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.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Courage To Change

14 days on a diet, 12 days of exercise, 93 days without smoking cigarettes

You've probably heard it said, you can't change others, you can only change yourself. Lately I've been hearing the Serenity Prayer in my head. Here's the whole prayer:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

Grant me Patience with the changes that take time,
An Appreciation of all that I have,
Tolerance of those with different struggles,
And the Strength to get up and try again
One day at a time.

I'm pretty good about knowing that I can't change others, it's the changing myself part that I need to keep working on. The more self-reflective I get, the more I see that I am my own greatest obstacle. On the positive side-- I take my medications in the morning and at night, I see my therapist every other week, I keep an audio journal which I listen back to once or twice a day for added support, I'm now following a diet and exercise program, I write in this blog, I keep in touch with my brother who lives close by and, a bit erratically, I keep in touch with online friends. On the not so positive side-- I go in and out of creative periods--painting, craft work, songwriting, writing. I continue to hear voices and continue to believe that they originate outside of me. My personal hygiene is pretty poor--I sleep in my clothes, don't often wash my clothes or clean the dishes or my house, brush my teeth only once a day, etc... I am very isolated (there are no support groups or club houses in my area and I still haven't tried to start a group...).

I think it is the isolation that hits me the hardest and keeps me stuck. The truth is I want somebody else to start a support group or a clubhouse for me, but the other truth is that I'm going to have to have the courage to change and begin it myself. But over and over again I get stuck and keep to myself. It's a good thing that I write in this blog because it gets me to reach out to others by sharing my story. And while it does help, it does not take the place of meeting other people in my community who suffer from mental illness. The catch 22 predicament I'm in is that I need help with not being able to ask for help. So for those of you who have access to social services and support groups be grateful and count yourselves fortunate, because there are many people like me living in rural areas without much support. The only time I think I might have met another person who suffers from schizophrenia in my community is when I stayed at the hospital overnight, but since then I have had contact with no one face to face in 10 years. Perhaps that's one reason why I'm shy about starting a group, I have so little experience.

It really doesn't matter what the reason is, I have to start a group anyway. I need it and I know there must be others nearby who could benefit from it as well. So what do I do? I email a minister and tell her my situation. That's all I have to do. Simple. So do it Kate!

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Well, I did do it and I got a quick reply too. The minister said that I would have to contact the church secretary and see if there's any time available because they are pretty tightly scheduled with their own activities. If there was a weekly time available, I would have to get permission from their Board of Trustees. Also I would have to pay a small rental fee. She mentioned that there were several other places in town that I could try and she gave me their numbers. I was thinking that I might email someone at the university's counseling center to see if I could set up a meeting on campus. The main thing is to not give up trying to get this done, but it requires reaching out to strangers and telling my story which is a bit intimidating. So I have to keep pushing myself. Push, push, push!! Because this endeavor I know is worth the effort.

I am very happy to have discovered through Chris' Joyful Music blog two other blogs: Ashley's Overcoming Schizophrenia Blog and Amber's Gaining Insight blog. Ashley is 22 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the summer of 2007, but has responded well to the anti-psychotic medication. She started her blog in September and is dedicated to informing her readers about schizophrenia. I have read through some of her blog entries and I find her inspirational. She recently started a Google group and I've decided that I am going to join it. I hope others do as well. It's a great opportunity for this growing community to get to know each other better and offer up more support.

Amber does not suffer from schizophrenia, but her brother does. She calls her blog Gaining Insight because this is what she hopes for her brother and others like him who are still resistant to taking the anti-psychotic medications. She is also a wonderful painter and has used her artistic talent to explore the subject of mental illness. She writes with intelligence and sensitivity, so check her out.

I think I am going to start a Google group of my own specifically for the members of my local community. I have made several half hearted attempts to do this before, but it never panned out because I didn't advertise it. I just need to get feedback from people about whether they'd like to have a local mental health support group. I might have business cards made up to advertise the online group and make the cards available in key locations (counseling centers, on campus, post offices, etc...). Yes, sounds great, but will I do it? And if I don't, who will? It's got to begin with me. This has got to be the year I make a dent in the silence around here.
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