Category: schizoaffective


Schizoaffective me

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.

Bunny to be loved

So today is a day full of anxiety which is not a good place for me to be.  With day to day stressors and overactive hallucinations, generalized anxiety make for a challenging day.  The voices are more prominent and the visual stuff is so close, I can feel its presence.  The others lurk about so close I can feel their breath on my neck.  Usually I just tag them and shoo them away but not on days like today.  It is all too real.

It is amazing how the brain works.  Takes a simple day and turns it into a haunting memory.  No one ever remembers these things like I do.  It is as if they are seeing it in black and white while every scene is bright palette I cannot readily escape.  One of these days, I will never forget.

At the time, I couldn’t have been more than 5 years of age.  It was summertime and my mother’s favorite past time was going garage sale hunting for stuff we probably didn’t need but was fun to look at other people’s discards.  Sometimes she would bring a friend along who had kids.  It would quickly grow boring for most kids but for me, everything spoke.  Some moaned while others giggled at the excitement of being sold to a new home.  The giggles were fun but the moans were aching sadness about being thrown out like garbage.

This particular day of hunting, I had to be bribed.  These sales created such anxiety but I was promised I could pick out ONE item (and only one item) within reason from any of the sales we went to, granted I behaved.  One item had to be worthy of being chosen. I only got one.  I begin to hope for some miracle find like a dollhouse marked super cheap or doll that someone else didn’t want but I would treasure or a really good book.  So, from sale to sale, we ventured.  I saw some toys, but even to me as a child, I felt many were marked too high or seemed too lifeless when I held them.  Those would not do at all.

Then, after I was hot and bored, ready to whine, I saw it.  I was passing a table with some toys when I heard a whimper.   “Please love me.  I’m so scared.  I don’t know why I’m out here.”  I looked through the pile of stuffed animals and found a worn, obviously loved, stuffed bunny.  It was the velveteen rabbit –a real velveteen rabbit only it had not been made real.  It was awfully pitiful to look at but I loved it right away.

“Please help me,” cried the bunny.  I picked up the dear rabbit.  I felt its energy and I knew the rabbit loved me back as it quivered in my arms.  The tag said 10 cents.  WOW!  My mother would surely buy this for me.  How could she refuse?

“Oh no!” my mom exclaimed as I approached her holding the precious bunny.

“But mom, it’s only a dime!” I protested.

“Dear, how about these over here,” said the lady of the sale.  She was pointing to newer less loved toys on another table. “Any one you chose, same price, okay?”

I gripped the bunny tighter. “No,” I cried tears in my eyes.  “I want this one.”  In my head, the bunny needed me and I already loved it dearly.   I needed the bunny too.  Its fur was worn completely off in spots and you could tell where it had been sewn together over and over again.  I had to have it.  The rabbit began to cry harder.  I did too.  My mom was annoyed and the lady looked miserable at the scene.

“You know I didn’t mean to put this old thing out here,” she tried to explain as she reached for the bunny I clutched.

“No,” I whined.  The bunny began to screech as it was taken away from me.  Why can’t anyone else hear the bunny?  Why was I being tortured?  I felt like I would go mad from the sound of the bunny’s cries.  Back and forth the conversation went.  I couldn’t believe how harsh and cruel the world seemed at that moment.  Everyone seemed out to get me, even my mom.  All I wanted to do was continue to love the crying bunny.

Next thing I remember, I was in the backseat of the car driving away, looking back at the lady and her bunny she wouldn’t sell and my mom wouldn’t agree to buy.  I closed my eyes and said a little prayer, “Dear God, please send a fairy to that bunny when it cries tonight.  He will surely be in the trash.  Let the fairy turn him into a real bunny, like in the velveteen rabbit.  Please God.  I hope you hear me. Amen.”

Every night for weeks, I could  hear the bunny crying and I would say my prayer again and again.  I wanted the crying to stop.  I wanted to know the bunny was okay and not in the trash somewhere.  I still tear up today recalling the poor worn out bunny.  I have to believe that the bunny found a special place, became real, and hopped away to live a nice long life.

Be free my little bunny….be free!

Sometimes, nights can be the worst time for me.  I cannot sleep, especially now that my med situation isn’t going.  I feel okay, then I want to crumble so I fill my day with quirky postings on a social networking site that I have been on far too often lately.  My friends have often tried to urge me to use it more and I really didn’t care to but with the discovery of some support groups there, I have found it to be an important lifeline.  My friends need a break from me.

When night comes, I want to sleep.  I need to sleep as it is essential to my maintaining some grip on reality.  With the quiet, it gives my mind to start really working overtime.  My thoughts are going so fast I want to get up and jot them down or make a list or argue with them.  “They” interrupt my thoughts with their opinions and nonsense making it noisy in my head so I put on some music, loud and heavy if possible.  To be fair to my husband, I put on my headphones and tune in to my radio station online using the new phone I still haven’t grown to love.  I turn the volume up so loud that any noise or thoughts find it hard to form.

Sometimes I can feel them come to sleep in bed with me but it is calm and peaceful.  But then there are the other times…

That is when one of them crawls up beside me.  My heart quickens and I see others shadows move across the window, into the room, and hover.  The close my eyes tight and try to turn the music up louder and louder.  The one pressed up next to me is pushing me, threatening me. I can feel its breath on my back and my skin prickles up with anxiety.  I am terrified.  When I was a child, I would call to my parents room and ask for a glass of water, hoping my mom or dad would come to my room, see the beast that has crawled beside me and kill it.  But all I got was a drink and back to bed.  Over the years, I came to accept that sometimes, these dark friends of mine come to feast on my mind and remind me my life isn’t my own.

I curl up into a ball and turn make sure the volume is as loud as it can possibly be, find something worthy of my attention  and concentrate on the words.  Many nights, this proves to be enough so that I can enjoy a peaceful slumber.  I mouth the words, concentrate on every  part of the song and now the scene is playing out inside my head.  I dance, sing, and chase until I am dizzy inside my bizarre music video playing in my mind.  Sleep becomes peace until morning.

If the little visuals I would create would only stay peaceful, I would live there forever.  It is nice in that world so far from the destruction I force upon my world.  But sometimes the images are horrifying.  I see pain and mostly, the pain is unleashed by the monstrous side that lingers deep inside me and wants to break free.  I feel like a beast.  If I look anyone in the eye, they will see it too.  I must destroy anyone looking into these eyes so that the rest of my world isn’t warned of the  darkness that dwells within.  Why should anyone get warning when I had none?  The rampage and gore fill the dreamlike visions with streets running red.  The most disturbing thing about it isn’t what I have seen myself do, it is not the warm reception I receive by “them” after I act on the ravenous impulses, but it is the peace and calm these acts seem to bring.

When I wake, I am in awe of what I have seen.  Fearful if I ever committed such horror, I would find peace & unleash something I can never tame.  I bravely put on my face for the day and go into my world smiling.  I will never act as I can at night. Humanity is safe.

The giggling fish

I remember the first time I tried to remember my first memory in a psychology class.  We were told to close our eyes, relax, breath deep and search our minds.  What came to mind seemed a little odd and I hardly trusted it to be real.  When called upon by the instructor, I quickly changed my answer to something more plausible than that which popped into my head.  That couldn’t have possibly happened.  But even though the memory was odd, it did happen.  Now, the way I saw this event and the way it happened were two different experiences entirely and perhaps it is a cluster of memories from childhood that my brain fused into one.   However, here is the memory as I see it in my mind.

I was a very young child, just a toddler.  We lived near a lake and spent every nice day near the water.  I loved the feel of the waves coming in and crashing on my ankles.  I would sit in the “beach” area and play.  The adults sat nearby, ladies drinking their cocktails, the men drinking beer, some teens playing near some cars.  This day, they ladies were gathered at the lake, my brother was playing at a distance I think, but as for me, I was wading in the shallow waters of the lake.  I sat down and began to watch some minnows darting about nearby.  I could hear their playful giggles as they wiggle about in the water.  One of the little guys came to the surface to chat with me.  I watched and listened with delight.  The little minnow even knew my name.

“Come play with me,” the minnow giggles.  “Let’s swim all day and you can stay with me. Come play.”

I look back at my mom in the group.  She is laughing and carrying on with the others.  I see very few people right near me.  I look back at the fish.

“Come Anjanette, come play with me.”

I inch myself into the water a little deeper.  It is at my waist.  The water is inviting and cool.  I see more fish in the distance, wiggling and giggling as they play.  My minnow comes back and calls to me again.  He seems so inviting.

“Be free. No more tummy pain.”  The fish is smiling.

I knew the pain he was referring to and was horrified he knew.  It was that sick pain I got when I was being tucked into bed by the babysitters who took such an interest in making me a lady.  A little lady who knows about touch and tenderness.  It made my tummy ache.

I don’t know  at what point I decide to try or how long it took me to join him.  Like I said, it could be a cluster of days all clumped together.  I just know that at some point, I inched my way into waters I was not ready to manage.  At first, I was excited by the water surrounding me.  That quickly changed to panic because I couldn’t swim.  I was 2 or 3 at the time.  No one was close by and I struggled against the water.  Once I let go of the panic, I was free.  I was floating and swimming side by side with my minnow who smiled and laughed with me.  I held on to his side as we swam.  I was free.

“See no more pain.”  We giggled as I swam about with him.

But the good feeling stopped.  I see myself coming out of the water and my little minnow waving good-bye.  He looked so sad and I knew I would never see him again.  That is the first time I heard the crickets.  I would swear it was an army of crickets carrying me away, far from the water.

There is a bit of panic around me and I think someone is hitting me.  They are telling me to spit it out but I am not sure what it could possibly be.  I wanted them to stop pounding on me.  What could I have possibly put in me that is so urgent I spit out. I want to go back and swim.  I want them to leave me be.  Then the pounding stops and I feel a searing pain on my back.  Suddenly, I am coughing up water and began to cry.  Why are they hurting me like this?  Why is everyone standing around me in a fuss?  Where is my giggling fish?

There was  a nice breeze I felt on my face.  The ladies seemed so excitable but I haven’t a clue what they are talking about and why they are making such a fuss.  I want to go back to the lakeside.  Why won’t they leave me alone?

In a distance, I hear the little minnow. “Bye Anjanette.  I can’t play with you no more.  Thanks for coming to see me.”

The sick feeling is back in my tummy.  I see a bunny rabbit hopping in the nearby woods. “Catch me if you can!”  The bunny hops away.  I look around me.  I am too young to have a concept of life and death.  I am not too sure what really just happened.  But that free feeling was lost and I was back in the places that made my tummy turn.  Why doesn’t anyone else hear the voices around me?

Many years later, I heard my parents tell me the story of when I nearly drowned.   I wouldn’t breath or cough up the water I drank in so a lady burnt me with a cigarette.   That is when I coughed up the water and started to breath again.  I don’t know how long I was without air.

When the teacher called on me about my memory, I told her it was of a bunny hopping in the forest.  I didn’t mention my giggling fish or the fact that the bunny spoke to me.  After all, I’m not stupid, just a little different from others.  I couldn’t have my psych instructor see me as a potential patient and not a student.  That would not do at all.

Hello world!

I hope I can get all of this in my head into words somewhere while my mind is still somewhat clear for the moment.  Sometimes these moments last but as the years go by, they seem to be fewer and further between.  I suspect my nightmare is no longer such and that my schizoid affect is now apparent whether those who love me want to admit it is there or not.  It is as if my mind is a pond.  It can bear clear and still but most of the time there is still all sorts of activity below the serene surface appearance that can only be described as chaos. The chaos is hidden from view much as my collective racing thoughts and paranoiac fears are.   When someone throws in a pebble, it ripples but quickly things go back to the calm. Other times, a rock is tossed in causing a splash and crashing into the floor.  It may have not seemed like such a big thing but it disturbs everything inside the pond.   The initial splash is the most obvious but as things try to settle, mud from the streambed is forced close to the surface and each particle and organism is scrambling to find a place before finally settling.  Sometimes when you think you’ve tossed a pebble into my pond, I feel it like a boulder that has shook my foundation so significantly I am certain things for me will never be the same.

Can you recall having a ringing in your ears?  Imagine the ringing sounds more like you have a radio on that is not quite on the station it is tuned in to so you hear some conversation and some static.  Now add the sounds of a busy restaurant during peak lunch rush.   That is what it sounds like in my head.  On top of this, my thoughts are rushing so fast, I cannot start things  or concentrate long enough to see them through to a finish.  At times, some of you have laughed at my pride in the little accomplishments I relish in because perhaps it doesn’t seem so great.  You have no idea how huge it is these things, the littlest things; I have been able to accomplish.  It would not be so bad if I could just move on once the laughter ceases but from the point you first laughed, your laughter becomes all I hear and I don’t think you ever stopped.  In fact, I don’t know what you could say that would make me believe you don’t still laugh at me now and perhaps are partially to blame for my fall.  I am only as strong as my last delusion of grandeur.  Now, I am but a shell of the tough person I was once believed to be.  Believed to be but never was more than defeated most days.  I cannot wait for the next wave of mania to take hold.   Then my overconfidence, which also makes you laugh, gives me a chance to still make something of this so-called life I live.

Things are getting scary in here.  Recently,I was horrified to see this man walking around the crowded pool where I spent my summer wielding a gun and looking into the windows of some of the townhomes that faced the pool.  I watched the crowd for cues and reactions.  Soon I convinced myself that I should follow the lead of everyone present and avoid any action that would acknowledge his presence.  Once he rounded the corner and was out of sight, I asked someone who the man was and expressed my astonishment at the calm everyone kept considering the high caliber weapon he was brandishing.   The young man looked at me puzzled and asked what man.  I looked around the pool which previously had been full of people now only held a handful of patrons.  The crowd and the man with the gun never were.  This is the first time I confused my hallucinations with reality.  Usually, I can differentiate between my mind’s creations from what is real.  I am terrified of things to come.

Five months ago, I was told one of my dearest friend’s died.  Cruel is the only way I can describe it.  Sick perhaps another.  I cannot wrap my head around it making it difficult to accept.  I know I have spoken to her since she passed.  I have sat beside her and had lunch with her.  She warned me of things that have come to be.  Part of me knows she is gone but part of me says it is all a hoax.  It is one more attempt to stop me from telling the things I know.  This friend believed in me and urged me to write because she said I have something to say and stories to tell that are worth telling.  By removing her, without her, I may retreat further into my head and never tell.  To honor her, I have tried and tried to get my thoughts together and organized in my mind long enough to get them on paper but failed.  What will I do without her support?  I barely have enough in me to get these thoughts to paper.  Still, I must try because if she is gone, it will be the only thing I can do for her.  I must commit to write.

Some of my childhood friends thought it was easy to be me.  It was torture.  I had to hide so much of myself and the scary awful thoughts that I couldn’t dare act upon without facing dire consequences, up to and including causing my own death.  The memories of the dreadful things I did act upon still wake me screaming from my sleep, drenched with sweat and begging for mercy.

See, to be me isn’t easy as some assumed.  My head is a very confusing and busy place.  When I am facing a great deal of stress, I am most dangerous.  I want to break things.  I want to hurt, maim and severely punish the world and myself.  I want to destroy everything…the little breakable collectibles I cherish or collectibles that aren’t mine but I see.  The more meaningful my prey, the more in danger it is.  These days, I am better at resisting the urge but still, I want to do it.  Why?  To stop the noise and make my head stop.  The volume on the clatter of jumbled noises and conversations in my head is loud.  With stress, add your laughter and an army of crickets in the cluster of chaos.  I cannot keep up with conversations I find myself engaged in and between the noise and the racing thoughts I easily get off topic. Trying to utter an intelligible sentence when my head has already skipped forward a dozen topics or so,  I see my target audience looking at me completely bewildered and perhaps annoyed by the words coming out of my mouth.  I keep talking trying to find my way back to the topic at hand only to find ramble aimlessly.  Sometimes I can circle back and find the topic at hand but other times, I yammer on and on getting further away from what I need to be discussing.  If it happens in an interview, I start to giggle because I see the horror in the interviewers eyes and know my resume will soon be in the round outbox on the floor.

In my frustration, I get emotional or irrational.  The response that follows a frustrating attempt to communicate further confuses whoever it is caught up in my web.  If my audience is lucky, the web is weak and an escape is easy.  Most find out I devour and destroy.  Gone is whatever rapport we may have previously shared.  On one such occurrence, I cleared the room upon entering.  I remember an on-looker saying to me in amazement, “You really don’t have any idea why your friendships here ended….” searching my expression for some acknowledgement of wrongdoing, “Wow, you really have no idea what you have done.”  I had no clue and stared back at her blankly.  She looked at me with pity and she too left like an apparition vanishing into the air.  Did that happen to me or is this another sketchy event that blends the truth and nightmares so closely together they cannot be separated?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if half the things I experience are true because I question every memories these days.  The lines between my reality and fantasy are not as clear as they need to be.

I didn’t always have a label for why I am the way I am.  My blogs are not likely to neatly tie together like chapters in a book.  This is simply my life as I recall each event because this is how it happened for me.  It won’t exactly resemble your memory of the events, should you recognize them.  It has my own perceptions, clouded memories, and told by the side of me that refuses to die.  The label would come later, many diagnoses.  But this is me, plain and simple.   Schizoaffective, bipolar type I, just a girl trying to live…whatever you want to call it, whatever you think of me matters not.  This is me, AJ the moody moon lady.