After many doctor’s consultations and a few failed diagnoses over the years, this is what I heard from my new Nurse Practitioner. Sitting in yet another uncomfortable chair, in another stuffy office with blinding fluorescent lights, I looked at her bland expression wondering how many patients she had seen that day. As she sat, looking tiredly into her computer screen, naming off drugs she would be prescribing for me, I looked at her and thought, “what the hell is Schizoaffective Disorder”? She sounded like a robot as she read the answer from a large book she took down from her shelf behind her.
When I arrived at home, I started searching through the internet and found quite a bit of information. Wikipedia.com had this to say:
“Schizoaffective disorder (abbreviated as SZA or SAD) is a mental disorder characterized by disordered thought process (called psychosis) and abnormal emotions (called mood disorder). Common symptoms of psychosis include auditory hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking. Schizoaffective disorder is divided into two mood disorder types: bipolar or depressive.The bipolar type is distinguished by symptoms of mania, hypomania, or mixed episodes; the depressive type by symptoms of depression exclusively. The onset of symptoms of usually begins in young adulthood, currently with an uncertain lifetime prevalence because the disorder was redefined, but DSM-IV prevalence estimates were less than 1 percent of the population, in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 percent. Diagnosis is based on observed behavior and the patient’s reported experiences.”
The NP had said I had the depressive type of SAD, even though my previous doctor diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder, even though I had no episodes of mania. I had been seeing my last doctor for a few years, and I think he just didn’t know what to do with me, maybe unaware that SAD existed, and just labeled me with Bipolar Disorder so I finally would have a diagnoses. I was put on Lithium and sent on my way, and being the doormat I was, I accepted it and went timidly to the pharmacy.
If you read the information on SAD in the link to Wikipedia.org you may have also noticed this:
“People with schizoaffective disorder are likely to have co-occurring conditions, including anxiety disorders and substance abuse. Social problems such as long-term unemployment, poverty and homelessness are common. The average life expectancy of people with the disorder is shorter than those without it, due to increased physical health problems from an absence of health promoting behaviors including a sedentary lifestyle, and a higher suicide rate.”
I had both overwhelming anxiety and substance abuse problems, and I was glad that I finally had a diagnoses for what I had been dealing with all these years. In a nutshell, the symptoms I had were: depression and anxiety, auditory hallucinations and racing cluttered thoughts and paranoia and a few of the social problems the article mentioned.
I was given a new cocktail of drugs which included a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, and Prozac for my depression. All told I was put on 8 different drugs to replace the 5 I was taking before. After I visited the pharmacy, I started these new drugs and hoped they would work. Even having felt the pain of withdrawals and side effects before, the next month was a horror. I felt so bad that I stayed in bed all the time except to use the bathroom, eat and take my pills.
After the drug-induced haze and hideous side effects were down to a manageable level, I cleaned myself up, not having done much bathing in the past month, and went out to face the world. I didn’t feel much better that I did a month or so ago, but I had hope now that I had a label for my pain, that I would start improving more each day.
That brings us to today where my drugs had changed much over the years between then and now. I still feel all those symptoms and withdrawals, but they are at a manageable level where I can function better than before.
I hope this walk through the world of mental illness hasn’t been too boring. I promise I will explain all the grey areas in future posts.