Self-care for schizophrenia is imperative, so protecting my brain is a high priority for me. By self-care, I mean eating nutrient-dense foods (fuel) and exercising, and I also include the things I consume daily, like music, books, movies, magazines, news, etc. In computer science, they have a saying, "garbage in, garbage out." The phrase means that if you put trash into the system, you get trash out of the system (usually referring to poor data). The metaphor is also applicable to my brain.
I have schizoaffective disorder, and I am very socially awkward. I don’t know if my schizoaffective disorder is what makes me feel that way.
Paranoid schizophrenia affects my diet. I have a complicated relationship with food, and thinking something looks good or sounds good is not enough to get me to try it. The reasons are that my most persistent symptom besides anxiety is paranoia and my paranoia frequently involves food.
I am always anxious around the holidays because of my schizoaffective disorder, but this season I have the added anxiety from arthritis in my knees.
When I was a young woman, before my first psychotic episode, I was incredibly independent. I frequently traveled internationally to Egypt and Brazil to visit my parents, who worked overseas. I also took road trips from Seattle to as far as San Diego by myself. Those days of independence are long gone. As someone with a severe mental illness, I need to connect and rely on people more than I ever imagined, but though I have schizophrenia, I am not a burden.
One of my favorite memes on social media says something like, “It’s almost time for me to put away my normal anxiety and put on my fancy Christmas anxiety.” Christmas is a very anxious--even manic--time of year for many people. But I have a special reason why my anxiety skyrockets around the holidays.
When some people read about those of us dealing with the effects of schizophrenia, they feel the same way I do about some other chronic illnesses. How can we find joy when we can't trust our minds? How do we function when we have to go through psychosis or stay at a psychiatric hospital or treatment facility? How do we go on when we hear voices or have paranoia or delusions of one form or another? How do we form relationships, go to school, or, if we are fortunate, go to work?
This story is a bit embarrassing to share. But people really feel the stories are helpful, so here you go. I want to admit that I can’t shower without my husband, Tom, in the bathroom with me.
Internalized stigma caused me to keep my schizophrenia diagnosis a secret for almost 20 years after my first psychotic episode. I didn't tell friends or share the information with my in-laws when I married. Looking back on that time, it was as if I never let anyone besides my husband get close to me. I didn't realize that I created a bubble of authenticity that only my husband and I inhabited. I put on a face and front for everyone else. Sometimes I wanted to tell people and was close to opening up but remained closed-lipped.
A few days ago, my schizoaffective anxiety almost convinced me that I was dying--again. Here’s what happened.