To My Younger Self in Crisis With Schizoaffective Disorder

Dear Self,

This is you at 38 telling you what you will happen to you after you are diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This is my advice for you. Right now you’re 19, a freshman in college, in crisis, and can’t imagine having a future. You’re having severe depression, hallucinations, episodes of mania, suicidal thoughts.

Things will be difficult, but the pain you will endure will not be without meaning or purpose. You will be hospitalized and see many people like you, but that is where you will vow that if you ever get better, you will help others who are in pain.

With treatment, you will improve and learn coping skills and be able to function even with symptoms. Don’t ever lose hope, stay strong in your faith, and continue to show love to those around you.

Because of your experience with mental illness, you will change your major to social work and go on to get a Master’s degree in it. Because of this, you will meet people you never would have met had you not had a mental illness. You will help others with mental illness get treatment, help house the homeless, and have a job you love and get fulfillment from.

You will grow closer to your family, and as they see you improve from treatment, your mom will get treatment for the depression and social anxiety she had her whole life. You and your family will become more compassionate towards others. You will continue to have symptoms, but you will grow as a person in a way you couldn’t have if things were easy. The challenges will keep you humble and help you empathize with the people you work with who are struggling. You will help break down the stigma of mental illness by telling your story at mental health agencies and in faith communities.

You will find the love of your life and be happily married to a woman who is completely supportive of you. Together you two will face hardships but will only grow closer to each other despite mental health issues and medical problems.

You will grow stronger and more resilient than you would have been had you not gotten sick. You will learn to live in the moment, pray more, worry less, and become a better version of yourself. You will realize not only do you have a future but that it’s a more meaningful one than you could have anticipated before you got sick. Through the hard times, you will find who you were meant to be. So hang in there because the night will not last forever.

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

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Thinkstock photo by alexeynovikov

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