Healing Schizoaffective: A Firsthand Look at the Illness and How I Beat It!

Healing Schizoaffective: A Firsthand Look at the Illness and How I Beat It!

by Joshua Alexander

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504353649
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 05/04/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 84
File size: 548 KB

About the Author

Joshua Alexander is a Cornell graduate who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and spent 10 years battling the illness, being hospitalized, and at one point living in a group home for the mentally ill. Eventually, with the help of a homeopathic doctor, he was able to heal from the illness for good, go back to work full time, get married and buy a home, and is now living a normal life.

Read an Excerpt

Healing Schizoaffective

A Firsthand Look at the Illness and How I Beat It!

By Joshua Alexander

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2016 Joshua Alexander
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-5363-2


Section 1

Getting Sick

Onset of My First Symptoms

During my last year of undergraduate school at Cornell University, I became a different person than I had ever been before. Cornell had been a nearly insurmountable challenge for me, and during the majority of it, I had fantasized about dropping out and sailing around the world, taking a motorcycle trip to South America, opening an avocado farm, or undertaking some other wild and free adventure. The first semester of my senior year, I studied abroad in Argentina. I lived with a host family, attended the local university, had an Argentinean girlfriend, and traveled to Chile and Uruguay. People say that traveling can expand your worldview or cause culture shock, but I didn't really believe it or understand it until I experienced it for myself.

My semester in Argentina opened my eyes to a whole different world. It expanded me in ways that I had never known were possible, and I grew as a human being. Upon returning to Cornell for my last semester that winter, I decided that I was going to live my best life. I was going to do something meaningful, something that I was passionate about. I was pretty burned out from school at that point, so I decided to take a year off after graduation, do some more traveling, and maybe teach yoga and meditation. Little did I know that things don't always work out the way they are planned.

When I left home after high school, I was one type of person. I had been domesticated by my family, by the area of the world I grew up in, by my teachers, and by the environment around me. When I came home after college, I was a completely different person. I had grown in ways I could never have imagined. My worldview had expanded. I had known pleasures and pains that I had only read about in storybooks.

My childhood home and my family were exactly the same as they were when I left. The contrast and shock that I experienced when moving back home were almost unbearable. My parents were not in favor of me taking time off before getting a job or going to graduate school. Their belief systems were the same, in line with the way that I had thought before college — but not after. I felt misunderstood and controlled. I was angry, and needless to say, this created a lot of friction between me and my family.

As part of my desire to "live meaningfully," I had adopted a vegan diet the month before graduation. That was also something that my parents disagreed with. The more they tried to control my diet, the more I clung to it. I needed to be free, to be my own person. My plan was to work and save up enough money to travel somewhere, practice yoga, and follow my passion. That summer, I got a job as a waiter at a fancy restaurant and as a filing clerk at a law firm during the day. All would have been well, except that I didn't feel well. I was absolutely exhausted, and I felt a terrible weight in my being. Everything was an effort. I attributed this to my burnout from Cornell, but people told me it shouldn't take that long to recover. As far as I was concerned, it could have taken five years to recover. I felt that I needed rest and healing on a deep level.

During that time, I started to let my mind wander into expansive thoughts about life, the universe, and the nature of reality. Some days I would lie on my bedroom floor and stare up at the ceiling for hours. Somehow my desire for freedom turned into a feeling of powerlessness, of being trapped. I felt like I didn't have the energy to fulfill my dreams. I was losing weight from my overly-restrictive diet and from the stress and conflict I was under — and the isolation. I was fighting with my family, and I was spiraling downward.

That fall of 2002, during a weeklong volunteer stay at a retreat center, things turned for the worse. I was having trouble sleeping, and I started to feel things that weren't normal. One night I felt like my body was becoming permeable to my surroundings, as if there were no boundary between me and the outside world. (Just to note, I was not doing drugs at this time. I had only smoked marijuana about eighteen times during my freshman year in college, which was nearly three and a half years prior to this point.)

I got up and stared at myself in the mirror. I felt as if a wind were blowing across and through my body. I began breathing rapidly through sheer panic. My thoughts were running wild. I would calm myself down and slow my breathing to a point where I felt okay, but then the panic would return and I would be almost hyperventilating. This happened a couple of times — my breathing speeding up and then slowing down — and I thought, I am CheyneStoking. I had once seen someone do that on their death bed before dying. At that point, I just lost it.

A Taste of People Looking at Me Differently

The next day I was in a complete daze. I was so unpresent and ungrounded that I missed a scheduled meal. I began to feel even more ungrounded, so I went to the kitchen and asked for some food. The kitchen staff was kind of rude to me, saying that I had to eat during mealtimes, and I just burst into tears. The woman from the kitchen then brought me a peanut butter sandwich, which I began eating, but at that point I just started to move into panic again.

I tried to find the volunteer program coordinator for help, but when I found her she just said, "You'd better be careful. They locked my family member up and they threw away the key. You'd better get help." I felt hurt by this and struck by fear. I had been talking to another volunteer that week about how I felt I couldn't "bridge the gap" between where I was in my life and where I wanted to be, and she had responded with, "Did you ever think that you may have a mental illness?" That deeply angered me, because I had felt pretty normal (aside from the fatigue and low energy) up until that point.

I talked to the volunteer program coordinator again, and we decided it would be best if I shortened my stay, so I left the week-long volunteer stint about two days early. This was the first time I had bailed out on a commitment in my life, but it would not be the last. Unfortunately, this would become a pattern for me over the next decade. When I got home, I agreed to talk to a therapist.

My dad set me up with a therapist who I thought would understand me, because she was a little more progressive. She was into health food and spirituality. I met with her a few times, but it didn't really seem to be helping. I decided to stop seeing her and handle my struggles on my own. Around that time, the friction at home had been increasing, and I was not getting along with my mother. I had lost a lot of weight, and she was worried about me.

I had been blaming my parents for trying to control me and not letting me be me. My mother came up to me one day and said, "You have a mental illness." I was so infuriated that I lost control. I shoved her and started screaming, "F-ck you! F-ck you!" over and over again right in her face at the top of my lungs. She started smashing me in the face with her palms and screaming at me over and over again.

Thankfully, someone started knocking at the front door, which was enough to end the incident. I immediately went to my room and started packing my things. I had this really cool Jeep Cherokee at the time, and I loaded it up and started driving to Ithaca, New York, where I had gone to college. I really liked that town and didn't feel that I had enjoyed it while I was there, since I had spent most of my time in one of the nine college libraries on campus. On the drive there, I called a friend who had gone to Cornell with me and whose family lived in Ithaca, and he let me stay on his sofa that night.

The next day I started out building a life for myself, or so I had planned. Ironically, at that time, I wanted to get involved in helping people with mental illnesses, even though it would be a decade before I was well enough to take care of myself. I applied for a position with AmeriCorps at the local mental health organization. It was like a volunteer position, but I would get a stipend to cover my living expenses.

I was also trying to get involved in the local community. I remember searching, walking around town, and looking up online groups or organizations that I could be a part of. I even talked to random people on the street a couple of times. It seemed that as hard as I tried, I could not form any connections or relationships. I believe that my desperation was part of the problem. People don't like forming connections with others who have "needy energy." It began to look as if my plan to build a new life for myself in Ithaca was turning into a complete failure.

The Hospital Visit from Hell

Additionally, my symptoms were worsening. One morning I walked downtown to go to a coffee shop. It was wet out from raining overnight, and I was walking through the grass in a town park. It felt as if my body was permeable to the outside world again, like the environment was going right through me. The grass was wet, and I thought I could feel the water moving right through my feet. These experiences were quite scary and caused me to feel panicked. I'm not sure how long after that I was having intense burning in my stomach from the anxiety.

One evening it was getting so bad that I drove to the grocery store to try to find something that would help me. For some reason I thought that drinking milk would help. I thought that it was a base and that it would counteract the acid in my stomach. I went into the grocery store and grabbed a carton of milk off the shelf, and my stomach was burning so badly that I just opened it right there in the store and took a swig. I immediately vomited right on the floor in the aisle. At that point I was losing control, so I rapidly walked up to the payphone at the front of the store (they still had those in 2003) and called 911. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital.

The panic and anxiety was literally so bad that I lost consciousness in the ambulance on the way to the hospital (either that or I was given a sedative). The last thing I remember was my arm hanging limp and bending over the sidebar of the stretcher as the EMT put a needle into it. I awoke to the sound of a nurse trying to get an elderly woman to take a drink in a neighboring room. The nurse kept saying "swallow" over and over again slowly in this creepy way, and I could hear the choking and gurgling sound of the patient. It was really freaky. Everything seemed as if it were a dream, happening slowly and deliberately, and in a scary way.

When it was my turn, the nurse came to the side of my bed. She looked pale and pasty like a ghost, and I had a thought that she was dead or something. She began injecting something into the IV in my arm, and whatever substance was coming in through the tube was burning my arm badly. I had remembered someone saying that you're not supposed to put an IV into an artery, and I wondered if that was the case then. I told the nurse that it was burning, but she didn't do anything about it. I remember feeling scared, helpless, and alone, as though the people around me didn't see me and weren't conscious or considerate of my feelings. I felt so physically ill that I asked the nurse if she thought I had cancer. She just shrugged it off, as if I were crazy.

When the nurse left, the IV was burning so badly, and I was so scared that I began calling for her. I yelled "Nurse! Nurse!" a few times, but no one came. At that point, I pulled the IV out of my arm, and blood and fluid spurted out onto the floor. I squeezed the clamp on the tube of the IV to stop the flow of liquid, and headed out of the room to a bathroom to clean up my arm. I threw up again onto the floor at the entrance of the bathroom, partly from the burning in my stomach and partly from the extreme anxiety of the experience.

Someone came and escorted me back to my room, and when the doctor came in to talk to me, he was even scarier than the nurse. He looked like he hadn't slept in days, had bags under his eyes, and his eyes kind of rolled back and to the side of his head when he talked. He looked like a zombie, or at least like he was on some of the drugs he was prescribing. Again, it was like he didn't even see me and was just saying things he had memorized, or like he was reciting from a book.

He told me that there was blood in my vomit. I said, "No there's not. It's brown," and it seemed to anger him that I had questioned his authority. With an irritated tone, he repeated, "Yes, there is. There's a discoloration." He started to put on latex gloves and said that he had to do a rectal exam to see if there was blood in my stool. That didn't seem like a normal thing to do to me, and my panic increased a few notches. I told him that I didn't consent to that, and I was relieved that he didn't push the issue. When he left the room, I was in absolute terror. I didn't feel safe in the hands of these people, and I didn't trust them.

The next person who came to see me was a representative from the local mental health authority. When she talked to me, I got the feeling that she was mentally unstable, and the fact that she was questioning my mental health really topped off the terror I was feeling. I quickly walked down the hall to the nurses' station and found the doctor sitting there. I asked him if I could leave. He snapped, "We were here for you. Now you wait for us." I couldn't believe that he was actually unaware of how much pain I was feeling. I felt like I could burst into tears.

He wrote a prescription for who knows what and handed it to me. I walked toward the exit, dropping the prescription into the trash can as I left. Now, the hospital was a few miles from town, and my car was still back at the grocery store on the opposite side of town, where I had been picked up by the ambulance. It was very early in the morning, and not knowing what to do, I started walking down the road.

I remember feeling so weak, sick to my stomach, and physically ill that I didn't know how I would make the walk. My intense fear was the only thing keeping me going at that point. I was about halfway to town when a police cruiser pulled up beside me. Thankfully, he told me he would give me a lift and drove me back to the center of town. I was still a few miles away from my car, so I just walked back to my apartment and curled up in bed.

Back to the Nest

At this point, while I didn't think that I had a mental illness, I knew that I was not okay. I did what most people do in that situation: I called my parents. It's funny how we get angry at them and blame them for anything and everything, but they are the first people we call when we are in real trouble. I called my father (who has bailed me out of trouble more times than I can count), and he literally dropped everything and started the five-hour drive to Ithaca to pick me up. He picked me up and took me back to Connecticut. His girlfriend was kind enough to let me move in with them at her house.

I had lost a lot of weight at this point because I was restricting what I was eating due to the fact that I could "feel" the energy of my food. My mood would shift dramatically based on what I ate, so I was being very rigid about food and being overly selective about it. I remember conflict at the dinner table created by my selectivity around food. This loss of weight was likely not helping my physical or mental state.

My father decided to schedule an appointment for me with a general practitioner. When we got to the doctor's office for my appointment, the office staff looked extremely unhealthy, and I had that same fearful feeling that I had gotten at the hospital in Ithaca. The staff looked either morbidly obese or sickly thin. They were pale and pasty, and I questioned if they were alive. The doctor was more of the thin type, but I could tell that she was kind and really cared. She did an exam and then told me that I may need antidepressants.


Excerpted from Healing Schizoaffective by Joshua Alexander. Copyright © 2016 Joshua Alexander. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction, ix,
Poems (2001), xiii,
Photo 1, xv,
Section 1: Getting Sick, 1,
Onset of My First Symptoms, 1,
A Taste of People Looking at Me Differently, 4,
The Hospital Visit from Hell, 6,
Back to the Nest, 10,
First Inpatient Stay, 12,
Poems (2002 – 2003), 15,
Photo 2, 18,
Section 2: A Decade with Mental Illness, Part 1, 19,
The Long and Winding Road, 19,
My First Relapse, 22,
Rebuilding My Life Again, 27,
Poems (2008), 32,
Photo 3, 35,
Section 3: A Decade with Mental Illness, Part II, 36,
Back in CT Again and the Start of Something Great, 36,
My Second Relapse, 39,
Dating my Future Wife, 42,
Finding Healing: Homeopathy, 45,
Photo 4, 49,
Section 4: Universal Principles for Healing, 50,
How Did I Heal?, 50,
100 Percent Accountability and Free Will, 51,
Faith in an Infinite, Loving Creator, 53,
Healing is Possible, 55,
The Transformative Power of Meditation, 58,
A Good Life with Purpose, 59,
Section 5: Ten Spiritual Survival Tips to Overcome Mental Illness, 62,
Conclusion, 65,

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