time, that they can see you when you are in a room with no windows, that they are monitoring you and your thoughts all day and night. They are making mean comments on what you do and think, and even what you dream. They are always picking on the things you want to hide most from everyone else because they know those things are your Achilles heel. You have no privacy. Not when you bathe or use the bathroom. Not when you change. Not even your mind is private. Your thoughts feel broadcasted to the bully, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.
That is my life, every second of every day.
Now, I am blessed with a scientific mind. I tend to experiment and try new things until I find something that works. I found out through a genetic test that most of the medications I had been on were making my symptoms much worse. I also found, even in the past few months, that caffeine and Benadryl make the voices worse, too. If I didn’t experiment, I would be stuck in the rut I have been for the past few years.
I have been hospitalized six times in the past three years. Twice a year, one of them always in February or March, probably because of my seasonal depression and the winters in Ohio. All them involved suicidal thoughts. Not because I wanted to die, but because I didn’t know any other way for the voices to leave me alone. I wanted peace and quiet in my brain, even if that meant dying.
I am much better now, but it hasn’t even been a year since my last hospitalization, and I am wary of the things that might come. But I am also in a better place now. I have a better support system and a better understanding of things that worsen my symptoms and things that make them better.
Talking back to my voices out loud is a lot like giving a wild animal food. They are encouraged to come back and come back with more intensity than before. Not to mention it makes anyone who hears wonder who the hell you are talking to.
You may be asking about visual hallucinations. They are much less common than auditory ones. I am blessed and have never seen anything that wasn’t there.
Paranoid delusions are common in those with schizophrenic symptoms. Feeling like you are being watched. Being sure there are cameras in your room. Being sure someone is watching you and having a whole theory on why they are there. And believing anyone can hear your thoughts, or they are broadcasted to certain people. There are much more that I have had over the years. Even though I intellectually know they are not real or valid in any way, I must remind myself they aren’t real; they feel real.
I think I have gone over the basics of what I experience and what it feels like. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask! I am open to it and want to help people understand what it is like.