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.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Few Thoughts On My Return


Woke up at 7 am and took a shower, then dressed, had my last cigarette, stuck a nicotene patch on my inner arm and left with my parents to go to the airport. We arrived there before the ticket counter had opened and had to wait. My mother went to get a New York Times. When she got back they sat reading it while I waited on line. After I got my boarding passes my parents walked me to the security check point. We said our goodbyes and I left to go through security. I took my computer out of its bag and put it in a tray. One security guard pointed at my shoes and said “You have to take your shoes off.” I had forgotten worrying over the computer. I slipped off my new shoes (a gift from my parents) and put them in another tray. The security guard was busy talking to another security guard but waved me on through the metal detector. No problems. Got my stuff and waved a final goodbye to my parents. Then I was on my own. I got my breakfast: a bagel with cream cheese and a small latte. Comfort food. Sat down in relative solitude and ate and drank. Then I got on the plane and sat down.

Even though Jet Blue has built in satellite tvs in the back of every seat, I read. The book I’m reading was highly recommended by Christina Bruni. It’s called The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks. It just came out this month and it’s a memoir of her struggles with schizophrenia. What’s immediately striking about the memoir is the information on the author on the inside back cover: “Elyn R. Saks is a professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. She is a research clinical associate at the New Center for Psychoanalysis.” By anyone’s standards this woman is highly successful in spite of having an incredible disability. So far I’ve read 220 pages and plan to finish it tomorrow.

After I got my seat on the second flight and was about to continue reading one of the flight attendants strongly tapped my arm as a youngish woman sat down besides me. “She gets very upset at take off.” It was both a warning and a plea for support. The woman herself then went on to say that she would probably want a hand to hold and she would probably do some crying but only till just after take-off, then she’d be fine. Ironically, I, too, do not like flying but I’ve never had the kind of panic attack this woman was having. I resolved to be supportive but I had little desire to talk her through it. I did say a few words of comfort and I held her hand tightly before and during take-off. I felt sympathetic, even a bit empathetic but not talkative. She said she had flown a lot but always had this reaction. She would worry about the plane exploding the day before, the night before and the morning before to the point where she just couldn’t relax. The man beside her looked as if he was trying to fall asleep and she said “He’s lucky.” After we took off and climbed to a high enough altitude she kissed my hand and thanked me. She was still a bit agitated and she got up to go to the bathroom. When she got back she soon got preoccupied with television and with eating a double portion of snacks that had been handed out. It was a short flight, under an hour and luckily the woman had no problem with the landing. (Of course I didn’t tell her that the landing is as dangerous as the take-off.) Trying to calm her made me strangely less personally afraid.

Reading a book about a woman’s struggle with schizophrenia and comparing my experience to hers I felt mildly self-conscious about my illness. Just that I had talked to no one but the agitated woman was typical of a person still suffering from the illness. And by the time I got to my car I was feeling anxious about the ride home but the voices comforted me and told me I would have no problems and that when I got home the cats would be fine. And they were right. But here I am sitting in my spot back to smoking two cigarettes an hour instead of the one an hour (sort of) I was smoking down in Florida. (I took off the patch again soon after we landed) And I’m thinking do I want to fall right back into my usual pattern or should I try to change? It’s hot and humid and I’m tired and so I do fall back but now it’s time to start thinking about taking the CHANTIX. I noticed that the nicotene patch really did calm me down and I’m sure this new drug will do the same. It was a curious feeling not to be caught by craving. All of a sudden I didn’t feel the need to plan for my next smoke as I had while I was visiting my parents. After I got home I soon smoked a cigarette. Then I lay on the couch and thought “What if I wait an hour before smoking another one the way I did in Florida?” For a few moments I considered what it would be like to not smoke at all. There would be more time, more freedom and I realized that I would need more support than I’m accustomed to asking for to keep myself focused and busy. I thought...I should find out if there’s a face to face support group that I can go to in this area. But really all this thinking is just putting off the inevitable. If I was really committed I would start taking the CHANTIX tomorrow. The first week on it you are allowed to smoke. The following week you must stop.

I want to change. The voices counsel me to stay positive and not berate myself for starting to slip back into my habitual pattern. They are right. A negative attitude is like a whirlpool, it sucks you in and down. A positive attitude allows for setbacks and fosters a sense of hope. I have to believe I do have the courage to change or I will not change.

(Next day) Slept for 12 hours straight. I feel rested but it’s still too hot and humid. Down in Florida everything except the out doors is air conditioned but here in my house I just have fans. They do help but I still feel slow. My main worry while I was away was about the cats but they are all okay. My voices did repeatedly reassure me that they would be but I still worried. I can’t pick up a phone and call them and say “How are you doing?” Richard looked after Allie at my brother’s house and stopped over at my house also but he didn’t see Ozzie or Moocher. That didn’t surprise me. They are frightened of strangers because I rarely have people over to my house. Sometimes when a car pulls up in the driveway one of them will growl and both of them will look for a good hiding spot. My brother is the only one they will eventually come out for.

Still smoking too much. I think I will start taking the CHANTIX pills on Monday. It will give me a week to get rid of cigarettes in the house and car. CHANTIX has a website and a special support program for those who are using their product. They say to start it on the first day of taking the medicine. I’ve done a little research online to find support groups for people who are quitting cigarettes. There are several with message boards. I should call the local hospitals and see if there are any face-to-face support groups there. I need extra support because I’m starting to realize that I’m scared to quit. Yes smoking cigarettes is an addiction but it’s also a psychological crutch. I was smoking half as much at my parents because I had to go outside their apartment building but I had the feeling that I could smoke even less if I put my mind to it. At my parents there was the rule--no smoking in the apartment or in the car. Here at home there are no rules and I get lax. If I feel restless, I smoke a cigarette. If I want to procrastinate, I smoke a cigarette. After I eat, I smoke a cigarette. I need to understand my habitual patterns if I’m going to succeed in fighting off this addiction.

Okay, time to finish reading Elyn Saks book.




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