What I Wish People Knew About Schizoaffective Disorder

Jason Weiland

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“I became a writer so that the voices inside my head would become an acceptable occurrence.” ― Janae Mitchell

Would it frighten you to know I hear voices? Sure, everyone has a voice in their head, but I have three separate ones speaking to me in times of stress and strain. This has been happening since I was a child. I would lay in the dark and have conversations with imaginary people before knowing that everybody didn’t have voices in their heads like me.

I thought it was normal.

In addition to the voices, my brain is always a noisy and busy place. My doctor called it “racing thoughts,” and it makes it difficult to concentrate. The worst thing is when the racing is at its worst, and I can’t even do my favorite things, like reading.

I rarely tell people at the beginning of my diagnosis because they don’t understand. Most people have heard of schizophrenia, so I usually tell them I have that.

Close enough.

But there are times I wish people knew more.

I Have Schizoaffective Disorder

Movies and television love to use the term schizo. Because of that, when someone even hears the term, they assume you are a degenerate or serial killer.

For the record, I’ve never been homicidal in my life. When you have schizoaffective disorder and go to the hospital, they always ask you if you are having homicidal or suicidal thoughts, so I should know.

My thoughts are usually of the suicidal variety.

I don’t get upset when someone calls me schizo anymore because all the people I surround myself with know me, and if they call me that, I know it’s a joke. Hell, I call myself a schizo all the time!

It’s OK to call me schizo. Just know that I won’t kill you in your sleep.

The thing is that I don’t get upset by labels. If someone tries to stick me in a box, I let them know it’s not acceptable. Unlike some other people, who are more sensitive, I don’t give negative words any power over me.

But that is just me. Know that most mentally ill people are easily hurt by words that bullies have always used to stigmatize people like us. Loony, crazy, daft, schizo, psycho – we’ve heard them all.

Just know that because words don’t hurt me does not mean that it wouldn’t hurt someone else. The best thing to do would be to avoid using the words in polite conversation and save it for when you and I are sitting around insulting each other for the fun of it over a few beers.

The key is to show empathy. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine if it were you who was mentally ill. You are depressed and anxious; maybe you hear voices or see things that aren’t there. Perhaps you often try to hurt yourself.

You can imagine what unkind words can do to your psyche in your worst moments.

Now you understand.

I’m Not Talking to Myself; I’m Talking to the “Others”

People always thought me strange because they would catch me carrying on a conversation with no one. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t real to me.

I try to keep the conversations to a minimum so as not to scare the children.

The voices spoke to me for most of my life, but I’ve learned how to deal with them and lead a normal existence. In a way, when they aren’t there, talking to me, I miss them. There is someone to talk to that knows what is going on in my life.

It is almost like a movie. There is a constant narration going on most times.

When my mind is quiet, and there are no voices or racing thoughts, I feel something is missing. The silence is deafening.

My Symptoms Come and Go

Many times, the voices are silent, but I still have racing thoughts. But, when my life becomes incredibly stressful, and I get to a point where I can’t control my emotions, I hear voices again.

I guess you could say I’m in remission for the most part. My life isn’t dictated by whether or not I can control the noise in my head. I can write. I can spend time with my wife and kids. To most, I seem to be a regular person. It feels good because I am productive now. I can concentrate. I can work.

I Have Depressive-Type Schizoaffective Disorder and Acute Anxiety

In addition to the voices and racing thoughts, I have horrible depression and anxiety. Not only do I take medication for psychosis, but I take an antidepressant too.

The anxiety bothers me more than the depression. When I fall into a depression, I’ve learned to do some things for myself that will quickly pull me out. Depression typically lasts for hours instead of days or weeks.

I Don’t Do Well in Social Situations

Because I struggle with anxiety and racing thoughts, I try to avoid situations where I have to mingle with large groups of people. The mall is problematic. Christmas shopping is torture. A few years ago, I literally ran from the mall because I had a full-blown panic attack in the toy store. I threw up all over the bicycle rack outside.

Being in enclosed spaces with too many people is an issue also. On Christmas Eve, I last about an hour when we were giving gifts. Then I have to go for a walk and get some air because they tell me I have no color in my face.

It’s a real problem for me sometimes, but increasingly, I am better able to deal with it. Like everything else about my illness, it comes and goes, and because I have been putting in a lot of work to better myself, I finally see results.

Maybe one day, after the pandemic, I’ll feel comfortable walking through a busy airport and a crowded airplane and can finally live my dreams of travel.

You Just Don’t Know

But if you met me in real life, and you didn’t know all this stuff was going on, you would never guess it on your own. I can act “normal” in most situations.

All I am saying is you should always be kind to one another because you never knew what’s going on in someone else’s head.

I’ve seen the things people do. Everyone could stand to gain a little empathy.

Even me.

I’ve changed the way I treat people, even the ones who treat me cruelly. I don’t know what they are dealing with, so I don’t react in kind. I’m not perfect, but I’ve become a much better person.

If you don’t get anything else from me telling you all this about myself, I hope you understand and try this:

Be kind to one another. We are all fighting battles no one knows about.

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA
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