new link to my article Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective Disorder occurs in 1 and 100 people. It was first diagnosed by Dr. Jacob Kasanin in 1933. Many people who have it are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression because it is difficult to understand its symptoms.
Over the last forty-six years I have been dealing with the illness of bipolar disorder and paranoia schizophrenia, better known as schizoaffective disorder. With paranoia schizophrenia, I have extreme paranoia (thinking people are talking about me and ready to do me in), hallucinations (hearing and seeing things), grandeur illusions (thinking I am a supreme being), lack of concentration, and thinking my dreams are real. With bipolar disorder, I have up and down mood swings and depression. When I have bipolar disorder I go to a high mood which is mania caused by lack of sleep. Then psychosis occurs. I drop in an instant to depression, crying my eyes out. During the schizoaffective disorder, I have the mania and depression, but with psychosis all the time and I may switch from the bipolar side to the schizophrenic side.
I think, in part, my disorder stems from genetics, my experiences with the abuse from my alcoholic parents, and my social environment, although the cause is unknown. My mom was Brazilian and came to the United States when she was in her twenties. She became an alcoholic as a result of divorcing my father and ended her life at age sixty-seven. She suffered depression but was never diagnosed. She had a sister in Brazil who suffered from some depression. I think I probably could have inherited the gene of mental illness from a Brazilian ancestor since family members on my dad’s side seemed to be normal. Stress was prevalent in my life because I had bad experiences with my step-father, who imposed strict punishment on me. In the 70’s, I did some experimenting with drugs, that left me feeling depressed and paranoid. Later on, I had delusions that I was a movie star, I could control John Kennedy’s and Robert Kennedy’s spirits, and that I was Jesus Christ. My first bout of paranoia was when I was 16, a high school cheerleader, and continued on from adolescence to this day.
Seeking help for schizoaffective disorder was important to me. I made a conscious effort to get my life straight and avoid more trips to the psych wards. There is a way someone with this condition can be a functioning person in society, I convinced myself. People with schizoaffective disorder can make it in the real world despite the hallucinations, abuse, stress and depression, by seeing doctors, counselors, and taking prescribed medication for their condition. Organizations like NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness, offers Peer to Peer classes where one can talk about their experiences with their mental disorder, get a reality check and feedback, and learn to cope. I find that meditation, exercise, and activity also help. For activity, it can be as simple as picking something off of the floor, or gardening, woodworking, knitting, sewing, reading. For artistic expression: pottery making, working with stained glass, painting, or writing a book helps to relieve one’s stress and depression. Any way you can express yourself, work through your problems and see what you have accomplished in the moment can give you a sense of control and a sense of well- being.
I am a wife, step grandmother of five children, and accomplished artist in Portland, Oregon. I lecture in a psych ward and am an IOOV speaker for NAMI. I haven’t always been this successful. I have a mental illness. If it wasn’t for my loving sister, husband, doctors, and friends and all those who have gone above and beyond in helping me face reality and live a happy life, I don’t know where I would be.
I have written a memoir. My hope with writing my memoir Sherry Goes Sane: Living A Life With Schizo-Affective Disorder is to help people with this disorder and those around them know that they can have a very meaningful life.
Kirkus Review of Sherry Goes Sane comments: “The prose is often beautiful, if harrowing, and readers will have sympathy for Joiner’s utter determination to find a way to live with her condition.” “An affecting, honest memoir useful to anyone trying to understand life with psychosis.”
Sherry M. Joiner