life lessons mental illness schizoaffective schizophrenia Uncategorized



Not long ago, I volunteered at a state conference for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I was able to see a few speakers throughout the event.

One lecture I went to was on schizophrenia. I was very interested since I have a thought disorder (schizoaffective disorder). The psychiatrist speaking was a good speaker, intelligent and down to earth. He spoke about getting through the illness and to the person.

There was time for questions. Hands were raised and you could also fill out questions on paper. I filled out the paper and waited, but he never read mine. The audience was mostly clinicians and family but there were a few others with the diagnosis, like me.

Afterwards, there was time to talk with the speaker. i waited for my turn. Finally, I got to ask him my question. He said he had not read it because there really is no answer. I asked about remission. I have been stable for years. I have pretty much not had psychotic symptoms for 10 years (I am on medication). But, still I wait for the other shoe to drop. When is it going to happen again?

My question was “When can I take a breath and not worry about relapse?” His answer was simple. “Breathe Everyday”. You aren’t having symptoms now. Enjoy the moment.

Originally published in “Invisible Illness”

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mental illness schizoaffective

Double Whammy

I wanted to use the expression “The Best of Both Worlds” but Michael D Crawford*1 already used that to describe schizoaffective disorder. It is a combination of a thought disorder like schizophrenia, and a mood disorder like bipolar disorder, but has a quality of it’s own.

*if you haven’t read his essays on schizoaffective disorder, go now

There are 2 types of schizoaffective disorder, depressive and bipolar. I have the bipolar subtype which means i have experienced mania. It is very similar to bipolar 1 with psychotic features.

I was originally diagnosed with social anxiety, which I have, before I started displaying obvious psychotic symptoms. (I had more going on but psychiatrists are not mind readers.) Then, psychosis nos, when I had a psychotic break and they were not sure what to make of me. Next, bipolar 1 with psychotic features, eventually landing in the schizoaffective box.

The dsm (the psychiatrist’s diagnostic bible) has changed recently to the dsm5. This is part of the criteria for schizoafffective disorder from the dsm5:

“The occurrence of the delusions or hallucinations must be in the absence of any serious mood symptoms for at least 2 weeks. The mood disorder, however, must be present for a significant majority of the time. The symptoms of this disorder also can not be better explained by the use or abuse of a substance (alcohol, drugs, medications) or a general medical condition (stroke)”2

Most of my delusions haven’t been too scary. I thought people were watching, following and filming me because I had special talents. So secret, even i didn’t know what they were, but I was going to come into a fortune. Boy, was I disappointed.

I heard voices, but they were mostly people I know. Some, I thought were guiding me, others mocking me, others just in another room where I couldn’t see them.

I have had visual hallucinations. From the walls and floors moving to scales falling from the ceiling. But, mostly auditory. And, the thing is at the time, you don’t know they aren’t real for the most part.

I have had periods of “insight” where I could reality check, but also times where I couldn’t. Lots of times. I argued with my psychiatrist that I didn’t need an anti-psychotic because I wasn’t psychotic, while I was delusional.

But, I seemed to know what was “appropriate” conversation. I had fears long before I started saying anything about mind control to anyone. I even took a group therapy cbt course where we would work out our hot thoughts to have more balanced, less negative thinking, at that time. I slid past everyone undetected or they just could not do anything. All this time I had the bipolar1 diagnosis and was taking my medications and doing the “right” things.

With medication, therapy, time, eventually the voices stopped. I had been receiving “messages” from the media and everywhere and it stopped. You would think I would feel happy, but I felt lost. I didn’t have the guidance, companionship, entertainment. I had to figure things out on my own. It was scary. People would question the thoughts I remembered as real events and call them delusions. It hurt.

I still am at a point where there are some things that I am not sure what is real. I remember it how I experienced it. But, I am able to put it aside, go about my day, live in consensus reality. And keep my doubts to myself



Originally posted on Medium



I am doing well


I am really tired most of the time

I am doing well


my hands tremble noticeably

I am doing well


I am a ball of anxiety

I am doing well


sometimes i am so anxious I just tune out which makes me more anxious

I am doing well


I get overwhelmed at the drop of a hat

I am doing well


I would rather be numb than feel some emotions

I am doing well


I have trouble sleeping through the night

I am doing well


I spend my life on-line

that is what I mean when I say I am doing well

originally published in Invisible Illness

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alcoholism anxiety CBT Stress Reduction

‘High’ Anxiety


How I learned to cope with stress without alcohol

I was at a SMART recovery meeting tonight. We were talking about how we deal with stress. I used to turn to the bottle to avoid uncomfortable emotions. Awkward social situations seemed easier. Anxiety didn’t feel as painful. But, as I mentioned in the meeting, I am in my 50s learning to handle things, like speaking in a group, that others do in their teens.

I have since learned a number of stress reduction techniques and aids and each helps a little. The little bits add up and I am able to function. Enough, that people notice a big difference.

One of the first things I did was find I have social anxiety, which was pretty much a “no-brainer” and is the lesser of my psychological problems. There are all kinds of treatments for anxiety and phobias. I take a ssri medication that helps with anxiety and depression. It helps, some. It isn’t a crutch to rely on medication.

The next thing I do is breathe. I take deep breaths and concentrate on my breathing. Then I visualize. I picture something coming up, going well.

I stick to a routine. Not so much that my days are boring but I try to have sleep schedule and take my medications on a schedule. I also try to plan for change ahead of time.

I once took a 12 week cognitive behavioral therapy (cbt) group course. We all rated our anxiety and depression throughout the course and everyone’s went down. We used a workbook called “Mind Over Mood”. It is about having balanced, rational thoughts and not negative or irrational ones. SMART is based on cbt and Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT).

I had a time when I was depressed where I had trouble with the laundry. I would wash and dry, but folding and putting it away seemed like an impossible task. So, I had this mountain of clean clothes. I would pass it by and cry. I told a friend and he said “Do smaller loads” which sounds simplistic, but it worked. It made it manageable and I could handle the smaller amount. Now, I take that into other areas. If I have a large task, I break it into smaller pieces. Otherwise, I freeze and nothing is accomplished.

Journaling or blogging helps me get the anxiety out or calling someone to talk about what is bothering me. I also go to therapy.

I tend to isolate and being alone can lead to trouble, so if I am invited out, I push myself to go. I usually have an okay time, it is just getting out the door.

A life without stress would be stagnation. You need some stress. You just need to know how to deal with the stress that comes so it doesn’t overwhelm you.

I still have challenges with sobriety and go to meetings. These are some tools of mine that help make the urges not so powerful.

Reposted From Medium


Talking to My Addiction


As my friend says, I have a “high-bottom” which makes me giggle, but there is a point. I drink. More than I would like sometimes. And, it is hard for me to abstain completely. But, I have never had serious consequences. no DUIs or jail time. No one telling me they will leave if I don’t stop drinking.

Smaller things. My children commenting that we have too much alcohol in the house. Drinking a little too much at parties and thinking I overdid it, to drinking way too much and embarrassing myself by getting sick. I have blacked out, and it frightened me. I had to ask my husband what happened at the end of the night.

I wasn’t drinking every night. I would not drink and drive. I would usually be at home, in the evening, when everything was taken care of and I had time to relax. It was my reward. To have “a drink or two.” My drinks consisted of about 2 shots apiece with a mixer.

I tried going to AA meetings but I didn’t feel comfortable at the few meetings I went to. They did seem religious to me. So, I asked around and discovered SMART Recovery meetings. There are only 5 live meetings in my county (there are a lot of AA meetings everyday). They have a website with on-line meetings, too. The tools are based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and self-management. You can use both SMART and AA, but I chose SMART as a secular alternative. I started going to meetings.

One of the first tools you learn is a Hierarchy of Values. I listed things that matter to me. Family, Friends, Career, Health, Stability. Nowhere on that list was alcohol. In fact, alcohol endangered those very things I value. Then I did a Cost Benefit Analysis. i listed the pros and cons of using and the pros and cons of not using. It was pretty convincing when you look at exchanging a short-lived “buzz” for a longer term good health.

But, I had trouble remembering why I was abstaining. After all, I wasn’t really getting into too much trouble. Yes, it wasn’t good to mix my medications with alcohol, it wasn’t good for my health or stability, but those things are so hard to measure. So, I would “slip”. I would have some wine with a meal and start going back to my old ways.

Then I talked to my friend who brought up the concept of the “high bottom”. I went to a meeting and met a woman. She was older than me and trying to rebuild relationships. I didn’t want to have to do that. I was lucky that i didn’t drink enough to need to go through any kind of detox. I didn’t feel great the first couple of days and I had a real sweet tooth, but that ended.

They brought up a different concept at a meeting I went to recently. It was a tool called DISARM. (Everything is an acronym). Basically it is talking rationally back to the little voice that tells you to drink. I think of it as a little devil on my shoulder saying “C’mon, one drink won’t hurt”. It lies. It tells me I will relive the best of times, but it doesn’t happen. I usually just fall asleep. So, now I can call the voice what it is, a liar. It makes promises it can’t keep. I won’t listen to that voice of addiction any longer.

Reposted From Medium

life lessons writing

I Found My Purple Crayon

Do you remember Harold and his purple crayon? A little boy who would open the world of his imagination, all with a purple crayon.

When I was young, I loved when we had creative writing assignments. Give me a blob and I could describe a character. Show me some words and I could tell a story.

alcoholism anxiety bipolar life lessons schizoaffective schizophrenia writing


I hope it is easy to find, or

i have been blogging, more like journaling for years, but not for an audience. I have published on The Mighty, recently started posting on Medium and published on Psych Central.  The title there is Triple Winner (archived)

I have a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and social anxiety, along with overcoming an alcohol addiction. I plan to blog about those topics and other ramblings.

I will repost some but also have new posts here.

I will do my best to respond to comments.

where I can be found:

twitter lorib641 (Lori Bernstein) Lori Bernstein or @lorib641

TikTok Schizoaffective Dog Mom