A Letter to My Mental Illness

Dear schizoaffective disorder,

Because of the torment you have caused me, I am dedicating this letter to you, presenting the ins and outs of our relationship. I want to make clear how you have failed, but I also want to show how you have tried to succeed. Here it is: what you have taught me about life, in all facets.

Negative Lesson #1: You will always stab me in the back.

Time and time again, whenever something positive happened in my life, you would inflict me yet again, as if on cue. In fact, at this very moment, so many wonderful things have been happening, but your mania has filled me with rage, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, and exhaustion. You make me doubt that anything permanently good could happen to me, and I constantly brace for the worst.

It has taken many months of conditioning to overcome this habit, and I still find myself slipping back into it. And yet, I still can find joy in life, despite your meddling. You cannot strip my happiness away from me by feeding me doubt, though you may try time and time again. I will not allow it.

Negative Lesson #2: Few will understand how you affect me.

Film, social media, and the news have done very little but incite terror of you. People fear what they cannot understand, and nowhere is this clearer than in people’s treatment of mental health. Sometimes, when I tell people even the most basic form of you, they look at me with pity, fear, or disgust. It is abundantly clear how little people understand–or try to understand–how one can function with you in their minds.

I may be crazy. I may be mentally ill. But I have not let this stop me from performing just as others do in their daily jobs. And if people can pay attention to even the most basic elements of how I function with you, then they have nothing to fear.

Negative Lesson #3: Your power can consume me.

So many things can trigger you. Talking about you. Reading about you. Writing about you. I never wanted to be someone who couldn’t handle you, but I have to avoid certain movies, books, and articles to avoid your torture. Words hold power over my life, as do you.

However, I will not let my limits stop me. Over time, slow exposure will help me to regain control. Explaining how I feel to friends and online helps me to process your effects and fight back. I will learn and use healthy coping mechanisms to battle your uncertainty. I refuse to back down.

Despite your negative effects, there are some positive ones I have learned as well, as listed below:

Positive Lesson #1: Hard work will lead to managing life well.

Through the past five years of dealing with you, I have fought for life and everything that I stand for and love. I have gained great mental strength from this experience. Even this past week, when I was switching onto, off of, and back on to a medication, waking up in the night drenched in sweat, I have been working full-time and maintaining an active social life.

Of course, exhaustion sets in many times, and all I can do is sit on the couch and watch television. But I always manage to hold you back.

Positive Lesson #2: The people I trust will support me.

As I stated before, many people hold a degree of fear when it comes to mental illness. However, a select few of kind family and friends have supported me throughout the years. I no longer need continual support, but in my darkest moments, a text to a loved one or my husband’s concern provide necessary comfort and encouragement.

I will spend my life resisting your every move, clinging to life and loved ones. Though a life without you would be ideal, schizoaffective disorder, I am grateful for the strength you have taught me. You have been a plague in my life, but I no longer let you control me. Your psychosis is recognizable; your mood swings are identifiable. I can fight you now. Thank you for teaching me that.

I know this is not the end of my battle, and I will have weaker days. But I will persevere.

With animosity, your enemy,

Anne Pyle

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