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Behaving Badly with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder

Behaving badly due to schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder can be costly. Here's what I've learned about my schizoaffective disorder by behaving badly. Behaving badly due to schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder can cost us relationships, friendships, jobs, degrees, and more. I don’t use my schizoaffective disorder as a free pass to do or say whatever crummy thing I please. Here’s what I’ve learned about myself and my schizoaffective disorder through behaving badly. This is also how I confronted that behavior and turned it around.

Behaving Badly from Schizophrenia Medication Changes

Since my initial diagnosis of schizophrenia and then schizoaffective disorder, the times I’ve behaved most bizarrely resulted from medication changes.

I’ve been writing articles about how I’m staying on an antipsychotic medication even though it causes weight gain. In my 20s, while I was in graduate school, I switched antipsychotic medication after antipsychotic medication, looking for one that would let me be skinny. I had never weighed more than 105 pounds in my life before going on a particular antipsychotic medication, and the medication caused my weight to almost double at times.

But I almost failed to get my Master’s Degree because I acted so bizarrely to my teachers and other students during medication changes. I looked at people oddly, made angry remarks to them, and sent incoherent emails.

If you find a medication that works for you and you’re doing something like trying to complete a challenging task such as completing graduate school, I would suggest holding off on trying a new medication for awhile.

But the problem with that reasoning, I know, is that there’s never a good time to be behaving badly. Mental illness is just that, an illness. It affects our brains and henceforth affects our behavior. I’m lucky in that I had professors in graduate school who “got it” and who went to bat for me. And I’m still lucky in that my parents, siblings, friends, and husband “get it.” But I’m holding up my end of the bargain by staying on a medication that I know allows me to function well. I take good care of myself. And I try to take good care of others by being a good person.

Was I Behaving Badly Before My Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosis?

While on the wrong medication, I might have said an occasionally rude remark or missed a meeting or classes. But nothing compares to how I behaved the summer and fall of 1998 when I was beginning to feel the symptoms of having my first major manic episode that would spiral into psychosis. To give you an example, I took off my pants at an outdoor music festival and enjoyed the music in my underwear.

What seemed to trigger the manic episode was taking antidepressants for the depressive symptoms of my undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

This was 19 years ago–half my life ago. People had even less of an understanding of mental illness then than they do now. I still wonder. Had my manic symptoms been recognized and treated before they turned into psychosis, would I even have this label of schizoaffective disorder? Would I even have to take an antipsychotic? Yes, I do realize many people with bipolar disorder take antipsychotics, but not all.

Most of the friendships I’ve sacrificed are due to how I behaved before my initial diagnosis of schizophrenia. Also, I switched colleges after my diagnosis, and I quickly lost touch with people from my first college. But I am lucky enough that most of my friends from before college remained loyal once they realized what had happened to me. And, anyway, who needs friends who don’t stick around when you need them to help you through the hard times? Isn’t that, after all, what friends are for?

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

3 thoughts on “Behaving Badly with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder”

  1. I’ve got myself into a hole of credit card debt by making bad spending decisions that the Voices encouraged. This article gives me hope that I can change and pay off my debt. I will be sure to stay on my medication, work as much as I can and stop making the bad decision of spending on my credit card. Thanks for writing. Peace.

  2. Amazing article. Your words help others to really understand what goes on in the life of someone dealing with Schizophrenia. Thanks for that—By the way–your father probably did go to Woodstock!

  3. Taking off your pants at an outdoor music event is exactly what we did at Woodstock. Sounds normal to me.

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