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, March 7, 2017

Work In Progress



Most of the work that I've been doing has taken me a day or two to do, but this one is going to take longer.  I worked on this for an hour or so changing the girl on the left's face and trying to get a likeness for the mother's face, which I didn't succeed at doing.  The proportions may be wrong now and the figure on the side of the painting I'm not sure if I can fit.  It needs a lot of work and that's what I've been wanting lately, a challenge.  Well I've got it.  But I know when I say to myself to stop painting, I should listen and put it aside, which I'm doing now.  I had an excellent teacher in the 1980s who put out a book on painting and in her book she said that it was a good idea to work on several different projects at the same general time, so I have to look for something else to concentrate on....

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mother, Daughters & A Friend





Just started this painting yesterday with a charcoal drawing and with the oil paint today.  The girl on the left side does not look the way I want her to look based on the reference photo I'm using.  Her face and the color of her jacket will change, but I like the contrast between the two girls' expressions right now and I'd like to see the transformation, which is why I've taken pictures as I progress through the process of painting. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Exploring Mixed Media





Worked all day today on these three pieces.  I've been gathering up my supplies and getting more supplies this week.  I do not know what I'm doing and that's part of the fun of it.  I got a ton of stencils some plastic, most cardboard.  I've ordered some spray inks.  I'd never heard of those until I started reading a book on art journaling.  I wouldn't say that I'm really journaling.  No words yet, but I am exploring.  It's keeping me busy instead of sitting around feeling depressed.  Right now my favorite piece out of the three is the one in the middle, but I don't know why.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Painted Today



Warded off depression today by painting this 10" x 10" oil painting.  Also listened to some classical music, exercised, ate a couple of salads, listened to audio recordings of poets reading their poems.  I've been learning about art journaling from some YouTube videos.  I enjoy looking at people's art work and watching their process.  I have a lot to learn especially about letting go and making a mess and transforming messes.  Today I wanted color and I wanted to work with these oils (water soluble) on primed canvas.  It felt good to reconnect to my art process.  I can deal with a straightforward, abstracted landscape.  Art journaling at this beginning stage is somewhat intimidating.  There are so many directions to go in and so many supplies to work with that making a coherent whole is daunting.  So, what to do?  Keep going and get a lot messier.  And research other people's ideas.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Winter Blues



So I'm in the midst of one of those down spells.  I had to postpone a talk with one of my friends last night because I had been sleeping all day and still felt depressed when I woke up.  Sometimes that doesn't happen and I wake up energized and ready to do something with my time.  This time I just wanted to go back to sleep again.  So what's the problem?  Really there is no major problem because I have so much, but I know that I'm not doing enough for myself or anyone else.  It's Winter.  Way too many grey days and not enough desire to get outside.  I bought a light box to treat some of the depression.  I haven't been using it enough.  And I find, when I'm down like this, that I sabotage myself.  Music could lift my spirits, so I don't play anything and listen.  Watching a film could also engage me and lift me up, so I don't do it.

What would I call this?  Ego.  More specifically the unbalancing nature to ego, either I'm too big (delusions of grandeur) or I'm too small (an unworthy human being).  So right now I see myself as unworthy and I've gone down this path before.  I went down this path when I first entered into psychosis 18 years ago.  So I consulted the I Ching several days ago asking generally what was going on and the response, according to one interpretation, was that I was isolating myself too much and being selfish.  Unfortunately, this just fed my sickness and made me feel a bit more ill.  It did make me wonder what I could do to be helpful to others.  The answer?  Volunteer.  But I know myself well enough that I wouldn't go out and do that because I am afraid of people but maybe, I thought, I could do volunteer work from home to start with to build up my confidence.

I found several sites that help people connect with volunteer opportunities.  The one that I settled down to work with is called Helpfromhome.org.  For a couple of days I went through various lists of opportunities and made my own list of the work that I responded to.  Then I explored the different websites for each opportunity.  Several of the opportunities involved sending cards or better yet making cards and sending them to people, children and adults, who were ill or lonely and depressed.  I found an address for one 7 year old girl in England who has been living with a  terrible skin condition since birth.  Her story helped to put my story into a better perspective.

I took a friend out to lunch on Saturday and then we went for a walk with his dog.  Cold and windy, but sunny.  I felt invigorated by the walk and went home happy.  Grey day the next day, yesterday, when I slept all day.  I'm writing here to try and get back on track.  I gathered up a bunch of art supplies and ordered some Strathmore 5" x 7" cards with envelopes to decorate and send.  It will get me back into doing art work and maybe help to lift a few people's spirits.  It is back to - "Don't give up.  Keep going."  That's what I need to do.  Keep it simple.  Keep it small.

I've been quit from cigarettes for over a month and have no desire to return to them.  It's a little miracle for me.  I've been taking the diabetes medication faithfully for over a month, too.  My little toes still hurt when I get up from sleeping so I had the meds increased last week.  I have to wait and see.  I'm eating right and exercising despite the depression.  I'm doing some things well in my life.  I have to try to not let myself get in the way of progress.  I have been seeing how judgmental I get with myself.  Self denigration will get me nowhere.

I've said to my voices (which have been much quieter lately) that they need to believe in an unconditionally loving Higher Power, well so do I need to believe this.  It's been obvious to me that those who recover from various addictions believe this wholeheartedly.  They believe that this Power loves and supports them regardless of what they have or haven't done, supports them every moment, just as they are.  I need to believe this, too.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Resolutions For Health In 2017

I quit smoking again just as it turned into the new year of 2017.  Four and a half days later I went to my doctor's appointment to hear the results of my recent blood test.  My blood sugar level was quite high and he said I would have to start taking a medication twice daily at meals for the next 3 months till I saw him again.  One reason why I readily agreed is that I've been having toe pain for the last 2-3 weeks.  Problems with feet and eyes are common especially in untreated diabetes and can lead to dire consequences such as amputations and blindness.  The doctor said the pain in my toes would probably clear up within 2 weeks.  I have been faithfully taking the medication twice a day for the last four days.  I still have pain in my toes and some tension in my fingers and a restlessness at night when I try to sleep.

My condition is a wake up call to take better care of myself.  I would like to follow more closely Dr. Joel Fuhrman's books on fighting or even eliminating diabetes.  He suggests a mostly vegan diet and I have been moving towards that.  I have been relying in part on a line of frozen foods called AMY'S but it is still processed and I think I'm going to stop buying it.  I have been including more salads and more green smoothies, but I need to branch out into cooking, particularly hearty soups.  All this requires shopping at least once a week for fresh fruits and vegetables.  It also requires food preparation and a clean kitchen.  I have a very dirty kitchen and I have to change that.

Despite the stress of finding out my blood sugar is too high, (which has led me to thoughts of affliction and mortality) I do not have the desire to smoke cigarettes.  That in itself is a miracle that makes me grateful.  I turn instead to my vape mods and to drinking water and to talking into my audio recorder or listening to audio programs.  I am consciously trying to turn to vaping when I feel the least touch of a desire to smoke.  I'm trying to transfer my tendency to be compulsive from the toxic cigarettes to the mostly non toxic (no nicotine) vaping.  It's working for me.  It is obviously breath oriented, even more so than cigarettes, and it soothes me.

It's been very cold here this past week and I have stayed indoors.  There is peace and quiet and safety in my home, the ever present company of my cats and moments of meditation and appreciation for my life.  I do shift into anxiety and depression, but I've been sitting with them knowing that they too will shift into something better.  I'm also learning that once I become aware of whatever negative thought pattern I'm in, I can go to work to re-direct myself towards basic bottom line acceptance of where I am at in the present moment.

I have struggled with voices that say that I should be doing more, helping people, implying that my small life is a selfish one.  Not harming others has been very important to me and I don't.  In some instances I help.  What I'm really trying to learn is how not to hurt myself.  Having quit smoking cigarettes is a huge step forward in this.  And now, so is diet and exercise.  What I've learned over the years of living with psychosis is that individuals placing top priority on taking care of themselves body, mind and spirit is the key to living in peace and the key to finding deep happiness.