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My Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosis Isn't the End, It's Just the Beginning

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A diagnosis is often the journey to recovery. Mine gave me closure and I’m pretty sure many people can relate to that. A diagnosis can also offer the answer to many questions we ask ourselves. What people don’t want to talk about is the subject of grief. Sometimes, but not always, you ending up mourning for the person you were before. Let‘s be honest, nobody wants to be told they have bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, a personality disorder etc. And like any form of grief, people deal with it in their own way.

My story started in 2017, after years of feeling as though I was on a roller coaster. After months of experiencing psychosis, I ended up being diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I didn’t want anyone outside my family to know I had the condition. I didn’t even “process” it properly. I buried my head in the sand — it was my way of coping. My dad knew for years I had more than just autism. I was fine with that diagnosis, it just meant I saw the world somewhat differently. However, when it came to bipolar, I was fully aware of the stereotypes, lack of understanding and the rejection people endured. I realized I had to stick with the treatment and knew without it, I couldn’t live a normal life. Secretly though, I enjoyed some of the moments that came with bipolar. The uplifting hypomania, being more confident, being sociable, always busy, always creative, and as a writer, I truly relished the creative periods before those soaring highs got snatched away.

During my time of mourning, I found comfort in wise words my psychologist had once told me: “Your past doesn’t define you.” Ever since then, those words have stuck with me. I still think of that sentence when I’m feeling a bit down or disappointed. My psychologist was young, but remarkably wise beyond her years. We had spoken about how I would do anything to go back to when I was 21 or 22 years old. I was blissfully unaware of the word bipolar. I was happy, college life didn’t exhaust me, I was never plagued with sinister voices, I was full of enthusiasm, I did beauty pageants and more. I would have sold my soul for any price if it meant I could get those precious moments back I wanted to desperately relive for an eternity. Every photo on Facebook and every article I had been featured in was a constant reminder — I was no longer that little girl who had “everything.”

One year later in 2018, I ended up having another episode, but this time, things were different. For a start, my recovery took longer and I saw stuff in a different light. I told my dad in detail the strange events that seemed so real, but didn’t exist. I had a lot more support from people, and medical professionals kept a close eye on me. I came to terms with many things, and slowly but surely, I found myself accepting my new diagnosis: schizoaffective disorder. It turned out I didn’t have bipolar after all.

I did a bit of research and then used my diagnosis to my advantage, writing articles and using my psychosis to create characters, too. I even discovered someone I knew who I have a good friendship with shared my condition. I wasn’t this rare “freak” who nobody could relate to. I ended up being more open online and with medical professionals about my condition and gradually learned a diagnosis didn’t have to define me and receiving one wasn’t the end. It was the beginning.

Because the truth is, people change, people grow, everything is temporary. Everyone changes at some point. Some of the changes are more subtle, but others are not. You’re not grieving for the person you were, you’re grieving for the past. You’re developing as a person and you and your life are changing. You’re growing. You have to let go of the past. You have to accept what was. What matters is now.

Unsplash image by JC Gellidon

Originally published: February 11, 2020
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