My Experience with Schizophrenia/Schizoaffective Disorder

My Experience with Schizophrenia/Schizoaffective Disorder

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hi my name is Lauren and I'm gonna be making a series of videos talking a little bit more about my experience with mental illness as well as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and to just kind of give a little bit more information for people who are newly diagnosed and looking for more resources or for their loved ones who are looking for better ways to support them or for people who just want to know more so in this first video I'm going to be sharing a little bit more about my own personal story with schizoaffective disorder jumping right into it again my name is
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Lauren and I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2015 at the age of 25 it took several years of struggling as well as misdiagnosis to arrive to this point though and so I'm just going to share a little bit more about what that entailed as well as what living with this illness looks like for me so starting with my childhood it was fairly normal though I was definitely a little bit more of a quieter kid and at times kind of struggled with socialization with some of my peers which may have been an early warning
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sign or indication or symptom of something to come but I didn't really start struggling until my teenage years I always did quite well academically and I really loved to read and learn but something kind of shifted though in high school and I began to struggle with my mood and what I can now identify as what were some negative symptoms of schizophrenia which led to an increased apathy and participating in school as well as just kind of generally withdrawing from people and just from
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life so this is when I also excited to experience thought broadcasting so where I thought that people could hear my thoughts which again was an early indication or warning sign of something to come that I can now identify in hindsight I skipped a lot of classes which led to lower grades but I was still able to scrunch together decent enough grades to not raise too many red flags but it was still a problem the sense of apathy resulted in me not really being sure of what I wanted to do after high school so but I decided to
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enroll part time at the University of Alberta taking political science and psychology I'm still struggling quite a bit though and so with a little encouragement from my boyfriend at the time decided to visit a family doctor to just kind of see what was going on with me and to I don't know just find out a little bit more about what was happening so during this visit the GP diagnosed me with depression when I was 19 years old so I continue to struggle with what I thought was depression for several years during this though there were periods
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where I would feel really really great and during these periods I would go off on a vent or I would be really productive and I would go off on adventures traveling or running in the mountains but the depression always came back and it almost seemed worse each time it did have during this time I also realized that I wanted to pursue a career in Social Work and so I decided to transfer to the University of Waterloo in Ontario in order to finish my studies there I got through my first thoughts of arts degree okay and did quite well academically earning several
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scholarships and awards it was the year I started my Bachelor of Social Work degree though at 22 that things really kind of started to go sideways for me so the fall that I started that program my depression came to such a severe place where I was constantly thinking about ending my own life it was for this reason that I decided that something needs to be done and so I sought out counselling the counselor then connected me with a family doctor as well as a psychiatrist both at the University who changed my diagnosis to bipolar disorder
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to do to my severe periods of depression as well as periods of savin's something kind of like hypomania they were a really really supportive team of professionals that I'm still so so grateful for but despite this increased support my depression came to such a severe place that winter that I decided to take my own life I overdosed but was taken to the hospital in time for them to treat me this was unfortunately the first hospitalization of many to follow I was so afraid of what people would
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think if they found out what I had been going through so I mostly kept things quiet and to myself which really didn't help things at all I struggled a great deal with my mood and it was around this time to you that I started to hallucinate regularly as well so it began with just hearing my name spoken aloud every now and then when I was completely alone I kind of just initially brushed this off though thinking that my imagination was just running amuck or something like that and so I never confided this in anyone and I never told my counselors and my doctors
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at the time I then began to have olfactory hallucinations where I would smell these really awful smells that I couldn't identify and I couldn't locate the source of it was really kind of a weird and confusing time for me I struggled violently with these symptoms for quite a while and a year after my first suicide attempt I attempted again but this time it was quite a bit more serious so I overdosed again and for whatever reason my counselor at the time later told me that he just got this really bad
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feeling that something bad had happened to me that morning I haven't given him any indication that I was gonna do anything I hadn't told him that I was gonna do anything but he just got this this visceral feeling that something bad had happened and so he decided to send the police to do a wellness check on me so the police arrived just in time to see what had happened and to rush me to the hospital where I was put into a medically induced coma I was kept on life support for several days obviously I made it through but throughout all of
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this my psychiatrist had been trying me on a plethora of different medications to try to reduce the symptoms that I had been experiencing we decided eventually to try a bit of a different approach and to try electroconvulsive therapy it's a therapy that works for a lot of people but long story short for me it did not work and I was left with memory deficits as well so things kind of stabilized and I was able to return to school full-time and I started a practicum placement that I really really love doing research at the University this went pretty well for
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almost two full semesters until I had my first full-blown psychotic episode at the age of 24 so during this time the hallucinations intensified and I became delusional as well so I was hearing and seeing helicopters circling overhead and I was hearing voices I became obsessed with retrieving my medical files as I was convinced that the doctors were conspiring to kill me or using medications to poison me or from mind control I hardly slept at all and was
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just flying off the walls with this this paranoid energy I was sleeping in my car outside of the clinic waiting for it to open again in the morning so that I could go in and again try to obtain access to my files I remember one particular night of doing this where I hallucinate it an elderly man who was trying to break into my car to reach in and steal my files from me it was a really really terrifying period of time and my boyfriend at the time was witnessing this drastic deterioration
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and so he managed to somehow get me to go to the hospital with him I don't remember a lot about how he did that but I think what was helpful was focusing on the emotions that I was feeling so I was really scared and so he talked to me about that rather than about the hallucinations and delusions that I was experiencing he also convinced me that they would be able to help me at the hospital so together we went and I was admitted immediately and my diagnosis was changed to bipolar disorder one with psychotic
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features they were able to stabilize me with medications and I was able to graduate from my program that spring I landed a dream job doing research for Cancer Care Ontario and so I made the move to Toronto to begin my professional career there on paper I was doing really really well I had just graduated for my second degree program started a great new job I had a lot of friends and a long-term boyfriend I was living on my own and supporting myself but the hallucinations and other symptoms never
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really fully went away though and that summer I was struggling so much with these symptoms that I had to make the really really difficult decision to move back to Edmonton to be closer to family and friends supports there there was a lot of change going on in my life around this time which may have contributed to my worsening condition so I have just graduated school moved to Toronto started a new job and then shortly after quit my job broke up with my boyfriend moved back to Edmonton moved back in with my mom so there was a lot going on
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and a lot of stress so even after this move back closer to supports I could tell things were starting to get worse and the delusions were starting to come back it was because of this that I decided to stop taking my medications again because again I thought that they are using them to poison me or from mind control so no surprise really that stopping my medication led to me having my second full-blown psychotic episode at the age of 25 when I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder because these psychotic symptoms were continuing
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without a mood episode present so I had taken a psychopathology class in school and so was a little familiar with the term schizoaffective disorder but hadn't really ever heard of it otherwise it was scary to get what seemed like a more severe label but it also almost came as a bit of a relief so there was finally an explanation for the things that I was experiencing and all of a sudden the things that I was experiencing seemed a little less scary and a little bit more understandable there was still a
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grieving period though when I first received this diagnosis because there really are not a lot of success stories in broad circulation about people living with schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia most of what we hear in the news or in media are the negative negative stories about people living with schizophrenia or negative depictions about mental illness in general so I no longer was sure of where I was going to end up and that added an additional element of fear so with this this second psychotic episode I ended up
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in the Alberta Hospital for just over a month this time and it was a really really difficult experience I was refusing food and medication for fear of being poisoned again and I was being commanded by the voices to try to kill myself by any means possible and I was trying to appease these voices by any means possible so I was trying to strangle myself with a hospital gown I was trying to hit an artery in my wrist with the toilet paper dispenser in the
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washroom it was a really difficult and scary time finally though at the threat of being forced into electroconvulsive therapy again I finally agreed to take the medically and to eat and I eventually stabilized and discharged from the hospital it was them though that I really started to grapple again with the internalized stigma of my mental illness so I was so afraid of what people would think if they found out or worse that I would never be able to hold a stable job that
11:19
I had always dreamed of having I continued I also continued to struggle with the idea of taking medications which is something that I still struggle with to this day but I've kind of come to learn the importance of doing so and I've come to learn my own pattern of stopping medication leading to hospitalization or worse the next year or so after this hospitalization consisted of putting in a ton of effort to re-establish a new normal for myself and to learn to manage my symptoms the who stations can be really difficult to handle at times and I still deal with
11:51
them even while I'm on medications also the negative symptom of blunted effect is a really hard one for me to bear I identify as a fairly empathic person and so when I'm cut off from my own emotions or the emotions of others it can be really difficult to handle I am very happy and proud to say though that I have not been in the hospital since this last time in October 2016 so it has been over two years since I've been in the hospital I've been working as a social worker at a couple of different jobs and
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just this fall I went back to school to start my Masters of Science in public health in order to continue with my career in healthcare research I'm also working as a research assistant at the School of Public Health at the University so things are going well it's been a real struggle and a real fight to get to this point to overcome not only my symptoms but this internal stigma or the stigma that I had internalized as well through this process though I've learned so much about myself and I
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thought just how resilient I can be I've also started to reach out to support such as this get to Friday a Society of Alberta in order to better come to terms with them better understand my own diagnosis if I'm being honest I did lose a lot of hope when I was first diagnosed but I am learning that it is possible to still lead a meaningful and productive life even with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder so thanks so much for watching I hope that hearing my story was helpful if you want to learn more I am planning on doing some more
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videos about living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder as well as just mental illness in general so make sure to subscribe if you do want to see more of those videos and thanks again for watching and have a great day

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