By John Wm. Dunn
My journey through schizoaffective disorder and the coping mechanisms I have developed over the years of my personal struggles have been marked by an exploration of my spirituality and a journey through my heart, mind, and soul. As a direct result of this journey, which has been guided by my higher power as I understand him, I have experienced a tremendous amount of wisdom and knowledge of myself, my higher power, and the relationship between us, as one of a mortal trying to understand its relationship to the divine—a lifelong journey that countless individuals attempt throughout their entire time in this creation. I have had the unique experience of knowing individuals who do not know or believe in a higher power or believe in several higher powers. Regardless of our core beliefs, we all have one thing in common; that is, a common belief in the goodness and virtue of life itself.
As an individual who has suffered a considerable amount of emotional trauma in my adolescent years (typically an emotionally volatile period of life), I have found this goodness and love—the most fundamental virtue of my relationship with my creator—in the early years of my childhood, which has paved the way for my personal recovery through mental illness and has revealed abundant avenues for immense personal growth. Along my journey, I have encountered a considerable number of mentally ill individuals who express an abundant amount of love and compassion along with the humility to share it selflessly with others. Directly resulting from this love, I have found the virtue of forgiveness which has been tremendously reinforced through my core beliefs. Fortunately, I have been able to release a considerable amount of the pain caused by this trauma through prayer and therapy. Once released from this trauma I found the freedom to experience the love of my higher power on a deeper level which has led to wisdom and knowledge on a theological level as well as justice and fairness for the vulnerable on a social level. These virtues of goodness, love, compassion, humility, selflessness, forgiveness, wisdom, knowledge, justice, and fairness have served as milestones in my journey through mental illness which I continue to struggle with; however, I now look forward to the journey ahead of me with hope and perseverance which are but two additional virtues which I have acquired and are essential to my recovery.
Throughout my struggles with a schizoaffective disorder, I have exhibited several cognitive distortions which have rendered me out of touch with reality—a condition which I share with several individuals. Currently, I am attempting to replace these distortions with the positive thinking patterns of my higher power attempting to imitate him in my inner life—a journey known as sanctification on the theological level, which will never be realized in this lifetime due to my mortal nature. However, in one of my recovery groups we often state that, “recovery is a journey, not a destination.” Presently, I would like to share some examples of these cognitive distortions such as all-or-nothing thinking and demonstrate how I have replaced them with the positive thinking patterns of my higher power, also known as virtues. I intend to accomplish this goal through the process of writing over the course of the next several months.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that although the growth facilitated by the grace of my higher power has enabled me to cope with my serious mental illness from a healthier perspective, it has not healed me. As a direct result of my psychotic break, I am forced to maintain a regimen of medications prescribed by a practicing professional which, although these medications have been drastically reduced to a more therapeutic level, I continue to practice this regimen to this day.
—written January 11, 2022
John began his journey over twenty-five years ago with a psychotic break in which he experienced several religious thoughts and delusions which were out of touch with reality or true spirituality. Throughout the years following his diagnosis as an adult who struggles with schizoaffective disorder, he has received formal education in religious studies and philosophy while praying and studying the “big picture” of mental illness and the “bigger questions” of life. Through his religious studies courses he received an understanding of his inner being which includes his diagnosis as well as the “big picture” of how he would feel if he were mentally and emotionally stable. Through his education in philosophy, he came to an understanding of how to reach this state through a logical approach to his therapy. It is his desire to share this journey which he will continue throughout the remainder of his mortal life with his audience.