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.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Exploring Mixed Media

Worked all day today on these three pieces.  I've been gathering up my supplies and getting more supplies this week.  I do not know what I'm doing and that's part of the fun of it.  I got a ton of stencils some plastic, most cardboard.  I've ordered some spray inks.  I'd never heard of those until I started reading a book on art journaling.  I wouldn't say that I'm really journaling.  No words yet, but I am exploring.  It's keeping me busy instead of sitting around feeling depressed.  Right now my favorite piece out of the three is the one in the middle, but I don't know why.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Painted Today

Warded off depression today by painting this 10" x 10" oil painting.  Also listened to some classical music, exercised, ate a couple of salads, listened to audio recordings of poets reading their poems.  I've been learning about art journaling from some YouTube videos.  I enjoy looking at people's art work and watching their process.  I have a lot to learn especially about letting go and making a mess and transforming messes.  Today I wanted color and I wanted to work with these oils (water soluble) on primed canvas.  It felt good to reconnect to my art process.  I can deal with a straightforward, abstracted landscape.  Art journaling at this beginning stage is somewhat intimidating.  There are so many directions to go in and so many supplies to work with that making a coherent whole is daunting.  So, what to do?  Keep going and get a lot messier.  And research other people's ideas.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Winter Blues

So I'm in the midst of one of those down spells.  I had to postpone a talk with one of my friends last night because I had been sleeping all day and still felt depressed when I woke up.  Sometimes that doesn't happen and I wake up energized and ready to do something with my time.  This time I just wanted to go back to sleep again.  So what's the problem?  Really there is no major problem because I have so much, but I know that I'm not doing enough for myself or anyone else.  It's Winter.  Way too many grey days and not enough desire to get outside.  I bought a light box to treat some of the depression.  I haven't been using it enough.  And I find, when I'm down like this, that I sabotage myself.  Music could lift my spirits, so I don't play anything and listen.  Watching a film could also engage me and lift me up, so I don't do it.

What would I call this?  Ego.  More specifically the unbalancing nature to ego, either I'm too big (delusions of grandeur) or I'm too small (an unworthy human being).  So right now I see myself as unworthy and I've gone down this path before.  I went down this path when I first entered into psychosis 18 years ago.  So I consulted the I Ching several days ago asking generally what was going on and the response, according to one interpretation, was that I was isolating myself too much and being selfish.  Unfortunately, this just fed my sickness and made me feel a bit more ill.  It did make me wonder what I could do to be helpful to others.  The answer?  Volunteer.  But I know myself well enough that I wouldn't go out and do that because I am afraid of people but maybe, I thought, I could do volunteer work from home to start with to build up my confidence.

I found several sites that help people connect with volunteer opportunities.  The one that I settled down to work with is called Helpfromhome.org.  For a couple of days I went through various lists of opportunities and made my own list of the work that I responded to.  Then I explored the different websites for each opportunity.  Several of the opportunities involved sending cards or better yet making cards and sending them to people, children and adults, who were ill or lonely and depressed.  I found an address for one 7 year old girl in England who has been living with a  terrible skin condition since birth.  Her story helped to put my story into a better perspective.

I took a friend out to lunch on Saturday and then we went for a walk with his dog.  Cold and windy, but sunny.  I felt invigorated by the walk and went home happy.  Grey day the next day, yesterday, when I slept all day.  I'm writing here to try and get back on track.  I gathered up a bunch of art supplies and ordered some Strathmore 5" x 7" cards with envelopes to decorate and send.  It will get me back into doing art work and maybe help to lift a few people's spirits.  It is back to - "Don't give up.  Keep going."  That's what I need to do.  Keep it simple.  Keep it small.

I've been quit from cigarettes for over a month and have no desire to return to them.  It's a little miracle for me.  I've been taking the diabetes medication faithfully for over a month, too.  My little toes still hurt when I get up from sleeping so I had the meds increased last week.  I have to wait and see.  I'm eating right and exercising despite the depression.  I'm doing some things well in my life.  I have to try to not let myself get in the way of progress.  I have been seeing how judgmental I get with myself.  Self denigration will get me nowhere.

I've said to my voices (which have been much quieter lately) that they need to believe in an unconditionally loving Higher Power, well so do I need to believe this.  It's been obvious to me that those who recover from various addictions believe this wholeheartedly.  They believe that this Power loves and supports them regardless of what they have or haven't done, supports them every moment, just as they are.  I need to believe this, too.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Resolutions For Health In 2017

I quit smoking again just as it turned into the new year of 2017.  Four and a half days later I went to my doctor's appointment to hear the results of my recent blood test.  My blood sugar level was quite high and he said I would have to start taking a medication twice daily at meals for the next 3 months till I saw him again.  One reason why I readily agreed is that I've been having toe pain for the last 2-3 weeks.  Problems with feet and eyes are common especially in untreated diabetes and can lead to dire consequences such as amputations and blindness.  The doctor said the pain in my toes would probably clear up within 2 weeks.  I have been faithfully taking the medication twice a day for the last four days.  I still have pain in my toes and some tension in my fingers and a restlessness at night when I try to sleep.

My condition is a wake up call to take better care of myself.  I would like to follow more closely Dr. Joel Fuhrman's books on fighting or even eliminating diabetes.  He suggests a mostly vegan diet and I have been moving towards that.  I have been relying in part on a line of frozen foods called AMY'S but it is still processed and I think I'm going to stop buying it.  I have been including more salads and more green smoothies, but I need to branch out into cooking, particularly hearty soups.  All this requires shopping at least once a week for fresh fruits and vegetables.  It also requires food preparation and a clean kitchen.  I have a very dirty kitchen and I have to change that.

Despite the stress of finding out my blood sugar is too high, (which has led me to thoughts of affliction and mortality) I do not have the desire to smoke cigarettes.  That in itself is a miracle that makes me grateful.  I turn instead to my vape mods and to drinking water and to talking into my audio recorder or listening to audio programs.  I am consciously trying to turn to vaping when I feel the least touch of a desire to smoke.  I'm trying to transfer my tendency to be compulsive from the toxic cigarettes to the mostly non toxic (no nicotine) vaping.  It's working for me.  It is obviously breath oriented, even more so than cigarettes, and it soothes me.

It's been very cold here this past week and I have stayed indoors.  There is peace and quiet and safety in my home, the ever present company of my cats and moments of meditation and appreciation for my life.  I do shift into anxiety and depression, but I've been sitting with them knowing that they too will shift into something better.  I'm also learning that once I become aware of whatever negative thought pattern I'm in, I can go to work to re-direct myself towards basic bottom line acceptance of where I am at in the present moment.

I have struggled with voices that say that I should be doing more, helping people, implying that my small life is a selfish one.  Not harming others has been very important to me and I don't.  In some instances I help.  What I'm really trying to learn is how not to hurt myself.  Having quit smoking cigarettes is a huge step forward in this.  And now, so is diet and exercise.  What I've learned over the years of living with psychosis is that individuals placing top priority on taking care of themselves body, mind and spirit is the key to living in peace and the key to finding deep happiness.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Quiet Christmas Eve

Nothing festive this year.  No lights, no decorations, just a fake tree with nothing on it.  My parents are gone, my uncle lives in Chicago and my brother I will see tomorrow for a not very Christmasy meal of Chinese food at a Chinese restaurant in a nearby town.  We will probably exchange presents at my brother's house and then I will head home for another quiet night.  Tonight I will wrap presents for my brother and make up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  The days of childhood and youth are long gone when Christmas had a special meaning, not anything religious, but just a time to come together as a family and eat a good home made meal.

I feel very different from my former selves.  One of the main changes in the last few years is that now I really do live in the present moment and there's a lot of peace in that kind of living.  My life is mostly solitary and yet I like my company.  I live simply without a lot of stress.  Depression and discontent do come but they are not the foundations of my life.  If anything they help to point out what I need to work on.  I used to rely on fantasy in my imagination and through films, books and music.  No more.  I still watch films, but more often than not it will be a documentary.  I still read books, but more often than not it will be nonfiction.  I still listen to music, but now it is so I can stretch and do some dance moves.  And then there are the songs that I create and sing for myself.  They are an emotional outlet for me.

My friend Sam said to me a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that I had been working on some songs that what I needed was a band.  At first I dismissed the idea, but then it returned to me and I began thinking about it.  I asked the I Ching a few questions about it and the response was that it was a very good idea, but that I wasn't ready yet and had to prepare and practice first and just think about it.  So I've been thinking about it the last couple of days.  I live in a college town, so there are musicians around here.  Reaching out to any of them would be a big deal for me.  I really believe in the last 25 years that I have written some good songs and that my voice, with some practice, could be good enough if I had the courage to sing in front of people.  That's a big if for a reclusive person.

I most definitely am a singer/songwriter, but I am not much of a musician and that's why, if I chose to  embrace performing, I would need a band.  To be around a guitarist would be such a blessing to me.  I have spent very little time around any skilled musician, which is probably why I don't play well.  I think dedicated musicians are brilliant and inspiring.  In choosing to remain isolated I have cut myself off from experiencing and learning from musicians.  I have cut myself off from so much.  And I think I'm afraid of the intimacy of working with others and yet I also think that is just what I need.  I feel very humble but I can't let that form into insecurity, the kind of insecurity that would block me from reaching out.  I have to realize that I do have something to offer musicians both in my songs and in my voice and in myself.

So I'm working on committing to practicing my songs.  I realized quickly that I needed two things - a small tascam digital recorder to record my new song ideas and a much better amplifier.  I already have a digital recorder that I use as my audio journal but the sound quality is not good enough.  The reason I need the tascam recorder is that I make up my lyrics while playing chords on the guitar, but often I don't record my ideas on my portastudio and then I will sometimes take the lyrics and put different chords to them in effect making a different song.  So I lose a lot in the process because I forget what I came up with in the first place.  As for the amplifier, the one I have is just a $50 amp and it puts out poor sound quality, plus I have a cheap dynamic microphone and that just makes it worse.

I've ordered a $299 Fender amplifier, neither super cheap nor very expensive, good enough for my music room or maybe a coffee house (if I get that far).  I need to hear myself and I think this amp will do the trick for me and help me to train my voice better.  Sometimes I get loud, but then I'm plugged into my portastudio with the headphones on and that's a very different experience, maybe a little too safe and insular.  I need to not be afraid to get loud and I also need to learn about the dynamics of singing through a microphone and amplifier.

I've got the whole Winter to work on this and I'm grateful for this project.  It comes at a good time for me because I've been wandering aimlessly since I came out of the Jesus delusion.  Will I have the courage to go looking for local musicians in the Spring?  I just don't know yet.  But strengthening my skills is not a waste of time.  I knew years ago in my 30s that I felt a deep connection to singing and songwriting.  Back then I performed for myself and it felt strong and right, even though I was still sick from having been in an abusive/love addicted relationship.  When I went into acute psychosis I lost the ability to sing and write songs and that was hard, but I didn't give up.  I returned to singing and songwriting about ten years ago.

I've only got as far as posting some of my songs on the internet, but never have I worked with others as a songwriter/singer.  I have a strong feeling that I will have to collaborate if I do find a few musicians willing to work with me.  I don't know about song structure, about adding instruments, about basic recording techniques, about setting up mics or about performing.  I don't know a lot.  And except for a couple of times with my ex boyfriend, I have not sung with others and know little about harmonizing.  But maybe I'll be lucky enough to connect with someone who not only plays, but sings.  That would be truly great.

Working with others, that's still a tough thing for me.  I know me and I know that I would be very open about my life and my life experiences with those I might work with.  I am 54 years old and I still suffer from mental illness, but I do have some talent and I have been stable for a couple of years now.  And once committed to a group I believe I have the capacity to work hard and give it a chance. So 2017 is just around the corner.  Maybe this year I will connect with others who share my interest in making music.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Prayer On The Wind

Prayer On The Wind

You are in the shadows,
You are hard to see,
Pulled away from the sunlight
By the shade of the trees.

The wind today is strong,
It rustles the leaves.
You are in a corner
Fallen to your knees.

Send a prayer out on the wind.
Let it circulate the world
And return to you again
Changed by the pattern of souls
That it touched
As you grew older.

Don't let the sorrow and the pain
Control how you move in the world.
The sunlight is for everyone.
The sunlight is for everyone.

There is no problem
Too great that cannot be solved.
Patience and work will bolster your resolve
To work all this through
To work all this through.

Send a prayer out on the wind.
Let it circulate the world
And return to you again
Changed by the pattern of souls
That it touched
As you grow older.

I just wrote these lyrics for the man in my mind who is suffering.  His suffering is symbolic to me of all the many men who are suffering now, having been abused and having turned towards abuse but who are hurting because of it all.  I think many men in our culture take on the role of everything being just okay, no problems, when inside they are feeling some despair.  This becomes the standard pattern of living a dual life of outer and inner.  I have the honor of witnessing some of the inner world of this man.  I want him to know that he is not alone.  The sunlight is for everyone, but it requires stepping out of the shadows.  It requires having some faith in the goodness of self and the goodness of others.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Spiritual Practice Inside And Out

Winter begins early around here, usually around Thanksgiving.  We've gotten a lot of snow and temperatures have been low and I've been inside my house for over three days.  I managed to detach from the Jesus delusion.  It's been a particularly stubborn delusion and whenever I come out of it I dip into some depression.  I've heard this is a typical reaction for people who suffer from psychotic disorders which makes sense.  You go up too high and then you swing down low once you realize that your position is really (and always has been) humble.  But truly humble is a good place to be because that is the reality for all of us here on earth.  It's so easy to lose sight of the fact that we are merely animals on one of many habitable planets.  Especially hard for those of us who either swing towards delusions of grandeur or who are in positions of power over other human animals.

So Winter is here and I'm moving inward and staying home more often.  It's a time of greater reflection.  On some levels I'm quite content.  I have food, shelter, heat, water, cats for company, a functioning car, a healthy spine and the ability to move, my five senses and a lot more.  I feel blessed.  And the discomfort I feel off and on throughout the day is a blessing, too.  It spurs me to seek out the truth, especially about myself.  Discomfort in necessary for spiritual development.  There would be no reason to change for the better without it.

Lately I've been realizing that I don't know what a truly healthy way of living would be.  I have done a lot of studying about mental illness (and I include the study of addiction in this), but not a lot of study about definitions of health.  I do have some sense of it.  Learning new ways to reduce stress in life is very important.  Stress is a big factor in mental illness.  It seems as if we are guided in this culture to take on more and more responsibilities - serious relationships, children, education (and debts), career, owning a home, etc....  It is mind boggling to me what people choose to do with their lives before they've even dealt with and resolved the issues generated from their childhood and youth with their families and communities.

There is a trend happening here with people choosing to be single, choosing to spend more time with themselves and not tangled up in relationships.  I think this is a good thing because it guides individuals towards self reflection and taking care of themselves.  They keep the focus on themselves instead of on codependency with others.  This is especially important with those of us who suffer from addictions.  The solutions to our problems are not out there somewhere, but inside of us.  Connections to others, healthy friends, healthy support groups, therapists and counselors, supportive family members are all very important, but the first step starts inside.  Individuals facing themselves nakedly and honestly.

Too many people who are very involved in codependent relationships with each other and their children are very afraid to be alone.  They don't believe that they can find happiness within themselves.  They are always looking outside of themselves to family, friends, lovers, work and their children.  It's clear to me that that approach does not work and leaves our personal unhappiness intact.    What's needed is privacy, a room of one's own, a pad and pen or a computer and word processing program.  There are two questions to ask:  What's right in my life?  What's wrong in my life?  It's important to start with what's right and if you really look at it there is a lot right in you and around you, but you have to focus on it and value it.  We tend to overlook the obvious such as our ability to breath and move, to feel and think, to have food, water and shelter.  All these things put us in a very precious position.  It is a position of freedom, the freedom to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Make a practice of not overlooking the obvious.  Don't take your life and your abilities for granted.  When you value all the elements of your life from good health to a good cup of coffee or tea to a good night's sleep, you change your viewpoint from a sense of deprivation to a sense of abundance.  Placing value on your experiences is a practice of gratitude regardless of whether you believe in some kind of Higher Power or not.  Once you have established this spiritual practice, you can then go to work on the question - What's wrong with my life?  After you've written a gratitude list, make a grievance list.  Once you've got the list, take each item separately on a new page and dig deeper.  Ask questions such as, when have I felt like this before?  You will find that many of your grievances stem back to childhood and adolescence.

We all get to the point where our youth ends and adulthood begins, no matter how hard you resist it.  When this happens our memories of childhood and youth submerge into our unconscious or subconscious.  We forget our beginnings and that is where we begin to go astray.  Unresolved relationships with family and friends still get played out in present day relationships.  The cycle of illness continues without any conscious choice.  Self awareness is the only thing that will begin to get us to detach from our patterns.  Sitting down with yourself in a room of your own, in privacy, and making simple lists is how to regain awareness of where you started and what happened and where you are now.  No matter how disjointed life can seem, life is continuous.  There is a logic to how you got to this place in time and inside the logic there is a lot of personal meaning.

Discovering meaning in your life through becoming aware of the patterns in your life is very satisfying.  That's the hook into health.  But again, it requires the daily practice of you facing yourself and getting honest.  The problems you face now are being faced by countless other people who have lived inside dysfunctional families and have encountered and been ensnared by addictions of all sorts.  You are not alone.  Help is more available now than it was in the past with computers, therapy and self help groups.  The telephone alone is a godsend.  Reaching out is a key to health, but so is reaching inward and doing the work every day.  Both practices, reaching inward and reaching outward, are spiritual practices, the spiritual practice and necessity of taking care of ourselves.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What Jesus Said

I haven't written in this blog for about a month and a half mainly because when I consulted the I Ching about the blog it said that I should take a break from it and work on spiritual development.  I was also encouraged to commit to consulting the I Ching regularly for the  next 6 months, which will get me through the winter.   Soon after I committed to these two things I got sick with the flu and was sick with it for around 3 and a half weeks.  Mistakenly thinking that I was contagious all that time, I stopped seeing my therapist, brother and friends while the sickness took its course.  During that time I consulted the I Ching, sometimes several times a day, and took a course at Hilary Barrett's site I Ching With Clarity about how to consult and interpret the I Ching.   I learned a lot in a short time.  I continued with my spiritual routine of taking my medications, thanking God, praying for myself and everyone I could think of, reading support literature aloud, calling the Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous Inspiration Line, listening and leaving a share after the end of the message.  By the end of the 3 weeks I was wiped out and suffering from too much isolation.  I began to have some psychotic symptoms.

First of all, the reality I embrace on a daily basis is that I am telepathically connected to another human being who suffers from multiple personality disorder as a result of severe sexual abuse who does not want to have contact with me.  I also believe that this connection is created by some other intelligent species, a species that is committed to helping human beings learn to take care of themselves first so that they can rise to the level of health where they can take on more responsibility and help others and the earth, the earth which appears to be dying.  I am fully aware that for most people my beliefs only serve to confirm that I am delusional.  What confirmed me in this belief was that 3 and a half years ago I began channeling this person who told me that he had been with me from the beginning of my psychosis.

Every day and night since this first started I have been in a relationship with this person.  I talk with him often and we both have gone deeper into illness and now are coming out of it stronger than before.  This is a transition point for both of us, but we are still sick and still working on how to take care of ourselves and each other.  The focal point of my illness is the Jesus delusion.  Parts of him have said that I am a reincarnation of Jesus over and over again and each time I stay open and consider it but inevitably we both get sicker when I do that and so, over and over again, I turn away from the delusion and return to humility and my daily spiritual practice which includes communicating with him as my partner.  It is essential that I admit daily that I am mentally ill and that he is mentally ill, but that we are still on our spiritual paths trying to learn the lessons that the Higher Power gives to us so that we can grow.

We are partners but we both share a common illness, codependency.  My last relationship was codependent and love/relationship addicted.  His present relationships appear to be codependent and love/relationship/sex addicted.  Parts of him are in severe denial about being addicted, while other parts are not and are working to heal.  I think that I am coming out of denial that I can be codependent with him when I focus too much on him and his issues and neglect myself.  The message of hope that I've been given is that I can heal, he can heal and humanity can heal and rescue this world as long as we take proper care of ourselves as individuals.  That means practicing self love and love of others.  The scenario that so many of us live under is the us versus them scenario.  It is a scenario of conflict, discord, self hatred and hatred of others, a scenario of war.

Jesus still remains a major figure in the cultures of the United States and it is written that he said - "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you."   Before he made this proclamation he said "But I say to you who hear" and the reason I believe he said that is because he was very aware that most of his audience would reject outright loving their enemies.  Obviously that must have been true, for here we are over two thousand years after the crucifixion of Jesus with his words are falling on deaf ears and we continue to war against ourselves and each other.  We continue to believe that there are good people and bad, even evil, people who must be rejected and punished.  I have a very dear friend who I love deeply.  She follows Christianity.  She believes that loving your enemies is too much to ask, that Jesus was special and that most people cannot follow his orientation.  I challenged her the other night about this.  I was too forceful and the next day apologized.  Still, I can't get away from my same belief that people can love their enemies and that they choose not to because they think it's too hard, too much to ask.

It is hard, but who said that following a spiritual path like this was going to be easy.  It wasn't easy for Jesus who was crucified for his beliefs, why should it be easy for any of us?  And so I have identified with Jesus as many people have and I follow his core belief and I think I am supposed to follow it.  It hasn't been easy and I don't expect it to be easy.  Will it be easy to heal our dying oceans, our polluted air, our rape of earth's resources, our self hatred, our hatred of others and so much more?  There is absolutely no way that it will be easy unless there's some kind of Godly miracle.  But we haven't come this far to have some miracle from God.  We have to be the miracle we seek.  And where is the miracle beginning to happen?  In all those people who unconditionally embrace love for self, God and everyone.  Yes, everyone.  It is being done right this second in people's lives all around the globe.  I am an addict in recovery.  There are addicts in recovery everywhere.  Addicts in recovery who believe in an unconditionally loving Higher Power.  Unconditional love, that's such an important concept to grasp, so needed right now.

Jesus said he wanted us to love each other, to not hold anger in our hearts, to forgive and not judge.  We are such a sick species, but I firmly believe that this is the truth and that this is the way to heal ourselves, each other, this precious planet that we call home.  The message hasn't changed one bit in all these years and we urgently need this message and to embrace this spiritual practice.  There is no messiah.  The messiah is in all of us.  For those of you who can be open minded enough to hear this message, just keep going, do not give up.  What is the ultimate goal for ourselves, our spirits, our children, our children's spirits?  Heaven on earth.  These are not the end times.  These are the beginning times, the time to restore and rejuvenate.