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What It’s Like to Experience Schizoaffective Disorder Hallucinations

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Living with mental illness is a feat in itself and everyone should be applauded for living another day. While mental illness takes many forms and can be manageable, at times the symptoms are ones that will twist your mind, leaving you confused and broken.

I live with schizoaffective disorder, something that only affects 0.3 percent of the population. My type of schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, along with the dreaded anxiety. While many people are cognizant of the bipolar side (mood cycles including depressive states and mania), I found it is less common that people are aware of the schizophrenia aspects. First, I want to clear the misconception that people who have schizophrenia are dangerous and a liability. I have never harmed someone and have never thought about harming someone, nor have I ever been considered unsafe to others.

When it comes to my schizophrenic episodes, I have had delusions and auditory and visual hallucinations. While I can remember first having manic and depressive episodes as far back as 12 years ago, the delusions and hallucinations only began six years ago. I was a senior in college and constantly thought that whatever I read in my textbooks was directly written for me. I would quickly read literature novels and educational writings knowing that the author knew my life and the wrongdoings, and therefore was targeting me. Songs I heard on the radio didn’t simply depict my mood; the lyrics were also written about me and gave me secret messages of good and bad things to happen in my life. I never told anyone how anxious and paranoid I was feeling because I didn’t want to seem “crazy,” “out of my tree,” or like a “psychopath.” 

Quickly thereafter, I began to feel as though people were watching me every step I took. I imagined the police were following me and would arrest me at any point (I have never been pulled over for speeding) for being late to class or purchasing too much or too little food at the grocery store. I was positive someone was staking out where I lived and was going to kidnap me at any second. The stalking and kidnapping paranoia still continues off and on to this day.

The paranoia and delusions continued to rear its ugly self some years later, when I heard and saw old pickup trucks zooming back and forth past my house; I knew someone was going to come hurt my family and take me hostage. I was alone from time to time when this occurred, which resulted in me closing all the blinds in my house and turning on the alarm as soon as someone left, no matter the time of day. My anxiety also peaked at this time because I felt hopeless and scared, thinking I had no control over how my life was going.

It was three years ago that my auditory and visual hallucinations came to the forefront of my mental illness. I started hearing people whisper my name; I could even feel someone behind me, breathing down my neck. One night, I undoubtedly heard a baseball game playing on our television in the living room — someone had hit a home run — only to find out it was off. This was in the middle of January — clearly not baseball season. Other auditory hallucinations I experienced are people not only whispering my name but an unknown person yelling for me in another room or outside where I live. When I go to see who could possibly be crying out for me I find no one there, it leaves me shaken and disturbed.

I have seen a car drive directly towards me on the interstate where I have had to slam on my breaks and swerve. I have seen a bobcat about to run in front of me at a major intersection. Bugs and shadows will frequently slink on the walls and sneak around corners. A small dog has even run across my living room; I have never had the pleasure of having a dog for a pet.

One of the most significant hallucinations was three winters ago and my father just had hip replacement surgery. I had woken up one night drenched in sweat and extremely thirsty — this tends to happen quite frequently with my medicine — and walked to the kitchen. As I went, I noticed my dad was sleeping in the leather armchair and was snoring. I had to be extremely quiet as not to wake him. The next morning I asked him if I was too loud in the kitchen the previous night as he was asleep in the living room. He told me that he had slept in my parent’s bedroom the entire night for the first time since his surgery. Not only was I left confused, knowing what I had seen, but my dad was left extremely concerned.

Hallucinations and delusions, along with bipolar and anxiety, are tortuously woven together to create my life living with schizoaffective disorder. While I will never be “cured” of this illness, I have a great support team made up of family, friends and medical professionals to guide me through. I have gained extremely beneficial knowledge and coping skills to help diminish the effects of my disorder. However, the symptoms are sometimes too powerful for me to correct. If you have delusions and hallucinations, know you are not alone and they will pass, even if it seems time will always stand still. If you struggle or think that you might have a mental illness, always seek assistance. It can only go up from there.

Photo by Karl on Unsplash

Originally published: October 14, 2018
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