Learning to live with MH – by Steve S.
Todays article is from Steve S.
My name is Steve S. and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I have had schizo-affective disorder now for about 6 years. I was diagnosed with it at 22, and what it means is that I have schizophrenia and severe depression, which is the ‘affective’ part of the disorder. My family has been reasonably supportive, but mostly the support comes from my close friends who have seen me off medication and know how big a difference it can be when I go back onto them. I have checked myself into a mental hospital several times voluntarily, and it did take me some time to come to terms with that. To me, having to go to the hospital and tell someone that something was broken inside my head was a sign of weakness. It took some time, but I started to realize that if you have a mental problem, going to the hospital is no different than going to the hospital for chest pains; neither can be controlled on its own, so help is a must.
My father has always been very supportive, since he used to work in the mental health field. However, my mother and stepfather seem to have a harder time understanding it because they have never seen me without medication or during a psychotic episode. They seem to just nod their heads politely when I talk about it and don’t really ask any questions. I’ve never been stigmatized by others around me, probably since you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with me mentally if you saw me, so long as I’m on my medication. The people I have told about it have been very close friends and they have been amazingly supportive throughout my struggles.
If I could give advise to someone who has a mental illness but is afraid to seek help, I would tell them that it’s no longer the days of taking Haldol and walking around in a fog and feeling half human. Instead, there are many great atypical anti-psychotics on the market that do amazing things. Yes, there will be side affects, however, they are not nearly as bad as they used to be. Before my current medication, Abilify, I was hearing voices all day every day and could no longer differentiate between real and imagined. In fact, I would have complete conversations with the voices and only afterwards realize that there was no one there. I would also lose time, a half hour or more at a time, because of the voices. Since being on Abilify, however, I very rarely hear any voices and the only side affect has been a tremor that comes and goes. To be honest, I’ll take a tremor any day of the week over hearing voices.
Learning to live with a mental illness is like learning to live with any other long term illness. You need to manage your expectations, take your medications every day, and continue follow up visits to manage medications. I see a psychiatrist strictly for medications, but for some, a counselor would also help. My hope is that someone reads this and gets the help they need without feeling alone in the world.