A Bite of the Apple: My Life with Schizo-Affective Disorder

My still life painting of apples

My still life painting of apples

Schizo-affective disorder is a hard disease to tackle when societal pressures seem to dominate your routine, yet the sheer process of overcoming the stigma of this disease is complicated but workable.

I used to think people were talking about me and judging me because of who I was, especially when I was young. I felt paranoid because I couldn’t focus on something beside myself when people looked at me funny. When I was really upset about something I shook. My knees became rubbery as I disagreed with a speaker in a meeting. Being around higher ups, I felt like I was going to erupt like a tempestuous volcano. I hung my head, not humble like, but in disgrace of not accepting myself for being me. My ship was sinking. My shakiness and weak knees didn’t stem from my disease. It happened when my stepfather hit me in the mouth twice: once for defending my brother when he was 7 because my stepfather and my mother left him alone to go drinking and the other time, because a stranger molested me. My world fell apart and my life changed course.

After being in lock down in mental health facilities for my condition, I knew I needed to chomp down on something hard and grit my teeth. I was living a life with schizo-affective disorder and had a traumatic childhood and past. Depression and suicide attempts made it unbearable. Yet did anyone really know me? Did they know the person who lived inside my head? The answer is No.

The thing is my sister, friends, and other people of society were busy with their own lives. There were weddings to plan, deaths in the family, and babies being born. Life was going on before all my trauma and continued to go on. They weren’t shunning me. They were just having different experiences than me. Actually, I began to do well with what I had. I was taking good care of myself, taking medication, seeing my psychiatrist and counselor and teaching school, painting, and writing. If I wanted to reach out, I could talk to the mental health professionals about my disease.

Over the last 46 years of dealing with schizo-affective disorder, I found that beating the pressure of criticism and self doubt was to establish a plan. I created Sherry’s Master Plan to help me become stable and to give hope to others struggling with this disorder. Measures I took to maintain my stability are outlined in my plan here:

  1. Called the doctor or crisis line in case of a crisis.
  2. Took my medication on time and never went off my medication. Ate healthy foods and took vitamin supplements. Got plenty of rest. Informed the doctor of my symptoms and the side effects of my medicine and if he or she didn’t get the message, informed him again by email, letter, or verbal communication.
  3. Spotted when I was going out of control and found out what triggered a crisis by writing it down. When I was panicky I talked to a trusted friend, my sister, husband, doctor or counselor about it.
  4. Made a schedule of the days of the week and graded my activity for that day. I could then see how much I accomplished for that day.
  5. Had a support group, members of NAMI and got a reality check.
  6. Drew a diagram of the things I loved, liked and didn’t like and reviewed them every day.
  7. Meditated, walked, painted, and listened to self-affirmation tapes.

I remember my Brazilian mother at winter time in Salt Lake City. My sister age 5 and I age 3 would come into the house from playing in the thunder storms with our shoes wet, clothes drenched, and famished because we had been playing outside for so long. Mom handed us a juicy red delicious apple from a basket on the upper shelf next to the refrigerator. She told us it was a Hershey bar so we would eat it. I thought my teeth with rot out if I ate a Hershey candy bar, but I bit into the apple anyway. Life blossomed and made sense then. When life became too difficult for me to accept and worries too hard to resolve, I remember the hope that came from taking a bite of the apple.

2 thoughts on “A Bite of the Apple: My Life with Schizo-Affective Disorder

  1. Sherry I love your sherrys master plan, I’ve just had to write a similar plan for my health care team and making sure that you have a plan of what to do in a crisis is essential I also realised that for me lack of sleep and too much stress are massive triggers. Thank you for sharing your master plan.

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