Befriending My Schizoaffective Disorder Through Writing | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Befriending My Schizoaffective Disorder Through Writing

By James Lindsay

My first experience with psychosis was nearly seven years ago, and I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder three years ago. It has been an up-and-down journey with many harsh lessons. But my mental health journey has also given me valuable insight and experience.

I experienced my first psychotic episode after breaking up with a romantic partner. My racing thoughts led to getting no sleep, which, in turn, led to delusions and hallucinations that were unsettling and confusing. I was taken in an ambulance to my local hospital, where I was evaluated and kept in a psychiatric ward for four weeks. This was, by far, the most terrifying experience of my life.

After returning home on medication, I thought recovery would be a straight upward line, but it turned out to be up and down and all over the place. I faced setbacks at work, put on a lot of weight and fell into a period of deep depression. I hated the side effects of my medication, particularly the sedation, and I made the risky decision to stop taking the medication.

This choice seemed to pay off at first; I lost weight and regained confidence and self-esteem. I started being more open about my illness after reading memoirs from others with mental illness. Their stories inspired me to start blogging and even to write a book. But then I faced another setback, which reinforced that I needed to seek help and return to my medication regimen and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). After I made the adjustment, things began to improve; I returned to full-time work and met my new partner.

Just when I thought I was back to my best self, I was hit out of nowhere by a full psychotic relapse due to stress and misreading my medication dosage (I was taking half of the amount by mistake). I attended a day treatment unit to receive group therapy classes. In these sessions, I learned about mental health, anger and coping mechanisms.

It took months to become stable again, and this time, I was determined to stay healthy and use my experience to help others. I decided to stop seeing my mental illness as an enemy and learn more about it, which helped me continue to write and finish my book. I realized that writing was therapeutic for me in general; if I had racing thoughts or anxiety, I would write it down and feel much better.

I also write when I am feeling good. There is 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 started writing poems recently and they gave me great comfort. I feel lucky that my job on the marketing team at Hertfordshire Mind Network involves writing, too. Working for a mental health charity also does wonders for my well-being and has given me an enormous sense of fulfillment.

My book, which came out in March of 2023, is titled “Befriending My Brain” — a phrase that perfectly sums up my journey. I have discovered so much about the power of the mind and continue to be curious about mental well-being. 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 befriend it, too.


NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).