Psychotic Disorders

There is Someone Following Me: Living with Schizoaffective disorder

BY NUR AFIQAH

2 December 2020  |   5 min read

In May last year, I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. It is a mental health condition that includes characteristics of both schizophrenia symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder such as mania and depression.

I had depressive moods during my university days. It was tough enduring it for 4 years, as I felt as if a huge boulder was tied to my back. I felt so lost and hopeless. I withdrew from friends and social settings. I would have a low mood and I will keep crying, feel weak and unable to get up from bed. The mania meant that my high moods will only appear at random times — I would feel extremely happy and high to a point where I would dance on a shop floor before while I was out with my family. Meanwhile, I often had hallucinations that someone is following me wherever I went, and I used to be able to hear their sound behind my back.

The beauty up the mountains

What kept me going was the love for my academics. I was very studious and wanted to finish my university degree. During times when I wanted to give up on my studies, I talked to friends whom I trust, and they encouraged me to press on. Taking up painting also helped to cheer me up.

“I knew my emotions were not normal when I realised that I kept crying at the corner of the MRT and alighting at every MRT station as I was scared to go to work.”

Whenever I went to work, I would always have a heavy heart and I got tired of going to work half-heartedly.

Due to accumulated stress from work, my migraines and the shoulder tension got worse, until I could not take the pain any longer. I felt that it was not normal to be feeling this way.

Image credit: NCSS Beyond the Label

What made me finally decide to get help was the “Beyond the Label” campaign. Seeing Sumaiyah’s face on that poster, it dawned on me that I was not alone in my struggle.

I started to go for counselling and rehabilitation at Club Heal where I learnt to let go of my past, appreciate the present and be excited about the future.

Growing up as a child, I had low self-esteem and lacked self-love. I did not know how to talk positively to myself throughout my years of growing up. I always had negative thoughts about myself like “I can’t do this!” or “I am not capable of this!”

In my counselling sessions, my counselor would thus constantly encourage me to forgive the people around me, to practice gratitude in my life, and to practice positive self-talk to remind myself of what I am proud of. She also encouraged me to write in a journal to summarise my daily activities during the day itself. These things stood out to me as it made a difference into my life.

During rehabilitation, I made pottery works, got involved in art, writing, and yoga sessions. These activities helped to activate my mind for the better and enhanced my creative process.

It was tough at the start but I have since learnt how to regulate my emotions to stabilise my low and high moods. I engage in a lot of positive self-talk and stopped talking harshly to myself to keep me motivated in my daily challenges.

“I have to trust myself to be a parent to my inner child, as it helps me to calm down when the going gets tough.”

I imagine my inner child is still within me. As a parent, I have to know how to talk gently to my inner child that everything is going to be okay and everything is going to be fine. I am glad to have a very caring psychiatrist who listens without judgement. The medications also helped me with my symptoms.

I have grown a lot as a person — from a timid person to a more confident person – as my symptoms started to slowly go away with the help of medication. I am still learning to build up my resilience. I had a relapse in early April during COVID-19 where it caused me to hallucinate that someone is looking for me. Since the relapse, I am trying my best to work on my self-confidence while I do the things I love like reading books about poetry and prose.

I am very grateful to my parents, psychiatrist, counsellor, and my case manager for being my pillars of support. My hope for the future is to be able to contribute back to the community in time to come, and in the meantime, I will continue to practice self-care and feel secure about myself.

The contributor is a mental health advocate.