CureTalk Interview With Dan Hoeweler: Schizoaffective Disorder Survivor, Writer, and Poet
Dan Hoeweler suffers from schizoaffective disorder and is author of Creative Schizophrenia Blog. He hopes to help others through his blogs and create understanding of schizophrenia, ‘the most stigmatized, and misunderstood of all mental illnesses’. Dan is a writer and uses his illness in a positive way. Dan writes for street papers, literary journals, and horror magazines. His talent is not restricted to blogs or journals, he also writes poetry. You can learn more about Dan on his website, The Schizophrenic Writer.
CureTalk had the opportunity to interview Dan and gain some knowledge about how Dan manages to live a normal life with his disorder. Read on for interesting insights into the mind of a person who recognizes his illness and fights it successfully. Dan is an inspiration to those who suffer from schizoaffective disorder and as a treat for our readers; he recites one of his poems for us.
Me: As a person who has won the war against Schizophrenia, can you tell our readers what you went through in your initial phases of the disorder and how you manage them now?
Dan: In the beginning, I became obsessive about the idea of a former friend plotting against me. This was the initial idea which drove me into deeper layers of psychosis where I was transplanted into an imaginary world filled with CIA agents, aliens and hidden cameras.
I manage my schizoaffective symptoms primarily through a finely tuned cocktail of medication, the treatment of a sleep disorder and lifestyle changes. Though I manage my symptoms well, I realize that it is an ongoing battle and not something that I will ever completely eradicate.
Me: Has the disorder made a marked difference in your direction or outlook towards life?
Dan: After successful treatment, I felt that I was reborn, and given a second chance. This is a gift that few people receive, and I try to use it as best I can. Through my illness, I was introduced to human fragility and mortality, which gave me a different perspective on life. In my sickness, there were so many things I regretted not having done. I was finally able to truly see what was important to me, but didn’t have the ability to do anything about it. Now that I am more capable, I am able to paint over my regrets with experiences.
Me: Your blog talks very rationally about psychiatry emerging the winner against Stigma associated with Schizophrenia. Where does your belief emanate from?
Dan: I believe Psychiatry is still in its infancy, and will one day will be better able to navigate the complexities of the human brain. The negative behavior associated with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder is more associated with living in a false world, rather than premeditated rational choice. When the disease itself is removed and sufferers are transplanted back into reality, the public will see people with as much empathy, ethics, and sense of morality as anyone else. Only then will the disease be seen for what it truly is.
Me: You advocate treatment for schizoaffective disorder as a means of separating the disorder from Self and thereby managing it. I should say it is incredible that you have such clear understanding about the disorder. What is your advice for our readers who may be suffering from schizoaffective disorder?
Dan: I see schizoaffective disorder as something foreign that is attached to me, and needs to be treated in order to become my true self again. It is not a part of who I am, even though it affects many aspects of my life. If you give in and accept it as part of who you are, then it will be nearly impossible to seek treatment and fight it. Eventually you will find yourself winding down the dreary road to psychosis.
Me: What is your opinion about working with schizophrenia and what kind of work would you advice?
Dan: I think it depends on the individual, where they are in their illness, and how they define “success.” I work jobs that are low stress and allow me a certain level of freedom with my time. Right now, I write for magazines, renovate houses, and rent them out, which fulfills all of these criteria. For other people the answer may be very different.
Me: What are the three most important things that you feel a person with schizoaffective disorder needs to cope and survive the disorder?
Dan: For me the first step was to actively seek quality medical treatment from a good doctor. Even now, without the medication I would seep back into a psychotic state very quickly. I would also recommend being very honest and specific about any difficulties, you might be having with your symptoms or medication. It is important to arm your physician with quality information, so they can make good choices regarding your treatment.
I’ve also found sobriety from all substances to be beneficial, as tampering with an already fragile brain can prove to be disastrous. The medications also seem to work better for me if they aren’t mixed with other substances. Unfortunately, substance abuse is an all too common problem for people with schizoaffective disorder.
The final stages of my treatment have to do with living a healthy active lifestyle. If I sit on the couch all day and feel sorry for myself, then it will be much more difficult to mentally improve. This is why I incorporate exercise, hobbies, and quality friendships into my treatment plan. Living a well-balanced life, will make you more balanced.
Me: What in your view are the major obstacles or hurdles that people with schizoaffective disorder face in leading a normal life in the society today?
Dan: Though the treatments for Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder are rapidly improving, access to treatment can still be a problem for many people. Someday the system will catch up to the technology, but that may only occur after the public treats schizophrenia as a treatable disease. We may be wounded, but we are not inherently evil like some people believe.
Me: I heard your very moving poem (Blast Off To Madness) in your blog titled, ‘Winning the War Against the Stigma of Schizophrenia’. Would you recite the poem for our readers?
I thank Dan for his time and his wise words.