Some Warning Signs To Heed When You Have Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or Schizoaffective Disorder

Here is me with my boss Tanya just after giving a presentation to the Edmonton Police Recruits. Doing this is what makes my job worth the sacrifices. But things aren’t alway perfect.

One of the things I struggle with is money. Certainly, when I was younger and wasn’t getting the pension I get now things were a lot harder. Living alone in a $300 apartment with an income of $560 a month was really hard. But what affected me the most was the loneliness. I thought my best solution to the money and loneliness problem was to get a roommate. Unfortunately, getting a roommate was the worst experience of my life.

The guy who moved in (and took over everything) started inviting all his street friends to stay and threatened severe violence if anything he did was questioned. In no time there must have been ten or fifteen people staying in my small one-bedroom apartment. There was one time I asked him if he was ever going to pay me rent and he said vehemently, “You’ll get every cent.” Later I heard the very same day he had told another person, “I’m not going to give him one cent!” he never did give me anything. He also took a lot of stuff from my place when he moved and kept coming back for more, whether it belonged to him or not, meanwhile refusing to give back my keys. On top of all that, he left me with a phone bill larger than my month’s income. I can’t believe how much of an asshole that guy was.

I will never forget an old Mad Magazine cartoon with a priest and a salesman holding protest signs. The priest’s sign said “The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil.” the salesman had a sign that just said, “Lack” which he was holding over the “Love” part of the priest’s sign.

The truth is, if you have money in your family you have some pretty good options when it comes to treating an illness. The hospital I first went to was so old, cigarette smoke stained, and oppressively jail-like that I had no intention of continuing to see my Doctor or get my prescriptions after leaving. This is a condition known as anosognosia, where a person is so ill that they don’t realize how serious their condition in.

As far as warning signs, I am actually experiencing one now that I’m worried a bit about. I have been spending tons money on myself and others and there is no guarantee at all I can afford all my spending. The whole thing struck me like a lightening bolt when I found out my job was in danger of ending.

Spending money, acting impulsively, not seeing the logic of stopping can all be symptoms of bipolar disorder. But what if you have other symptoms? Part of my diagnosis is anxiety, which I believe fits. I get freaked out when I am around girls I like. I have this vivid memory of sitting in front of a young woman I had a very serious crush on but never being able to tell her I liked her, though she even gave indications of liking me. With any type of diagnosis of bipolar disorder, even a sugar rush can lead to serious situations. Getting excited because of consuming a lot or sugar or caffeine or both can shoot a person’s into the sky. If not controlled by medications, it may be months before the afflicted person returns to normal.

Another part of my illness is schizophrenia. It messes with a person’s thoughts even when they are doing well. When you aren’t, the illness is powerful. You end up having delusional thoughts which can be paranoid or grandiose or religious. Then you have hallucinations that back up the false ideas. Part of all that is being very prone to suggestion, which makes it easier for you to believe false ideas and hallucinations (false sensory input).

I now feel as though I have grown out of my loneliness. I have a few friends I can call at just about any time and I try to keep as busy as I can. If I’m not working away from home I’m trying to drum up business and book sales, and if I’m not doing that I’m either writing or reading. For others I would suggest trying to find a hobby that you can work into a small business. My sister does beading and sells her work at Farmer’s Markets. A close friend who did well in school hires herself out as a tutor. I also teach a creative writing class and I would encourage people to do anything they can to teach, even if it is just volunteering to teach English as a Second Language. Teaching is so rewarding, and you actually learn as much if not more than your students.

The simple truth is, if you keep busy, try to get out of the house when you can, you will spend less time worrying or stuck in memories of past opportunities. Another thing I like to do when I have a lot of free time is do long-distance walking. I just treated myself to a new MP3 player so now I can rock and roll while I’m going places.

Above all though, it comes down to comfort zones. Living with anxiety means that I have to constantly push myself out of comfort zones to attune myself to being able to do more. When I started with the Schizophrenia Society, giving talks to large groups, I started with single high school classrooms and worked my way up. After a few dozen presentations about my own mental health journey, I have become so comfortable with it I no longer need to read from notes. Above all though, never think for a minute that there are things you can’t do. I have listened to people talk who are psychiatrists who suffer from severe schizophrenia. Set a goal. Write out a plan which is your road map to get to your goal, try to advance toward your goal even just a tiny amount each day, and before you know it, your dreams can come true.

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