“You are not alone” is a common phrase within the mental health community. I suspect it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but here’s what it means to me and my schizoaffective disorder.
My name is Rebecca Chamaa, and I am excited to start writing for the blog "Creative Schizophrenia." I hope to share parts of my life and illness with you to understand better what living with schizophrenia can look like for someone who has dealt with mental illness for almost 30 years.
I haven’t heard schizoaffective voices in over a year. I am so elated about this, especially since I’ve struggled with auditory hallucinations since my first and only psychotic episode in 1998 when I was 19. Being free of the voices is absolutely liberating.
My schizoaffective suicidal thoughts used to really scare me. I was frightened to the point that I went to the emergency room three times because of them and was even hospitalized once. I was afraid I was actually going to hurt myself. But slowly, over the years, I realized that, as scary as the thoughts were, I wasn’t going to die by suicide. The evidence is that I have had these thoughts for decades. And instead of hurting myself, I took care of myself and have built up coping skills for dealing with my schizoaffective suicidal thoughts. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
I don’t have many friends who live nearby. Part of the reason is that my schizoaffective anxiety makes me feel awkward around new people and at parties. Part of it is because many of my old friends moved to other parts of the country, and a few of them died due to complications with mental illness. But part of it is because I cut a lot of people out of my life. Here's why I cut people out of my life.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is the first major mood disorder I suffered from as a kid. However, I did develop early symptoms of bipolar disorder as a teen as well, and that later led to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a very extreme form of what is commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Untreated, I don’t have minor bouts of irritability or sadness during my period--I have full-on depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts. The way I treat my PMDD is with birth control pills.
A parade celebrating Independence Day turned deadly when a barrage of shots rang out into the crowd. It was yet another trauma-causing mass shooting, but this time it was in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb just a few towns north of me on the North Shore.
I’ve mentioned before that I wanted to see a dietician/nutritionist. The reason is that I want to lose weight to take pressure off of my arthritic knees. I was supposed to go at the end of May, but the doctor had an emergency, so she couldn’t see clients on the day of my appointment. My husband, Tom, and I went in to see her on June 16. Here’s how it went and how it’s going.
Recently, I came down with a really bad cold, and my schizoaffective disorder and accompanying anxiety made it worse. I honestly thought I would never get well again. Here’s what it was like.
Before the Tori Amos concert I went to with my husband, Tom, in late May, I hadn’t been to a live concert since 2007. The reason for that centered around my schizoaffective anxiety and my response to crowds and noise. But, soon after the pandemic started and even before vaccines were available, I promised myself that I would go to her concert if Tori toured again. So, even though the pandemic is still here, I bought tickets for myself, and Tom as soon as Tori announced North American tour dates. Here’s how it went.