Most of my life has been spent in varying degrees of chaos. Even when external elements are calm, the inner landscape of my mind is at war. You see, I have Schizoaffective Disorder. By definition, “Schizoaffective Disorder is a combination of symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder.” Just like anyone else, I have good days and bad days. I struggle through whatever comes each day. I was diagnosed in 2003, a year after the death of my father. Losing my father sent me into a spiral of grief that was almost insurmountable. I spent a full year in a psychotic daze. In that false reality, my dad was alive and came to me daily. He talked with me. He sat with me, just being present. He took me to places in his past and showed me things that weren't real. I called these times “dreams” but actually, they were visions of a grieving mind where a little girl pretended her father was still alive, and she was still safe, and the world was still manageable. After a year, I was unable to tell which of my worlds was real. I was hospitalized, diagnosed, medicated, and then sent home to learn to live with a new “normal.” I have experienced severe depression and anxiety attacks since childhood. At age 60, I am still receiving treatment for depression and mostly stable emotionally and mentally, despite my diagnosis. Despite the fact that my illness is ongoing, I want to make it very clear that Schizoaffective Disorder does not define me. I am a human being like any other. I laugh, cry, love those around me, and carry on living the best I can. What does define me is that I am a woman of faith and a Bible-believing child of the living God!
Each human will have their own difficult roads to traverse. Each one will be tested and tried and challenged according to God's will. One of my challenges just happens to be a mental illness. It affects me almost daily, but it does NOT defeat me. It has not caused me to lie down or give up. Why? Because God the Father has me in His hand. His love heals my chaotic emotions even though He allows this illness to be a part of my life. The more I am in God's presence, the more healing I feel. He has me. I have Him and no matter what might come tomorrow, His love will see me through. Living with an illness like mine can be challenging. Over the years, I have been hospitalized several times. I have been on medication since my early 20s and receive treatment on a monthly basis. Some days the emotional anguish is unbearable. Some days, I pray for God to take me home. Some days I am not in a state adequately at peace to be around others. On those days I isolate myself and spend as much time as I need in prayer and meditation. God gave each of us a mind to find what works for us. Any obstacle, like a mental illness, can be worked around and beyond. First, I had to accept that the illness I am facing, is not going away. God can use hardship to accomplish His will for my life, though I may not see it or understand His purpose. After accepting what IS, I had to learn to trust that God loves me. He will walk through it with me, and He intends all things to work together for my ultimate good. He became to me the father I had lost. He was already my Father, as He is Father to all, but until my breakdown, I hadn't known that in my heart. I trust my Father to hold my hand through whatever life brings my way. He has already proven faithful to His promise.
Karen Butler Ogle