Life changing

Last semester in Cairo was a bit of a disaster. Along with schizoaffective disorder I have a particularly awful case of OCD. I was constantly afraid that I would get rabies from one of the stray dogs or cats. To the point where I barely left the house. It was terrible and I was really lonely and miserable. Towards the end my psychotic symptoms returned and I had to go back to the US early and be hospitalized.

Somehow, however, I’m feeling much better now. I can even walk past feral dogs without having a panic attack. I have more friends and have found some great tutors to help me along in Arabic. I’m a different person entirely. No psychosis and no mood symptoms to report. My life is finally changing for the better.

My goal is to keep this blog better updated this year. If anyone has suggestions for topics to blog about, please let me know!

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Cairo

It’s been ages since I’ve updated, sorry! I think last time I posted I was starting to get unwell. I ended up in hospital, twice, with acute psychosis. Then less than a month later I boarded a plane headed for Cairo.

I’m in Cairo this year studying Arabic. The program is hard. But with the help of disability accomodations, I’m getting things done. I just need to maintain my lifestyle: sleep, food, meds.

I had a bit of a lithium scare over the past month. The amount I was taking was too high for the grueling Cairene sun and it became toxic. I had trouble walking up and down stairs. My vision was blurry. I became disorientated at times. Fortunately my Egypt psychiatrist figured this out and dropped my lithium dose by half. Now I’m doing much better, thankfully!

There is more to say but I’m going to save it for another time. Hope all is well with you all!

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Unwell

I’m not doing very well. I’m having early signs of psychosis, particularly thinking that my universe is a parallel reality. I’m seeing “signs” meant only for me. I keep thinking people are out to get me or are agents of some kind.

I’m going to try to survive another day, but if this continues I need to reach out to my doctors before this gets really out of control. Wish me luck.

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I need help after all

I have officially started my yearlong odyssey into Arabic. I’ve been participating in an intensive summer program, where we pledge to speak only in Arabic the whole time. It’s exhausting!

I thought I could manage without accomodations, but I was wrong. The sleeplessness started, along with the exhaustion and symptoms. With much urging by the counselor here on campus, I finally spoke to the head of the program and my teachers. They agreed to give me more flexibility in turning in assignments. I’m waiting on an official disability letter too.

It’s only been two weeks, but already I’m really struggling. I’ve had some mood and psychotic symptoms. I hope my meds will squash them as I start getting better sleep. Wish me luck, all!

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A little triumph

I recently went through a minor schizoaffective episode, characterized by mild psychosis and irritability. Essentially I was having lots of auditory hallucinations, and I was interpreting the voices in my head as people hacking into my mind. I heard voices in Russian and Spanish, in addition to English. The barrage of voices left me very irritable, and I did stupid things like driving recklessly, almost to the point of getting into an accident.

The triumph is that I managed to get through this without needing hospital. I relied instead on therapy and a small medication change. The voices are greatly reduced now and the paranoia is totally gone. I feel so much better!

This gives me more confidence that I’ll be able to handle episodes when I’m abroad in Cairo next year. If I can monitor my own symptoms and reach out to my doctor, I should be okay.

It has been about 2.5 months since my last hospitalization, and counting. I’m finally getting my life back.

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Living with stigma

Things are never simple with bipolar/schizoaffective disorder. My current struggle is filling out the paperwork necessary for me to study in Cairo. I need to have my psychiatrist and a general practitioner fill out health clearance forms. These forms don’t hold much back. I have to explain my mental health history, not in huge detail, but enough that they know what’s going on.

I’m so nervous that they’ll decide I can’t go. Everyone around me keeps saying it will be fine. They legally can’t discriminate against me because of my mental health condition. But isn’t it sad that I’m so afraid to reveal it to anyone? Mental illnesses should be like any other conditions. Diabetes, asthma, food allergies. Yet I fear the stigma. I wish I were brave and stood up more for mental health. Maybe I will one day, once I have tenure. Until then, I have to live with the fear.

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Some exciting updates!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I found out that I got a fellowship to study Arabic in Cairo next year for nine months. It’s a well known and prestigious program and I’m completely blown away that I was chosen. I’ve accepted the offer and am now trying to figure out how to deal with mental illness while living in Cairo. There is so much to worry about, but the biggest one is medication. How to get meds and what to do if I need tweaking. From talking to people who’ve spent time in Cairo, it seems relying on local pharmacies for medications isn’t the best plan.

On top of that fellowship, I received another fellowship to study Arabic this summer, but this time in California. I’m thinking of it as a little stepping stone for the year-long program.

As I figure out how to make my life work in Cairo, I’ll definitely update and let you all know! But for now, I’m just going to be excited!

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