The patient/doctor relationship has to be one of honesty and insight. I have to be honest with my doctors and tell them what is going on. If I am honest, I have nothing to hide. I know my doctors are here to help me and not to hurt me, so being honest with them about what is going on in my life, as well as what symptoms I am experiencing, will help both of us to do a better job.

I have confidence in my doctors’ ability to both diagnose and treat my severe mental illness. They have vast experience and knowledge in the treatment of schizophrenia. When I was first diagnosed I began to do online research myself to learn about my illness. One of the things I learned was that many other people have the same diagnosis as me, and I could learn from their experiences too.

My doctors have worked with me during a trial and error period of learning which medications could most effectively treat my schizoaffective disorder. I have been on several medications. I know my doctors do not want me on a dosage that is too high. In my attempt to help them understand my symptoms and prescribe the correct medication, I regularly write down my symptoms in a journal which they use to treat my illness in the best way. There have been instances when I did, in fact, feel I needed a change in my medication. My doctor listened, which a good doctor will do, and my dosage was changed.

A few years ago one of my doctors gained access for me into a national study of an older antipsychotic medication. It took awhile to get use to this new medication, but once it started working, it has been a game changer for me. This medication requires that I get monthly lab work done, but this can be accomplished when I am seeing my doctors for regular monthly visits.

On my current medication most of my days are symptom free. My psychiatrist, however, brought it to my attention that some of my medications could have a side effect that may cause me to gain weight. In an effort to combat weight gain, I exercise regularly and try to watch my food intake. I try not to snack at night, and I eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Early in my treatment for schizoaffective disorder, one of my doctors prescribed a once monthly injectable. However, at that point I was in denial about my alcohol use which was a very unhealthy routine, making my injectable ineffective. After I gave up alcohol in all forms, I asked to be put back on the once monthly injectable because of the convenience of not having to take a pill every day. Starting back on the injectable was one of the best things I could have done for myself. The once a month injectable has not only made most of my symptoms disappear, but it has made me more sociable and less of a recluse.

I considered it a compliment when one day my psychiatrist told me that I understand my schizophrenia better then most of her other patients. Her comment was an important stage in my recovery. It made me realize I am managing my symptoms well, and that has contributed to my overall well being.

Sessions with my psychologist have helped me to learn more about my diagnosis. For example, once when I was describing a voice I frequently hear, my psychologist told me this type of annoying voice was called a commentary voice. Based on what I had experienced, this made perfect sense to me. It blew my mind there was a word for what I was hearing, and that others had the same symptom.

During one therapy session, that same psychologist shared the diagnostics manual for mental illness with me. I saw the many symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. I learned that bipolar and schizophrenia can be very similar. Seeing my symptoms and diagnosis in print in this medical manual made me realize I am not alone, and it explained what I was hearing and seeing. There is a definitive description for what I am experiencing.

In the years since my initial diagnosis I have had one psychologist, but a multitude of psychiatrists. Most of them moved on to other positions at different hospitals. I begin each new relationship with an open mind understanding that I may have to repeat my medical history. I understand that because I am getting treatment at a veterans’ hospital these doctors see many patients every day. If I can help them to help me, then our relationship can move forward with trust, honesty, and expediency. I have been blessed that I have had good doctors in my mental health recovery. We are part of a team — each with an important role to play. If I will effectively do my part, together we can make the best decisions for my health.