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, March 7, 2010

I Do Not Deny The Negative

It's true, I don't. I know that people are suffering every second of every day and night; I know that I dip into suffering throughout the day/night. I wrote this song a few months ago (don't know what it's called yet) and these are the lyrics:

I've been crazy,
Down on my knees and begging,
Paranoid and isolated,
Out of my ever loving mind.

Lucifer's in recovery
I was told.
Just be patient a little while longer
You'll be brought back into the fold.

Chorus:
Life's a struggle for everyone I know,
And everyone I don't know, I'm sure.
Just because you lost your mind along the way
Don't let it stop you from opening the door--
To the outside, to the outside, to the outside.

I've been crazy,
But never divorced from God,
I kept turning my cheek to the Devil
To see what was left inside.

Lucifer's in recovery
I was told
Just be patient a little while longer
You'll be brought back into the fold.

Well, that's the gist of it, just that even in the worst times, there was always a bit of light, but you had to look for it. I'm a bit amazed to hear people talking about the voices as if they were solely negative, with no redemptive quality because I have never found that to be the case. I have found that when some voices thoroughly attacked me, other voices worked damn hard to make sure that I kept holding on to what little positive I could find in the situation. Yes, there were times when I was overtaken. I especially remember being consigned to Hell for I don't know how long, could have been an hour or a few minutes, but it felt way too long and I was terrified that I would be stuck there forever. But even then I could tell that the Judges (there were a couple of them) were not fair judges, but judges corrupted by suffering. And I'd felt that before, as if I was connected to some being that was submerged in all the suffering in this world and I was there to share in some of his burden. A heavy, heavy burden indeed. But I knew then and I know now that it is not the whole picture. It was like looking at and experiencing life through the dark half of a yin yang symbol with just a touch of light and no more.

Negativity is part of life and some of it is probably essential to life, but negativity can be like a whirlpool, and once you're pulled into it you get sucked down into an abyss that is hard to pull yourself out of without some outside help and inside determination. Some suffering is instructional, some even akin to spiritual, but too much of it is just unnecessary. To say that people have suffered and are suffering right now is true. Suffering is pervasive. But to say that by noting the existence of suffering that you are being more realistic than some about the Truth of Life I don't think is true.

It sucks, but the negative is easier to embrace than the positive; we fall into patterns of it and get worn down by it. The negative has an unfair advantage. In its very nature it obscures the light, but that doesn't mean that the light doesn't exist and that it can't return to balance out the night. I freely admit that I am someone who was influenced by the 12 step literature in the group Al-Anon (a self-help group for people who are friends and families of alcoholics). I didn't really follow the steps very closely, but I did pick up on the idea of having an "attitude of gratitude" about difficult circumstances. I lived with an abusive alcoholic who very often saw life as the glass half empty rather than half full. His attitude coupled with his regularly abusive behavior towards me wore me down, but I didn't believe all the dark stuff that came out in his talking or yelling. I never embraced it. I didn't become anti-semitic, homophobic and essentially pessimistic about people and life, though I did get very depressed, just worn out waiting on him. So, though I didn't embrace his attitude, I still was deeply affected by it, to the point where I had to shut him out of my life.

In retrospect, I regret that now, but I also understand it. Without knowing it, I did suck up some of that prejudiced negativity. Instead of softening and seeing how close I was to hope, I shut down and got numb. I'm still not as sensitive as I could be, but I'm thawing out. And part of why I have been thawing out is because I practice gratitude. Just after my third and last breakdown in December 2001, I began instructing myself in my journal to practice recovery behaviors: take the medications, therapy once a week, read support literature, write in journal, get plenty of rest, eat regular meals, etc... I also wrote down warning signals of impending psychosis: any delusion, talking a loud too much, driving when in a delusion, paranoia, not sleeping enough or too irregularly, getting too tired after being around people for 4-5 hours, an inability to concentrate, etc... In effect, I was trying to work a program by loosely basing it on the 12 step program for co-dependents. It wasn't a perfect fit, but it was something to hold onto. I still wish there was a daily reader out there for people who suffer from any form of psychosis. For now, I still return to the Al-Anon daily readers when I get particularly stuck.

Okay, so the negative exists; people commit suicide or die young of disease or accident and ultimately we're all going to die. Being negative doesn't make the negative go away or lessen; it intensifies it. But being positive in the face of the negative does have the power to decrease it and sometimes even transforms it into happiness. I have often thought that the fact that I can use language to form ideas and express feelings is a wonderful ability in itself, even when I've had negative voices hammering away at my psyche. I've looked at the negative voices this way and have seen that despite their darkness they are creative, imaginative and intelligent. Most people look upon an enemy as the scum of the earth, not worth anything good, but there are some of us who can try to find the friend inside the enemy. Believe me, I don't always succeed. There are times when I succumb to my anxiety and fall back into my corner believing the conformist belief that some people are unredeemable, or worse, that I am unredeemable. I fight that. I hope I always will.
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