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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

Please to Forgive

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The Heebie-Jeebies

Be careful when you wrestle with monsters, lest you thereby become one.
For, if you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you.
-- Friedrich Nietsche

Now I want to tell you about the symptoms that schizoaffective disorder shares with schizophrenia - the disorders in thought.

I find this difficult. It seems I haven't ever written much, publicly anyway, about what it's like to be schizophrenic. I think right now will be the first time I have written about it at any length. I have found it difficult to communicate my experience as compellingly as I had set out to do. It has taken some time to understand why.

The problem I have is that it is dangerous for me to have the kind of experience that would allow me to write vividly about my illness. I have found in the past that to experience memories of my symptoms with too much clarity causes me to experience the actual symptoms again. It can happen that simply reflecting on my past in a deep way can bring about the insanity. This happened once during a time when I was corresponding regularly with a bipolar friend, and when I told her what it was like to really remember, she very anxiously pleaded with me to stop, let go and forget lest I be drawn into the darkness again.

After some reflection I realize that the danger is in remembering the feelings I have had when I've been symptomatic. There is no problem with recalling the events, looking at old photos from the time, or reading what I wrote when I was wigging. What is dangerous is to remember the feelings by actually feeling them again. Remembering that I felt afraid is OK, what is not is to actually feel the same fear I once felt. To write the best I could hope to I would have to recall the actual feelings again, and I think it is best I not do that.

For that reason I have found it necessary to approach this topic with a certain protective detachment that has resulted in the clinical tone my essay has thus far. I hope you can forgive me for it. I'm finding it a little more difficult to stay so detached as I write about being schizophrenic. Maybe I will be able to write more effectively here but just between you and me I find the experience more than a little frightening.

For a long time I have found it easy to admit to being manic-depressive. I do it casually sometimes, even flippantly. Even before I decided to go public with my illness I was comfortable telling trusted friends that I was manic-depressive. But I have always been much more reluctant to own up to actually being schizoaffective. What I said before, that I describe my illness as I do because no one understands schizoaffective disorder, is only part of the truth. The full truth is that even now, after so many years, I still find it hard to face the part of myself that is schizophrenic.

Many manic depressives will tell you that despite the pain it causes that there is something romantic about being manic-depressive. As I said manic depressives are known to be intelligent and creative people.

However, despite its extremes, the symptoms of manic depression are mostly familiar human experiences. It is not hard to find completely healthy people who act just like I do when I'm either hypomanic or moderately depressed. It's just the way they are. Psychotic mania and psychotic depression are not so familiar, but they are different in degree, not in kind.

The schizophrenic symptoms I experience are just plain... different .

This really gives me a serious case of the creeps.

Copyright © 2003 Michael David Crawford . All Rights Reserved.

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