I celebrated the 20th anniversary of my first and only psychotic, schizoaffective episode two years ago. That’s right, I said “celebrated.” You see, when I had my episode, it alerted my family and me to the realization that something was wrong, and I started to get treatment. That’s why that schizoaffective episode is something to celebrate.
My state of Illinois is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, and my schizoaffective anxiety is off the charts. After the numbers sliding below 1,000 new cases of the illness a day all through June and in early July, they skyrocketed recently, hitting 7,899 new cases reported on Saturday, October 31, for a single day. It could be because of restaurants and bars opening up for indoor service, or schools opening back up, or, most likely, a combination of things, but the surge in numbers is wreaking havoc on my schizoaffective anxiety.
On October 10, World Mental Health Day, my husband, Tom, my mother, and I embarked on a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Walk. We had raised almost $1,000 for NAMI. We’d certainly raised more than we ever had in the past. So that was great. But this walk was different than any other NAMI Walk. It was a virtual walk. Allow me to explain what that means.
Fall is my favorite season. It’s a very healing time of year for me and my schizoaffective disorder with the cooler weather and still sunny days. And this year, I’m appreciating fall as much as I can.
After not hearing schizoaffective voices since February, I heard them twice in late August on a family trip. I thought I could just chalk it up to being away, but then I heard them again last night at home, on September 22. I am heartbroken.
About 12 ½ years ago, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation in the inpatient psychiatric ward of my local hospital. Suicidal ideation is when you are thinking about suicide a lot but don’t have a plan to actually harm yourself. Still, I felt I was in danger, so I asked my fiancée to drive me to the hospital. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Although I am now less afraid to drive, in the past, my schizoaffective anxiety has made me afraid to do it. But it’s getting better, largely due to the fact that I got a Subaru. My mom was due for a new Subaru, so she gave me her old one. It’s a sports utility vehicle (SUV) with four-wheel drive and all sorts of safety features, and I’ve been driving more since it’s been my car.
My schizoaffective disorder used to make me afraid to wash my hair, so weeks would go by when I didn’t do it. I thought of it as occasionally washing my hair. Now I take a bath every day, and I take a shower and wash my hair once a week. I brush my hair in-between times and I now have a system that enables me to keep on a regular hair-washing cycle.
My schizoaffective anxiety spikes with the summer heat. But it’s spiking dramatically this summer, the summer of COVID-19. I dearly hope--with everyone else--that there will be a vaccine by next summer. For now, here’s how I’m coping, or, in some ways, not coping.
Would I have developed schizoaffective disorder if I had gone to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) right out of high school instead of starting at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)? Even though I transferred to SAIC from RISD in the middle of my sophomore year, I seem to love to torment myself with this question. I know, deep down, that I probably would have developed the illness anyway.