Sunday, January 24, 2010

where is my mind??


Oh - stop

With your feet in the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there's nothing in it
And you'll ask yourself

Where is my mind

~The Pixies


I'm functioning, but I'm afraid I'm about to stop being able to do so at any moment. I've been busy. I am busy. I'm back in college, trying to finally get through the last couple of classes I need for my AA degree. I'm doing the activist work with NOW and NAMI which involves meetings and other things. We had a rally Friday to commemorate the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I love protests, but at the same time, that day, I wasn't really into it. I kept thinking about all the other things I needed to do. That's what I keep doing. I'm working, going to college, doing volunteer advocacy work with two organizations, and managing my illness, all of which combines into one big snowball of stress that is hard for me to handle.

It shouldn't be this way. I should be able to thrive and enjoy the things I do with my life. I should be able to manage them and like it. I should be able to have a normal mind. But that's not the case.

In one sense, I'm doing quite well. But then there are the symptoms. I hear someone saying "Gotcha" to me and I automatically know that they've infiltrated my thoughs with Illuminati mind control techniques and the reason they're saying "gotcha" is that they successfully tricked me, which makes me one step closer to death in a concentration camp.

That is how my brain works.

I hear people say, "You're welcome", and rather than thinking this is polite, I immediately think they said, "You'll walk home" - in reference to my future walk on the Pinellas Trail that leads to the concentration camp that's going to be open in the near future.

It's hard to study marine biology when this kind of thought is going through your head. It's hard to study math. It's hard to do much of anything; maybe you can do it, but it's hard to do it well. It's hard to feel happy when people are calling you Anne (Frank) and telling you you're going to die. It's hard to feel happy when you're ridiculously lonely.

It seems that whenever I get too busy, piled up with too many obligations, my brain goes haywire. Something has to give. My mother tells me this on the phone. An old friend told me the same thing a while ago. My therapist says often that I'm too ambitious to be able to handle all that I want to be doing.

That sucks. I want to finish my AA degree, and then my BA degree. To move to a better apartment where life is safe. To find love with someone who's real. To get feminist work done with NOW and advocacy work for people with mental illnesses done with NAMI. I want to spend time with the friend I do spend time with and also make new friends, an spend time with them. I want to write a book. I want to have a career doing something meaningful unlike answering the phone all day as I do at my current job. I want to be able to work full time. I want to get out of poverty. To lose another fifty pounds this year like I did last year. To manage my symptoms with the medication, but without gaining any weight. To travel on a study abroad trip this summer to Ireland or Japan. To do well. To be happy.

To manage, while doing all of these things, to do all my dishes every day and keep my little apartment clean and tidy. Rather than have piles of dishes everywhere which draws bugs and looks disgusting, I want to have the place like I have it when I do a good job cleaning. It just never seems to stay that way.

I don't think I've mentioned my menstrual cycle here before, but I'm about to, so if you can't handle that, leave now.

I haven't gotten a period in well over a year, I think. It's hard to remember. It may have been close to a year and a half. After many months of not getting one, I forgot when the last one occurred. The reason for this is my antipsychotic medication. Risperdal and Seroquel can make your Prolactin level (hormone) get too high, and when that gets too high, you cease menstruating. This is a problem for a number of reasons. Not getting your period can lead to a lot of health problems, which is not something I realized before. So my doctor (gyn) wanted me to take Provera which is supposed to make me have a period. It was supposed to have worked a week ago. So far, it hasn't worked. The doctor wanted me to come back if this didn't work. But there is still the possibility that it's going to take a little more time.

Anyway, my point is that when your hormones change and do weird things, that can lead to depression. My period always, always made me depressed. I had terrible PMS for many years but also Endometriosis. None of that has been a problem for a while now, but it might be soon. The doctor said that the first time it happens again, it's going to be very heavy. Which means pain and depression. I used to think of suicide every month at that time. So maybe something is occurring now that is hormonal and is making me have some mental stress. I am having cramps which would indicate that there is something cyclical occurring, whether "normal" or not.

Next Day Update:
I've cleaned the apartment some, studied, finished assignments for school, visited with my family for my brother's birthday which was today, and am feeling a little better than last night when I wrote the first portion of this post. I am still disorganized. The place is still messy and needs work. I still need to do about five loads of laundry and have no time to do them. I am still just getting a "B" in my marine biology class so far, and am a little lost in my math class. But tomorrow after math class, I'll go see my tutor in the office of services for students with disabilities at my college. I'll talk to her about what's confusing me in this class. I will, hopefully, get some of the confusion resolved that way. I will not give up. What I know is that I can do what I must do when I must do it. I believe most people are pretty resilient. I believe I'm tough enough. I think I've waded through my share of muck in this life, and I've come out on the other side pretty much okay. So I know that I can do this semester. Because I have to do it.

My mom and I were talking for a few minutes about how she thinks I am trying to do too many things at once. After some consideration, I realized I'd be a liar to try and argue against her claims. She is right on this. I am doing too much. I will not be able to keep it up. Something will have to give, and it's not going to be school that I give up. It will be some of my activist work. I will give it up if I have to, because I may have to. And that's just how life is. It's not fair or fun to realize that I must give up things I like to do to manage basic survival, but that's how it goes with this illness/illnesses. That's par for the course sometimes. I'll figure it out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

We wear the mask: we need to remove it now & share our secrets

We Wear the Mask
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
~Paul Lawrence Dunbar
http://www.potw.org/archive/potw8.html


Audre Lorde wrote “your silence will not protect you”. Adrienne Rich wrote, “silence speaks louder than words”. These are quotes that have come to mind lately, as I have been thinking about what would most benefit the world in regards to mental health awareness, and research and finding cures for mental illnesses. My belief is that the solution lies in people like myself sharing our secrets. If you have a mental illness, or know someone who does, you should share your secrets.

Schizophrenia exists because of silence. Because of the shame that enshrouds people with this illness, many do not disclose they have the illness to the majority of the people they know. Many others are not diagnosed at all in the first place, so no one knows they have the illness. Because of this, the average person believes he/she does not know anybody with Schizophrenia, and are certain that they, themselves, could never develop the disorder. Since they do not believe the disorder could ever affect anybody they know or care about, and never has, they do not care whether or not research is done on this illness. It’s not an issue that hits close to home for them; it’s not a priority. They don’t know that millions of people have the illness. They don’t know what the illness is, because they are not educated about mental health at all. And because of that lack of knowledge, the silence continues, and the silence, in turn, guarantees that lack of knowledge will continue.

People do not write letters to pharmaceutical companies, or to the Senators and Representatives in Congress about issues that they do not believe are important. People do not educate themselves or others about issues that they don’t think are important. Thus, ignorance leads to a lack of funding for scientific research into the illness. Because the illness is not considered a priority by the majority of the population, there is not enough research being done about the illness. There is no cure. There are medications, but for some people none of them work, and/or the side effects are unbearable.

Because this illness is not considered a priority, there are not enough support systems in place to help people who have the illness be able to function or cope. People with Schizophrenia need therapy, structure, assistance with housing and income most of the time. They need guidance, a person who they can trust to turn to, and they need care. They need to see psychiatrists regularly, they need the money and/or insurance for the medications which are heinously expensive, they need people who can do reality checks with them to help them realize when their thoughts are delusional. They need encouragement and hope. None of these needs are met when there is no funding for them because the population does not believe the illness matters, and people do not believe they themselves could acquire the illness.

Share your secrets.

I have secrets. I put on a uniform to go to my job. It includes neat, clean clothes, a clean and well-fed body that has had enough sleep and proper medication, and a smile. Nobody can easily see through this uniform to find the person beneath me. The uniform hides the years that I spent unable to go to any job, even a part time job, the many times when I did not have the energy, desire, or clarity of thought to be able to do things like clean my clothes, take a shower, and get up and get dressed in the morning. This uniform denies the fact that I might even, when wearing the uniform, be thinking delusional thoughts and experiencing auditory hallucinations.
People who see me in this uniform see what I have chosen to let them see, and nothing more. They do not see the disastrous inside of my car or my apartment which I sometimes cannot organize and clean because my brain does not function like a healthy brain. Coworkers do not know that I experience auditory hallucinations on most days that I am at work, and sometimes they torment me all day long. Even while I am wearing that required smile on my face so no one has to know.

They also do not know that this part time job is the only kind of job I can handle right now, because I do not always have the clarity of thought to do tasks which are more complicated. They do not know that I would love to work full time and make more money somewhere, but that is not possible for me right now and has not been possible for a long time.

People at work don’t know that I’m lonely, and I have only one friend who I ever spend time with. They don’t know I can’t make friends easily as I have to keep my guard up all the time to avoid rejection like the kind I’ve lived through before, and they don’t know that I’d like to be friends with them but I can’t conceive of a way to make that happen. I don’t believe they would ever want to be my friend. I am, sadly, marked with a brand that society burned into my flesh, the mark of the proverbial Beast, the label, "psychotic". The label, "Schizophrenic". That damn label you can’t polish up so that it sounds somehow harmless or innocuous. It’s like being labeled with AIDS. I understand the kind of shame that keeps a person from admitting to others that she is HIV positive. I am the kind of person who hates to admit to some people that I have Schizophrenia.

To complicate things even further, the silence that perpetuates this illness is fueled by the illness itself. Most people who develop psychosis do not know that they are psychotic. That is par for the course. Once you realize that you are psychotic, you are no longer considered to be psychotic by the psychiatric professionals. The reason people do not know they are psychotic is chalked up to a “lack of insight” in the medical community. However, I would argue that there is more to it than the fact that the illness convinces a person she does not have an illness. If you do not know what the illness is, in the first place, to understand the signs of it, how on earth would you know that you had it when it occurred?

If I had breast cancer, there are ways I would likely find out. When I go to the grocery store, there are shelves stocked with pink items – all sorts of items – created to further breast cancer awareness. When I go to my gynecologist, she checks me for breast lumps and teaches me how to do so myself. When I turn on the television, I see commercials about the Three Day Susan B. Komen Foundation walk for breast cancer awareness. When I go to a department store, I see pink earrings and bracelets with the breast cancer pink ribbon on them.

Now, I understand that breast cancer is a serious illness. I also know that it is not as common as serious mental illnesses are. So what I want to know is, what color is our ribbon, and where the heck is it at? At what store can I buy one on a coffee cup or a pair of earrings or a t-shirt? Where are the commercials about the marathon we’re having to raise money for Schizophrenia research? Where are the famous actors, actresses, musicians, government officials and other celebrities who have written books about their mental illnesses and are doing public service announcements about mental illness (not even specifically Schizophrenia, but ANY mental illness)? Where is the money from research going to come from when nobody is talking about it, or mobilizing to raise awareness?

See, if a person has never learned the hallmarks signs and symptoms of Schizophrenia, how would she recognize that her mind was developing psychosis? If a person is never routinely checked for mental health problems, then how are they to be discovered? If a person does not hear through society that this is an important illness, how does she know to be on guard for it? How does she even know it exists?

When you have delusional thoughts that tell you the CIA is after you, the mafia is after you, your coworkers are conspiring against you, someone is trying to poison your food, etc, how are you to know “this is a sign of Schizophrenia”? When you start to hear people talking in doublespeak, saying two things at the same time, how are you supposed to know “this is an auditory hallucination”? When you see a bat flying around your bedroom and attacking you in the middle of the night, how are you supposed to know, “this is a hallucination”? If you’ve never heard people tell you these things can and may happen to you, then how are you supposed to identify them? All of these things happened to me. And I can state that, because I had psychological testing done when I was a teenager and in a hospital for anorexia, I knew that thinking the CIA was after you was a sign of mental illness, and I remembered that, years later in my twenties, when I began to think the CIA was, indeed, after me. I knew, with some part of my mind, "this is a sign of a problem". And one of the ways that I convince myself I still need medication and I have this illness, is the fact that I know that delusional thought is a symptom of this illness. I know that this illness is real. It is a misconception that no testing can be done to find a mental illness. There are psychological tests that have been done for years to determine psychosis.

The fact of the matter is, if this was any other kind of illness than a mental illness, there would have been more research done by now, and there would be more funding for research, and there would be more viable treatment options, such as a cure. I truly believe that without the vicious circle of shame and silence which enshrouds Schizophrenia, there would be a cure for it by now. It is 2010 and we still can only come up with a medication that only lessens the effects of a mental illness, if you’re lucky and it works for you, and you don’t mind taking it even though it makes you gain 100 pounds? What the hell is that about? It’s about shame. It’s about silence. It’s about denial. It’s about the lies people tell themselves. The last thing a person wants to lose is her mind.

When I go to the community mental health center each week, I see people who are all wearing their proverbial uniforms as well. I see the mechanic with his grease-stained shirt who comes up with a lie to explain to his boss why he has to come into work late when he needs to go see the psychiatric ARNP. I see the mother carting along two children, a diaper bag, and the fear that someone might think she is an unfit mother and take her children away because she’s psychotic. I see a teenager, newly diagnosed, in gothic gear, looking as cool as he can, who never tells his friends he gets an injection of Risperdal every two weeks to survive. I see the elderly woman who is talking to the voices in her head and has no one who talks to her in her life, or listens to what she has to say.

I see the overweight person who people think of as “fat”, first and foremost, when they meet her, because people don’t know she was thin all her life until she had to take a psychotropic pill that made her hungry all the time, tje 29-year-old with scars on her arms from cutting herself who people think is self-absorbed, “emo”, and pathetic, because they don’t know that she is tormented and only doing what she thinks she has to do to survive. I see brave people, whose bravery goes unnoticed. I see veterans of a war that was never televised. I see the truth that our society does not want to see.

If these people could take off their uniforms, and show their true, raw selves to the world, the world would know that anybody, from any walk of life could develop a mental illness, that you can’t tell if a person has Schizophrenia by looking at her, and that the illness has no mercy and spares no demographic.

In short, if people could remove these uniforms then there would be a worldwide reality check, and there would be knowledge, and there would be a cure.

But this is a mental illness, and a uniform is the social dress code to cover it up, because unlike all the conspiracies those of us who are psychotic believe in, there is a very real conspiracy of silence around mental illness, and it needs to end. It needs to end now. Share your secrets. I strive for the bravery to share mine. It is the purpose of my blog. Perhaps someday I will take off my uniform and tell a coworker about this illness.

In the mean time, there finally are public service announcements with well-known folks in them, created to raise awareness about mental illness. To find out more about the Bring Change 2 Mind campaign, go here, and you can also join their cause on Facebook to help spread the word about this important work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back to the grindstone

Over the years, at different times when I was doing better than usual, I'd apply to colleges. I got into them all. I applied to a couple that are hard to get into, supposedly, and I got in. I just never got there. Life has it's twists and turns and hurdles and nightmares, which came with alarming frequency at times, and that stopped the bus from getting to the destination.

So, the schools I have gone to are two community colleges. One is now a "real" college, where they have Bachelors' Degrees and not just AA degrees. But I never got past the AA degree part. I actually still have not gotten my AA degree, although I have over 60 credits - the number you need to graduate (I don't have them in the right subjexts). I put off math, and dropped math classes and avoided math and withdrew from math over and over so many times that I don't know off the top of my head how many times I've done it. I actually had to look at the transcripts to find out. I don't remember, because I started doing this in 1993. Yup. 1993. It is now 2010. I still do not have a "two-year" degree. After 17 fucking years.

Hence, I have decided that this is the last semester I'm attempting to finish my math and science requirements in my life. If I fail or withdraw this time, I'm not trying it all over again, again. I'm taking Marine Biology and Math for LIberal Arts II right now. This is it. This is the last time I do this. If I'm not successful now, I give up. So I'm trying, really hard, to be successful at it. We shall see if my rusty brain with all its problems cooperates. It has, historically, not cooperated. Hence, I have no degree. If it does not cooperate this time, well, the brain wins and I lose. That is the brain's illness, wins, not the brain. The goddamn illness. Sorry for my language. I don't mean to offend you, but these are the words that seem appropriate to me for use on this subjectc. I have a lot of angst about school A lot. It is really an "issue" that I don't like to deal with anymore. I've been doing it off and on for so many years, I am literally an expert at how to be a community college student, which is part of the reason why I am pretty good at my job at the college. I tell people all this crap I've learned from experience, and they pay me. Works out pretty well for now.

Anyway, wish me luck, if you will. I am hoping that I really make it this time. I only need these two classes, plus one online ethics course to graduate, and officially have a degree. I know it's a status symbol, it's elitist to think that a degree is so important, and I know it shouldn't matter to me as much as it does. But it matters because, this is something I've wanted to do all my life, and I've tried to do for almost half my life. And if I can't do something that is that important to me, then what kind of pathetic human being am I going to be for the rest of my life? I know that is not a wise way to talk to one's self becaus, chances are this is not going to work out as a victory. But I'm trying, and I have to make myself b believe now that I can be successful.

Please, muddled thoughts, do not disturb the peace right now. Please. Voices, be gone. I need a freakin' break from you. Leave me the hell alone.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Coping Tips and Other Helpful Tidbits

I've received some emails recently, from people who have read this blog, asking me for input and suggestions one what to do about their own battle with Schizophrenia or their family member's dealings with it. From time to time, over the past few years that I've been writing here, I have been asked questions, or, sometimes, told that things I've written were helpful to those readers who were new to this illness and sometimes had little hope. If I can inspire anyone to have hope, that is perhaps the greatest gift I could create with this blog. So, I thought I'd write some tips and pointers, for the uninitiated, and even for those who, like me, have been dealing with this illness for a very long time, but may have lost heart and are not sure what to do to cope.

When a person is first diagnosed, some tips:

When you are diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizophrenia, your entire life changes. This is the first step towards recovering reality for yourself. This is a step toward positive change. It may not feel that way at the time to you - or your family or friends - but it is the beginning of a new life. Diagnosis is the key to getting adequate treatment. You can't get better if you don't know what you're dealing with.

One of the first things I did when I was diagnosed was to look to books for answers. I was still psychotic, and in a hospital, at the time, so I couldn't really read much. But someone gave me the book, Surviving Schizophrenia, by E. Fuller Torrey, an expert on the disease, and it helped me immensely to come to grips with the actuality of my situation, over time. I couldn't read it all at once. I looked it, in bits and pieces, for a long time. Eventually I could read most of it. It's a long book, but it's a great resource, both for a person who has any form of Schizophrenia, including Schizoaffective Disorder, and for anyone who cares about that person and is involved in her/his life. Torrey's opinions are sometimes controversial. People who don't agree with him believe he advocates the violation of individuals' civil rights by stating that sometimes people need to be forced into treatment. I don't always agree with Torrey, myself, either. But, personally, forced treatment was what saved my life, and I think it is, on some occassions, necessary.

Dealing with this illness is very complicated. The illness is complicated and it complicates people's lives a great deal. It cannot be successfully managed with medication alone, in my experience. Medication is crucial, for most people with this illness, but there are other things that one needs to do to survive besides taking her pills.

You will need to develop a toolbox of coping mechanisms.

Here are some things I do that help:

-Music:

When hearing voices (auditory hallucinations), listening to music can be extremely helpful. Many people with this problem use portable cd players, radios, MP3 players, etc. with ear phones to drown out the voices. It can work quite well. On one hospital ward, people with psychosis were allowed to keep their portable music playerrs on them, while it was against the rules for everyone else. The doctor knew that these specific patients needed that aid and allowed them to have it. My car stereo and my music at home are vitally important to my life, not only when I'm psychotic, but all the time. Music can be soothing, inspirational, motivating, etc...Music helps people with many things. I advise people with this illness to get some music and use it. It doesn't really matter what kind of music it is. You might like folk music, or you might like punk rock. Use what you like.

-Writing:
Note this blog. I've been writing it for five years, almost six. It has helped me tremendously. You, too, can join the blogosphere if you like. It's free, simple, and useful for yourself and those who read your blog. You might prefer a private journal, instead. Whatever form you use to write, writing can be a great release and a tool to help you document and thereby, understand better, what exactly you are dealing with. Later, after you have fewer symptoms, it can be useful to have documentation of the time period when you were more symptomatic, so that you understand why you need treatment and don't decide that you never really needed it in the first place.

-Other Creative Work:Creative writing, all forms of artwork, creating music, designing websites, crafts, sewing, etc...all forms of creative work can be useful in coping with mental illness, because a creative outlet gives you a venue where your emotions can be heard, and also because it can help you become more focused, calm, and at peace with your life. I've known a lot of people who have a mental illness and are extremely creative, as you probably have too. It's no secret that many of the world's best artists and writers are or were people who have undergone mental health damage. Personally, I'm not an artist at all, but I learned how to do decoupage once in an art group at a hospital, and I still do it sometimes today when I feel the urge. I can make some nifty little gifts for people, and I enjoy it, artist or not. You might want to try a couple of different types of creative outlets until you find something you like to do. Let loose and find your muse!

Therapy:
A competent therapist who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or some other type of psychotherapy which works for you, can be extremely beneficial, and indeed, necessary, when dealing with a serious mental illness like Schizophrenia. Pills do the work to bring you back to reality, but another person can help you stay there and learn to cope with all the hurdles you will come across in your journey to a healthier mind. It's also great to be able to trust someone who cannot and will not be disclosing anything you tell her to the world, and who has experience in helping other people with the same problems you are having yourself. You are not alone with this illness. About 1-2% of the population is diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Many are also undiagnosed, yet suffering. A therapist can be a lifeline for you.

More Help:I have a case manager, who I've had assigned to me via a community mental health center for a few years now, and she has helped with various things. She keeps in touch with me every so often, and I like having her as a resource to go to when I need to deal with financial issues, Social Security, my landlord, etc. I also had help through a vocational rehabilitation program when I waas looking for a job. Vocational Rehabilitation is offered through the government in most states in the U.S., as are community mental health centers. Some people also need help with housing. I have been there too. If you're homeless, obviously, your first priority is to get help putting a roof over your head. There are homeless shelters, subsidized housing, housing owned by community mental health centers, public housing, and other places where you can live at a rate you can afford. You just need to find the resources for your local area. A case manager is a great person to ask for help with that. She/he can advocate for you when you're unable to be a great advocate for yourself. You will, in most cases, need to go through a hospital stay before you get a case manager, but not necessarily in all cases.

If you're disabled by your illness, you will need to, in most cases, apply for Social Security disability benefits. This may require help from a lawyer, if you get denied and have to appeal. Legal aide agencies will help after you've gotten to the point where you have a hearing, but case managers can help you deal with Social Security as well, and guide you through the process. A case manager is a great resource to have. They are generally overbooked with too many clients, working for little pay, and may not have much time to spend with you, but they can be very helpful anyway.

There's also a ton of information on the internet now about basically everything, so you can always look up info on finding housing and applying for Social Security; you can apply online now.

I've lived in homeless shelters twice, an ALF once, a group home for ten months, etc...so if you have questions about housing, feel free to ask me, and I'll let you know if I can help.

My point here is, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are people who work in social services because they really, truly like helping others. Nobody becomes a social worker for the money; the money is awful. And sometimes people in helping professions are burnt out and not useful. But many of these people are gems who will greatly enrich your ability to cope and function in the world.

Friends:

Having supportive people in your life is important for anybody, but especially when you have a serious mental illness. Sometimes family members can be like friends, but many people don't have that special connection from an understanding family member. As this illness, by nature, makes people have difficulty interacting with the world around them, and often leads to solitude, you will have to make a purposeful choice to find friends for yourself. Sometimes you might find them in support groups for people with mental illnesses or addictions or other problems. You might go to some sort of church or school. You might meet people online. There are ways to make friends, and you don't have to be a big social butterfly to find one or two close comrades whom you can confide in. True friends will be there for your in good times and not-so-good times, and have listening ears. You also need to realize that you, yourself, have the ability to be a good friend to another person. You're not from a different species. You're human. Your mental illness need not define you. You can be a smart, friendly, positive person who will be liked by other people. Which brings me to the next thing....

Learning to Like Yourself:This is hard. I personally suck at it. I don't blame you if you think the entire concept of liking yourself is lame and pointeless. But, really, at the end of the day, you are the person who you can always rely on to get yourself through things. And you need to know that you have the capabilities to survive, thrive, etc....You need to notice that there are many aspects to your personality, and, as mentioned above, you are not just a walking DSM IV book. You are more than a person with a mental illness. Firstly, you are a person who has many positive attributes. Try to remember this. If it helps you, you might want to write positive affirmations for yourself and post them in places where you will see them every day.

Argue with the Voices:
If you are aware that you have paranoid, or psychotic thoughts, delusions, etc, or hear voices that aren't there, or see things that are not really there, then you are in a position to battle with these perceptual problems. You need to say to yourself, "Why is it that everybody else with Schizophrenia also thinks they're being followed by the CIA and not just me, myself? Maybe because of the illness being the real reason for the thoughts." And things like that. I can't write enough about this in a paragraph, but it's important that you strive to know what is real at all times, and when you don't, find someone to talk to about your thoughts who can help you sort them out. ]

Take Your Medication as Prescribed:

Don't forget to take your medication. Medications can save your life. They saved mine. I believe in following sound, scientific advice, which says that treatment that works best for Schizophrenia is antipsychotic medications. For Schizoaffective Disorder, if you're like me, you will also need antidepressants and/or mood stabilizers. You might also need medication for anxiety or obsessive thoughts, as these problems frequently coexist with psychosis. Do not forget to take them. Do not give up on the possibility that they will work with you unless you've already been on them for months and seen no improvement. Do not give up becuase of the side effects; there are drugs with fewer side effects, and if there aren't, sometimes the side effects are not nearly as bad as being psychotic is, so you will need to live with the damn side effects (like gaining 100 lbs as I did). That's just how it is.

Well, this is getting to be a book-length post, so I think I'll stop now. If any of this information helps you, I'm glad. If it didn't, I'm sorry, but I'm not the only resource you can easily locate online; there are a few million more that might serve you. I'd appreciate any comments you'd like to leave and if you have more ideas on how to cope with this illness, please post them. Thanks!

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