Editor’s note: this is a continuation of Fuck. Schizoaffective?
It’s been two months since my diagnosis. Two months to process the psychosis, the diagnosis. Two months to adjust to new medication.
The seroquel made me drowsy all day. I’m on risperidone now, at 2mg. It’s tolerable, but unpleasant. I couldn’t take 3mg, it was torture. The drooling, the constant tiredness, dizziness, with the restless insomnia. The runny nose. I didn’t even know a medication could do that to someone. Now at 2mg there’s just the dizziness and tiredness remaining, with a little bit of the runny nose still. I can’t do much other than watch movies before my attention span turns on me. I’ve gone from being unable to have caffeine, lest it trigger my mania, to needing it just to get through my day. As I’m writing this, I’m finishing a cup of strong tea, so that I can continue to write this.
Schizoaffective disorder is not much different than schizophrenia, something my best friend lives with, and I’ve seen him live with his illness with dignity and able to still be a productive member of society. He is someone I look up to, and with my new diagnosis, that has never been more true than it is now. He’s given me hope, and made it possible for me to (mostly) ignore the stigma that comes with having a mental illness like schizoaffective.
I’m glad to have this diagnosis. It’s good to know that this is what I have, and that we’re on the right track for treating it. But it also scares the hell out of me. I’ve never been the athletic or strong person. I was born with a heart condition which prevented that. So I’ve always relied on my intelligence – my brain – to get me through life. And so far I’ve done that – even had a career as a web developer. I’ve never been able to be successful at it because my cycling moods have usually caused me to freak out and abandon projects. I’m surprised that after a year and a half, I’m still on here running QueerMentalHealth.org!
I’m not someone who is ignorant about mental illness or psychosis. And I’ve always approached fear with knowledge. Knowing what to expect and how to manage it can eliminate fears. It’s worked for me in the past. It’s worked with my heart condition, it’s worked for transition and my gender identity, and it’s worked for bipolar disorder. It’s not working for Schizoaffective.
The reason it’s not working is that this time, it’s knowing what to expect that scares me. Like I said before, I’ve always relied on my brain to get me through life. This first psychotic episode was pretty benign – a couple voices calling my name, some background chatter that didn’t really exist, and crows laughing at me. All of which I was fully aware of the fact that it wasn’t real. If not for the fact that the psychosis scared me, it might have been possible to completely ignore everything – or so I think, as my partner has pointed out to me.
There are some things going in my favour. The medication is working. My fears that my partner would leave me are unfounded. Things are slowly improving. Now I need to convince myself of that.
I know I shouldn’t be playing the “what if” game. I remember playing that game when I was 12 and needed open-heart surgery. My parents and my doctors urged me to not do it, but I couldn’t help myself then, and I can’t help myself now. What if I have another psychotic episode? What if the next time, I don’t know what’s real and what’s not? What if the cognitive deficits that have been getting worse over the last few years are irreversible? What if my career can never be rebuilt again? What if I can never work again? Am I doomed to live on Disability for the rest of my life? If all I’ve ever had going for me is my brain, what if I’ll have nothing left? These are the questions that keep swirling around in my head.