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Creative Schizophrenia

Defining myself outside of mental illness is something I must do. Dealing with my schizoaffective disorder and generalized anxiety disorder can be a full-time job, but I am more than my mental illness symptoms. It's difficult to define myself outside of mental illness sometimes. Anxiety makes bathing difficult, cooking impossible (luckily, my husband Tom cooks for us), and I’m even afraid to go out in the rain. Through all of this, I try to weave other things into my life that define who I am beyond mental illness.
When you're receiving the benefit of schizophrenia treatment due to having a psychotic episode (because of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder), and find yourself on psychiatric medication, it is hard to think that any good may have come out of it. No matter if you racked up two college degrees in spite of it. No matter if you found a loving partner in spite of it. It seems that all the good came in spite of it. But recently I thought of one benefit that came because of getting diagnosed and receiving schizophrenia treatment.
A parent's support is amazing. It’s important for everyone to have a support system - but, for people living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, a support system is critical.  I’ve written a lot about my husband, Tom, but I haven’t written that much about my parents. My parents' support has been there for me from day one when doctors first diagnosed me with schizophrenia, and again later when I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, up until today.
Ever since I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and then schizoaffective disorder, mental health advocacy has become a very important cause for me. One of the ways I advocate for people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder is by participating in the annual National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walk in Chicago, a beautiful lakefront trek in the company of thousands of people.
Many people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder experience the troubling symptom of hearing voices. I hear voices. I hear them often. It’s a breakthrough symptom even for those of us on medication. But there is one time when I experience schizophrenic/schizoaffective voices the most.
There are many difficulties with my mental illness. If you’ve been reading Creative Schizophrenia regularly, then you most likely know I have a wonderful husband named Tom who is very supportive in my journey with schizoaffective disorder. He is so supportive that he makes me feel it is our journey with my schizoaffective disorder. So when one of my readers asked me what the biggest difficulty with my mental illness was for him to deal with, his answer surprised me.
I’ve written recently about how I’m trying to lose weight while on a schizophrenia medication that causes weight gain. Now here’s an update. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on an atypical antipsychotic medication for my schizoaffective disorder that causes severe weight gain: yes, severe. At times my natural weight has almost doubled on this schizophrenia medication.
I wish I didn't hear voices on vacation, but I know I do. Every year, my schizophrenic and schizoaffective symptoms come with me on vacation. They pack themselves up--even my schizoaffective voices. But I didn’t let hearing voices on vacation ruin my fun. Here’s what I did.
Since I was diagnosed with schizophrenia almost 20 years ago and then with schizoaffective disorder 15 years ago, I’ve gone through scores of psychiatric medication changes. They’re never fun but remain necessary as I work with my doctor to keep the dosage as low as possible and schizophrenia symptoms under control. I’m going through a psychiatric medication change right now after a peak of anxiety. You can probably relate to the way it’s affecting my schizophrenic and schizoaffective symptoms.
I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in school during 1998. I’ve spent the time since then rebuilding my life while getting re-diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder along the way. I remember that period as a terrible time for me and it doesn’t get any happier as American culture launches a nostalgia kick for the 1990s. I’ll always love Tori Amos’ records, but it’s not a time I want to revisit. Falling into a psychotic episode changed me forever and, although I love my life now, I don’t want to reminisce about the terrified person I became when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia at school.