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Living with Schizophrenia

Mental illness and accountability have a necessary relationship. At times, mental illness may contribute to bizarre, atypical or inappropriate behaviors, but it doesn't serve as an outright excuse for such acts. Taking responsibility for one's actions is critical to functioning in society, and mental illness does not diminish the significance of accountability.
My schizoaffective disorder makes it hard for me to clean my home. I do little things here and there, though. I regularly take out the garbage and the recycling and I do a bit of dusting. But it’s not enough. My apartment is still very messy. It’s messy to the point where my husband Tom and I don’t have people over. It’s really embarrassing to say to friends, “We can’t have you over because our apartment is too messy.” We just don’t invite friends over.
It's 3:00 a.m. and I can't sleep. I'm sitting in the commons area of an eerily quiet psychiatric hospitalization unit while I recover from a relatively severe psychotic break. I wasn't going to blog this week because, well, the obvious. On top of that, all I have is pen and paper, no Internet access. But my wife still managed to post this week despite taking me to the hospital and picking up the slack in my absence. It is good to emulate one's heroes and I can think of no greater hero than my wife. I just wish I were a little more like her. But I have to remember that psychiatric hospitalization does not denote weakness.
Reading books helps immensely with my schizoaffective disorder and my schizoaffective anxiety. Reading books is a great escape, too, and gives value to my time. But it’s a catch-22 because, in order for me to be able to concentrate on a book, my schizoaffective anxiety has to be at a lower level than it usually is.
My mother inspires me. Don't get me wrong -- both of my parents are great. They have both been very supportive of me my whole life, including during my first and only psychotic break and my diagnosis of schizophrenia and then schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. But in this article, I am going to focus on how my mother inspires me.
After a major psychotic break, returning to work can be a daunting prospect. For me, learning to manage paranoia effectively enough to interact well with others and complete tasks efficiently took a significant length of time. Following my hospitalization in late 2017, I planned to return to work as a physician assistant within a few months. Then I planned to change specialties and return within a year. I didn’t have a plan at all when I realized that my return to practicing medicine needed to be put on hold indefinitely due to my symptoms of schizophrenia. That’s when my wife advised we think outside the box. 
Stress majorly affects my schizophrenia. Looking back on my history of mental illness, it is clear that stress precipitated each of my psychotic breaks. Despite the ups and downs of my recovery, I see vast improvement from my last hospitalization. One area stands out as a persistent weakness, though: dealing with the effects stress has on my schizophrenia.
Even though March is a hard time of year for my schizoaffective disorder, I am focusing on learning to love myself. Besides, I also tend to benefit from taking on new projects. After all, it is seven years ago this March that I quit smoking. So, this spring, I’m taking on the project of self-compassion. And learning to love myself is proving to be more difficult than I first thought it would be.
I avoided living in the moment for a very long time. Years of my life flashed before my eyes, and I barely took notice. I was so intent on achievement that I never stopped to appreciate what it was to simply be alive. For me, living with schizophrenia means frequent imprisonment in a world that constantly seems to be spiraling out of control. Now, however, I’m learning to combat this feeling: I’m learning to live in the moment.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia offer a harsh reality for me. I noticed a change in my ability to feel emotion shortly after I began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia but long before formal diagnosis. I was well acquainted with feelings of depression and anxiety related to surviving child sexual abuse, but this was different. I lost interest in activities I formerly enjoyed, I no longer felt like associating with others and I felt a tremendous sense of indifference towards life in general. I was experiencing negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
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