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.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Twelve Step Telephone Meetings

Twelve Step telephone meetings are a lifeline for me, an opportunity to listen and learn and sometimes to share and do service work.  Lately I have been struggling to get myself to share my story and/or current situation.  My social and emotional anorexia block me.  Last week I did get up the courage to share for about three minutes on a women's meeting for Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous.  I shared that I had been in a domestic violence/love addicted relationship.  I shared that I suffered from schizoaffective disorder.  I had a desire to be transparent and direct and so I was, but then I have not shared again yet.

My next challenge is to take one or more of the numbers I've written down of women willing to connect and be recovery partners and text or call.  When I turn away from that challenge, I am thinking to myself that I'm not good enough to offer friendship to someone new.  I self stigmatize myself as mentally ill.  I am mentally ill but I need to be proud of how far I've come and how sincerely I want to recover my sanity.  I do have a lot of faith that sanity/health is possible for me and those who seek it.  But faith needs the footwork and too often I find myself lying down, too much in my head and not enough in my heart.

Right from the beginning of entering into acute psychosis in the spring of 1998 there was a desire in me to connect with others, to make friendships, to take on more responsibility.  But desire led to delusions.  Delusions led to reaching out in sickness and desperation.  There was the threat of Hell if I didn't, but only after I had visited a Hell on the kitchen floor of my ex-boyfriend's apartment.  I had had an idealistic vision of joining some kind of artistic group filled with possibly higher purposes.  My delusions showed me a sick group, a group I did not want to join.  But reality did come through when I went to see a therapist and committed to Al-Anon and a domestic violence support group.  These were real people with real struggles trying to get and give help.  For a time, I joined them.

The people I'm listening to on the telephone lines are also real people with real struggles and also real successes.  It is hard to be vulnerable, open and direct, but over and over that's what I hear in these telemeetings.  A lot of the meetings have been getting hacked with people breaking into the calls and often saying or implying obscene things, or just making noise, or even adding reverb to whomever is speaking making it very hard to concentrate.  One morning I was on an open Sex Addicts Anonymous telephone meeting for the study of AA's Big Book and it was being hacked.  We happened to be reading this paragraph:  "We realized the the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.  Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick, too.  We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.  When a person offended we said to ourselves, 'This is a sick man.  How can I be helpful to him?  God save me from being angry.  Thy will be done.'" (pp 66-67 - The AA Study Edition)

By the end of that meeting it was clear that everyone on the line was practicing faith and tolerance and it felt good.  I felt respect for those who read and shared on that phone call, but I feel respect just generally for anyone trying to seek help for themselves.  Still, it's not enough to feel respect, I need to show respect for others by taking my seat and sharing, too.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Working Step One - Powerlessness & Unmanageability

This is how I have been rewording the First Step of the Twelve Steps to fit myself and my situation:  "We admitted we were powerless over social and emotional anorexia and poor self-care, that our lives had become unmanageable."

I have been working on Step One for over 6 months since I asked a friend to become my sponsor.  I've gone from support book to support book with my sponsor trying to move through the step and I have been getting repeatedly stuck.  I'm only realizing that what I've been coming up against is my own self-will.  Where there's self-will, there is no surrender and this step is about surrendering to the truth, becoming vulnerable.

My addictive pattern is one of avoidance.  Even as I do my best to confront the truth about myself or, at least, make a dent in my denial system here, I am still avoiding other responsibilities, such as - cleaning my home, paying my bills, washing my clothes, cooking, exercising, going out of the house, calling someone in recovery, calling anyone.  What I do here in reflecting and communicating is good and useful, but it is not enough.

I embraced Al-Anon years ago because I was living with an alcoholic who was abusive to me.  Through reading their daily readers, I began learning the Twelve Steps, the slogans and the concepts of the group.  I began to believe in something greater than myself.  I reached out for a Higher Power.  Eventually, I went to some meetings.  I got a lot out of those meetings, both comfort and insight.  But I did not stay and would return sporadically over the years.  I did not call people from the meetings and most of the time, most of my life, I stayed in isolation from others.

I began calling myself an adult child decades ago and I continue to be one.  I began an addictive pattern of self isolation decades ago and I continue to practice it.  My ability to care for my physical needs and home declined rapidly after I went into psychosis in 1998 and I continue with that addictive pattern today.  Intellectually I see the pattern, but without connection to my heart I don't really learn the lesson; I don't change.

Not changing and not only seeing it, but feeling it and labeling it "Addiction" is me moving towards the temporary completion of Step One.  (I believe the the Steps are meant to be repeated throughout one's life as a process of deepening one's understanding, highlighting insight and facilitating intuition from the Higher Power.)  I'm yearning to move on to Step Two - "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."  The truth is that I need to sit in awareness a bit longer.  I need to own the powerlessness and unmanageability of my life.

I need to do more Step work; I need to write it out and look at it, read it and review it.  I need to brand it into my mind, heart and spirit.

Monday, May 21, 2018

"It is okay to know who I am."
                Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families - Affirmation #1


I'm a process in a body.  Who I am has been in flux since before I was born.  I have no concrete self, no set "I".  I am changing every moment.  Change can cause release; it can also cause anxiety.  But I do have rhythms and patterns flowing through me.  Rhythms and patterns that began in infancy and have continued, some getting stronger, others getting weaker or alternating again.  I give myself permission to look at my patterns, to review my journey.  Giving myself permission to look and increase awareness is not the same as doing it.  I also need the permission of the Higher Powers to reveal to me what I need to know at the right time.

I say I want to retrieve my childhood memories, but when I open to the exploration, I get pulled into strong feelings and react by pushing the tendrils of memories away.  Seeking to be more aware and to remember my past does not mean I won't feel discomfort.  Too much discomfort might mean that it is not yet time to remember, that I am not emotionally ready.  I need to pay attention to how I am feeling as much as I can.  This leads to intuition and to guidance from something known yet unknown, the mysterious, yet ever present, Higher Powers.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Check Out My New Art Blog



I just posted the first entry to my new art blog.  It's called Kate W. Kiernan's Art Blog and I'm still going with Blogger and linking it to my Google Plus account.  This is the painting I write about in my first entry.  I decided I wanted a blog dedicated to art and my art process.  I'm planning on making it a platform to sell my art work.  I pretty quickly decided to be open about my struggles with mental illness because art has been my way of coping with my life and enriching it.  I don't think I could have turned to recovery attitudes and behaviors without having been consistently creative in one way or another all throughout these last 20 years.  But my focus will be on art and art process and not directly on my mental illness.  I just felt I needed to be honest about this challenge in my life from the beginning as a stepping off point.  

Here's the link to my other blog:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Side Profile Drawing



This was done with a 3H pencil on hot press watercolor paper 140lb 8x8".  It's an attempt at doing a portrait of Barbara Striesand, but it doesn't quite work for me.  The nose and lips are a bit off.  Still, I enjoyed drawing it and I like the profile.  I've been considering specializing in side profile drawings and paintings for some of my work time.  It's been about two months since I got back into visual arts. A lot of times I get into a creative streak but it usually only lasts for a couple of months.  This time feels different.  Part of what is holding me to it is that I need to earn income.  I tried to earn income nine or ten years ago and didn't sell much, but then I didn't promote and market myself enough either.    This time I'm trying to be business oriented, so I've been doing the research online and thinking about what I would like to sell.  I've just begun to use index cards to keep track of business/marketing ideas and art process ideas.  I realized that I had been doing several portraits in profile and I thought maybe that would be a good angle, a specialty that could identify me to potential collectors.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Art Process



This is an 8"x8" drawing that I did on clay board of a very dear friend's daughters.  My plan was to try out some Sennelier egg tempera paints to do this portrait.  It's been sitting on my drawing table against the wall for about a week.  I painted a self-portrait in egg tempera about twenty years ago.  Here it is:



This portrait was done just before I entered into psychosis in 1998.  I was in art school at the time and, though I wasn't psychotic yet, I was still struggling.  I liked working with the egg tempera that I concocted at home with dry pigments, water and egg yolk.  I think I mixed some watercolor into the yolk, but I'm not sure.  I gave the portrait to my parents.  I don't think my mother liked it too much, but I gave it anyway.  

So here I am about to try another portrait and I'm lacking in confidence.  Intellectually I know it is foolish to be afraid to begin painting a portrait.  And in my heart I know that what I respond to is the process.  I also like documenting the process and seeing the stages the work goes through.  So I know I want to do this portrait of my friend's daughters and I don't want to give up on it.  I just got some 140 lb hot pressed watercolor paper also in the 8"x8" size and I thought I could try to do another drawing of them and try out watercolor.  I'm not yet confident with the watercolors either, but the only way to get the confidence is through practice.  

I think fear is my greatest character defect.  Fear of failure, fear of success.  And this is why having a regular art practice might be a good direction for me because I have to begin again all the time.  I have to somehow face the fear and get past it.  


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Today's Experiment In Art



Approximately 8"x10", 98 lb paper, Sennelier watercolors, Caran D'Ache watercolor crayons and a touch of black India ink.

I got an art workbook yesterday called The Paintbrush Playbook by Ana Montiel.  It has 44 exercises to try out with watercolor, acrylic and inks in the book.  I've tested out 4 so far.  She is trying to teach in a playful, creative way about the basics of water based painting.  I need the help.  I'm doing my best to let go into playing and experimenting, into getting closer to understanding the mediums and supports.  I'm tentative still.  I like working with abstraction because it sets me free to be more intuitive about line, color, value, brush choice, brush marks.  It takes some courage to face the blank page or canvas or board.  I think that one thing I like about abstractions such as this one is that I have to look for meaning and pleasure in it.  There's no deep message and yet something of my spirit is expressed.  That's good enough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Studying




Over the years I've gathered up art supplies.  Some I've given away to a friend when I haven't been working for a while on art, but I invariably return and pick up a few more things to try out.  This past month I've gotten a set of Caran D'Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons.  I've tried them out a couple of times and I really like them.  The colors are rich and easy to apply to the paper and I can get some good texture coming through on my drawings.  I also got some Sennelier watercolors and I already had watercolor pencils.  I've done a small comparison test between them and they all have their strengths and they are all different.  The most versatile of them, for me, is the Sennelier watercolor.  I intentionally got artist grade watercolors to replace my student grade watercolors because I had read in a research book that there really is a definite difference in quality.  I can see/feel that it's true.  You can paint and you can draw with these watercolors, whereas with the watercolor pencils and crayons it has some bias towards drawing.  I'm still feeling them out.

The simplest way to learn about line, shape and value is with a pencil.  With portraits I usually do a pencil drawing, especially with watercolor portraits.  I've found sometimes the underdrawing is a stronger image than the painted image, but that is because I am still learning about painting.  Still learning about drawing too, about process.