Valerie’s story: Life with Schizoaffective Disorder

The story you are about to read is true, the name has been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
Valerie, a 43-year-old woman from Fort Frances, agreed to be interviewed for the purpose of sharing her story of life with schizoaffective disorder.
Val grew up in Fort Frances, attending elementary and high school here. She also completed a two-year diploma course at the local college.
< *c>Coming home
“When I first came back, I thought people had a sense of what had happened. I had disappeared for a month or so and I thought, ‘Oh God! I know people know what happened.’
“But I’ve changed a lot since those years. I’m not saying that my whole life has been a bed of roses since I came back; there have been ups and downs. The stigma’s still there. When I go to do something, I still think, ‘Oh my God, do you remember me from when I did this stupid thing or said this or said that?’
“Sometimes your hallucinations are so bad that you don’t know what you’re saying, it just comes right out. I do remember some of the things I have said or done when I was sick, but I’ve learned that, when I’m in a psychotic stage, I have to ignore those voices.
“So I drown them out with something like being busy. But there have been some situations where I’ve said something or other thinking that, this is what’s going on when it’s not really going on. Reality is skewed.
“I’ve paid the price afterwards, when I’m well. I think, ‘Oh my God, I did this’ and ‘Oh I’m so sorry.’ Sometimes I try to say I was sick at that time. Even that doesn’t help.
“Sometimes there’s a lot of guilt in there.
“I came back from LPH with medication. It was a drug that was very disabling in itself, even though it is supposed to help you. I slept all the time (I guess it gives your mind a rest, but it’s like it runs your whole life because you’re so doped up that you’re not really enjoying life, you’re just there).
“I’ve been on a whole series of different medications and also was diagnosed with manic-depression (bipolar) within the last couple of years. I have been fortunate to be on medications that work well for me now.
“I still have my periods where I know that I’m sick and I have to withdraw from stress. I have to withdraw from the situation so I can recoup or else I will find myself very, very manic.
“I go hypo-manic; it’s not really a high mania. I will go into a manic stage or I’ll start hallucinating and I’ll think, ‘Okay this is a warning sign and I’ve got to pull back a little bit and have to recoup my energy and make sure things are on track.’
“Usually it takes about a day.
“I’ve been drilled to make sure I get enough sleep because I find if I’m not getting enough sleep, then that’s usually what will happen within maybe three or four weeks.
“If I’m going at a steady pace, only getting three or four hours of sleep a night, by the fourth week I’m going to be sick. I just know, I’ve learned. I usually step back a bit and put things on hold until tomorrow.
“I have to have a nap here. Usually I do have a nap, but not all the time. That’s not good, either.
“I know people who say, ‘Hey, you’re lazy you’re having a nap.’ I always say, ‘Well, I need to have this rest or otherwise I’m going to get sicker.’ I don’t need to be hospitalized.”
Editor’s note: This is the conclusion of a two-part series.