Stigma + Bipolar Disorder = Schizoaffective Disorder?
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Diagnosed Bipolar Disorder, it was changed to Schizoaffective Disorder after experiencing extreme Stigma  This has happened more than once. When when environment causing stigma went away, my diagnosis returned to Bipolar disorder.  Other aspects of Schizoaffective disorder appear stigma related.
 - by Michael Lake

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1. My first diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, 1992 (?)
2. My second diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, 1996
3. Can Stigma turn Bipolar Disorder into Schizoaffective Disorder?
4. Faith Lost - Stigma and the Church
 


1. My first diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, 1992 (?)

Around 1992, while being treated at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, I answered yes to questions like:

"do you feel that people are trying to control you"
"people are out to get you"
"you feel like you need to escape"
etc.
These answers in addition to my current diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder resulted in a new diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder.  They put me on Haldol.  They also wanted me to quit my job at a computer store and go into the hospital as a research subject.

I believe the real problem was increasing feelings of stigma, similar to what I experienced before leaving the army.  For the most part I had kept my mental illness a secret at the computer store.  However, doctor visits and symptoms at work kept it from being a secret.  This created enough friction make me feel like I had in the army.  (The owner was also ex-army, which was another reminder of my army experience.)

The VA psychiatrists never asked about my army experience or stigma.  It was assumed that my feelings were simply a side effect of my mental condition.

During the following year my diagnosis was returned to Bipolar Mood Disorder.  I also stopped taking Haldol because it was making me feel like I was drunk, but without any pleasant feelings.
 


2. My second diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, 1995

In the spring of 1995 I ended up in the hospital, and diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder again.  At first they put me on Haldol, but later changed it to Risperdal.  Haldol had been causing me problems again.  See the medical report va-98-text.pdf for more information.

I was feeling confused and worthless again.  It had a lot to do with issues in college.  The university system is not set up to deal with mental illness.  Instead of finding help or accommodation, it seemed that I was only getting a run around.  This later resulted in the letter in exhibit  exhibit-15.

This second diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder also seems to be driven by stigma and a situation similar to the army.  It was also treated as simply a mental illness.  Perhaps doctors do not want to waste their time sorting through confused thoughts to see if environment was an issue.
 


3. Can Stigma turn Bipolar Disorder into Schizoaffective Disorder?

Stigma was never mentioned in either the va-98-text.pdf medical report or the  va-award-mental-illness.pdf medical report.  If no one is looking for stigma, how would they know if it is an issue?  Just as I have written a lot for this website, I was more than willing to explain what was going on in my life.

Today I can understand how stigma had an effect on me at work and in college.  You can even see how stigma had an effect on some of my writing which was considered to show signs of Schizoaffective Disorder, as in  z-schizophrenia.pdf.

One problem with the Department of Veterans Affairs is that they seem more worried about money than treatment.  It must be cheaper to keep giving out drugs than it is to consider therapy.
 


4. Faith Lost - Stigma and the Church

I looked for help from the church during my second time with Schizoaffective Disorder (#2 above).  Here is what happened, and how it changed the nature of my faith:

Palm Sunday I stayed after church to ask the priest for his advice about my mental illness.  I was afraid to go up to him right away with everyone else around and I waited a little bit.  Unfortunately, he had to do something right away and I missed my best chance.  Someone said that he would be done in a little while, so I could wait and see him afterwards.

While I was waiting I looked around the church then went to look at the plants growing on the side.  Outside someone else came up and told me to leave.  I said that I was waiting to see the priest, and he said to go now or he will call the police!

The threat of calling the police really upset me.  Here I was in my moment of need, looking for support from my church, and being threatened with the police!

I angrily said that if I am to be damned, then I will be damned for the truth!

Upset, I walked to the public sidewalk up front.  I paced the sidewalk trying to calm down and make sense of what happened.  Then the Sylvania Police showed up and asked me what I was doing.  I told them what happened, and said that I was a member of the church and on a public sidewalk.  (What did I do that was wrong?)  The police asked me to work it out with the church and left me.

I left a dollar and some change behind the priests car, along with a note of giving to Caesar what is Caesar's.  (I felt that the church had ignored the compassion taught by Jesus.  This was at a time he was remembered for dying for the sake of compassion.)

My mother got me to go to the Easter Sunday service though I was afraid.  During the service the priest said something about tolerance for other people, which made me suspect that he knew something of what happened.  Still, it took a lot of strength to want to see him in the first place.  Now I felt like God was the only one that I could trust.

This event took place in 1995.  It was not until 2004 that I understood the stigma of mental illness.  Bigotry and hate surrounding religion is nothing new.  Most religions seem to promote compassion, but show bigotry and hate when desired.

Today I only go to church when I am invited by friends and family.  My faith in God has grown stronger despite my isolation from the church.  Would God create this universe because of compassion or simply to be worshiped?  I am not the first person to question the faith of the church.  I do not expect to burn in hell for trying to follow the example of Jesus.  Instead I have a greater understanding of his suffering from my own.

I may try writing to the new Pope to see if the church would like me back.
 
 

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