It struck me today that with all my talk about pacifism and practicing lovingkindness that I am talking the talk more than walking the walk. Yes, I am a peaceful person who wishes everyone well and I include prayer in my life, but I don't go out into my community and get to work helping others. It's strange because I was more active helping others when I was most sick, mainly because my voices tormented me into reaching out. Their method was horrible but the intent was still good. Unfortunately I associate being helpful to others with severe psychosis. I was in so much pain, all I wanted to do was hide in a hole. The voices threatened me with hell if I didn't help others. Helping others helped me for a time, got me to think outside the box of my illness. Then I returned to school and struggled with depression. Now it's been two years since I graduated from school. I think I've had enough time on my own to return to helping others. It's my own self-imposed isolation that bars my way and the only way out of that isolation is to reach out to others again. If I could do it when I was in so much pain, then I should be able to do it again now that I am no longer suffering so much.
I may have some big ideas (which I will probably push on you again) but in reality I feel pretty small. I'm just so used to being on my own, to hiding away, to bothering no-one and letting no-one bother me. When I was younger I was hyper sensitive to people and would feel exhausted after being with them for a few hours. At home with my family it was always understood that any of us could retire to our rooms when we felt like it. We had the luxury of living in a house with a lot of space. Now I still have the space but no family around me and I've grown accustomed to my solitude. But this solitude, which feels comfortable to me, is not really healthy. It's not enough to just not hurt others, I must do my part and be helpful. Pema Chodron, a well known Buddhist nun, calls the way I live living inside one's ego, shutting the world out and trying to make everything comfortable. But the world isn't always so comfortable and the point of life is not to be comfortable but to be good and to be good you've got to be giving. Generous with your time and resources, willing to take risks, to put yourself out there. Will I become willing?
Though I am not a Christian, I would like to go to church on Sunday but I am afraid to go alone. I'd like to go to church to listen to the sermon and then to talk to the pastor and see if there is any volunteer work in town. Why am I so afraid of people? My experience with people is that they've been kind and generous to me, but still I am too shy of strangers. I need someone to be a bridge for me, to guide me but because I am alone I have only myself. I have to tell myself that I have had the courage to return to Al-Anon and to resume therapy and that I can go on my own to church. Do any of you go to church?
What's your experience of it like? Were you first taken by a family member or a friend? It's hard for me to understand that for most Americans the idea of going to church is commonplace. My family's atheistic roots makes the idea of going to church a bit daunting. Even my parents for quite a few years after they moved down to Florida went to and supported a Unitarian church but then both my parents grew up going to church. My point of reference is pretty minimal. I have no sense of the community that is built up around going to church once a week. The only thing I can compare it to is an Al-Anon meeting. But an Al-Anon meeting is small and informal whereas a church meeting is larger and formal. It's funny but one of my worries is will I have anything decent to wear? But then I wonder, shouldn't it be okay even if I come in jeans and a T-shirt? I would like to talk to the pastor privately just to introduce myself and also to tell her that I suffer from schizophrenia but would be very willing to help out in any way I could. I'm scared to do that too... Ugh, I've gone down a hole and now I'm finding it hard to get out of it. The only cure for it is to dive right in. Do you remember what it's like to get into the ocean or lake or pool on a hot day, how it feels both good but shockingly cold at first. Well, that's how I imagine going to church. Cold in the sense that it's just very new.
You know, now that I think about it, maybe I should just try to go to church a couple times before I approach the pastor, sneak in somewhere in the back and slip out at the end of the sermon. Do this till I'm familiar with the place and let people get used to me too. I know it seems silly but I feel really self-conscious about going. When I first went to Al-Anon meetings, initially I just went and didn't speak and left. I did this until I was comfortable enough to say something. Okay, that's the plan, to go to church (even in jeans) this Sunday, enjoy the sermon and the service and slip out. There is a woman who I met at Al-Anon who goes to the church I'm planning to go to. I went to church with her once when I was still quite sick. Maybe I'll see her there. Okay, any feedback on this within the next few days would be much appreciated! Wish me luck.
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.