Because I live with schizoaffective disorder one part of the treatment plan is medication. I can tell you that taking my medications daily has been a problem since I started treatment 5 years ago. It is almost on a daily basis that I have a fight with the voices in my head about why the medications are poisoning or hurting me. With help through weekly therapy sessions, daily writings to my psychologist, and a very close relationship with my prescriber of my medications, I am, for the most part, very religious about taking my medications. It also helps that my psychologist and prescriber work together so when I have an episode that arises, we are able to manage it with out the need of inpatient care. I have a great team that I am surrounded by. This includes Amber my wife, my two kids, and a small but effective medical team.
First off, if you are having suicidal thoughts or ideations or thoughts of self harm please seek professional help immediately, there is help available. I completely understand wanting to end your life, I fight with myself daily about suicidal ideation, but remember these are false premonitions in your head due to a chemical imbalance. I understand your plight that this isn’t the way you had your life planned out, but know that there is help available. Once you remove the stigma from mental health, you will find that it can be simply explained as a chemical imbalance and there are medications and treatment plans out there that might help with your brains chemical imbalance.
When you are getting ready to see a doctor or therapist for the first time it is a good idea to have a confidant that is not in the medical field that you can trust. Someone that you can share with that you might have a problem. This person can be anyone from a teacher, to a friend, or in my case, my wife. Having someone that you can be in contact daily if needed to help you work through your problems, is essential. If you don’t have anyone, you can reach out to me for assistance and guidance on how to navigate the world of mental health. I will give you the support you need, but ultimately it would be best if it was someone who could maybe go to one of your appointments as a reassurance to the doctor that your symptoms are real and that you are committed to treatment. I have also found it easier to have Amber come to my doctors appointments and my appointments with the prescriber of my medication because I end up missing a lot of information.
Because I would loose concentration at the doctors office and get stuck on something that the doctor would say (I call it checking out), it has really helped that my wife goes to all my doctor appointments so if I miss something due to my brain running on a different tangent I am able to ask Amber what was fact and fiction in the meeting with my doctor and medication prescriber. Amber has briefly sat in on my meetings with my psychologist, mostly when we were building a safety plan, but for the most part I go to those meetings on my own due to not wanting to burden my wife with what we talk about. My psychologist and I have a special relationship that I share all my deepest thoughts with. Not that I keep anything from Amber, but it is sometimes easier to share something outside of an intimate relationship, also this helps ease the burden that I place on my wife dealing with this chemical imbalance.
The first part of starting treatment is finding a couple providers that you can trust; it took me 4 years to find a small team of professionals that were willing to work together for one common cause, me. You need to find someone that can prescribe and understands the drugs that you might be prescribed and you also need a therapist of some sort to help work through the changes that will occur in your brain. The best combination I have found is my therapist works next door to my medication prescriber, so when an episode occurs immediate treatment of the symptoms moves very fast and effectively.
The hardest part is admitting that you have a problem or realizing you have a problem; especially with the stigma involved with mental health problems. That is why you will very seldom hear me say that I live with or have schizoaffective disorder, it helps me by saying it is just a chemical imbalance. By re-labeling whatever disorder you may have as to something as simple as a chemical imbalance it can really help when you are trying to take prescribed medications and accepting that you have a problem.
Please don’t think I am good at being in therapy. I fall off the tracks on a regular basis and one reason is, I have a major problem taking any prescribed drugs; believe me I can become real testy over taking medications. Some days I think I have Amber convinced that it is the medications causing the problems, she listens and eventually convinces me that I have made promises to people about not abruptly stopping medications. When I feel bad, I want off the medications and when I am feeling better I convince myself that it is all the self work as to why I am feeling better. In reality, it is a combination of my self work with a huge part being the medication, fixing the chemical imbalance. I have days where I will “forget” to take certain medications, but eventually I take them when I finally convince myself that they are not poisoning me.
You may ask, “isn’t there injectable drugs that I could be on?” And the fast answer is yes, the antipsychotic medication I am on is available as an injectable, but I am too scared as to how they work and I am really scared of the fall off between injections that can happen. So I have made a promise to my psychologist and the prescriber of my medications that I will not miss a dose and that I will continue taking my medication unless there has been a concrete discussion of a change. Taking medications everyday, multiple times a day is daunting, but so far since I have been on the wagon for the last several months things are starting to look better.
I have recently been prescribed a new drug in the last few weeks and it really seems to be helping with the suicidal ideology that I am plagued with daily. Just in the last few weeks I have found moments of happiness within myself that I now feel comfortable sharing my life story. Because of the condition I live with I am completely paranoid about everything in life, but by writing to help just one person cope with what they are dealing with it makes everything fine, and seems to be reducing my paranoia and my stigma of my mental health.
If you and your medical team have made the decision with YOUR input that prescription drugs are a valid choice of treatment it should not be taken lightly. It is extremely important to stay on and religiously take your prescribed medications. The normal prescription category for schizoaffective disorder would be anti-psychotics and other mental health medications; including what ever your prescriber feels necessary for what you are dealing with. I am on my 4th try at finding an anti-psychotic medication that does not cause crazy side effects. So patience is key, which is easy for me to say, but sometimes not as easy to accomplish.
Some of the side effects are feeling like I was on speed, to puking all morning, to making the psychotic symptoms worse; the anti-psychotics are a scary class of drug. I have been on some sort of anti-psychotic for nearly 5 years and in my opinion they all kind of have their positives and negatives. The key is having patience when working with a medical professional while you find a medication combination that works for you. There is no test that I can take to say what medications will work, but ask your medical provider because for some mental health issues they can do tests to find what medication would work better for you.
I can tell you I am still searching for that perfect combination of medication. The current medications I am on still allows my episodes to erupt with ferocious speed, but for the most part they back down fairly fast, but they stay at a low boil until the next trigger hits. With my care providers they are insistent that they will find a combination of medications that will help my chemical imbalance in my brain.
Because I have not fully accepted that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain I am having hard times at coping that I will be on medications for life. This has been very hard for me to digest, especially when I have not found a combination of medications that will control the voices in my head, the visual hallucinations, and the frantic mood swings.
One of the best things I have completed in the last year is a detailed safety plan. My safety plan is in place to keep me from having to go to inpatient care for my symptoms. This is a safety plan to keep you safe from yourself. I worked on my safety plan with my psychologist and Amber. If you need help on your safety plan contact me, I have a fairly comprehensive one with many safe activities when I am in the middle of an episode that I have no problem sharing. Having my very comprehensive safety plan in place has made it easier to break an episode if it is starting or already going. As a team we have embraced the use of the safety plan, it has really helped in finding ways to break the cycle in my brain. In the not so distant future I plan on touching a lot more about my safety plan, because it seems that it could work for anyone, at least the huge list of activities that I use to break an episode.
One of the reasons I have chosen to share my story is I hope to be able to help just one person find the fight with in themselves to tackle their mental health concerns. Everybody’s story is going to be different, but if we band together as a community we can help each other in being the best people we can be everyday.
Please by no means am I searching for any amount of sympathy from anyone reading my story. I want to help break the stigma related to our mental health. It is not my fault that there is a chemical imbalance in my brain and if you have a chemical imbalance please know you are not alone and there is help out there. If you want to email me any questions I am always available to help anyone in need, just email me at email@example.com I will give you my phone number and we can talk and probably help each other out, because by no means am I an expert but I will listen to what ever you need to say and maybe I have a way to help you cope.