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.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Depression, "God" and the Abuse of Women

Anonymous posted a comment saying this blog was "retarded" because I don't post very often and haven't been replying to comments. Though unkindly put there is some truth to what he/she said and I apologize to all who have been commenting that I haven't been more responsive. It is the depression. It's gotten worse in the past two weeks and I'm not sure what to do about it. I also couldn't get my anti-psychotic med Abilify and for several days went without it. The voices became more insistent and more negative. And so I've been sleeping alot. I went to the library two weeks ago and got out four audio books on cd all by women. I listen to the books and crochet. Or I watch films. I am not miserable the way I was when I was delusional and paranoid. The days pass. I still feel safe but my enthusiasm is greatly diminished. I believe this is temporary, well, I'm strongly hoping so. The tease of Spring lingers. It's almost here to stay but not quite. So I wait.

The first audio book I listened to was Karen Armstrong's memoir The Spiral Staircase. She was a nun for about seven years, left the order and became a scholar and then a writer. She's written fourteen books, most on religion though she herself no longer believes in the existence of God. While she was still a nun she began having fainting fits, later she suffered from hallucinations and loss of time. She thought she was losing her mind. I found her descriptions of this compelling and I sympathised with her experience wondering if this very bright individual had been suffering from psychosis. As it turns out her ailment was epilepsy rather than psychosis. Obviously this was a relief to her, especially since there were some drugs available to treat it. She didn't become miraculously well at first but she wasn't stuck with the still terrible diagnosis of psychosis.

When I finished listening to the book I realised that no, she wasn't a kindred spirit but her intelligence and her accomplishments made me want to read her work. Also this idea that one can be fascinated by religion without actually believing in any of it. For Ms. Armstrong, who started out wanting to dedicate her young life to God, man's idea of God, even after she stopped believing in him, still is the focus of her life. Her doubt about the existence of God made me question my own faith. Like my parents, who are also ex-Catholics, she is intellectual and atheistic. I aspire to be intellectual but really I am not and I believe in God. I am unlike my small family. My faith has gotten me through this baffling psychosis and so I'm not ready to just give it up. But I had to admit to myself that my faith though ever present is uncomfortably vague. I follow no religion, go to no church, synagogue or temple, do not discuss my faith with others. I believe but I'm not quite sure in what, just something. I don't know if I'm capable of embracing a religion, but then I've never earnestly tried. I do not know if I will try but I do know that whatever it is I do believe I want to go deeper into it.

The next audio book I listened to was Carmen Bin Ladin's Inside The Kingdom: My Life In Saudi Arabia. She barely knew Osama Bin Ladin but she did know his older brother, Islam, whom she married in the mid 70's when she was very young. She grew up in Switzerland, her father was Swiss and her mother Persian and she met Islam in Switzerland. Soon she was transported into the life and culture of Saudi Arabia, so very different from the European life style she was used to. Here's a quote from the back of the audio books cover: "In Saudi Arabia, she was forbidden to leave her home without the head-to-toe black abaya that completely covered her. Her face could never be seen by a man outside the family. And according to Saudi law, her husband could divorce her at will, without any kind of court procedure, and take her children away from her forever." She couldn't drive and even shopping turned out to be very difficult. She spent her life mostly inside her house taking care of her daughters and husband. She read a lot but, for the most part, she acquiesced to the culture she found herself in though there were vacations away from this oppressive atmosphere.

For the first time I began trying to imagine what it would be like to live in a conservative Islamic country and found myself deeply disturbed and angry. What drove men to codify their sexism and call it "holy"? It was bad enough for me when my abusive boyfriend tried to control me and routinely punish me for imaginary infractions, what would it be like if it were the law of my culture?! To me it would be like living in a nightmare, cloaked in black, forever restricted. Yes, I want to be respectful towards those who willingly accept such restrictions but I feel conflicted. I don't believe in war and I also don't believe in human rights violations in my country or any other country.

I rented a DVD called OSAMA. No, it's wasn't about Osama Bin Ladin, it was about a little girl in Yugoslavia who is made by her mother and grandmother to appear to be a boy. Why? Because the Taliban had forbidden women and girls to work. In the opening scenes you see a crowd of all women, covered head to toe, including their eyes running through the dilapidated streets carrying signs that demanded they be given the right to work so that they could survive. Then the Taliban come shooting guns and spraying water at them and trying to round them up. Definitely barbaric. In this culture a woman can't work, can't move from place to place without a male escort and if there are no men left in the family, the women are destined to starve. And I think I'm crazy! But what's most shocking is that this is not purely an imaginary tale, this exists right now and has existed for centuries. But me, in my American cocoon, I don't realize this. Or I do but I push it out of my head. I think, I've survived domestic violence and am surviving schizophrenia and I just can't open my heart up to the injustices in the world right now. But I know that's a cop-out. It does matter that women are still treated like property and prisoners, still seen as inherently sinful (unlike the men who commit so many atrocities in the name of God...). And that sexist mentality is still alive and well in the U.S. in the thousands (millions?) of cases of domestic violence.

I'm reading a book called Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran. This time in Iran, there are the morality police attacking innocent bystanders for what they wear or who they talk to. And I think, God I take so much for granted. The U.S. is full of blatant imperfections but there really are certain freedoms for the majority of the people. The reason I left my abusive boyfriend was so that I could enjoy once again those things I took for granted before I met him, the right to be who I am, see whom I want, go where I please without interference and worse. Well, all this is food for thought and I plan to continue studying Middle Eastern culture, especially as seen through the eyes of women. I can do no good unless I first eliminate as much ignorance as possible, sit my ass down and read and think and write. I may be depressed but this topic has helped me to take the focus off myself and onto more important things, like the rest of the world.

Okay Anonymous and everyone, I'm going to try to write something down here once a day. And I will commit to responding to comments. I may not write a lot but I will try to be faithful to it because I think it helps me get out of my funk. Forgive me if I begin to get repetitive. My life is quiet and reclusive. What I actually do is not so very interesting but maybe you'll find some of my thoughts interesting. I hope so. You've all been great to me, even you naughty Anonymous! (Sometimes I need a push...) Thanks. : )


Chris said...

Hello Kate,

Is "anonymous" the same guy or woman who chastised you for putting a "d" in priviledged? Really, I own up to my name, and I do post comments to your blog.

On my own BlogSpot, the comments seem to have dwindled off, and so what? Did "anonymous" call your blog "retarded?" Did he or she actually use the word? That person doesn't deserve to read your blog if all he or she does is criticize it.

Kate, take heart. You bare your soul, you shouldn't have to conform to opinions of someone who at once professes to analyze your blog, yet actually reads it, apparently.

I do read your blog, obviously, it's a link on my own Web site.

So take care and be well. It's May in two weeks, and hopefully the weather will turn.

I admire your honesty and your courage to confront your illness.


Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kate Waters Kiernan said...

Hi Christina,

I deleted your second comment because it was a duplicate...

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Whenever I get an anonymous comment in my inbox, I always prepare for it to be negative. But actually, the comment along with your comment telling me to keep writing, helped me to do just that. There was truth in his/her comment that I hadn't been responding to the comments for a while and this stopped me and turned me around a bit. God works in mysterious ways. So I try to turn the negative into the positive. Instead of staying hurt and angry, I turn it around and can let it go. I think if more people did that the level of violence and contention in the world would drop greatly. Don't get me wrong though, I don't enjoy negative comments but if I can find some truth in them, then I'm okay with it.