Diagnosis: Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar type

Yes, it has a name.  It is a relief and it is terrifying.  It brings tears and smiles- this blessing, this curse.  I cannot help but laugh when I think of how people reacted when I would tell them I have bipolar disorder (my previous diagnosis).  Some would laugh thinking I was joking.  Others would express sympathy as if it is certain death.  My favorite is when they say, “Well, at least it is not schizophrenia.”

Schizoaffective disorder bipolar sub-type is schizophrenia with a side of bipolar or more correctly, it has features that resemble both schizophrenic and has features of bipolar disorder.  I am not hiding it by any means.  I am willing to tell what I know.  With this more accurate diagnosis, I find even more questions and more wary eyes.  I get disbelief from many.  “I don’t remember you having hallucinations,” or “You were not that weird before, when’d you get it?”  Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar sub-type is twice the blessing and twice the curse.  Finally, one that fits all of me and yet scares the hell out of me at the same time.

Hallucinations

Mental imagery is something we all have but the hallucinations are much different.  Growing up I didn’t want to be singled out for this and despite the chastising from the voices, I kept them to myself.  I knew, or thought I knew, that to tell anyone of my hallucinations would mean something very bad for me.  I had stayed up one night and watched part of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when I was young, perhaps on cable.  I feared that I would end up in a place like that.  So I knew I had to hide.  I had to bury it deep.

So my hallucinations became my secret companions.  Something I occasionally joked about to friends to gauge their reaction, only to have my instinct to hide reconfirmed.  Hide it deep, they sometimes warned, so I did.  Not even my closest friend knew the depths of my struggle within.  She knew I struggled and felt at odds with myself.  She never knew why.  There were times when the arguments my voices had inside my head and just in the other room that I felt like I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, just like a cartoon.  Dueling it out and at times leaving me feeling tortured.  Forever having a companion and still feeling so alone.

At times, I feared them.  I remember my train of thought as to how to not be discovered.  I seemed to take to school well and loved the praise I would receive for a job well done and good marks.  I was only an elementary student.  I didn’t understand my mind.  So, my strategy was to remain a good student.  If I earn good grades, tried to be likable, no one would be the wiser to what was inside my head.  I was very hard on myself when it came to academic performance.  I was not athletic by any means.  I was last picked for any sport we played but in the classroom, I felt like a fish in water.  Plus, having something to concentrate on kept the voices at bay.  I had to do well in academics.  I would lose sleep, my stomach hurt all the time. I dreaded failure and to me, a “B” meant I was sinking in quicksand.  I had to get an “A”.  I wanted to be the best.  Oh God, don’t let them find out about what is going on inside my head.  I had to protect myself and stay on the right side of “normal”.  No one knew so it is not like anyone ever threatened to hospitalize me but it was a real fear that kept me up at night.  The voices also began to tell me it was so.

So I did what I could to feel like everyone else.  I did make the hallucinations my friends when I could.  They often did make things more colorful.  Each day just kept getting brighter and brighter and the colors more vibrant.  I didn’t play with my toys, they played and I joined in the fun.

So now, when people ask me how they never knew about the things inside my head, I simply let them know, I couldn’t.  That would make me one of them.  That might take me away from my family and friends.  I wasn’t bad.  My head was just full of noises.  I did what I thought I had to do.  And now, I am ready to learn to coexist and maintain a more reasonable reality.  Schizoaffective disorder may seem like twice the fight, but it is a part of who I am.  It is not all that I am.