How I befriended my schizoaffective disorder through writing – James’ story
In this blog, James shares two coping mechanisms that have been important for his recovery: befriending his mental illness and writing for joy and relaxation. James reflects on his long journey, from being sectioned to becoming an author. Though the past few years have been full of ups and downs, it has encouraged him to learn more about his condition and to support others in similar situations.
My first experience of psychosis was nearly seven years ago and I was diagnosed with schizoaffective three years ago. It has been a difficult journey with many harsh lessons.
The first psychotic episode happened when I broke up with my previous partner. Racing thoughts led to getting no sleep, which led to delusions and hallucinations that were unpleasant and confusing. I was taken to A&E in an ambulance to my local hospital, where they sectioned me under the Mental Health Act to spend four weeks in a psychiatric ward. This was the scariest and most terrifying experience of my life by far.
I decided to stop seeing my mental illness as an enemy and learn more about it.
After returning home on medication, I thought recovery would be a straight upward line but it turned out to look more like the FTSE 100, up and down and all over the place. I lost my job, put on weight and went through some deep depression. Then I took a big risk and stopped taking medication because I hated the sedative side effects.
It seemed to pay off at first. I lost the weight and regained some confidence and self-esteem. I started being more open about my mental illness after reading memoirs. This inspired me to start blogging and I even began to write a book. But then a blip and a setback forced me to seek further help through medication and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
Just when I thought I was back to my best self again, after returning to full time work and meeting my new partner, I was hit by a full psychotic relapse due to stress and mis-reading my medication dosage (I was taking half of the amount by accident).
Being open minded is key to staying healthy.
Thankfully, I wasn’t sectioned again but attended a day treatment unit to receive help through group therapy classes on subjects such as anger. It took months to get stable again, but this time I was determined to stay healthy and use my experience to help others as well as myself.
I decided to stop seeing my mental illness as an enemy and learn more about it, which helped me to continue to write and finish my book. I realised that writing was very therapeutic for me in general. If I had racing thoughts or anxiety in my head, I’d write it down like a diary or journal entry and feel much better.
I also write when I’m feeling good. There’s no right or wrong way to do it and you can write about anything. I never regret it or feel like I wasted my time. I have started writing poems recently and they give me great comfort.
I realised that writing was very therapeutic for me.
I feel very lucky that my job now involves writing too. I’m in the marketing team at Hertfordshire Mind Network. Working for a mental health charity does wonders for my wellbeing and has given me an enormous sense of fulfilment.
My book comes out in March 2023 and we decided to call it ‘Befriending My Brain’ because that title perfectly sums up my journey. I have discovered so much about the power of the mind and continue to be curious about mental wellbeing. Being open minded is key to staying healthy, as is surrounding yourself with supportive allies. If you have a mental illness, I hope you are able to eventually befriend it too.
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