31 Things That Have Either Helped Me Or That Have Not

Helpful:

Community.

Boundaries.

Suffering.

The push-pull of perfectionism.

To always make the effort!

Being polite and conversational.

Being industrious.

Learning to better trust myself amid schizoaffective disorder.

Learning to “adjust” over time.

Being organized in most ways.

Listening to music.

Having a variety of hobbies.

Giving back via this blog.

Having a healthy, primary relationship.

Making good food choices.

Exercise.

True self-care.

Being vulnerable with trustworthy people.

Having an open mind.

8 hours of nightly, restful sleep.

Character development / Personal development.

Medication.

Journaling.

Facing my fears.

Not Helpful:

Overthinking… The cause of more than a few of my ails. “Just stop it!” is good advice for those who think too much. If only it were that easy!

Graphic TV and movies… TV and movies in general, have not been the most helpful for me. I have a difficult time sitting through movies, but watching a TV program is doable.

Relationships that are one sided… To be healthy, relationships need time to grow. They are two people giving of each other selflessly and healthily. Generosity on both sides, has been a foundational component in many of my relationships as well.

Therapy… Maybe it’s just me, but everyone seems to have an agenda! For me, my agenda is clear. I want to articulate all the things that I go through, and that have helped me to manage schizoaffective disorder.

My symptoms (to include worry)… My mind is oftentimes unsettled. And, my symptoms are difficult to deal with and do not go away!

My medication side effects… Medication is important, but it does have quite a few side effects, that exacerbate my being regimented or performing activities in a consistent fashion.

Arrogant, self-centered, toxic people… Although, they have provided me with a greater understanding of life and people in general.

What can you relate to on this list? And, if this were your list, what might you personally add to it?

How My Life Changed With These Schizophrenia Symptoms

I’ve written about some of this before, adding more detail with each update.

My voices started when I was 24 (or at least that’s when I first started getting treatment for them).

After two psychotic breaks, they diagnosed me as having Psychosis NOS.

I enrolled in college that same year! I had just enough arrogance and tenacity to take the bull by the horns (and that’s what I did).

I was at university, attending classes, keeping it together until I was 26 (when I had yet another series of psychotic breaks).

This time, I was being urged to take the meds. They were awful and had horrendous side effects. I didn’t take them.

I then went back to school to finish. My arrogance and tenacity was waning.

I studied psychology and philosophy, and I didn’t know what to think, to believe, or to feel; and most days, I still don’t!

That my friends is grief, as well as severe mental illness.

I went from being an active and fit 24/25 year old to eating three to four times more than what I used to (or needed), by the time I was 26.

I mean, I never even ate fast food, except maybe twice a year! And, I didn’t drink pop either!

For me, this had less to do with vanity, and was my attempt to take care of myself amid some really shitty genetics.

So, everything about who I was, just completely changed in a matter of two years. Everything.

I graduated though! I walked out with the bare minimum GPA required for graduation.

What was I doing? But, more importantly, what was I thinking?

The experience of going to college and ultimately graduating, for me, was pure terror! I am the better for it, but that experience has hurt me in several ways. Even to this day!

Maybe that’s hard for some to understand, but looking at what I deal with every day, it’s not so difficult for me to understand.

Yes, I went from being someone who thought that they had everything under control, to realizing that I didn’t have much of anything under control. Especially my mental health!

And today, today all I really want to do is recapture some of who I was at 24/25.

Yes, I’ve had moments. Some of them even lasted for a little while, but nothing that gets me close to the old me.

I guess that’s par for the course, when you try and go to university with Psychosis NOS, and then, end up with schizoaffective disorder?

I surely don’t know where my mind was! Other than, I had a diminished capacity for understanding my situation.

In those days, I actually thought I could brute force my way to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. And, I tried real hard to do that!

Today, I do pretty good, compared to my peers, and for the meds I take. The meds are all at high dosages though! :/

The only real difference between me, then and now, is my insight and awareness. Insight into my condition and awareness of myself as someone independent of my condition.

For that, I have my personal development journey to thank! And, it has been quite a journey for sure!

No, it’s not all about the label, but it is about quality of life, which for me, is lacking in many ways.

I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of us are lacking in quality of life!

Let’s face it, all of us struggle and our lives pale in comparison to what they once were!

In general, I hope to, in this space, share with you more about how schizoaffective disorder affects me.

For now, let’s discuss my voices.

So distressing, so invasive, so real, and so powerful!

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts on what my voices are like, so here goes:

The voices, for me, are active all the time. They’re either in the background or foreground. They are thoughts.

I sometimes find them to be pieces or remnants of conversations that l once had with myself and/or someone else.

They’re similar to the running dialogue that we all have, only the nature of my voices are extreme, chaotic.

I am plagued with a constant back and forth of dialogue that never ends. It’s usually disparaging dialogue too! And, I’m a pretty positive person!

Still, my voices are negative and oftentimes disgusting.

I hear things that fly in the face of what a person should be experiencing in their lives. 😦

For instance (and this is highly personal), I could be in conversation with a person, keeping it together outwardly, but holding nothing but hurtful and disparaging thoughts about that person inwardly.

Things that, if they could hear my thoughts, that would probably be the last time we spoke!

Now, imagine if this happened with every relationship you have in your life!

That’s precisely what I deal with every day.

I share all of this to open people’s minds about the devastation of schizophrenia and severe mental illness. Not to garner sympathy or attention.

While everyone’s situation is different/unique, this is (and has been) my experience!

None of what I go through is a walk in the park, nor is it for anyone who has severe mental illness and is symptomatic.

Thanks for reading!

When Your Mind Plays Tricks On You: An Exercise In Awareness (Part 3/3)

In this three part series, I’ve been sharing instances of “when my mind plays tricks on me.”

Now, I’d like to share with you (as I’ve done before on this blog), just how difficult it is to keep the blog up and running.

My diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder (depressive type), and it is incredibly challenging to not obsess over the kinds of things, that other bloggers, don’t think about (and probably take for granted).

I’m not complaining, but when I say that I want to let America and the rest of the world know how bad the suffering associated with my diagnosis (and other severe mental illnesses) is, I’m sharing with you just the “facts.”

On the one hand, I feel good having started this blog. And, on the other, I have people who support it (and want to hear from me).

So, you might be thinking—what’s the problem?

And, the answer is that I am ill, and I am doing my best to manage my illness.

All of these things are prime examples of the paranoia and delusions I experience. Not to mention the auditory hallucinations that reiterate just how bad of an idea it is to have this blog (or any of the dozen or so blogs, I’ve ultimately gotten rid of).

NOTE: I am not planning on getting rid of this blog anytime soon.

When Your Mind Plays Tricks On You: An Exercise In Awareness (Part 2/3)

In the last post, I shared some of the things, that I’ve been through in my life.

Delusions and hallucinations.

And, even though I’ve worked through these beliefs of mine, I am oftentimes reminded of the ever so slight hold they have on me yet today.

For instance, I doubt that anyone is going to run me off the road and kill me. But, I am concerned about crossing many bridges, as I drive from point to point.

And, while I don’t necessarily believe that the military is going to drop down, out of the sky to “get me,” I do think about this delusion in times of increased stress.

All in all (and as an example), I will sometimes side with the Beatles in the most adverse of situations, with their song: “I Feel Fine.”

Just as an example. 🙂

When Your Mind Plays Tricks On You: An Exercise In Awareness (Part 1/3)

I had my first psychotic break in the late 1990’s. Shortly after 2000, I regularly began taking my medications.

It has been (and continues to be) a long and arduous journey—not only to get here, but to carve out where I am going as well.

I have worked hard managing life (where my illness is concerned), and I feel compelled to share some of my triumphs with you.

Picture some of the things I’ve been through (in no particular order):

1. Believing, on numerous occasions (while driving), that I would be run off the road, and either left for dead, or murdered wherever it is I lay.

2. Often having this feeling that I might lose control of my vehicle, while passing over a bridge of some sort—and, not understanding how other people aren’t experiencing the same thing.

3. Once spending the better part of two weeks, stuck in delusions, day in and day out, believing that the military was going to drop down, out of the sky and beat down my front door.

I used to keep a journal of some of these types of beliefs, many of which I’ve worked through.

In the next part of this three part series, I will share more insights into my situation.

Struggling? Newly Diagnosed? A Message For Families Of Those With Psychosis!

Disclaimer: This Site is intended to provide general knowledge, and is not intended to serve as medical advice of any sort.  Changes in mental health treatment should never be made without consulting your health care provider.

This has been my doctor’s and family’s approach to helping me with schizoaffective disorder.

It sometimes takes awhile, but my overall message to you, is that psychosis can (and often does) get better!

In the past 20+ years of living with schizoaffective disorder, I can tell you six things (some of these you already know), that have helped the trajectory of my mental illness.

Below are some of the things that my parents were able to do for me…

1) Never compare your loved one’s struggles to anyone else’s hardships, past or present. Their struggles are unique to them, and are more than enough for them to handle!

2) Have your loved one take their medication. It can be difficult for some people with psychosis to recognize that they have an illness. Keep working with the professionals, and depending on how “ill” your loved one is, consider getting on as POA for their health care (for awhile).

3) Validate your loved one’s feelings, but also know that some psychotic symptoms need to be challenged. If you can challenge their symptoms safely and healthily, then you definitely should! Also, it can be quite tricky dealing with religious delusions and hallucinations (with your loved ones), so tread carefully, and allow your loved ones some latitude with carving out a “helpful” belief system.

4) Have your loved one try and follow a schedule. This is a lot more difficult than one might think! I personally have been trying to stick with a schedule for two decades, and with little luck. However, I stay productive (not just busy), so that is important too!

5) Let your loved one know, whether it be through actions and/or words, that they are important in the world, and that they are “loved!” I can’t tell you enough, the difference that this has made for me in my life—knowing that I was loved (while in the midst of so much suffering)—that really has made a difference for me!

6) Don’t preach “recovery” to your loved one—especially if you (and them) are having trouble with some of the earlier suggestions. This could cause a lot of damage to your loved one! Your loved one needs to know the tenets of one through five, and when those are being followed properly, then you can have discussions on where they see themselves in the future, and “they” will formulate what they must do to embark on the road to “recovery.”

I personally am still very symptomatic, but having worked on all of the above, with the professionals, my parents, and a few close friends, I am on the upswing (and, doing quite a bit better than I was when I first presented symptoms).

Best of luck to you (and with time, intentionality, and patience), it will get better…

Blessings!

Coping With Some Of The Suffering That Is Brought On By Both Life And (Mainly) My Schizoaffective Disorder

NOTE: Life sucks! And, I hate the fear that is associated with sharing this post, and the one on the topic, that precedes it… but, even though life is difficult and I am afraid, I am publishing this bit of info. anyway!

The short version of my diagnostic history, is that I had a few “breaks,” and was diagnosed with Psychosis NOS, a little over 20 years ago.

Then, almost three years after those initial “breaks,” I had some additional “breaks,” and was given a string of diagnoses, before they settled on schizoaffective disorder – depressive type.

All three years leading up to my receiving the schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, I had taken a range of psych medication, none of which I was able to stick with for very long.

All of the pain associated with life and the disorder, eventually got me to recognize that medication was my “future,” so I began taking it.

It was difficult, but I took (and still take) my medication!

Besides taking the meds, what also helps me, is that I am emotionally expressive. I share a lot of myself, while also establishing and maintaining good boundaries.

Emotional expressiveness may be more or less a personality trait. So, while you may be able to teach it ultimately (I learned it in therapy), for a number of reasons, it might also be elusive for many.

Another component that helps me to cope with my suffering is becoming more aware.

In becoming more aware, I experience an increase in symptoms (i.e. delusions, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety).

Gratefully, I have the amazing help of my wife—plain and simple.

This woman educates herself! She is intelligent, creative, talented, selfless, and my anchor! And, she is there for me ALL of the time!

I get a lot of reality checks from my wife each and every day…

I am a high achiever by nature, and I probably pick my wife’s brain more often than what most people would do regarding their significant others, but it helps me to cope with severe mental illness—and, tremendously so!

Everything I share with the world, has a hint of her to it. I owe much of my success to this wonderful woman!

Before my wife came along, the world was a little darker…

Most days, I’d call my close friend (who is self-employed and made the time to talk to me), about how I should proceed on a plethora of life and illness issues.

I called him many times per day some days, and before my wife entered the picture, it was he who saved me from having a greater level of despair regarding life/my illness.

I don’t know how I got so blessed, but I do know, that I still suffer A LOT—even with ideal circumstances.

In sum, you might say that it’s been 1) the support I’ve received (the meds, a good psychiatrist, and an all-around excellent support system), 2) my emotional expressiveness, and 3) becoming more aware.

All of the above have helped me to do what I am doing at present! And, while it may not seem like much to some, I continually challenge myself each and every day through this medium of writing (blogging).

It also helps that I read, listen to a lot of music, and watch very little TV!

Have a good day/night!

I Have Schizoaffective Disorder… So, What Is That Experience Like?

I did a guest post for Mental health 360° today, of which I am proud. It was great fun, and it was a joy working with Caz!

Here is the guest post in its entirety:

https://mentalhealthfromtheotherside.com/2020/04/17/living-with-schizoaffective-disorder/

Caz has a lot to say about mental health herself, as a Mental Health Nurse, with designations in Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Armed Forces Instruction, among others!

Again, it was great working with Caz.

Check out her site at:

https://mentalhealthfromtheotherside.com/

Below is an abbreviated version of the post I did.

Thank you!


For me, my thoughts are oftentimes quite muddled.

I have confusion much of the time, and when I am clear on my thinking, that is a bonus—something worthy of celebrating!

Usually though, my days are spent listening to music, blogging, being on social media (for my blog), and writing.

I try to stay off of places like Facebook, because I just end up getting upset with others. And, I don’t want to put myself (and everyone else) through that!

I also have to stay away from politics as much as possible too, as nearly all types of politics are triggering.

So, again, I listen to music, blog, spend time on social media for my blog, and write.

And, that’s my typical day!

But, what do I think about? What are my thoughts like?

Pinning my thoughts down isn’t always easy.

Much of the time, I have skewed and warped views or “delusions,” about anything and everything.

“Hallucinations” are also prevalent—where I hear voices—that typically say or yell disparaging things.

I will even have full-blown conversations (a lot of times without my even realizing I am doing so), that focus on things that are largely invasive, and that have a negative undertone to them.

Like, I think a lot about how (I believe) my blog is garnering a lot of negative attention from important people (i.e. the government or people connected to the government), who may somehow use the things I write about, against me.

And, I am in competition with these conversations, in order to have a healthy stream of thoughts (which I don’t 100% of the time get to experience).

I do get lost or stuck a lot with my way of thinking, and as I’ve said, I basically am tasked with interrupting those invasive conversations, as they are unhealthy and unkind.

I deal with all of this stuff every day, but interestingly enough, I do have some amount of happiness and confidence within myself and with regards to the life I live.

That didn’t happen overnight either. In fact, it took all of 20 years to figure out that I can also feel good, while in the midst of psychosis.

What the turning point for me was, was figuring myself out and what I believe, and then slowly introducing the notion of being in an intimate relationship, which I feel that achieving that has been my biggest stabilizing force.

I also feel that relationships (in general) tend to be very elusive to many people living with severe mental illness.

If we could all just begin to look at our mental illnesses as something that we just have, and find ways to challenge ourselves amid them aka try to make our life experiences somehow better, I think that we will win the battle against our diagnoses!

Perhaps that is wishful thinking for a lot of us, and maybe it is, but I always believe in doing something, that places me in an upward and onward direction!

And, yes, it is quite tough!

But, I have noticed that specific improvements do occur, when I am overtly challenging myself and my current levels of insight.

So, how do you feel when you are challenging your mental health experience? Especially as it pertains to wrestling control of your symptoms?

Better But Not Fixed: A Response To My Voices About Employment And Mental Health (Part Two)

In Part One, I posed the following question and answer…

https://mentallyillinamerica.com/2020/02/28/better-but-not-fixed-a-response-to-my-voices-about-employment-and-mental-health-part-one/

Question: Why don’t mental health advocates talk more about schizophrenia and related disorders?

Answer: It’s not in the agenda.

The reason many mental health professionals do not have it in the agenda, has to do with the severity of the illness.

It is so serious in nature that trying to explain it, regardless of who explains things (even a psychiatrist), people will oftentimes walk away misunderstanding it.

Unless you, yourself have it, or you are a caretaker, or professional… you may just get the wrong idea.

What makes matters even worse, is that the majority of sufferers cannot maintain employment at all (roughly about 10% do).

Also, nearly 10% of those afflicted, succeed in committing suicide, which means even more attempt it.

That’s why I am here, to offer you a better understanding of this family of disorders, when and where I can.

As someone living with schizoaffective disorder (who has been through many changes in stability and functioning), I may ultimately fail in educating you, but I will do my best to succeed!

Better But Not Fixed: A Response To My Voices About Employment And Mental Health (Part One)

I feel quite heavily the weight of my decision to share these thoughts, knowing that this will garner the wrong kind of attention. Probably.

But, can we be candid for a moment… about schizophrenia and employment?

When did we become a society that values employment over diminished health?

In taking care of my own diminished health, I have tremendous issues. 20 years after that first diagnosis.

In terms of how I’ve progressed, I still have all of the same issues I’ve always had. Except now I have some awareness.

There is nothing new under the sun, except that the crux of what I say here will be taken out of context and mostly misunderstood.

I am not capable of any kind of employment. Current attitude notwithstanding.

I may be poised in how I speak (I always have been), but I am not well (I am NOT suicidal). Nor will I ever be well (that seems to be the trajectory). Certainly not well enough to do the things I need to do to be employed.

Question: When will other people with schizophrenia and related disorders, stand up and say this?

Answer: They can’t. They won’t. And, why is that? Because the vast majority of persons with schizophrenia type disorders are not contributing members of society.

Question: Why don’t mental health advocates talk more about schizophrenia and related disorders?

Answer: It’s not in the agenda.

Ever wonder why?