The past three years or so have been an eye opener for me, mostly because I have had a great epiphany due to a major decline in health. About three years ago in November I discovered that I had an illness that had taken over my life. This illness was something called schizoaffective disorder and was linked to my depression and anxiety. It wasn’t until I neared 30 that the symptoms began to get stronger and actually interfere with my ability to function. I had begun to experience auditory hallucinations, and it was the scariest thing I have ever been through in my entire life – not being able to distinguish reality from aggressive and threatening imagined voices. It sounded so real to me that I felt threatened to the point where I sought medical attention.
Schizoaffective disorder affects 1 in every 200 people at least once in their lifetime, and it has two components – schizophrenia and a mood disorder (most often either depression or bipolar disorder). In my case, I had been experiencing depression and anxiety in addition to schizophrenic symptoms. Another key symptom of this disorder is an illusion of grandeur or a far-fetched misconception of reality.
In addition, I discovered that I had had this illness all of my life without knowing it, and, looking back, I realize it explains a lot of my behavior and my perception of reality. However, it makes me question how much of my perception of reality was actually real and how much of it was imagined. Surprisingly, it had no effect on my studies, but it clearly had an effect on my relationships – friendships in particular and my relationship with my family members as I often preferred to keep to myself and misinterpreted or misunderstood several social situations/interactions.
My doctor informed me that up until my diagnosis I had been “compensating” for my illness – taking it on or fighting it by myself subconsciously. However, thinking back, I can only say that I had a strong feeling that I wasn’t like most everybody else, but it was just this feeling to me – nothing more. This feeling made me cautious, especially when it came to anyone who showed a slight interest in me relationship-wise. I just preferred to keep my distance and appeared cold and unattached. It was always enough to keep anyone away instead of letting them inside. I had my shields up all of the time and kept everyone out – including most of my family and I couldn’t really explain why.
I couldn’t really put my finger on why I wasn’t as social as other people, why I had to work so much harder to be like everyone else. But my illness explains a lot about me and how I grew to be the way I am – reserved and introverted, self-isolating at times and more self-reflective. I spend more time soaking up my surroundings and what is being said than I do contributing to the conversation or social situation at hand. Presently, I have made a lot of headway in developing my social skills, but I still have a long way to go before I can consider myself a social butterfly. I don’t know if I will reach that end, but I’ll be happy enough with being considered social instead of anti-social.
It was kind of shocking and off-putting at first to discover that I had this disorder, but once I accepted the reality of it, it was easier to work through my symptoms and seek effective treatment for it. As of three years ago, I have been on different medications that help control my symptoms, most of which are now nonexistent. I can honestly say I am much healthier today than I have ever felt in all of my life, and I am so eternally grateful for it.
With the knowledge that I have this disorder, I started to wonder if I would pass it on to my children if I had any offspring in the future, but my doctor assured me that the chances were pretty low. I worried that people who found out about me having this disorder would think of me as being crazy. But I realized that “crazy” didn’t describe it all. It was more like living in a distorted reality – a sort of cloud that kept me from being at my best.
Then I wondered if I would ever attract anyone who would love me the way I am, illness and all. However, I realized that it wouldn’t matter to me whether I found someone to love me unconditionally or not. I decided that I would live my life with no regrets and to the fullest whether it was on my own or sharing it with someone else. I realized how blessed I am for everything that I do have – God, family, friends, a purpose here on earth. I realized that I am surrounded by love every day of my life and blessed enough to see it through.
In a way, I am relieved and thankful that I have this disorder, that now in my mind it has a name and I don’t feel like I’m in this alone at all – thankful that there is a treatment for it and that I am slowly approaching life and reality in a new light with hope and great strides ahead of me wherever I choose to go.
And now that I know I have this disorder, I wish to inform more people about its existence and how it can be treated effectively – how someone with this condition can lead a normal life, can be loved, and can love in return. This has become my mission, and I have started it with a select few and now you! So I beckon you to go forth and spread the word. That no one with this disorder will suffer from the dark hole that may be sucking them into nothingness, a feeling of hopelessness that does not need to hold them down but can turn into the motivation they need to blossom forth into a warrior of the heart, living life to the fullest.
I hope that you take from this blog, a sense of gratitude for life itself, for your personal health, and all that you may be taking for granted. Whether you pray or not, give thanks for your life, your loved ones, and your health especially for without it, not much else is possible.
You can find the author of this post, Penny, at pennyforyourthotsblog.wordpress.com
Penny wishes to share her thoughts on illness with you in hope to connect on a deeper level. Please join Penny on her journey through life, and illness. She hopes to provide you with a window into a unique soul and perspective.
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