Having schizophrenia is bad enough but having schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia during the holidays can be daunting. It’s simply terrible that these illnesses often strip us of our ability to enjoy times that are supposed to be joyous occasions, times like the holidays. All the shopping in crowded malls and all the parties crowded with people can be torture (Mental Illness Can Overstimulate your Brain). Here are some tips on celebrating the holidays even with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
I never thought that exercise could help my schizoaffective disorder. Now I know better. I’ve been running every day for a little over two months, and it has drastically cut down on the breakthrough episodes I have with voices. I knew exercise helped with anxiety and depression, but I didn’t know it could strike back so effectively at those nagging schizophrenic voices but it turns out that exercise can help schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
Antipsychiatry stigma can affect people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. And having schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is hard enough without having people tell you that you shouldn’t be taking your medications. Antipsychiatry and stigma is rampant and dangerous not to mention it's rude to question one's choice of treatment for an illness. Unfortunately, antipsychiatry is a stigma that everyone with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and other mental illnesses runs into at some point.
My schizophrenia (or, more accurately, schizoaffective disorder) revealed itself to me in the form of a psychotic episode around this time of year. It happened 17 years ago, when I was a sophomore at the Rhode Island School of Design. Having your first schizophrenic or schizoaffective psychotic episode in college is pretty typical. But if it happened so long ago, why does it still matter?
Schizophrenia and obsessive thinking, which is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), rarely present together (although there is a noticeable comorbidity between schizophrenia and OCD). However, I do not have OCD and my schizophrenia symptoms never included obsessive thoughts. At least not until I was put on an antipsychotic medication with a rare side effect of causing obsessive thoughts. Then, not only did I have to deal with symptoms like hearing voices, but my generalized anxiety disorder morphed into a deep well of obsessive thinking with no bottom. Schizophrenia and obsessive thinking is a tough pair to deal with.
People with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are no strangers to medication changes (Mental Health Medication Changes Require a Doctor's Input). Maybe the medicinal cocktail prescribed isn’t relieving symptoms or the medication is causing too much weight gain. Or maybe you’re getting headaches all the time. Medication changes are a big part of having schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
As if dating isn't already tough enough, schizoaffective hypomania makes dating and love even harder. Those of us with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder have a lot to deal with when dating. For example, there’s the stress of being on a first date and wondering when would be a good time to tell your prospective partner you have one of the most stigmatized mental disorders. But perils extend beyond that point and include schizoaffective hypomania triggered by the excitement of a first date. Which begs the question, how, exactly, does someone with schizoaffective disorder differentiate between hypomania and the perfectly normal things one feels when falling in love?
Developing schizoaffective disorder is not thought to be an effect of sexism. But for me, the depression that would turn into my bipolar disorder that would turn into my schizoaffective disorder was fueled by sexism. I felt ugly and alone--and some have said that loneliness is the seed that grows into mental illnesses like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
People with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are particularly susceptible to suicide, and I am no exception. But I have people in my life to live for, especially my husband and family. I make ways to remind myself of what I have to live for to get me through hard moments. With suicide, one hard moment can be all it takes to end a life. And 10% of people with schizophrenia and another 10% of people with schizoaffective disorder die of suicide.
People with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are no strangers to taking medication. Often, they take multiple medications, like me. I take so much medication I have trouble keeping track of it. But I take medication for my schizoaffective disorder, because it’s part of my treatment plan and it means I can live a full life.