I deal with schizophrenia anxiety around COVID-19. The pandemic hit me especially hard. I still haven't recovered my former level of social activities, and much of my time is spent indoors and alone -- isolated. I still wear masks in the grocery store and don't dine indoors in restaurants (I live in a warm climate). When most of the world went on with their lives and returned to normal, my paranoia and anxiety kept me stuck in a loop of fear, worry, concern, and the possibility of adverse outcomes. Even though we took many precautions against contracting the virus, my husband returned to work over a year ago, and last week, he started having symptoms. Two days later, I did, too. After a few days, we both tested positive for COVID-19.
I have learned that diet can affect anxiety. Anxiety is so uncomfortable in my life, and it is second only to the discomfort and distress caused by psychosis. I would do anything to try and reduce its impact on my body, mind, and life. I rarely have an anxiety-free day. I find it challenging to participate in daily activities like my guided journals (I work through them to try and get at the root of anxiety), my daily writing practice, exercise, or anything else on my to-do list. I lose more days to anxiety than anything else. That's why I'm changing my diet to help my anxiety.
My psychiatric nurse practitioner is reducing my anti-anxiety medication for my upcoming knee surgery when I will be on painkillers. She says long-term use of an anti-anxiety medication can cause cognitive impairment. My therapist says it’s addictive, which I already knew from decades of using it on an as-needed basis. Here's what reducing my anti-anxiety medication has been like.
My biggest fear as someone with schizophrenia is experiencing a prolonged period of psychosis, but I have other worries that I live with as well. Because of my anxiety disorder, fear and worry are regular visitors in my life. Most of my fears are centered around medical issues, the loss of my husband due to illness, a car accident, or a heart attack or stroke (I think of all the scary things). There is a type of fear separate from all the ones I have listed, though, but no less prevalent, and that fear has to do with judgment, stigma, and rejection. It mostly has to do with rejection.
I’ve written a lot about my past knee replacement surgery in my right leg. But I have another knee replacement in my left leg in less than a month. Since I know what to expect, I can prepare better this time. Hopefully, because of this, my schizoaffective anxiety won’t flare up as badly because of the surgery.
Regardless of my schizophrenia, I have many relationships. I am married. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, an instructor, etc. Most people who interact with me know that I have schizophrenia. The people with whom I am in a relationship and who make me feel the most comfortable and help me focus on something besides my illness are those who treat me like everyone else.
I previously wrote that I would never go on another weight loss medication. As it turns out, I lied.
It can be hard to remember that hope is medicine. When someone is first diagnosed with a mental health condition, it can be difficult to accept, and it can seem as if the life you once knew is no longer possible or accessible to you. That's what it was like when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. I had a similar reaction when I was later diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. But now I know that even with schizophrenia, hope is medicine.
My recent surgery is negatively affecting my mental health. My last post was about having a schizoaffective episode right after the surgery. As if that wasn’t enough, I have had to go through and am going through a lot of other stress and anxiety, too. While my knee is healing well, the surgery's mental health impact is almost unbearable.
Every few years, I search for movies and books I haven't read or seen that are either created by someone with schizophrenia or have a character who has schizophrenia. I love a good memoir written by someone with schizophrenia because, in most cases, the writer can tell about both good and bad days or hard times and times when things have been much smoother or better. It feels like that is a realistic view of schizophrenia (at least for me), and often, the author gives us some hope. After all, they are in a place with their illness where they can write and publish a book. Books and movies can show a realistic version of schizophrenia or not.