My illness is littered with what the doctors like to call uncommon traits, denoted intentionally as being “less than rare” but not unheard of for a diagnosis of schizophrenia, notably my age and the speed plus the severity of onset.
The age of onset for me was 37, which is not formally considered the “late onset” schizophrenia that occurs after the age of 40. Schizophrenia can occur at any age but there are two peaks for women: the late 20s and menopause in the late 40s. (Note, the age of onset is earlier for men and they don’t have a second peak.)
Signs and symptoms leading up to psychosis, referred to as the prodromal phase, can often be seen months or years in advance in most traditional cases. The symptoms I expressed prior to my psychotic break appeared approximately the week before and not previously in waves or in the traditional slow decline most commonly seen in schizophrenia.
Also, the severity in which psychosis struck me was notable. Now, some people get annoyed with the use of the word “struck,” claiming illnesses don’t actually “hit” people. I will tell you from personal experience, when the solidity of reality falls away overnight, it does feel as though you’ve been hit by an overwhelming and unimaginable force. I was instantly debilitated, unable even to read words.
Because of these two factors – my age and the severity of onset – I was given a positive prognosis for recovery. This seems counter-intuitive, but my recovery has been more than even I thought possible, though not less than I had hoped. I have returned to work and most of my faculties have returned to their near-previous states. What remains for me, the auditory hallucinations, seems insignificant to my psychiatrist now, who says what I experienced was not schizophrenia but a singular incidence of intense, long-term psychosis. Hence, I now have the diagnosis of Psychosis Not Otherwise Specified (NOS).