I’m sure many of you have noticed that besides posting cat memes I am big on posting memes to my wall regarding mental illness and to fight the stigma related to mental illness. I post articles about various illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. I post these things because I know what it’s like. I can relate to what I post. As many of you know, I live with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and panic disorder.

Now, I didn’t get this diagnosis that long ago but I believe I have lived with it since I was very young. Part of me liked to believe everybody saw things that weren’t really there and heard voices. The other part of me was terrified that if it wasn’t normal, I would get locked away in an asylum. I chose to not speak of it at all. Not even to my closest friends.

Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type is basically symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m not on meds, I suffer with tactile, visual and auditory hallucinations. I live with irrational paranoia. Sometimes I cannot sort out my words to speak and I’ll drift from one topic to another in one sentence leaving my audience confused. I’ve also lived with intrusive thoughts and suffer from delusions, These come with a mood disturbance but they also come when I am feeling fine. With medication, I only have to live with the voices. Despite some of the horrible side effects, the personal gain I get from being medicated outweigh the undesired side effects. For years, I would go to a new psychiatrist or psychologist or both seeking help for my depression, then my mania, then for both. I rarely spoke of the psychotic features but was diagnosed with bipolar I with psychotic features. My treatment usually focused on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. This was not effective since it was not doing anything for my psychosis but I didn’t want to talk about it. I was afraid of it.

Finally, after years of treatment and therapy, I spoke up to my therapist. Then I spoke up to a psychologist during a psychiatric evaluation. Finally, I found a new place to receive my psychiatric treatment and I told them everything I had been dealing with over the years. My treatment changed. I started all new meds. After a while, I started to feel better. My hallucinations were coming less and less (except for the voices as I stated earlier). I’m not as paranoid, my speech is more organized and I can usually reason my way out of a delusion using logic. I still go see my therapist. I go to my pdoc (prescribing doctor) every couple of months to check in with my meds and get refills. I also started going to group therapy called IOP which stands for intensive out-patient program. Now I when I’m in therapy processing what is going on with me at any given time, I feel free to speak openly about what I experience.

Recovery for me doesn’t mean I’ll ever be cured. There is no cure for mental illnesses. This isn’t simply sadness for a traumatic event in my life or severe mood swings. This is a real illness. By looking at me, you wouldn’t know that I’m hearing voices while you are trying to talk but that is my reality. I must learn to live with it and manage my life accordingly.

For me, recovery means having the coping skills to manage my symptoms. Recovery means taking my meds as they are prescribed each day. Recovery means learning to accept the things I can no longer do. I;m in recovery now. It might not look like recovery to some but I’ve come a long way. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s part of who I am but not all that I am. It’s what makes me quirky. I’m not crazy. I have different challenges than most of you. That doesn’t mean I’m a different person than the one you have always known. I’m still that same person but now, I’m getting treatment for symptoms that have plagued me since I was a child.

I have a mental illness and I am not afraid if anyone knows. Stigma be damned. I have schizoaffective disorder and panic disorder but I’m managing the best I can. You know me. That me you knew is still here. I really hasn’t changed at all. Only now, I have an explanation for some of my quirks and I am learning to live like I never thought I could before.