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Understanding My Delusions Gives Me Power Over My Schizoaffective Disorder

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A psychiatrist once told me, in her opinion, I understand my illness better than most of her patients. I took that as a compliment because I have worked hard to understand my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder to recognize my symptoms. For example, it is important to know the belief someone is in love with me isn’t really going on, but probably a delusion.

I have a chart about schizophrenia‘s positive symptoms on my refrigerator. I usually look at it after I have a delusion such as feeling stalked, hunted, framed or tricked. The voices in my head often make me forget what I want to say or make me forget where I put things I need at the time. I’ve learned this is another one of the common delusions of schizoaffective disorder called persecutory delusions.

In my schizophrenic world, I sometimes think I am an important public figure, or in a fantasy world. According to my chart, this is a grandiose delusion. I’ve talked to several people with schizophrenia who have this same delusion. By using my chart after or while I am experiencing a delusion, it can give me an explanation of why I am feeling this or hearing that.

My participation in group therapy has also helped me to identify my delusions. Listening to others describe their delusions and verbalizing my own delusions gives me insight into looking at them in a logical way. While the terminology might not be important, we can learn from each other by describing our delusions with a goal of understanding the unreality of a delusion. Coming to the conclusion, delusions are not actually happening, but are symptoms of schizophrenia, is a huge step in accepting the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Examining a symptom, such as hearing a voice outside the door, by opening the front door to see if there is a voice out there talking has helped me tremendously. I’ve researched cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and it has helped me learn to examine a symptom and determine if it is a part of reality or non-reality.

I’ve learned my confused thoughts and inability to concentrate are also symptoms of my schizophrenia. I have difficulty concentrating, and reading a book is next to impossible because my short-term memory has been affected by my schizophrenia. My mom is my editor for the articles I write since I have difficulty organizing my thoughts. She helps me to clarify my thoughts and dig deeper to understand how a delusion makes me feel at the time I am experiencing it. I have forgotten some of the basic rules of grammar and syntax, so she helps me with the mechanics of writing my first-person accounts. Accepting I need help with this part of my life has been an important step for my writing career.  There is no shame in asking for help or accommodations you might need, especially if you have a severe mental illness diagnosis.

Medication helps me manage my symptoms. It would be great if I could realize something is a delusion when it is happening. Just because I realize it is a delusion or a voice going on inside my head doesn’t mean the delusion will instantly go away. Listening to music or watching TV can help me block out an unwanted delusion. Medication makes it possible for me to recognize a symptom before I act on it.

My perceptions can be distorted because of my schizophrenia. Often, I think circumstances require action from me when they do not. For example, If I don’t get mail for three days straight, I might be tempted to contact my mailman to see why I am not getting mail. Fortunately, I have found a good support system I can rely on if I am having trouble understanding a situation.

Moving forward with my life and not letting these annoyances or symptoms control me has made my life more productive. Researching and putting into practice what I learn about my diagnosis allows me to step out of myself and look inward to better explain myself to my doctor and others. When I can explain to a family member, a friend or even my doctor what is going on inside my head, it is a relief. The bad days are over. The victory is mine. I have a deep desire to understand as much as possible for a layman to understand a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Knowledge gives me power over my symptoms. This knowledge allows me to be a vital contributor on my support team.

Getty image by NiseriN

Originally published: April 15, 2020
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