I have schizoaffective disorder which technically is like bipolar I with psychotic features except I have had psychotic symptoms with and without mood episodes. Simplified it is the moods of bipolar and the thoughts of schizophrenia, or the best of both worlds.
Michael Crawford has a great series of articles on schizoaffective disorder at PsychCentral
I had a psychotic break in 2003 when I was 39 where I was having auditory and visual hallucinations. I thought my parents were going to harm me. I ran away from them on a road trip (they wanted to take me away from my children who were 2 and 4 at the time) and I ended up in a county hospital on a 72 hour hold, or 5150.
I don’t know if I got better and then relapsed or if I had one very long episode with periods of lucidity. It took me about 9 months until I wasn’t psychotic or heavily sedated. I had times when I was doing very well mentally. But, there were a lot of times where I wasn’t.
I started thinking my therapist was sending me messages through the media and that I had a special skill to decipher these messages. I thought I had been split into multiple personalities and later had tests to rule out DID. I do not have that disorder.
I do have depersonalization disorder. It has more to do with anxiety. I tune out when I get too anxious. I will lose part of a conversation and be startled when it is over, but I don’t go anywhere. I also have trouble reading a wall of text so I make a lot of paragraph breaks.
I was very distracted and overprotective of my children because I was worried someone would harm them. I cut off contact with people, relatives, I didn’t trust. I was convinced people were using mind control and everyone was either in on it or clueless. At one point I was hospitalized. I am not sure what I was saying or doing. I thought i was there for research and de-programming. They changed my medication but I downplayed my symptoms. I thought they already knew everything. So, I left as symptomatic as when I came in. That was in 2005.
I don’t remember the year well, but I was pretty delusional. I thought people were sending me messages. I realize now I was hearing their voices, too, but I didn’t realize that at the time. My psychiatrist put me on a different anti-psychotic, abilify. I decided to see someone else. I was afraid I would get hurt in his office. I saw a different psychiatrist who was a lot less compassionate but who raised my anti-psychotic and over time the delusions lessened.
I did a day program, where I didn’t fit in. Partly because of the language I used. I really don’t know the proper way to say I have a mental illness or diagnosis or brain disorder or I’m batshit crazy without upsetting someone. The psychiatrist there changed my diagnosis from bipolar I to schizoaffective, bipolar type, because I was having psychotic symptoms with no mood component. At that point, the psychotic symptoms were my biggest issue.
After the messages stopped, I felt lost. I had no one to guide me, to entertain me, to keep me company. I tried to explain that to a therapist and she suggested I made the whole thing up because I was lonely. I wish socialization cured mental illness. I thought maybe they were mad at me or bored. Why would they leave. Logically, they left because the medication was working, but it was hard to challenge the belief they were real. I still have doubts. I have to put them aside so I can go about my day, but I wonder.
Mental illness wasn’t new to me. I had a brother, he passed away at 26, who had an undiagnosed mental illness. I will write more about that next time.