Several years ago I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. There's a lot of theories about what causes it. Some think it is psychological, while others think it has to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. It occurs to me that I've never taken the time to write out what it is like to have schizoaffective disorder. What follows is a series of experiences I have had with psychotic breaks. I'm not doing this to elicit sympathy or pity from anyone, but simply to put the experiences down so I have a record of them.
I would think that God, angels, demons, spirits, extraterrestrials or other people could communicate with me in my head. The first time I remember this happening, I was in the parking lot of a grocery store and I thought I had "broken through" into a secret area of heaven. I had what I thought was a conversation with angels who asked me a series of questions. One question I remember in particular was "what is a matrix?" This was many years before the movie The Matrix came out, and when I actually saw the movie, it triggered a remembrance of that long-ago conversation, and precipitated another psychotic breakdown.
I would often think that the television or the radio were sending coded messages to me. For example, my dad was a major fan of the original Star Trek series. Years later I developed a fixation on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I believed held coded messages specifically for me, and that the original series had coded messages for my father.
I often thought that other people were sending coded messages to me through hand gestures or some other body movement. I would also think that if a loud car or motorcycle went by me that it indicated that everyone around me was angry at me, and the the loud motors were "growling" at me. I thought there was some kind of hidden purpose in traffic patterns. For example, if a car went by me to the left, I would think it meant I was supposed to go left. If a car went by me on the right, I would think it meant I was supposed to go right.
Most of the psychotic delusions occurred during periods of intense religiosity. Curiously enough, when I wasn't particularly interested in religion or when I outright disbelieved in God, I never seemed to suffer from any of these symptoms. My mother was of the opinion that it meant that the devil was trying to destroy my mind. And for a long time I actually believed that too.
One of the earliest memories I have of a psychotic break occurred when I was living with my best friend and his wife. I was extremely agitated and confused that day, and I think I was challenging God to reveal himself to me. I don't know what led me to do this, but I decided I would try an experiment. I took a bowl and filled it up with water. I then poured the water all over myself in my bedroom. After that I took a wire hanger, straightened out the hook, and stuck it into an electric wall socket. I received no shock. Since I didn't die from doing this, I became convinced I was immortal. I opened up the window to my bedroom and pushed the screen out. I then jumped out of the window. Since I only lived on the second story, I was not seriously hurt. In fact, I landed on my feet. For a long time after this, I was convinced I was immortal somehow.
A lot of the religious delusion revolved around what I felt was my place in a "spiritual war." I was convinced that I was a "warrior" of some kind for God. This particular delusion was coincidentally reinforced by a Pentecostal "prophet" who delivered a prophecy over me that also stated I was going to be a great "spiritual warrior" and that I would be a "father in the house of God."
Because I have tinnitus, I often experience a persistent ringing in my ears. I would sometimes interpret these ringings as angels trying to guide me on the right way. If I was thinking something, and my left ear would ring, I would interpret that to mean that I was on the wrong track. If I was thinking something and my right ear would start ringing, I would interpret that to mean I was on the right track.
Since I never knew who my real biological father was, I would sometimes become paranoid that I was the antichrist. I also thought at one point that my father was Lee Harvey Oswald. I thought I received a vision once of who my real biological father was while I was watching television. There was some golf professional playing on a beautiful green field, and I somehow 'knew' that this was my real father. I was happy that he was enjoying himself.
There were times when I was convinced that other people could 'hack into' my brain. I remember having a conversation with someone online, and I became paranoid that this person was trying to hack into my brain to either steal thoughts or give me a 'mind virus.'
I had several psychotic breaks while I was working as a software developer for a banking corporation. While I would try to concentrate on my work, sometimes the computer screen would seem to start glowing at me, and I was convinced that angels were trying to contact me over the Internet. Sometimes I would wander around inside the building and pictures on the wall would start glowing too. I had the peculiar idea that I was actually the CEO of the company I worked for.
I also remember one time when I went downtown to a B. Dalton's bookstore. While I was in the store, everything started glowing. I walked around transfixed by this blinding light. I would think that the titles of the books were coded messages meant just for me.
Another time I was at the Universal Studios theme park and I had a psychotic break. I remember walking through a Dr. Seuss exhibit, and I was mesmerized by all of the pictures. I thought that I was somehow literally travelling through time and becoming part of a Dr. Seuss story, and that I would be loved by children for all eternity.
I remember thinking several times that electricity was intelligent, and that I could communicate with light bulbs.
I had the curious notion a few times that when I smoked a cigarette, I was inhaling "the sins of the world" and internally converting them from evil to good. I suppose I thought I was a Messiah with a Magic Marlboro.
There were, of course, many movies which I thought had coded references just for me, or that I was actually a character in a particular movie. The first time I remember this happening was when I was watching a movie called Stay Tuned, in which a television junkie is sucked into "Satan's Cable Channel" and has to match wits with demons in order to get back into the real world. Other movies in which I thought I was a character include The Truman Show, The Matrix, Fight Club, Legend, and Cool World. I'm sure there are more, but I can't remember them all offhand.
There was also the curious phenomena which I called "channeling." I would sit at the computer and I would suddenly become convinced that I was being 'invaded' by an entity of some sort. I would type whatever came to mind, thinking that this 'entity' was speaking through me. Later I would go back and read these things and naturally they didn't make very much sense.
I even thought I could channel the spirits of singers, living and dead. To my embarrassment, at one time I even thought I was channeling Dolly Parton. Yes, I can laugh at this now, along with just about everything else I've detailed, but at the time it was pretty sad.
I remember having a long 'conversation' one time with a tree. The tree would 'say' things such as "I am ancient and weary..." or "I am filled with the power of the earth..." I remember that there were ants and ladybugs crawling on me, and I went to brush them off, but the insects would beg me not to kill them because they had a right to live just as I did. I thought that the tree was magical like the 'One Tree' from a series of books by Stephen R. Donaldson. The series by Donaldson revolved around a leper with a magical ring made out of white gold. I actually had a white gold wedding band specially made when I was engaged to a girl named Michelle. I was convinced at one point that the ring was magical just like Thomas Covenant's ring (the character from the Stephen R. Donaldson series). Eventually I gave the ring to my best friend when he got engaged to his current wife.
I have very few examples of any of my writing that I did during psychotic breaks. I happened to come across an entry I posted online during a particularly bad break:
I saw this girl in the hospital, and she was full of Joy and Glory. I wonder if Lewis could have written a more Holy Story. she was a combination of all my favorite dreams, boy, and I tell you now that even jack doesn't know JACK sometimes about the Kennedy's and the tories and the wigs. let's all get out of this place a little while and refoect that not everything Jack knew was straight from the heart.
I have deleted most of the other examples of writing that I've done, mainly out of sheer embarrassment.
The very first time I ever experienced a psychotic break, I had just 'recommitted' my life to God. I had challenged 'the devil' to an all-out battle. Curiously enough, I wrote a poem during that psychotic break that actually does seem to be quite coherent, if a little sing-songish:
Knight of Faith
All my life I've wanted
Just to be a noble Knight;
To serve a perfect purpose
And to fight a winning fight.
So I tried to find my purpose,
And I searched within my soul--
But tho I did not understand it
I knew I wasn't whole.
I found through introspection,
Through my searching deep within,
That I could not tame my nature
Being bested by my Sin
For my soul was dark and selfish
And I gave it up for dead
'Til one day I found a Bible
And examin'd what it said...
Then I was gripp'd by firm conviction
I was wrong and it was right!
And I knew if there was Darkness
That there also must be Light.
Then my heart began to tremble
And my bones began to sing--
For there, between the pages,
I had found my rightful king!
And I found to my amazement
That my Bible was a sword
If I only swore allegiance
To Christ, the Living Lord.
Now I'm in his noble service,
My perfect purpose in my sight--
And I thank my God Almighty
I'm a servant of the Light!