Five years ago something happened to me which neither I nor anyone around me foresaw, I had my first psychotic break. Initially, in the months following my diagnosis of schizoaffective, I tried to gain control in a situation where I didn’t really have it. I thought if I could just understand what was happening I could gain the upper hand. So I read books, blogs, forums, and watched youtube videos about mental illness.
All of those things made mental illness seem like a temporary inconvenience which could be easily overcome and I bought into it. I thought I could just take my meds and everything would be easy peasy, that was far from the truth. Nothing I read prepared me for what I actually experience living with this illness.
To be fair I did not always follow all the advice I read. After I was comfortably back into my daily routine I tried my strength. By that I mean I went off medication, multiple times. This lead to periods of instability which were bad but not as disruptive as my inital break. I was still able to work and function and unless I shared my delusional thoughts no one was the wiser. But I did eventually concede that the medication was neccessary; the moment I realized I was a slave to medication was almost as heartbreaking as the moment I was diagnosed. But I learned and now I would not advise anyone to learn the way I did, the hard way.
Spending so much time fighting my paranoia and psychosis took focus away from my emotions; took away my view of my self as a whole being and I became disconnected from myself. There were times when I was depressed but I did not recognize it for what it was. I thought it was an organic thought that was just part of who I was and I just had to think more positively. When I would go off medication I would get bursts of positive energy which was another reason I would go off them. It wasn’t until a severe episode that I realized something was off with my emotions. That was three years ago.
Since that time I have been through a couple of therapists each who brought something valuable to the table. Each who have helped me realize that I am not just a schizophrenic but a person living with schizophrenia. It took me until this passed year to fully grasp that. I have been in therapy on and off since I was 19 (almost 30) and I have just recently learned the art of being aware of and managing emotions. My last therapist also made me aware of thought traps (black and white thinking, catastrophizing, mental filtering) all of which affect me day to day but I am learning to fight.
So much of the progress I have made recently was hindered by me. For a long time I was abusing otc sleeping meds, which I was told made my symptoms worse. For the longest time I thought it was bullshit. But when I recently stopped taking it my symptoms decreased a lot.
And so I’m still in recovery as both someone with a mental illness and someone who struggles with addiction. Things have not been easy but I’m ready for them to get better.