Defined Parameters

“You know how I don’t like to describe people or the things they do as evil? What she wrote was truly evil.”

That was how I described Amanda Lauren’s essay describing an ex-friend’s life with schizoaffective disorder and that friend’s death to my mother. I had already ranted to my father and complained on social media. I couldn’t tell my mom that this total stranger was happy her mentally ill friend was dead. I knew that if I told her that that I would break down. Each time I’ve thought about what was written, I’ve had to stop myself from crying or screaming or begging to be taken to the hospital because my mind starts going down the all too familiar path of my-friends-and-family-would-probably-be-happy-if-I-died-too. It was probably a path that “Leah” was familiar with as well.

There was always something about her that wasn’t quite right.

Lauren’s essay is narcissistic drivel at best. Her friend wasn’t living up to a standard that she expected of her, so she wrote her off. She could justify this lack of understanding by saying her friend failed her. 

“Leah” didn’t clean her house, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” didn’t have steady relationships, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” was a cam girl, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” had delusions, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” pursued her crush and failed in a job Lauren secured for her, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” had body image issues, so she was undeserving of respect. 

It didn’t stop at her friend’s failures. The friend’s parents also failed her. Because “Leah”‘s parents didn’t magically cure their daughter of an incurable disease, they failed their daughter and failed Lauren because now she had to deal with their daughter’s erratic behavior. Every struggle “Leah” went through was actually harder on Lauren because the world is apparently all about her.1

Lauren’s lack of compassion was horrid, but her choice to use a platform like xoJane during Mental Health Awareness Month to publish a tale highlighting her ignorance was almost worse. This is a month when mental health patients, caregivers, advocates, and healthcare providers try to educate others. It’s a month to become more considerate of the day-to-day struggles for mentally ill people. Lauren and xoJane could have explained what schizoaffective disorder is, how it impacts people who have the issue, and why they behave the way that they do. They could have explored the actual suffering of “Leah” and not focused on the self-involvement of Lauren. 

I can’t understand how a parent would let their child go on like this. Clearly, she was suffering and severely ill. If her disease were physical, would they have let her deteriorate to that point?

Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic illness. It is sometimes considered a spectrum disorder because it involves overlapping symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. It is not as well understood as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression because it isn’t studied as often and is less common; it is seen in 0.3% of the population compared to 1.1%, 2.6%, and 6.7% for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, respectively. It isn’t well recognized by doctors or therapists; a lot of patients with it are diagnosed with a mood disorder or with schizophrenia first. It impacts men and women at the same rate, but, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, men typically develop it earlier than women. It can be treated, in most cases, by self-management, medication, and therapy, but people who have it are at risk for substance use disorders, suicide, attention deficit disorder, and anxiety disorders. Schizoaffective disorder is caused by genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, stress, and drug use.

There are two types of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar and depressive. If the person has mixed or manic episodes, they have the bipolar type; otherwise, it’s the depressive. Unlike other situations, it’s actually better to have the bipolar type. Having it is less likely to result in suicide than having the depressive type. It is considered by some mental health professionals to be more severe than mood disorders, but less severe than schizophrenia. 

Because it is classified alongside schizophrenia as a psychotic disorder, it is more difficult to find providers willing to treat it. And treatments may be harmful to patients. Or they may not work. 

In my case, I have had many therapists “pass me off” to colleagues. I have tried multiple antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. I’ve had many that didn’t work. Most have caused weight gain, including two that caused gains of fifty pounds or more. I’ve had seizures as a result of one medication. I’ve had a variety of less severe reactions to others. I even developed a temporary medicine-induced case of hyperthyroidism. Eventually I was switched to a high dose of an antidepressant, somewhat regular therapy, and self-management. 

I will always have this disorder. My parents can’t make it go away. Medicine can’t either. 

But I can cut people like Amanda Lauren out of my life. She thought “Leah” was toxic because of her issues, but, from my perspective, it was Lauren who was toxic. Yes, there were negative behaviors exhibited by “Leah”, but she was only behaving that way because of her illness. What was Lauren’s excuse? Why was she so petty, so judgmental? And why did she feel the need to cast herself in the role of victim? Why does she feel no shame in her words? 

I don’t understand how one person can be so selfish, petty, and cruel. As those are personality traits that can be traced back to parenting, I wonder why her parents let her attitude deteriorate to this point. Shouldn’t they have done something before their child became this remorseless beacon of hate?

Photo credit: Cameron Bathory via Visualhunt.com / CC BY
Updated: May 21, 2016 at 7:42 pm: Changed link to essay to one from archive.is as the Google cache link has updated to the “apology” by Jane Pratt


  1. Donald Trump could replace Melania with her. They’d be perfect for one another. 

Dearest Marie

Once upon a time, we were friends. We would email each other, talk on Twitter, comment on each other’s blogs, etc. It was nice. You and I were both diagnosed as Bipolar and it was nice to have someone around my age to talk to about that. You weren’t my only friend with that issue, but for a while there you were one of the closest. When you got your lap-band surgery done, I remember worrying because you couldn’t keep down food, but you didn’t want to tell your doctor because you were finally losing weight. I worried you would have nutritional deficiencies before I realized I had them. 

And you told me you worried about my health issues as well. 
 a year ago I told one person she had harassed thisThat’s why you felt the need when you were diagnosed with “Chronic Lyme Disease” to suggest I might have it as well.1 You told me that it fit my symptoms. You told me I might be able to go off my meds, lose weight, and live a life off without chronic pain if I’d just go to a Lyme specialist.2 And for a split second, I considered it.3 But then I researched it, something that you should have known I would do. When I told you that I didn’t think an infection was causing my hereditary condition,4 you huffed off like a toddler for a while before you came roaring back into my life. 

Our friendship never recovered from that, did it?

Or maybe our friendship was nonexistent from the beginning. That’s what I started thinking tonight as your tirade came in. Well, I did after I described your past behaviors, including that close friendship with a certain blogger that used to write fat-shaming posts pretty regularly, and some people started pointing out that friends don’t really act like you’ve acted. I tried to defend you. You’re bipolar and off your meds…you are just on a Lyme disease kick…you’re just having a bad day or week or month or year. 

But that doesn’t explain it. 

Because the reality is that you’ve always had a shady edge to your behavior. 

Like how you harassed one mutual friend over her past drug issues and how that compared to your Lyme disease. Or the time you harassed another person I know and you know of over her exercising routine and her teeth. Or maybe the time you went after another mutual friend calling her a bad parent for having an autistic child and eating gluten. Or maybe how you treated total strangers should have clued me in. You trolled groups for disabled people on Twitter to promote your “everything is Lyme” mindset. You said people who didn’t buy marijuana5 off the street, not from reputable/regulated dealers, for their epileptic children were bad parents. You would even buy marijuana, in a state where it’s illegal, to make homemade CBD oil & you’d brag about it on social media. You didn’t care who you hurt, whether it was a friend, a family member, a stranger, or yourself. 

 So your nonsensical transphobic tirade fits with the rest of your utter disregard and lack of even basic compassion for other people. And I am so happy my eyes are open to your cruelty. I’m glad that I am no longer having to hope that one day you’ll go back on your medicine and into therapy and be all better. Clearly, this is what the real you is like.

I don’t know why you think the transgender community wants to strip you of your rights any more than I know why you fixated on Lyme. I don’t understand why you think I’m brainwashed when you’re the person actually buying into speculation and denying facts. I don’t know why you think that it’s okay to compare the LGBTQ community to Nazis or why you think there’s a vast conspiracy to brainwash children into being trans.

Do you think that I’m going to molest children because of my past? Would you not trust me to be around children if I didn’t identify as 100% heterosexual? I mean before you determined that I was brainwashed by my trans friends.

Was I a threat then?

Am I one now?

Have you always thought of me as a dangerous person?

Did you really think I was threatening you?

These are things I wanted to ask you.

I don’t usually give people who pick fights with me multiple chances to walk away. I don’t warn them like I did you. You’ve seen me argue and you know this.

You have to at least know I would never beat you up. I’ve slapped one person in my whole life and I still feel bad about that. I mean, come on, this is me. I rant online, but I’m practically a pacifist. 

Identifying as transgender is not a result of child molestation. Being a  non-heterosexual is not the result of child molestation. This is a bullshit belief that even total homophobes and transphobes don’t express that much anymore. And being gay or trans doesn’t mean someone will molest children.

Don’t believe what fear- and hate-mongers want you to believe.

Don’t put your faith in people who won’t be honest with you.

Did you even bother to look for a legitimate source on any of those articles? Ooh. Tabloids. So trust-worthy, especially ones with links to UKIP, BNP, & Tories. But I guess that fits with your fear-mongering and with your love of Trump.6 I always knew you were a Republican, but I never realized how much hatred you carry in your heart.7

You want me to be educated on this issue, but you’re forgetting that I actually am educated. Remember early in our friendship when I was being booted from my college major with one semester left? Or that what that major was in? I know a Social Work degree and a GRE score high enough to get my Master’s is not as impressive as being able to make your own CBD oil, but it’s close, right?

I shouldn’t mock you over a lack of education. Plenty of non-bigoted intelligent people don’t go to college. Some don’t even finish high school. Your ignorance has nothing to do with your level of educational attainment or lack thereof. It really all boils down to a lack of something a little closer to the heart. 

I don’t know why I’m even bothering. 

I guess it’s to give myself closure. 

So, I’ll slam the metaphorical door on this oddity we once called friendship. I’ll bid you adieu. I hope one day you find a way to truly enjoy the world and have a good life. I just want you to know that you’re not welcome back in mine. 


  1. Or that’s how I rationalized it. 

  2. Magic beans. 

  3. Magic beans aren’t real. 

  4. Science! 

  5. Quite frankly, your belief that everything is some sinister plot if you would just take your damn medication. You might feel even better if you would stop smoking marijuana. Bipolar disorder and pot do not always mix well. Even activists for decriminalization and legalization understand that some people with some conditions cannot use it. 

  6. Even amongst Trumplodytes, your hatred is off the chart. And he’s courting actual neo-Nazis. 

  7. There are a lot of good-hearted, well-meaning Republicans out there. They get lumped in with the trash way too often, even by me.