Steve Colori has found that recovery is investing in your better self.
Overcoming schizoaffective disorder takes a strong work ethic.
For me, this started with putting myself in a situation where I was able to work on my issues, learn more about life, and grow as a person. At age 25 I was living at home in my parents’ basement while barely being able to speak a coherent sentence and experiencing psychotic symptoms from schizophrenia and emotional ones from bipolar disorder.
During my episodes, I was disciplined to a fault. I starved myself to a point where I weighed 125 lbs, I overworked my mind with too much reading, and I forced myself to exist on only 2-3 hours of sleep on nothing but a cold tile floor.
Recovery is a tireless battle which is fought throughout the course of every day for many years. To recover a person must put forth a lot of time and effort in the early going to create a brighter future in later years. I think it’s important to note I didn’t start with the majority of the tools and resources I’ve developed today but through hard work, I accrued those tools.
I progressed to a point where I had a job but I felt behind my peers and wanted to rush out of the house. I felt this would be a panacea but my folks informed me I wasn’t ready to move and thought it was best for me to stay at home. Living at home was helpful because it allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and recover from my ailment. I had the help of my parents for my basic needs. Without them, I don’t think I would’ve been able to fend for myself at that point in time.
I also had a secure living situation which provided me the peace of mind I needed to work on all the issues I had. For the course of the next three to four years, I was entrenched with symptoms and I moved from job to job until I finally figured out that heavily intellectual jobs are one of my major triggers. Once I knew this, I got a job at a butchery as a meat cutter.
Working out my mental health at work
Having a non-intellectual job was important in my recovery because it took a great deal of stress off my brain thus allowing me to reallocate my mental resources towards resolving mental health issues. This job also got me moving around on my feet and working with my hands which was great for my physical health. On top of this, I had a lot of difficulties socializing before working here and I was forced to be in social situations throughout the day. In some ways, it was a sink or swim situation socially and I sank several times but I got up from the bottom and figured out how to effectively socialize from being forced to do it every single day.
When I returned to manual labor I was hesitant to exert myself to my limits because I didn’t want to fall back into previous patterns of behavior where I had overworked myself to the brink of self-destruction. I slowly and continually increased my productivity until I reached a point where I was able to figure out my physical limitations. I learned when I push the limit it increases but I can only go so far. Learning how to read my physical energy levels was important because it was a skill I had completely lost during my episodes.
Learning about my limits
With therapy, it was also important for me to figure out what my mental and emotional thresholds were. I’m very metacognitive and I have extensive limits but a part of therapy was figuring out just how much I can really do before I need to take a break and/or call it quits for the day. The wheels are constantly turning so I always need something to think about and I’m a tireless worker but sometimes it can just be too much.
An important part of psychological work is assessing where my comfort zone is and determine how far I am willing to go outside of it to improve. At first, I wanted to just stay where I was and live out my days in the basement but then I realized I have to journey beyond where I am if I ever want a life worth while. This meant stepping outside of the confines I had put myself which were an attempt at guaranteeing myself security.
It took courage and still does to address bothersome issues but it’s a great type of courage to have. I’ve learned how to face adverse thoughts, feelings, and emotions and when to journey forward but also when I need to hit the brakes. I know the amount of mental and emotional duress I can undergo before I need to step away and just clear my mind for a few moments. Working on any issue always requires me to step outside of my comfort zone. However, the good thing is I’ve learned how and when to do it and I have the resources to work well when I am not within my most comfortable circumstances, which happens every single day.
Recovery and writing
It takes discipline to sit myself down in front of my notebook to write about tough issues and face demons. I know when I’m about to face something difficult because it’s palpable in my feelings, emotions, and it physically strains my mind at times. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve had a band stretched across my brain, to the place where parts of my brain physically hurt.
This is when I know I need to journey forward to resolve the issues. Tenacity drives me past these issues and has helped me recover from many disorders.
These are times where I have to tell myself to walk over to the notebook, pick up the pen, and keep thinking my way through and or around the issue. I might not drive home the final dagger immediately but I pick and scrap and take away from a demon until it’s whittled into something more manageable which I can face.
There have been many times where I’ve been thinking about one issue and an unexpected one arises from it. These are times I’ll note that issue and work on it at a later time. There are other moments where I know I’m outmatched and those are the issues I note and save for the doctors office. It also helps that I have a lot of fun activities I can do to help take my mind off issues for brief moments of relief when I need to just relax.
Recovery cannot happen in isolation
Through it all, I’ve learned that I have to do as much for myself as I possibly can and utilize my resources and help to the greatest extent possible. I’ve read a lot of existentialism, Buddhism, classics, and other great literature to build my resources. Reading good writing has been important for my recovery because it sharpened my mind to a point where I could work on issues and understand complex concepts and it also gave me invaluable wisdom and knowledge that I’ve utilized in addressing and working my way through issues.
For recovery to happen, it takes a great deal of motivation. There were many times I had poor self-esteem and the best thing I did was to motivate myself through helping others. When I couldn’t see myself becoming a writer I sponsored a child, which I still do to this day. I think it’s important to be motivated in recovery for my own interests but also other people’s interests as it gives me the motivation to fall back on to continue improving. If my self-esteem drops I have others but if I’m upset with others than I have myself.
Photo by Krists Luhaers