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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Territory

I haven't been writing this past week or so, not even much in my journal.  I've been trying to figure out how to be of best help to Sam.  The brakes on her truck are almost out and she's overdue for an inspection; she also got a ticket for that and she just doesn't have the money.  Main thing, she needs to get to work and back three nights a week.  I realized pretty quickly that I don't use my car a whole lot and so I offered to lend my car to Sam on her work nights.  At first she refused, but then she got the ticket and accepted the use of my car at least for a couple of nights.  I want to help her out for the next three weeks because that's when she has the work, but when the schools here take a break for a month, she'll be out of work till they get back.  So basically, I get the car for half the week and she gets it for the other half.

Yesterday I brought my car in to have its pre-winter check-up and to be winterized.  The mechanic found  damage to my brakes.  It's going to cost a lot of money to repair them, but it has to be done.  I'm not ready to get a new car, though it looks as if that time will come within the next year or two.  I've had my car for ten years now, so I can't complain.  The car is in the shop right now and they'll keep it overnight and finish the work by tomorrow evening.  Thanks to my father I can still fix the car, but Sam doesn't have that safety net.  So she relies on her friends.  I don't know what she's going to do if her truck is not fixable.  She'll have to get another vehicle, but how?  And we're on the brink of going into the winter season.  Sam takes it day by day.  She has to.

I think part of why I'm not writing is because I'm still processing being around Sam more.  I need time to reorient myself, time to readjust.  I'm used to my connection with my brother, but it's going to take me more time with Sam because I don't know her well yet.  I will get there little by little.  So far, it is looking good.  My heart is not so numb anymore.  What a relief!  But I do have to pace myself and slow it down, not jump into the future.  Yes, I can be of some help to Sam and maybe others, but only after I take care of myself.  That's something that gets stressed in Al-Anon support groups.  It can be too easy to fall into a co-dependent pattern.  I've done that already and I don't want to ever go back to supporting an  unhealthy relationship.

Health in relationships is about setting good boundaries which may come to having to say no to someone else sometimes.  Respect, courtesy, being open minded, having a sense of humor all factor into making a relationship balanced.  Or so I think, for I only have partial experience with relationships and not a lot with having a female friend.  I have to watch out for any subtle imbalance.  With Sam, I could feel the pull of wanting to manage and control her life, which I absolutely do not want to do.  I can make a suggestion or an offer, but I cannot direct another human life.  Big lesson.  Be generous, be supportive, but keep hands off.  Give others the dignity to decide for themselves.  And if they fall, be there and welcome them.  I'm learning, but I don't fully trust myself to steer clear of subtle delusional inclinations.  The inclination to see myself as more important than I really am.

I'm in new territory, the territory of extending myself out from home base.  I will make mistakes, but I will catch them and correct them and not let them color my thoughts and actions.  Vigilance.  That's the name of the game for an individual who has survived acute mental illness.  I've said this before, but my trusty tape recorder helps a great deal with vigilance.  So does writing in a journal and in this blog.  There's something about witnessing myself and having others witness me that is extremely beneficial.  Sickness comes from holding all that confusion and negativity inside of you.  It's better to get it out in the open, share it, get feedback.  It's better to see that you are not a freak, to see that mistakes are all about being human and being human is quite okay.  When you name your particular variety of negativity and say it aloud, it loses some of its power to disturb.  And then solutions are given the opportunity to come forward into the space that you've created.

When I offer to be generous to Sam, I am releasing all of my internal stinginess.  I relax.  I tell you, it feels good.  I love the idea of people coming together and helping each other out in a small community. I love trying to set a good example.  My voices have not  been calling me evil for many months now and when I do something  helpful for anyone I can understand why.  I'm not evil.  Just human and so a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else.  This is another great relief to me because for a time I was battered by the voices telling me over and over that I was evil.  I came close to believing them, but ultimately rejected their assertion.  I set a boundary with them and mostly didn't allow them to cross it, and yet, at the same time, I prayed for them.  If they could heal, then I knew that I could, too.

Lending my car to Sam is such a small thing compared to all the forms of generosity out there, but that small step is helping me to connect more directly to her and her circle of friends.  I feel able to commit now, whereas before I couldn't handle it.  I don't have a life filled to the brim with responsibilities, no husband, children, work and so I  can afford to step up to the plate.


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