A Letter to Myself Before My Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosis


It’s going to be dad you tell first. You’re going to be in the car on a way back from the therapist. And, like he always does, he’s going to ask you how it went. In that moment, you’re going to fall apart and tell him about everything: the nightmares, the paranoia, the voices. He’s going to listen and do his best to coax it all out of you.

Then, he’s going to tell mom. She seems angry at first. She wants to know why you didn’t tell her, why you didn’t ask for help. You start crying, hard. So hard she has to pull over the car and hold you because she’s suddenly terrified. She’s going to ask you if you’re breathing, and you’re not so sure you are. Then again, you felt like you haven’t taken a breath in months.

The next month is filled with ups and downs, well, mostly downs. You’re apathetic, unmotivated and just generally unkempt. The nightmares are awful, but the thing is you’re too tired to do anything but sleep. The paranoia increases exponentially, and you find you spend every second looking over your shoulder.

The voices will be incessant, and they’re going to try their hardest to break you. You’ll go through days when you feel practically nothing at all, and you will contemplate if this is better or worse. Terrifyingly enough, you will contemplate suicide.

You do your best to pretend nothing’s wrong. You put on a brave face and try to tackle each day. Yet, every night, you’ll come home. You’ll tear at your hair and cover your ears to block out the voices that never stop talking and cry. Then, you’ll fall asleep, knowing you’re cracking and just praying you don’t shatter.

At the end of that month you’ll go in for “personality” testing, or, rather, the test that’ll tell you exactly what type of “crazy” you are. It’s given to you by your therapist, the one you’ve been seeing for more than two years. She seems far too cheery to you, and the room you’re in is really too bright. Yet, you do your best to appear engaged and interested, and you answer her questions best you can. You interpret inkblots, tell stories and draw pictures. Then, you leave.

You’ll get your results back five days later. You and your mom are going to sit across from your therapist, who still seems overly enthusiastic. She’s going to describe you as disengaged, withdrawn and emotionless. She’ll tell your mother you’ve lost your charm, your wit, your sass. Then, she’ll finally say, “Your daughter has schizoaffective disorder.”

You can hear your own heart break. You’ll be terrified.

Then, you’re going to take your report, clutched tightly in hand, and give it to your psychiatrist. He’s going to prescribe you a new medication. You’re going to take it, sigh, and head home, your mom’s arm clutched tightly around your shoulders.

However, then, strangely enough, you’ll start to heal. Your parents, your therapist and even your friends talk about how great your doing. You’ll realize you feel great, too. Over the course of the next few months, you’ll begin to become more like your old self again. Of course, you’ll have your bad days. Nothing heals over night.

Then, you’ll get to where I am now. You’ll back on it all and realize, you’ve survived. And you will continue to survive.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters prepare to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), foreground, as the ship leads the guided missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), far left, and USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) during operations in the Atlantic Ocean Dec. 13, 2013. The ships were part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group and were underway participating in a final evaluation problem in preparation for a scheduled deployment. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert, U.S. Navy/Released)

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