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Schizoaffective Disorder

I like to look for the good in bad situations. You know, in the darkness, I look for the stars--that kind of thing. But I’ve been missing for decades one really positive thing that came out of my schizoaffective psychotic episode at the start of my illness in 1998 when I was only 19 years old.
Taking a vacation when you have schizoaffective disorder and there’s a pandemic going on can be very tricky. But I went for a weekend getaway to Door County in northern Wisconsin with my mom a couple of weeks ago--our annual mother-daughter trip--and we had a very good time.
Music soothes my schizoaffective disorder and I’ve been a fan of Tori Amos since I was in high school in the 1990s, before my first schizoaffective psychotic episode. Amos’ heyday was in the ‘90s, but she’s continued making music about controversial themes such as sexuality, suicide, and rape since then. Her fearlessness in what she sings about as she straddles her piano bench has comforted me since I first started listening to her and especially comforts my schizoaffective anxiety now that her music has gotten more mellow--although her lyrics still pack a punch.
In some families, it is normal to worry about developing schizoaffective disorder. When my uncle first got sick with schizophrenia and with bipolar disorder (which was then called manic depression) in the late 1950s, his little sister, my mother, was afraid she would get sick, too. She was 12 years younger than him. Similarly, when I got sick with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, my brother, Billy, only two-and-a-half years younger than me, was afraid he’d get sick. Here is my story of living with schizoaffective disorder and knowing it is an illness that other people are afraid to have.
My husband Tom and I have a cat. But he’s no ordinary cat. He’s an ageless cat modeled after the character Puss in Boots from the Shrek movies. Even though he’s not a living, breathing pet, he feels like part of the family.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer (and a schizoaffective one at that), but just because the weather is getting nicer doesn’t mean the new coronavirus has magically disappeared. We still need to wear masks as much as we are able when we exercise outside. I say “as much as we are able” because I know it’s hard to wear them while just walking or exercising outside. But let’s try while we still maintain social distancing.
As a feminist, I think that all women are beautiful, except for me. I think I’m ugly. I think I’m ugly because I’m fat. I’m fat because of the medication I take for schizoaffective disorder. I think other fat women are beautiful and that beauty comes in all sizes, except in my case. Yes, I know that sounds contradictory. But think about it this way: How does it feel to be on medication that is supposed to help your mental health but makes you feel ugly, and makes you worry about getting health complications like type 2 diabetes?
The year 2020 is turning out to be very stressful, and stress isn’t good for any of us, whether or not we have a mental illness like schizoaffective disorder. Not only do we have the coronavirus to contend with, but it’s also a presidential election year. Future responses to the virus and the outcome of the election go hand in hand in my mind. Add in my schizoaffective disorder, and I’m really stressed out. But I’m focusing this article on the election despite that.
Because of my schizoaffective disorder, I beat up on myself a lot. Whenever anything goes wrong, I blame myself--or look for ways to blame myself. As a feminist, I want to love the goddess that I am, but this isn’t reality for me.
I’ve written recently that I was keeping fit, dieting and exercising, because of weight gain from the antipsychotic I take for my schizoaffective disorder. But that was before Illinois started to shelter-at-home due to COVID-19. Well, believe it or not, despite the pandemic and the self-quarantine, I’m still at it.