A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Parents & Me

Ellen and Ed Kiernan 30 years ago

My mother died over 14 months ago and my father is now permanently in the nursing home of their retirement community; he is suffering from dementia as my mother did during the last 5 months of her life, though his dementia is mild by comparison.  The last three days I spent driving down from Western New York to Fort Myers Florida with my brother.  We are staying in my father's apartment because we must clear out the apartment within a week.

I'm taking a day to settle into being in this environment, trying to gently push myself towards dealing with the responsibility my brother and I have to take on.  I am tired, but I am okay, just depressed and a bit apprehensive.  It still has to be one day at a time for me.  Just do what I can each day and don't worry so much.  I do have faith that I am being watched over by the mysterious Great Spirit.  Calling God the Great Spirit is as close as I can come to giving a description of the Higher Power.  I just believe that our lives have so much meaning and that the spirit lives on somehow.  I am reminded daily of how little I truly know and how much I have to rely on the Unknown.

It is strange being in my parents' apartment without either of them here.  I still feel my mother's spirit.    This apartment was entirely decorated by her.  I'm staying in her room.  It is not a beautiful room; it is a practical room and only moderate in size, but with a nice walk in closet.  There are pictures all over the walls, half of them photos of our family.  My father stayed in the master bedroom of this two bedroom apartment, a prettier, bigger room with a very large walk-in closet and its own bathroom.  The two bedrooms are separated by a somewhat large living room/dining room area, so each of them could have some privacy when they wanted it.  Really, it was my mother who decided that she wanted a room of her own a couple of decades ago.

My parents lived together for 61 years and this past year my father has been becoming more and more lost without her and now it's essential that he be cared for.  He is a good man and my mother was a good woman.  Neither of them really had very close friends, they just stuck with each other.  Both of them very bright and knowledgeable, interested in politics and culture and very skeptical of most organized religions especially Catholicism which they both endured as children and adolescents.  They committed to atheism very young.  So for them there is this one life and when it is done, that is it and there is nothing left.  I'm glad that I don't have that orientation.  It seems very disconnected from a greater picture.  Not that I know the greater picture; I just believe that there is one, but it requires a stretch of the imagination to believe that some greater spirit/intelligence is connected to all the life on this planet.

Either way, whether their view is true and mine a delusion or visa versa, our lives matter.  I've been feeling this more since I got a small digital converter that I've been converting my black and white film negatives into digital images on my computers.  Most of my negatives are from the 1980s when I was in my twenties and my parents were in their fifties before my father retired with my mother to Florida.  The shots cover photos from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island and some trips out west.  I recognize the people, places and things, but I don't fully connect with them.  I appreciate the time that I lived before and really enjoy looking at my family, but now I am very much a different person.  I've been through so much.  My life is actually richer now.  And now I'm at the stage where I need to let go of my parents and continue more deeply on my way through old age.

This is the stage of letting go and deconstruction.  We must strip this apartment of nearly everything and then never come back here.  I do miss my mother and carry her with me inside.  I know we loved each other.  Her intelligence and a lot of the joy she experienced in living carried through to me.  I do love my father also, but our level of closeness was never very great.  And yet I still want to reach him before he goes.  We have a small boom box in this apartment and I'm going to bring it to my father's room.  Then I'm going to send audio recordings on CD to the nurse's station there over the next several months and have the nurse's play my CDs for him so he can listen for 15 to 20 minutes each time.  It's not much, but it might comfort him to hear my voice and listen to what I say to him.

I feel as if I'm waiting, but I don't know what I am waiting for.  I guess I'm just waiting for this part of our lives to change into something different, into a new stage.  Looking at self portraits that I took in my twenties does show me very clearly how I have changed.   Here are some photographs of me from childhood till now going through each decade except adolescence:

I've recently started to do videos of myself, another kind of journal.  It takes some courage because I have to accept myself and not be too critical, which I can do.  I'm still obese and do not take pictures of myself or film myself with the rest of my body included.  It does bother me.  I have a large mirror in my living room and one of the first things I did during my last psychotic break was to cover it up.  It takes some pressure off me, but I still make faces at myself in the bathroom mirror and laugh a lot.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Song: Not Right

This is a song that I just wrote yesterday.  It's about living with multiple personality disorder.

Not Right

Something’s not right.
Something’s not right.
The world is split into pieces.

A kaleidoscope with many parts
Moving and shifting
With color’s bright and subtle.

The negative space
Defines all the shapes
Spreads farther than we can see
Out into eternity.

The underlying cause
Of all these colorful flaws
Are the cycles of abuses
Perpetuated on a soul
That was attacked at two days old
And split into multiple defenses.

Something’s not right.
Something’s not right.
The world is split into pieces.


Play Song

Monday, February 16, 2015

Song: Been Hurt Before

Been Hurt Before

So I’ve been hurt before
So I’ve been hurt
Like so many others.

I acted out with someone
And faced my own annihilation.

I don’t want to be just another
Maybe lying on the floor
While my lover’s standing by the door
In disbelief.

Don’t tell me that’s what he wanted.
Don’t tell me that’s what I wanted.

A gun was forbidden
Because I knew I might use it in the end
As a preamble to a crime
I knew I would have been out of my mind.

How could I live if I had taken his life?

So I’ve been hurt before,
So I’ve been hurt.


Play Song

Sunday, February 15, 2015

We Are Animals On A Planet We Call Earth

Part of why we are in denial about being a mentally ill, addicted species is that we are in denial about being animals.  Animals are to be domesticated or killed and eaten, or killed for sport or to be kept as pets.  Wild animals are to be looked at from a distance either because they are easily frightened or potentially dangerous.  Yet we seem to have amnesia over the fact that we are animals in the animal kingdom.  We seem to place ourselves somewhere between animals and angels or at the very least we say we are "higher" animals somehow greater than "lesser" animals.  And yet collectively we behave so much worse than mere animals because we have become unnatural.  And in our unnaturalness we have embraced as a species evil intent and evil actions.  We could feed all the hungry humans on the planet.  We could put an end to war.  We could house the homeless.  We could end the cycle of child abuse.  We could turn from the various cycles of addiction towards recovery.  We could become united instead of divided.  But we do not.

Most people do not want to acknowledge that we are out of touch with reality.  Our reality is contained within the natural world.  The soil and rock and water and air, the valleys and hills and mountains and oceans, the plants and trees and fish and birds and insects and animals are our basic reality.  Our bodies remind us daily and nightly that we are part of nature.  We must breath and eat and drink and defecate and urinate and sleep and find shelter just like any other animal.  But our more complex brains that have allowed us to create more complex environments and interrelationships are why we have become so unnatural as a species.  The basic instincts of fear, anger and sex are all out of balance, all over emphasized.  We overemphasize basic instincts and underemphasize the necessity of conditioning ourselves towards thoughtful responsiveness.  

I think the goal for our species should be to become enlightened mammals, but for many we have become addicted mammals who because of addiction behave deviantly.  Our deviancy shows itself in overpopulation, extreme pollution, rape of natural resources, the spread of diseases, poverty and war. There is only one way out of this world predicament and that is through raising awareness levels.  Without awareness, living habitual and addicted lifestyles, there is no way to change.  Those that are aware that we are addicts living in an addictive world, those that are in recovery from their addictions need to step up and talk or write about their experiences.  Engaging in our addictions is what divides us, but acknowledging ourselves as addicts and embracing recovery is what can unite us as animals on a planet we call Earth.

Monday, January 26, 2015

From Sadomasochistic Abuse & Addiction To Getting The Help That You Deserve

We ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge a long, long, long time ago, at least according to our sense of time, which might be a split second in the greater scheme of things.  There are so many people calling out to God, crying "Why is our life this way?" and "Why must we feel so much pain?"
Too many of us want to point the finger at the Higher Power or at the other sentient species the Higher Power has chosen to help us on our sad, little world.  The Blame Game is the hallmark of practicing addicts.  It is too much sometimes to feel the depth of our own pain and so we try to shoot it out of ourselves at any available target be it friend, lover or foe.  In psychological terms that is called projection and anyone who has practiced it, which is basically everyone at one time or another, knows that it is a shallow sadistic pleasure to hurt others.  To hurt others is to hurt ourselves.  That is the real point in the cycle of self hating beliefs, practices and lifestyles - to hurt ourselves is to reject our true natures, to not believe that we started out in a completely innocent state, everyone of us.

Here is a quote from a book called SADOMASOCHISM: Etiology and Treatment by Susanne P. Schad-Somers:

"Sadomasochism, the confusion between love and hate, power and submission, is a uniquely human phenomenon.  It is one, though by no means the only one, of the inevitable products of man's prolonged dependency in early childhood, for dependency invariably mean inequality.  Since the human infant is born several years prematurely, physiological birth and psychological birth are roughly three years apart.  (italics mine)  During that time, the infant's emerging sense of self, and its external and internal reality are filtered through those of its mother's.  And what makes us human, and therefore unique, creative and capable of complex feelings and thought processes is the eventual resolution of the tension between the wish for symbiosis and the need for autonomy.  Only a perfect balance between holding on and letting go on the mother's part would permit complete separation and individuation--which is to say that it can never be fully attained.  What is more, for childhood to be free of lasting trauma, parents would have to be mind readers and utterly selfless.  Finally, since there is no such thing as a compromise between unequals, the subjective experience of oppression is therefore a universal part of childhood."   (Introduction, p. 11)

Because we are born prematurely, we endure three years of an unnatural dependence on our primary caretaker, often our mothers.  Being finite and fallible mammals on this planet earth, there is no way the primary caretaker could supply our needs to the point that we could reach a healthy balance between our inner and outer worlds, even in the most healthy of families.  We start out disadvantaged and totally dependent.  That is the core of our beginnings in this world.  As Ms. Schad-Somers writes, "the subjective experience of oppression is therefore a universal part of childhood."

And what of those who live in homes where abusive attitudes and behaviors towards children are the norm?  Emotional abuse and neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse are sometimes all intertwined.  These abusive expressions and behaviors from adults often are the result of one of the many forms of addiction that permeate our culture and therefore are supported by our culture.  And how do babies get born into this world?  Through mature, healthy, balanced physical love between two partners of the opposite sex?  Not so often.  More often through couples conditioned to buy into the popular culture promotion of romance and relationship addiction which can lead right into sexual addiction.  Of the three often interlinking addictions here, sexual addiction is the most pernicious.

A sexual addict is at the mercy of an unnaturally amplified sexual drive/instinct.  Containment of the urges is possible in the early stages of the illness, but soon progresses to excessive attachment to getting the sexual fix be it through animal or child or the use of other adult bodies or the obsessive use of pornography.  It is no longer about choice and ethics--it is about disease overtaking the body and the human spirit.

And yet there is a choice, the choice to acknowledge the disease within yourself as a disease and stop getting hooked into the torment of shame and guilt.  If you were told you had cancer, would you avoid going to the doctor and getting treatment?  Not likely.  Sexual addiction is essentially no different, but it is such a stigmatized illness.  Another hallmark of using addicts is the commitment to living a dual life, a life of silence, of not saying plainly what it is that is hurting you, your life and those you care about.  And so there is another choice that must be made, that of whether to embrace deceit or embrace honesty, especially self honesty.  You cannot break the cycle of abuse and addiction unless you get honest with yourself first and preferably with another safe person.  Getting honest is turning your will over to the Higher Power and it can open doors to getting you the help that you need and deserve.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My First CD: Yin And Yang

Play Yin And Yang 

This collection of music is from the early to mid 1990s during domestic violence, after domestic violence and in the beginning of psychosis.