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Schizoaffective Disorder

I am always anxious around the holidays because of my schizoaffective disorder, but this season I have the added anxiety from arthritis in my knees.
One of my favorite memes on social media says something like, “It’s almost time for me to put away my normal anxiety and put on my fancy Christmas anxiety.” Christmas is a very anxious--even manic--time of year for many people. But I have a special reason why my anxiety skyrockets around the holidays.
This story is a bit embarrassing to share. But people really feel the stories are helpful, so here you go. I want to admit that I can’t shower without my husband, Tom, in the bathroom with me.
A few days ago, my schizoaffective anxiety almost convinced me that I was dying--again. Here’s what happened.
“You are not alone” is a common phrase within the mental health community. I suspect it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but here’s what it means to me and my schizoaffective disorder.
I haven’t heard schizoaffective voices in over a year. I am so elated about this, especially since I’ve struggled with auditory hallucinations since my first and only psychotic episode in 1998 when I was 19. Being free of the voices is absolutely liberating.
My schizoaffective suicidal thoughts used to really scare me. I was frightened to the point that I went to the emergency room three times because of them and was even hospitalized once. I was afraid I was actually going to hurt myself. But slowly, over the years, I realized that, as scary as the thoughts were, I wasn’t going to die by suicide. The evidence is that I have had these thoughts for decades. And instead of hurting myself, I took care of myself and have built up coping skills for dealing with my schizoaffective suicidal thoughts. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
I don’t have many friends who live nearby. Part of the reason is that my schizoaffective anxiety makes me feel awkward around new people and at parties. Part of it is because many of my old friends moved to other parts of the country, and a few of them died due to complications with mental illness. But part of it is because I cut a lot of people out of my life. Here's why I cut people out of my life.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is the first major mood disorder I suffered from as a kid. However, I did develop early symptoms of bipolar disorder as a teen as well, and that later led to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a very extreme form of what is commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Untreated, I don’t have minor bouts of irritability or sadness during my period--I have full-on depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts. The way I treat my PMDD is with birth control pills.
A parade celebrating Independence Day turned deadly when a barrage of shots rang out into the crowd. It was yet another trauma-causing mass shooting, but this time it was in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb just a few towns north of me on the North Shore.