Focusing on success in our lives is difficult because it is so easy to focus on failure when dealing with a mental illness such as schizophrenia. In fact, it is easy to focus on failure in life in general. I’ve experienced many failures recently. My wife and I bought an antiquated farmhouse in December and we hoped to have several rooms renovated by now. Instead, we are still working on demolition and cleanup as we endured a number of setbacks, and I continue to struggle with low energy and crushing anxiety.
My schizoaffective anxiety makes me overthink simple tasks. I mean everything. And “overthink” is an understatement. I obsess about the worst case scenario of almost all the things I do—washing my hair, doing the laundry, and driving in the rain are all this way. This is called “catastrophizing.” My mind makes a catastrophe out of the simplest plans and tasks. It’s very hard to live this way.
I survived sexual abuse as a child, but did it contribute to my later diagnosis of schizophrenia? Research suggests a possible link between psychotic disorders and childhood trauma, but the exact nature of this link remains unclear. The significant impact of child sex abuse on my life, however, is indisputable.
Sometimes, I expect myself to just snap out of it: it being my schizoaffective anxiety. This is problematic for several reasons. First, it reeks of self-stigma—to the point where I would say it is a form of self-stigma. What’s even worse, it can block me from doing the necessary hard work in therapy to get better.
I was not surprised by my schizophrenia diagnosis. I realized that I was likely suffering from psychosis six weeks prior to my schizophrenia diagnosis when the symptoms of a patient alerted me to the nature of my own illness. I engaged in a bit of quick research on the subject and inadvertently ensnared myself in a psychotic delusion: I could not tell anyone that I was suffering from psychosis. In my mind, my employer and the government were closely monitoring my Internet history and would determine that I was a fraud. That was the first time I felt like a fraud. It wouldn't be the last.
Now that the holidays are over, I can sit back and congratulate myself on a job well done. I got through the holidays with lots of joy—and without having a meltdown. That can be hard for anyone, not just someone like me with schizoaffective disorder. I know the holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but all this pressure to be worry-free is one of the reasons the holidays can be so stressful, along with shopping, planning, and social commitments. Here’s how this schizoaffective got through the holidays without having a major freak-out.
I’m Randall Law, the co-author of the blog, "Creative Schizophrenia." I’m an often clueless father of three, a work in progress husband to one, a rabid sports fanatic and an unemployed physician assistant learning to live with schizophrenia while renovating a farmhouse built in 1910.
The intensity of my anxiety has me on a roller coaster. After a flare-up of my schizoaffective anxiety in September and October, my symptoms became really manageable again in November. I felt great. But then, when December came around, I started reeling in anxiety again. I’m not sure why I felt so good in November, or why my schizoaffective anxiety flared up again just in time for the holidays. But I have some ideas about why the intensity of my anxiety keeps changing.
I don’t go to parties, as I have confided before. This is especially hard to pull off during the holiday season. I used to party when I was younger, but now I have less of a tolerance for the noise and confusion. Here’s why this schizoaffective avoids the holiday mayhem.
Lately, I’ve been cultivating what I call a philosophy of coziness to cope with schizoaffective anxiety. I got the idea from the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hyoo-gah) which often translates to mean a certain kind of coziness. I was going to write this article on how hygge helps with my schizoaffective disorder, but I’m no expert on hygge—I literally discovered it less than two weeks ago. But hygge is becoming a springboard to create my own sense of inner coziness, and that’s helping with my schizoaffective anxiety.