So what I hope is a final diagnosis has been unleashed upon me. It was given to me years ago, by the only good psychiatrist I have ever had (previous to the current time), considering the deep south is full of imposters and those whom actually little knowledge of diagnosis. Schizoaffective, Bipolar type. This means I have elements of both bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Also, I have been diagnosed with PTSD. I think the PTSD is severe—I can’t tolerate bright lights, a lot of people, or noise. I am overly aware of sounds and sensations. It feels like a PTSD thing, rather than a psychosis thing, but I am also experiencing elements of psychosis. I hear music, and I know its not there. The Dr.’s seem surprised I have this awareness; yes, there is insight, but I don’t know why. Perhaps because I have been down this road before, and I know the deal. First, the music that seems so soft. I turn off everything that it could stem from and I still hear it. I ignore it and tell myself it doesn’t matter. But it does. It does, because mental illness steals from me. I see my former Master degree cohorts becoming Directors of organizations and departments; I see my high school friends whom have been married for 10 years; I see my former co-workers have babies, and I realize there are things that otherwise would have the ability to do, but because of my illness, I do not. I am 37 and psychotic and depressed (a severe mix) and I will not recover more than likely in time to have a child. I will be rocketed back into psychosis, my mind thrown away. I wonder if this will ever end, or if every good day simply leads back to a sideways one. I feel well enough to walk the dog, and feel grateful for that. We walk and walk and I wonder, what are the lives like of the people inside each house? Are they like mine? The kids in 421, playing rap music and laughing; the old lady in her lazy boy, always in her lazy boy with her housecoat on, with no curtains on her windows. The couple in the house with orange lights, their only Halloween decorations. Am I the only one going insane?
Schizoaffective disorder effects .03% of the population. If I tell bipolar people, those who know what stigma is like, that I have psychotic features they recoil from me and say “I don’t have that;” If I tell a “normal” person, they immediately take a step back at the word, schizo, horrified and confused. The Dr.’s say that the ability to seem normal and functional and “present well” is part of my illness, and I wonder who else is out there, who is like me, but is “presenting well.” It is a little scary, to tell you the truth, that we are out in the world like normal people, that other people have thoughts like me. My therapist likes group therapy for me, and although I try it, I realize that anxiety/depression groups have no understanding of anything more severe, and bipolar patients compete for whose sicker. I can “win” that competition quite easily if I wanted to, but I don’t try, it doesn’t make sense to me. Why would I want to be the sickest person in the room? I have been that person my whole life, and I don’t want pity from anyone. I shy away from telling anyone but my fiancé what is going on internally for me, because I think it makes people sad. I don’t want people to be sad. I used to be unable to pick up on others emotions or reactions, now I seem intimately attuned to them. People feel sad and sorry for me and it just causes me more pain, so I don’t talk about my illness, but that allows it to grow. So I realize that I must; I casually make light of hearing mumbling voices or music. People seem to take it better this way, like they understand I am sick, but I don’t really act like I am, so it is ok. In reality, I am in so much pain that it hurts to think. I try to reel in my thoughts and go in a different direction, sometimes it works. Sometime, it doesn’t, particularly when Gretchen is whispering in my ear. You know how you have a voice in your head, that’s your own voice? Everyone has this, but I have another voice, that seems separate from me, but it’s my own voice, speaking to me in third person. “You shouldn’t have done that,” “you are a fuck-up.” Some people have this, and its still normal, but when it is more often, and so demeaning, it into dances on the edge of psychosis. I call this place “the borderlands” and sometimes I live there. This is where Gretchen also lives and speaks to me. I try not to give her power, but sometimes she overcomes me, she is me, but not me at the same time. Gretchen spoke her name to me suddenly one day, and it surprised me because it gives me power over her to some extent, as to know someone’s true name give you power. I am changing my own name, again, to become someone else. Like the 8 of cups in tarot, I am walking away from everything, have walked away from almost everything, to be reborn into what I hope is another life.