Ocoee High graduate shares struggle with bipolar schizophrenia

people-in-the-news
We were starting to learn about rates of reactions when, what I like to call “bipolar schizophrenia fun time,” started to kick in.

Orange Observer | by: Guest Writer | June 26, 2020

By Nathaniel Melendez
Ocoee High School Class of 2020

A disclaimer: To preserve the observation of a schizoaffective mind in its natural condition, I am well aware there may be discrepancies or large shifts of thought in my writing. This is all preserved to open my world to you, the reader. 

Throughout my schooling experience, I was not much of a talker. I want to reflect my personality here. Twelfth grade, AP Chemistry, fourth period. We were starting to learn about rates of reactions when, what I like to call “bipolar schizophrenia fun time,” started to kick in. All I started hearing were demonic screeching and large shadowy figures bearing down on me. I threw my backpack across the classroom. Surprisingly, no one paid much mind. 

I had to get out of there. I darted out of the room and made my way toward the main entrance. I turned around. All that negative energy was still emulating from that one room but never following me. In my very disorganized schizophrenic brain, I decided to sneak out of school. So I did. Straight through the administration building right in front of the principal. It worked. 

I thought I was in the clear until I heard a golf cart with the SAFE coordinator shouting my name. I stopped and approached her, telling her what was going on shakedly and in astronomical fear. 

This example was one of my very unique experiences in high school dealing with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenic symptoms with some sort of mood disorder. For me, it was bipolar disorder, a range of mood swings and ups and downs from manic to depressive. So I excelled academically in school, graduated top five in my class and all. I’m not much of a bragger, but when I do, I want to savor it. 

So anyway, let’s take a look at how I dealt with the schizophrenic side of things. Hallucinations, both visual and auditory, made it very hard to concentrate. Sometimes, my brain would paint the most beautiful picture of the Swiss Alps, or it would randomly decide to start chanting suicidal ideations from what I believe are demons. 

Delusions concerned both my colleagues, teachers and even myself. Sometimes I would believe I was a prodigy and attempt to answer everything so rigorously and grandiose, which annoyed many of my colleagues, even my dearest friends. 

Now on the bipolar side. Manic episodes launched me into the sun with ideas and racing thoughts — all with maximum energy and irrational motivation. Sometimes, I purposely stopped taking my medication to become manic to get a project done. Hell, I’m doing that for this very story (don’t tell my psychiatrist or parents). But, oh boy, those manic episodes could become dangerous. Periods of rapid processing in AP Calculus BC in 11th grade proved this, along with serious overanalyzing and irrationality in my Student Government class in both 11th and 12th grade. 

Now with depressive episodes — this one’s simple. I just did not do work or participate in anything, barely coming to school. 

Now how was I able to get good grades, you might ask? Well, the damn manic episodes. Yes, I was generally a high-functioning person when stable, but that was very rare during my tumultuous tenure in high school. 

I had symptoms of bipolar in high school, but I wasn’t formally diagnosed until 12th grade. The same goes for combining this diagnosis into schizoaffective. Twelfth grade was basically the year where everything worsened. However, I stayed resilient. I had to drop several of my dual enrollment and AP classes just to get a grip on life. I was in and out of psychiatric facilities. I had to purposefully drop my former No. 1 ranking in my class to care for my health. I was tired. Tired of all of it. 

Until I met certain people and teachers who could support me along my journey and do everything I need to be successful. They made the largest difference in my life — from me killing myself from my spiraling mental health. Thank you to this one girl in my AP Chemistry class, whose name I will not mention, for rationalizing with me and preventing me from killing myself. Thank you to my counselors and my teachers for being flexible with me and understanding that … it is OK. It will be OK. Everything will be OK. This is how I believe I will become schizoEffective in my late high school and future journeys.