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, February 25, 2007

No Shame, But Endurance

Just about two weeks till Daylight Savings Time and I am looking forward to it. It's almost a quarter after six now and the light is almost gone. That extra hour will mean that I can go to my Al-Anon meeting in daylight which will help so much since I'm not that happy anymore driving at night. But mostly it will help to lift this lingering winter depression. I stopped exercising again which is foolish because it improves my mood as well as takes care of my body. I haven't been cleaning the house though I've made a date with myself to clean all the dishes on Tuesday. I did get out yesterday with my brother. He treated my to lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then I took him shopping. I held back from doing too much shopping because I'm a little tight on cash right now but I did manage to get bird seed and suet cakes so I have enough for this week to keep the birds fed and happy. I felt good yesterday. Good to be around my brother, good to get out of the house and good that it was a beautiful though cold day.

Tomorrow I go to a new general doctor for a preliminary visit. It's been over four years since I've been to one, so, at my age, it's long overdue. Even so, I'm not going to have myself thoroughly checked out until June. I'm going to use that as an incentive to lose weight. I won't be able to get to an ideal weight by then but I'll get a lot closer. I know I'm at risk for having diabetes because my mother and brother have borderline diabetes and also because I took the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa for several years. Zyprexa which is known to cause people to put on a lot of weight (and I did) is also now known to be a possible factor in causing diabetes. Of course, I'm praying that I don't have it but ignoring the possibility is just plain dumb. For now, I'll see this new doctor, get a referral for my therapist so my insurance will cover my visits with her and make an appointment for mid June for a thorough exam. I'm a bit nervous about going but that's pretty normal with first visits. I will be open with this doctor about my schizophrenia not only because I need a referral but so that he can have some understanding of me.

I'm not ashamed or embarrassed about my illness anymore. I know that it is not my fault and I believe that I should be treated with a certain amount of compassion because of it. I told the Al-Anon group that I suffer from schizophrenia and instead of people pulling away from me one woman said her daughter also suffers from it and another said her mother was in and out of psychiatric hospitals suffering from bi-polar while she was growing up. That two people out of such a small group could have been personally affected by someone with mental illness made me feel less isolated and I was grateful to them for sharing. It helps me to look at schizophrenia as a biological disease, there's less stigma attached to it that way. I know it's not quite as simple as all of that but it's a good base to work from. And when it comes to dealing with doctors, it's the best way to approach it.

Christina has said that she does not like being called a schizophrenic because that implies that her identity is somehow diseased perhaps and I've been careful not to call people schizophrenics because of that but really, for now, I don't mind. This illness is a major part of why I am the way I am. I used to feel ashamed and now I'm strangely proud of the fact. Proud that I survived, proud that I still have a lot of hope for myself and grateful that I didn't succumb to negativity. I want people to know that I suffer from schizophrenia because I believe that's my way of fighting what stigma remains against the illness. I believe I am an essentially good person and I have worked hard to reach towards recovery and people should know that the mentally ill are not "freaks". We look just like "normal" people and mostly act just like "normal" people. If anything our insights might be just a bit more insightful because we know what it's like to be out of control or overtaken and we know what it's like to struggle back towards reality.

I am amazed at the endurance of the human species and deeply respectful towards anyone who struggles with mental illness. Most people have little idea how hellish it can get and that hell is hard to describe. The closest I can come to it is that it is like a waking dream/nightmare. An alter reality within reality. For me everything became more symbolic--signs, images and people's attitudes and actions, all layered with additional meaning, fraught with it. Along with this is this feeling of being watched, listened to, talked at constantly with no break, not even in dreams. Too many people take mental privacy for granted but imagine if one day it was just gone. Of course people begin to speak and act strangely. I found that in some ways I had more privacy when I talked aloud to myself than when I remained silent listening to the voices overtake me. At least I had a choice as to what I wanted to say and no voice had the power to take that away from me.

Now that I've adjusted to the medications and lost most of my delusional thinking and all of my paranoia, I rarely speak aloud. Now though the voices are still with me there's a kind of buffer that protects me from them. I can hear them during my waking hours but I am not longer threatened by them. I've come to accept them and even love them but if that buffer were removed I don't know if I'd have so much strength. And so I continue to take the meds and might for the rest of my life.
But if I were to return to the madness I believe my hard won experience would guide me in my weakness through it yet again.
Without the shame, I would reach out for more help and with the endurance, I would continue to survive.
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