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, October 10, 2010

Working Through Symptoms, Bonding With Friends

Coffee has been a partial antidote to my depression lately, but I have to be careful to stop drinking it sometime in the afternoon or else I stay up all night. Occasionally that's okay, but as a habit it invites psychosis back into the forefront, which is not something I'm willing to do. Before I became psychotic, I didn't realize how important sleep was to maintaining mental health. So if any of you are having psychological problems, be sure to focus on getting your sleep. That's why I take the generic Risperdal before bed, even though it also increases my appetite (hence I stay fat) and decreases my sex drive (hence I stay celibate). I have learned to compromise. Because I am middle-aged and have lived alone for so long, I can bear with the compromise, in a way a younger person might not be able to do so readily. Ultimately, for those with psychotic disorders, you have to choose between sanity and insanity. I chose sanity because insanity threatened to swallow me whole. But within my sanity, or relative sanity, because I still hear voices and still believe that they come from outside of me, I struggle with the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

Except for the voices, my positive symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, have all almost completely diminished. The most resistant of the three has been paranoia, but even that rarely bothers me for long. My negative symptoms, which for me are social isolation, apathy towards cleaning my house and other self-care issues have combined with healthy doses of depression and anxiety, perhaps as a result of the negative symptoms. Lately I have been trying to treat my depression and especially my anxiety by returning to meditation. But after doing a google search on negative symptoms of schizophrenia I learned that the medications I take are mainly for treating positive symptoms and not for treating negative symptoms. There is no effective medication yet for negative symptoms and so many people are turning to cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy.

I don't know much about cognitive behavioral therapy, though my therapist says she uses some of the techniques with me, but I do know about talk therapy. I see my therapist once every two weeks and the rest of the time I talk into my tape recorder several times a day and listen back to my recordings. I take short notes that I write on the tape sleeve that fits into the case, so that I have some idea of what's on the tape if I want to listen to it at a later date. At some point I might transcribe sections of the tape to use with my other writing, especially for my memoir.

What I've found is that talking into the tape recorder helps to ease my sense of social isolation, which is one of my negative symptoms. I equate social isolation sometimes with depression and anxiety, so talking and listening help to treat all of it. Unfortunately, it appears to do little towards helping me to clean my house, wash my clothes and brush my teeth. I wish there was a pill for that and for shedding the weight I've put on in the last 10 years. But I will take what I can get, though I am considering asking my psychiatrist for an anti-anxiety pill. I did some research on that and found most of the potent anti-anxiety pills are addictive, plain and simple, and not really worth taking, unless you have severe panic attacks, and then only temporarily. I did discover that I might be suffering from something called General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and that there is a relatively harmless drug called Buspirone or Buspar that has been helpful for others. It is mildly sedating, has no serious drug interactions and is basically non addictive. I'm going to talk about it with my therapist and then with my psychiatrist.

In order to tackle my self-isolation I discovered a new approach this week. I asked an old friend if I could send her a tape of me talking to her. Technically I should be able to pick up the phone and give her and other friends a call, but I've developed some phone phobia. She said yes and even offered to send me a tape of herself. So I sent the tape to her, she got it on Friday and is working on a tape to send me this week. I am excited to be doing this. I have thought of doing it before with another friend, but I chickened out and never sent the tape. Now I feel ready, especially after conducting my self-talk experiment for over three years now. And I am so glad that it is this particular old friend that I'm communicating with. I worried that I got a little too personal with her on the 2nd side of the tape, but she said it just made her feel as if I really cared about her, and I do! It is special to have this connection with someone from my childhood and youth, someone from my old neighborhood. I'm blessed that she's responded to me. I am even more fortunate to have a circle of online friends who have been so good to me. Last night I picked out a bunch of small presents to give to two other friends. I will send the packages off tomorrow. And Nancy has promised to mail me an old fashioned letter very soon.

Other than this, I have hit my two month mark for writing and reading each day. Tomorrow I will celebrate, I will get a new gadget in the mail; it's called a Kindle. The Kindle is a computer the size of a paperback made for downloading and reading books, listening to audiobooks and listening to music. It also has an experimental program for surfing the internet. Books published before 1923 are mostly free to download and many others are $10 or less. I decided to buy it based on that and the portable internet connection. It can hold up to 3,500 books. I'm hoping it will reduce the pile of books around my couch. Luckily, I had an extra couple of hundred dollars this month, though normally I try not to spend too much. What this means is that I can have an entire library at my fingertips in time. I can browse through so many books and even highlight and take notes on specific pages. I can also have access to the internet wherever I travel. The Kindle is made by Amazon and Amazon pays for the internet connection through AT&T (I think). I am very excited to get it and try it out. I'll let you know if it works out well.
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