If you are a part of my life in any capacity it’s not a secret that the past couple of years have been a challenge. Let me stop being polite. They have been heart-wrenching. 2016 was one of the most painful years of my life, so much so that at the end of the year I had a psychotic break (scariest thing ever) and was diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I was hospitalized for a while, put on medication, and started taking my therapy more seriously and had a procedure done to treat my PTSD. Several months later I was feeling great so my doctor started weening me off my medication and I thought that was the end of my journey with mental illness.
After reducing the medication to a certain level I began experiencing symptoms of psychosis again (delusion, disassociation from reality, hallucinations, hearing voices) etc and also became very anxious and fell back into a deep depression. I was hospitalized again but this time I got a more clear understanding of my diagnosis. I never thought I would be saying that I have a mental illness and I honestly feel the shame even as I am writing this. It almost brings me to tears. I am still in a bit of disbelief. But the truth is, I have a mental illness. I have schizoaffective disorder (the depressive type) and because of this my life has to change quite a bit in the next several months, especially in regards to Art and Abolition.
Learning that I have this chronic disease has broken my heart more than the person (people) who triggered the first episode did. I have to give a lot of things up: the ability to live alone, the ability to party like a rockstar, some friendships, most painfully- my current job, and more. But through therapy and prayer I have come out of the place where I feel helpless and hopeless and I now feel like I have victory over my illness. If I continue taking my meds and going to therapy I can live a pretty normal life- I can have a job with Art and Abolition even if it’s in a position that’s much less triggering, I can have a couple drinks even if I can’t party like a rockstar, I can have friends that truly love me and accept even this part of me, and I can still do my art which I enjoy. That can be a life well lived.
Like many of you I wondered, “How did this happen? I was okay my whole life” The truth is (and my really close friends know this) I wasn’t ok. The disease doesn’t manifest until adulthood, but my whole life I have struggled with major depression and anxiety. It is believed that schizoaffective disorder is caused by unresolved trauma that happened in childhood and then something in adulthood triggers it causing psychosis. I experienced some pretty intense trauma in my childhood related to abandonment and rejection as well as sexual abuse. When these two things are triggered in me is when i go into psychosis if I’m not on medicine. I also live in a constant state of deep depression and anxiety as well if I don’t take my meds. I just hide it well when I am in the U.S.
But I am tired of hiding. It’s exhausting. So I decided to just come on out and say it to everyone. I am learning not to be ashamed. Some people have physical illnesses. I have a mental one. Because my job is so triggering I will be stepping down as executive director of Art and Abolition and moving into a different role within the organization. It is a role I have been so humbled to hold all of these years.
Phew, now all of that is off of my chest…. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive along this journey for me.