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.

Friday, January 19, 2007

On Depression and "Enthusiasm"

Hello Everyone, sorry I've been away for a week and a half. I've been struggling with a bit of depression. I'm pretty sure it's the winter blues, short days, little sun, too much time indoors and away from human contact. I just sent an email to my former therapist asking if she can see me a couple of times a month. If she can't I'll go find another therapist but either way, I think it's time to return to some talk therapy. The depression I feel is nothing like it once was, most especially after I came out of my primary delusions and paranoia. Then I felt suicidal and so alone and still crazy. My depression now is more in the lack of motivation department. I noticed it clearly when I tried to set up a daily work schedule. I was okay for a couple of days and then just starting shutting down. I haven't given up my aspirations to make songs and I have still been working at it, just not a whole lot right now but I'm getting the signs that it's time to get myself some support. I'm going to try this Monday evening to go to an Al-Anon meeting. I no longer living with an alcoholic but I still believe in some of the 12 step program and found the people I met there very bright and caring. I just need to take the steps that lead to less isolation and, hopefully, less depression. So that's my short term goal: to get back into therapy and return to face to face support meetings.

What I'd really like to go to is a support group meeting for schizophrenics but the nearest one might be an hour away. I have a fantasy of starting my own group nearby. I know there must be quite a few other schizophrenics living near to me but I have no clue who they are. I have never had an off-line schizophrenic friend but have often thought it would be rewarding. Plus, it's just common sense that just as addicts and their families support each other, so should schizophrenics, maybe especially. I know I could be of some help to someone else who is in the grips of psychosis and supportive of those in recovery. I could do some good for my community. But I'm afraid to start and to take responsibility. I lack confidence to organize and promote a meeting but I still want to try it. There are a few options, if I decide to do this. NAMI and Schizophrenics Anonymous both could help me get started but I would have to follow their rules, whereas something called Meetup.com allows individuals to make their own groups and this is what I think I'd like to try. But I would need somekind of inspirational daily reader and I haven't found any relating to schizophrenia or mental illness in general. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. The Al-Anon daily readers really helped me when I was going through hard times. I took what I learned there and tried to apply it to my daily life. There was a lot of therapy in it which I found effective, such as cultivating a positive attidude, having faith in something greater than yourself, going slow, letting go, being supportive of others, etc... Another of my fantasies has been to write a daily reader for schizophrenia and/or collect writing for one. What do you say Pam, Yaya? Want to join me in trying? You are both accomplished writers with a lot of relevant personal experience. What would you say to someone struggling with schizophrenia or to their friends,lovers, family as a daily pick-me-up? It's a cool idea ladies. So, if you would, please collect quotes that you think would help others and try writing an entry for yourself. It can't hurt and it might help. Meanwhile I'm going to do some online research to see if I can locate a daily reader for schizophrenia or mental illness in general, though that might be too wide a subject to cover well.

(Here's a quote I picked up at another site: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Gandhi
I like that one alot.)

Last week I decided to take a year long correspondence course in the I Ching with a woman named Hilary Barrett who has been consulting the oracle for others and teaching the I Ching for years. I discovered her site a month or two ago. It's excellent with some active message boards and just so much to investigate. Her site is called Clarity (I'll get you the website address tomorrow in case you're interested in learning about the I Ching). I've already received a response from her on the first assignment. The assignment consisted of picking a hexagram at random and apply it to a recent problem. The hexagram I picked was # 16--Enthusiasm. I've gotten this hexagram several times recently and have been trying to study it. Hilary definitely helped me to appreciate the hexagram more. The fascinating thing about Chinese is that each written character has quite a variety of meanings. The name of the hexagram-YU has been translated as not only enthusiasm, but joy, repose, providing for/provision and the ideogram for it is (according to Stephen Karcher ) a son and an elephant. Hence truly deciphering the I Ching is a little like being a sleuth looking for clues. I am now excited to get a Chinese dictionary and start learning more about the words and their various meanings. Slowly, I will get the hang of this.

Enthusiasm (#16) is the music hexagram in that it makes a strong reference to the power of sacred music. The image translated by Thomas Cleary in the Taoist I Ching is: "When thunder emerges the earth stirs; joy. Thus did the kings of yore make music to honor virtue, offering it in abundance to God, thereby to share it with their ancestors." The key word for me here is virtue because that is the goal of the I Ching, to make individuals more virtuous through wise and informed choices, through practice. Stephen Karcher in his translation of the I Ching says the Chinese word for virtue is TE and he includes even deeper translations, such as: "realize tao in action; power, virtue; ability to follow the course traced by the ongoing process of the cosmos; keyword. The ideogram: to go, straight, and heart. Linked with acquire, TE: acquiring that which makes a being become what it is meant to be." But what does tao mean? Again, according to Karcher, "way or path; ongoing process of being and the course it traces for each specific person or thing; keyword. The ideogram: go and head, leading and the path it creates." So TE (virtue) and tao (path) are profoundly intertwined. In order to get to the path one must cultivate virtue. And what does virtue mean? According to the American Oxford Thesaurus it means: "goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, purity; principle, ethics. Antonym--vice, iniquity." Ah, another important word: "iniquity...Wickedness, sinfulness, immorality, impropriety; vice, evil, sin; villainy, criminality; odiousness, atrocity, egregiousness; outrage, monstrosity, obscenity, reprehensibility; formal--turpitude. Antonym--morality, virtue." Back to virtue. Back to TE and tao.

I've been led back to the study of virtue, the study of the superior person. I struggle with myself everyday, unsure of my tao and aware of how any egotism creates an imbalance. But I do have foolish thoughts and am still way too self centered. That is part of the path, to join with others, to end my self imposed isolation, to open my heart up and be of service somehow. Music could be my personal tao. But what would be a virtuous song? A song about a schizophrenic or an alcoholic or anyone with an important story to tell--something to challenge the mind and move the heart. But before the music comes the actual living of life and the actual practice of virtue. That's really the hard part. The individual decisions and actions, even the thoughts need to be held under a compassionate scrutiny. A determination not to lie to oneself about anything. That takes discipline but is obviously the way to go. Enthusiasm says to me, yes music is wonderful but remember to practice virtue while your creating it and remember to praise virtue in song. Enthusiasm without virtue is, as the I Ching says, "incorrect" and leads to "misfortune".

What are some of your ideas about what it means to be virtuous? I would also love to hear stories about any truly virtuous people you know. Their story could act as a teaching example.

May you all be well (safe, healthy, happy and useful) : )
Post a Comment