Living with Mental Illness

Generalized Anxiety Disorder - includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.

Panic Disorder - involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they've occurred.

Depression - a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.

Schizoaffective Disorder - a mental disorder in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania.

I figured I would put the definitions up first. I am one that runs to Google to see what something or someone is talking about, and in this case I figured it was worth putting definitions in before beginning this blog. So let’s begin!

My battle with mental illnesses started very young. However, I didn’t understand or recognize what was going on was a sickness. I can remember being young and seeing and hearing things, and assuming it was my imagination. However, now I realize what was going on as an adult. I can remember even in my teen years hearing and seeing things that I shouldn’t, but being to afraid to speak out.

You see, I come from a religious family where you just pray things away. Sure, you go to the doctor for the sniffles, but mental health? No. It was a demon, a demonic problem that the Devil put into you because you weren’t a good enough Christian. Even as an adult with doctors backing me, bi-weekly therapy, and enough medications to kill if taken improperly, and I am still viewed as, “I know you think you have a problem, but if you were saved it would go away.”

I wish it were that easy.

Instead, I live daily with a multitude of mental health issues that plague me daily. I don’t want to make this blog into a whine fest, I want to feel empowered doing this. I want you to know that even people like me where it seems like there’s no hope and can be completely miserable are still here and still fighting every day to make sure we see tomorrow. Because tomorrow it may not be as bad.

Tomorrow the panic attack may not come. Tomorrow the blob on the ceiling may be gone. Tomorrow the spiders crawling down the walls on me may not be there. Tomorrow I may not hear all those voices telling me how stupid and worthless I am. Tomorrow I could just have a good day.

There’s always tomorrow.

However, tomorrow sometimes doesn’t come, at least in the sense above. Sometimes, tomorrow is full of panic attacks. Sometimes, tomorrow is full of voices and hallucinations. Sometimes, tomorrow is so bad the bed is as far as I get. That doesn’t mean the next day isn’t a good day. So I struggle through the bad days and hope that the good days are so good I don’t remember the bad. In a perfect world that would be easy as pie, but we don’t live in a perfect world.

My Anxiety and Panic can be off the charts at times. It can be over big things, like having to be around a lot of people or out of my comfort zone, to something as little as just not figuring something out quickly enough before the panic sets in. Just the thought of going to college this month has me nearly in fits daily. I don’t mean to be this way, and trust me, I wouldn’t want to be if I had a choice, but I battle it, and lately, I’ve been winning… with a little help from medication.

People I do tell about my Anxiety always ask me, “Well, how does it feel?” And I always explain it as if I had a weight on my chest, making it difficult to breathe, and while this is happening, the world is crashing, caving in around me, and on top of it, I know it is all my fault. So my stomach becomes an acidic pit, my veins ache in my wrists, and I get tunnel vision so bad I could vomit. Hyperventilating happens sometimes if the panic attack comes on hard enough. Again, I thank my medication and therapy tips for getting me out of them.

My Depression comes and goes. Waxes and wanes. Some days? I’m happy as a lark. I’m taking my showers, eating well enough, working out, doing house work, so on and so on. Other days? I’m an endless pit of despair. A shower hurts, healthy food and working out make me angry, house work can go die in a fire, so on and so on. I believe you get the point. Depression hurts. My heart aches, my brain feels like it’s so foggy it might just shut down on me, my arms and legs feel limp, and the simplest of things can throw me into a crying fit. Sometimes I look back on the things that make me cry and think to myself how silly I was. After all, did I really need to cry over a dead ant? No. However, in that time it was world ending.

Anxiety, Panic, and Depression are things a lot of people go through. I sympathize with those who have to deal with them. I ache for the ones who still don’t have control like I once didn’t, and I rally behind them, just as others like me rally around them who have a grip on their illness. Sure, some days the grip loosens, but also it tightens. It’s a give and take scenario every day, and you wont know until the day comes how it will be, and sometimes you even have to take the day by the hour, the minute even.

What I don’t have control over is my Schizoaffective Disorder. I will admit it. It throws me for a loop. It takes me down into the mud and slings me around until I’m battered and bruised and happily asks if I’m ready for more. After all, how do you take control of something your brain does that there aren’t many coping skills for? How do you just force a hallucination to stop? You can’t. You can do your deep breaths. You can talk yourself down from the ledge of a bad one, but sometimes even when you open your eyes, it’s still there. Sometimes the voices are a whisper, and other times they’re screaming so loud you can’t even hear what a real person is saying.

I’ve been through the mill before getting diagnosed. I had the brain scans, I had the EEG’s, and I had all the testings. There’s no tumors causing my problems, it’s just my brain, being my brain. It’s got some shorts in it as I like to tell people. My shorts include the big two: visual and auditory. However, I also have touch, smell, and taste hallucinations. The big five senses are all disoriented at times due to hallucinations at any given point of my life.

Let’s start with visual. I have a big blob that’s always in my living room. It has never gone away, and has been there since day one that I entered the apartment. So there’s that bugger. However, most of my visual hallucinations are shadow people and shadow blobs. Creatures that lurk in the corners of my bedroom at night, spiders that crawl down from the ceiling towards me, shadows that barely escape my full view. I have gotten used to it over the years, but nonetheless they aren’t enjoyable.

Audio. These I hate most. The constant murmurs. The screams that take over. The words that knock me down. Everything from calling me stupid and useless, to telling me to die. To just get it over with and end it all. For a long time, these words controlled me, but with therapy, I have been slowly beginning my journey of coping with these voices in my head. It isn’t easy, most days I have to try real hard to ignore them, and I don’t always ignore them on the bad days, but hey, I can’t be perfect at this. My paranoia stems from the voices. We’ll talk about the paranoia soon.

As for the other three: taste, smell, and touch. They are lesser degrees than the earlier two. Sometimes I will eat something and it tastes like something else. It’s disgusting. Other times, I may randomly smell something no one else does. Smelling something burning always worries me, especially when I’m alone. And finally, touch. Now this one gets me sometimes. How can it not? You feel someone grab you, and no one’s around and the Anxiety spikes. At least for me that’s how it goes. Now, onto other issues.

Paranoia. Ah, another thing that Schizoaffective Disorder can cause. My paranoia is a lesser degree. I’m not constantly on watch that the government is out to get me, or that my neighbors are spying on me. However, mine is more to the degree that people are constantly watching me when I’m in a public setting. Which makes me nervous. I know logically no one cares about me, but my brain likes to try and spike my worries that all eyes are on me and it can make panic attacks occur.

Anger. This is a less talked about side effect in my opinion. People never really dig deep into the anger issues that come with mental illnesses. It can range from just being annoyed for no reason, to a complete rage melt down. The rage comes and goes, and for the most part I can control it, but there are times it becomes an outburst and apologies end up being issued out by the dump truck load.

Finally, Schizoaffective Disorder comes with a stigma. Anymore, people know and understand Depression and Anxiety and Panic Disorder. It’s openly talked about, and tons of people have come out to tell their story with it. It’s great! The stigma is disappearing on those issues, but when people hear Schizophrenia, or any variation of it, they tend to step away. I don’t blame them, media and stories make Schizophrenia out to be horrible, and it can be, but also many people view it as dangerous. I’m hoping someday that the stigma surrounding Schizophrenia and it’s variations disappear, and slowly it is! More and more people are becoming more understanding and helpful even! However, I have also noticed the side glances, and the falling out of friends when they know the Schizoaffective aspect of my life.

If this probably jumbled mess of a post does anything, I hope it helps you take away with the fact that mental health is nothing to be afraid of, and nothing to think badly of people. We’re all just people in the same race called life. We’re just different, and have different struggles. And I hope that anyone with issues can find the help they need. Because we all need a little help from time to time, some more than others, and that’s perfectly okay!

Thank you for reading this!

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