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alphabet game bipolar schizoaffective schizophrenia

Schizoaffective Disorder

I was not sure what to choose for an “S” word, but this disorder affects my whole life. Also, most people have never heard of it.

Schizoaffective is basically a combination of a thought disorder, like schizophrenia and a mood disorder, like bipolar. There is controversy about the diagnosis. It can resemble bipolar with psychotic features except you have weeks of psychotic symptoms while not in a mood state (manic or depressed). Or, it can seem like schizophrenia with depression. There are 2 types, bipolar type and depressive type. I have the bipolar type and have had mania.

I had years of psychotic symptoms, it was either a long episode with periods of insight and lucidity, or a number of relapses. It all is rolled together in my mind. But, once I got on a good medication cocktail (I take several types), I have not had the severe symptoms. Now, I am more troubled by fatigue, anxiety and milder depressions.

Prognosis varies. I am married, have children, work part time. I had a psychotic break at 39. I know nothing about dating with a diagnosis or pregnancy and psych meds. Mental illnesses can be hard on marriages. We were married for 7 years before I was diagnosed. Fortunately, my husband is supportive and understanding.

I see a psychiatrist, a therapist, and go to a support group for mood disorders. Some good resources can be found through the National Alliance for Mental Illness NAMI.org and depression and bipolar support alliance dbsa.org.

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alphabet game neurotransmitters Uncategorized

Neurotransmitters

I don’t understand them well, but neurotransmitters rule my life. Too much dopamine and I get psychotic. Too little serotonin and I am depressed. Along with others like glutamate it is a delicate balance

I take medications and supplements to help restore the balance. They seem to be working. If only they did not come with side effects. My mouth is constantly dry to the point it is hard to talk. I usually carry a bottle of water everywhere. I am chronically fatigued which I believe is due in part to my medications. It is definitely worth those side effects to be functional

Chemical imbalance is one theory for mental illness. In my case it makes sense to me.

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alphabet game money

Money, money, money

Continuing the alphabet game with the letter M.

I worry about Money. I imagine that is common.

When I was psychotic I would spend and donate to causes because voices told me I should. It could have been worse, but I was isolating so I did not have a lot of spending opportunities. I remember something popped up on the computer screen once. I thought it was a message and I purchased it. It was a year subscription to something we did not need.

So, my husband took over our finances. Now, I am unsure of where we are at, which makes me anxious. I should have him go through it with me, he will, When I am ready.

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energy

Energy

I wish I had more energy. I try to make the most of it when I do. Usually, I am fatigued. I have sleep apnea, which is helped by a dental appliance but I don’t feel rested in the morning. I also take a number of medications, including an antipsychotic. The ones I tried have all been sedating.

If I don’t drink coffee, I stay in bed all day. I take a medicine called provigil that is supposed to increase alertness. It helps, but not enough on its own.

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Donation Marrow mental illness psychosis schizoaffective schizophrenia stigma Uncategorized

You May Not Be a Match

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I was removed from the bone marrow registry when I updated my health information. They sent me an email saying they have volunteers and it was a safety issue. I didn’t think about it until someone mentioned they were turned down to donate blood because they have schizophrenia. It is not the medications we take that are the problem. They fear we are a danger.

I was not really looking forward to donating, but with waiting lists it seems like they would not want to turn people away.

Give the gift of #stigma

I can understand that I can’t purchase life insurance. My diagnosis is associated with committing suicide. I am not unreasonable. But, assuming I am dangerous without asking any questions besides my diagnosis is infuriating

 

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bipolar mental illness motherhood parenting psychosis schizoaffective schizophrenia

Mothering and Mental illness

Originally posted on Psych Central

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/parenting-and-mental-illness/

It is natural to wonder if you are a “good enough” mother. This can be amplified with mental illness.

My children were ages 2 and 4 when I had a psychotic break. I was hospitalized twice that year After that, I needed help doing basic tasks for a while. Even when I got back on my feet, I was not 100%.

I was too tired to take my son to the park and too anxious to make play dates. My daughter didn’t have the “supermom” some of her friends seemed to have. She has me. And, I try. But, I feel like they got a raw deal.

And there was more. I would get paranoid they were going to get harmed and not want them to see certain people. I was almost constantly distracted by voices and delusions of messages and not nearly as attentive as I could have been.

They didn’t understand that I had a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder. I had planned to answer questions as they asked, but they didn’t ask much. My daughter once questioned why I was making a sign for a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) class. I told her it was because I had a mental illness. She just said “I didn’t know that “and went back to playing.

They know I take medication and I am tired often. I didn’t want them to worry it was something else, and it seemed time we talked about it, so one day I told them. My son did not know, my daughter knew already. Neither of them wanted to hear any more.

I worried my behavior would affect them. That they would have some problems because of me. But, they are the best kids. They have friends, do well in school, are active. I need to give credit to the other people in their lives: my husband, their grandma, teachers, other parents. They picked up where I couldn’t.

I was fortunate. I had my children before I was diagnosed, so I didn’t have to worry about medications and pregnancy. That can get complicated and needs involvement with your psychiatrist and obstetrician.

Schizoaffective disorder has a genetic component. Not everyone has a relative with a psychotic disorder, but it isn’t unusual. That is another of my worries. Will I pass this illness on to my children? So far, that hasn’t been an issue.

I have a lot of “what if’s” about my mental illness. If I had known I had it before I had a psychotic break would we have had children? Would my husband have married me? I don’t know. I like my life and I can’t imagine it any differently than the way it is now

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anxiety bipolar Coping skills life lessons mental illness psychosis schizoaffective

Coping With Schizoaffective Disorder

Originally published Psych Central
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/coping-with-my-mental-health-symptoms/

With schizoaffective disorder and social anxiety, I have a number of different types of symptoms to cope with.

For me, psychotic symptoms can be the hardest to deal with. The first thing I turn to is medication. I have tried a few of the newer atypical anti-psychotics and fortunately, I respond well. It takes more than medication alone, though.

Some things that can help people cope with psychotic symptoms:

• Help from others– I have issues with fatigue and motivation. If someone can help me with chores: childcare, housecleaning, cooking it is a big relief.
• Music– Listening to music can help drown out voices.
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is a type of therapy based on moving from distorted thinking to more rational thinking. It can be used to treat people with psychotic symptoms, but anyone can have distorted thinking.
• Asking– If I trust someone I can ask them to help me determine what is real.
• Acting “As If” – I can act like consensus reality (what everyone else believes) is real. The longer I do the more I start to believe it.
• Psychiatric Service Dogs– Dogs can be trained to perform specific functions that help with your disability.
• Technology– Apps like snapchat can be used to verify that what you are seeing is real.

My mood symptoms are varied. I rarely am euphoric. I am more typically irritable and paranoid. Or sad and anhedonic. But, I can be reckless and impulsive. Some things that help me with different mood symptoms. (There is overlap with the different coping skills):

• Support groups – A number of organizations have support groups for people with mental health conditions. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI) are two national organizationsOkay.
• CBT– like I mentioned above this is a type of therapy that helps with distorted thinking. Distorted thinking can lead to depression and CBT can help your mood.
• Acting against Impulse– This is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) technique. If your first impulse is to do something reckless, push yourself to do the opposite.
• Talk Therapy– This goes for all the sections, but if I am irritated at something specific my therapist can help me put it in perspective.

For now, I have my psychotic symptoms pretty well under control and my depressions are mild. I haven’t been manic in years. I am still plagued by anxiety. Here are some of my anxiety coping skills:

• Breathe– I take a deep breath and let it out slowly to help me calm down.
• Visualization– I picture an event coming up, going well and I don’t get so nervous about it.
• Routine– I take my medications and go to bed, wake up at the same time, plan for change ahead of time.
• Journaling– getting my thoughts out helps me to organize them and take some of the emotion out.
• Calling someone-talking to a friend helps me to not feel alone.
• Avoiding over-stimulation– Sometimes I just need quiet time. A big crowded place is too busy for me.
• Breaking Tasks into Pieces-If I try to take on a project all at once I freeze, but if I break it up into more manageable pieces I can get it done.
• Socialize- I tend to isolate which isn’t healthy so if I am invited out, I push myself to go. I usually have at least an okay time, it is just getting out the door.

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life lessons mental illness schizoaffective schizophrenia Uncategorized

Breathe

sunset2

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”

View at Medium.com

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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

1 http://www.warplife.com/mdc/books/schizoaffective-disorder/best.html

2 https://psychcentral.com/disorders/schizoaffective-disorder-symptoms/

Originally posted on Medium