Finding Hope and Meaning With Schizoaffective Disorder

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of depression and psychosis.

I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and for a long time, the symptoms of this condition caused me to lose a lot of hope. Schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and a mood disorder, either bipolar or depression. Basically, it’s kind of a mix of two different mental health conditions, which makes living with it very challenging.

For quite a while I was depressed and hopeless. But I’ve learnt it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to live our lives defined by the painful things that have happened to us, or by the words and definitions of others.

So much of my life was controlled by this illness for so long. When I was sixteen, while my friends were writing in their diaries about boys and exams, I was keeping a diary of what my auditory hallucinations said to me, as asked by my psychologist at the time. I dropped out of high school because I was too sick to go. I didn’t get to graduate in year thirteen or have a proper twenty-first because I was too busy seeing the crisis team. But I’m learning to accept that just because my life has been different to others, doesn’t mean it’s any less valid.

I have had hallucinations of demons and angels and spirits. I have heard wonderful, encouraging voices, and frightening ones that are critical of me and make it difficult to leave the house. My mood has skyrocketed from being severely depressed for months to feeling so creative and energised that I wrote 40,000 words of a novel in a week. Basically, it’s a lot, and it’s been hard to find stability and balance. However, I have had long periods of wellness where I have found it, and those are the moments I hold onto and remember are worth living and hoping for.

Once, a psychiatrist told me I would never drive. She insisted I shouldn’t be learning. But I went and got my licence anyway. Another doctor insinuated tertiary education might be too much for me, and yet I graduated all my degrees with an A+ GPA and my master’s with distinction. I worked full-time for many years and lived independently, and I proved people wrong time and time again whenever they told me I shouldn’t be doing it. Sometimes, those of us with psychosis spend a lot of time trying to undo the damage of harmful stereotypes that have been perpetuated in mainstream media.

I will always struggle, I believe, with my mental illness. But I know I can still live a good life despite it. I’m still working out how I want that life to look, but I’m also looking forward to all the music, movies, friendships, love, art, poetry, travel, work and beauty to come. The good, I’m finally convinced, is probably worth the bad. And I know how much our minds try to convince us it’s not worth the bad when we’re struggling.

World Schizophrenia Day was in May, and on that day, I celebrated that I’m still here. I’m proud of who I am and who I’m becoming, and I don’t plan to let anybody or anything make me feel or think otherwise.

If you live with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, I know how challenging it is. It’s one of the most stigmatised and misunderstood conditions in the world. But there’s a great community of people out there fighting for change. You can still live a rich and meaningful life. You can find things to hold on for. And there is always, if ever, a reason to have hope.


Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

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