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, June 30, 2007

Doctor's Visit & The I Ching

I went to my general doctor today. My blood pressure is good, the mammogram and chest x-ray were fine, I don't have diabetes. Almost all the tests came out in normal range except the cholesterol. My good cholesterol is too low and my bad cholesterol is too high. The doctor said I should take 500 mg of Vitamin B3 (niacin) which should help to bring my good cholesterol up and he said I should start exercising to get the good cholesterol up and the bad cholesterol down. And, of course, I should not drink whole milk or eat a lot of cheese, etc... which I don't do anyway. I'm very pleased with the results, especially the fact that I don't have diabetes which my mother and brother both have. From now on I'm going to pay closer attention to my health. I'm 45 and it's time I did the responsible thing. I mentioned to the doctor that sometime in the next 12 months I wanted to try to seriously quit smoking. He said that if I wanted him to give me a prescription to help me out he could do that anytime. I think I'll take him up on that offer and also see if I can find any support groups for quitting around here. The last time I tried to seriously quit was early on in my psychosis, that was seven years ago or so.

(Three days later...)

I know. I haven't been writing. Sorry, not sure why. Maybe it's because I've been preoccupied with consulting and studying the I Ching. I've returned to my I Ching teacher for a few more lessons. Yesterday she replied to an assignment I did on interpreting a single hexagram. Normally when you consult the I Ching you receive a hexagram, six lines either unbroken--yang or broken--yin, with moving lines, that is lines that are changing from yang to yin or yin to yang (visually that means changing from an unbroken line into a broken line or visa-versa). So you first read the hexagram as is and then reconstruct a second hexagram out of the moving lines. Confusing? It's a lot easier to show than to describe but I don't have a program for showing hexagrams. Anyway, normally you get two hexagrams but at fairly regular intervals you will get a single hexagram with no moving lines. Bear with me while I try to explain...

I Ching means Book (Ching) of Changes (I). It's sort of like the Chinese Bible for philosophy and divination. The origins of it date back to at least three thousand years ago, a time when the practical and the spiritual were combined. Most ancient Chinese believed in spirits that, through divination, would guide people on earth. They were called the ancestors. Great respect and reverence were given to the ancestors.

(Another day later...)

For me the I Ching is definitely part of the higher power but I still have trouble placing it. It is not God but it is related to God. It is a mediator between earth and heaven. I believe in the reality behind the voices too but the I Ching is not the voices either. It is something unique.

The premise behind the I Ching is that the one thing that is constant is change and that change alternates between to basic energies, the yang energy (creative, light, direct) and the yin energy (receptive, dark, subtle). It's the different between the strong sunlight on an open field and the shade cast by a large oak tree. Both are important but while there's still energy running through them, it is of a different quality. So there's this interaction between all life, the push and pull of things. The basic unit of all matter is the atom. The smallest and lightest atom is the hydrogen atom which consist of one proton with a positive charge in the nucleus and one electron with a negative charge that orbits around it. Two elements (though there are also neutrons in other atoms) with a play between positive and negative energies. And this is everywhere, in everything.

One of the themes of the I Ching is the flux of nature, the waxing and waning of the moon, the change of seasons from Spring to Winter and back to Spring. Included in this flux and in each of the 64 hexagrams are the various combinations of eight natural phenomena: Heaven, earth, water, fire, thunder, mountain, wind and lake. This is the basic symbolic language of the I Ching: the forces of yin and yang and how they act on the world around us and in us.

I just asked the I Ching what is the best way to describe the I Ching to others and I got the hexagram PEACE with two moving lines that changed it into THE ARMY. For the sake of clarity I will just focus on the first hexagram. Here is Richard Wilhelm's interpretation of the hexagram: "This hexagram denotes a time in nature when heaven seems to be on earth. Heaven has placed itself beneath the earth, and so their powers unite in deep harmony. Then peace and blessing descend upon all living things. In the world of man it is a time of social harmony; those in high places show favor to the lowly, and the lowly and inferior in their turn are well disposed toward the highly placed. There is an end to all feuds. Inside, at the center, is the light principle; the dark principle is outside. Thuus the light has a powerful influence, while the dark is submissive. In this way each receives its due. When the good elements of society occupy a central position and are in control, the evil elements come under their influence and change for the better. When the spirit of heaven rules in man, his animal nature also comes under its influence and takes its appropriate place." (48-49)

From the I Ching's own perspective it sees itself as Peace and heaven on earth. The hexagram is composed of two trigrams three lines each. The bottom trigram represents heaven with three yang (unbroken) lines and the upper trigram represents earth with three yin (broken) lines. The movement of heaven is up and the movement of earth is down hence they meet each other and "unite in deep harmony". Attaining this harmony is the goal of the guidance of the I Ching and thus PEACE is a good symbol of the book.

I still feel somewhat disoriented when I go into a personal reading. There's a lot to learn and a lot to interpret and I am a beginner but I think I will stick with this and gradually create a stronger relationship with the I Ching. Just returning to Hilary for guidance has already cleared some things up for me. I feel respect for those who have years of study behind them.

Okay, that's all for now. I hope you all have been taking good care of yourselves.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Father


Sorry I haven't picked up the pace. I've been preoccupied with two things: the I Ching and the fact that my father fainted on Tuesday and is in the hospital. He took a stress test today and they found something. Tomorrow morning they are going to put a catheter into his groin and up into his heart to see if there is some kind of blockage. It might be serious but it might not be serious. We won't know until tomorrow. Tuesday I asked the I Ching "What can you tell me about my father's fainting spell?" I got the hexagram 19 - Approach - with a moving line on line 6, changing into hexagram 41 - Decrease. Hilary has taught me that when looking to interpret an answer first try putting the names of the two hexagrams together. In this case that would be Approach Decrease. Which makes sense in that my father is almost 81 years old and has to come to terms with gradual (hopefully) decline in health. But the hexagram Approach is a very positive hexagram according to a Chinese translator Alfred Huang. At least for a while. The text reads: "Approaching. Sublimely prosperous and smooth. Favorable to be steadfast and upright. Ends in the eighth month; Misfortune comes." The text for the moving line reads: "Sincerely approaching. Good fortune. No fault."


No news yet about my father's diagnostic test. I will call him in a few hours.

After my father called me from the hospital on Tuesday, I felt a bit nervous and numb. For the rest of the day and the next day I just sat with it. I prayed. The day before he fainted I had sent him an email asking him to tell me about his nervous breakdown about forty five years ago. When he called me on the phone from the hospital he began tersely to answer my request. That took only a few minutes: He had been in a psychiatric hospital for two months, took no drugs and then was in therapy for two years. He said his illness had nothing to do with mine. He said his illness had less to do with paranoia than with some kind of panic reaction. I wanted to talk to him more about it but realized, once again, that he really didn't want to go into it and him being in the hospital stopped me from pressing it. Later I thought, what if my question about his breakdown triggered him to faint? Could the topic be that powerful to him?

My father has always been kind and gentle with me but emotionally distant. He is perfectly willing to analyze a worry but not to go into the more private and personal problems of his life. Over the years my mother, brother and I have come to assume that the reason my father is often unavailable emotionally is because his father was an alcoholic, sometimes an abusive alcoholic. Again, my father never has discussed the abusive aspect of his father's behavior towards his mother with me even though I became involved with an abusive alcoholic. On the other hand, it was my father who was there for me emotionally when I was going in and out of my relationship with Brendan. My mother was just angry at Brendan (though she never really got to know him) and also at me. She said I was a "sucker". And to a certain extent she was right, but my father didn't spend time like my mother judging Brendan and me, instead he listened and offered support. And when I became acutely psychotic, he was there for me from Florida the very next day and stayed with me for a month. It's obvious to me that my father has a good heart and a smart mind which is why it is frustrating that I can't talk to him about my illness or his or his childhood with an alcoholic parent. He can tell me facts about it but not so much the emotional content of it. When he has talked about his father it's been with great sadness but always a brief touching on it and no delving into it.

I've been told that, unlike my brother, I was an affectionate (if whiney) child. I've seen pictures of me crawling on my father and giving him hugs and kisses but I don't remember it. I do remember that when I was around four or five my father would tickle me but way too hard. I never told him because I didn't want to hurt his feelings I guess. When I was a little older we would go bike riding in the park and sometimes go to movies together. He worked a lot and so I didn't see him as much as I saw my mother. And so I bonded with my mother more than my father.

There were no paternal (or maternal) rules in our home and no chores. My father was not the stern patriarch of some families. While I was growing up it was my brother who was the focal point of the family. He had emotional problems and problems in school. From a very young age he started trying to compete with his brainy parents. He needed a more traditional father to lay down some rules for him and to encourage him in sports. But my father was not athletic. He was a lawyer who faithfully read his New York Times every morning over juice and an english muffin or cereal. He would talk history or politics but not sports. Like me, my brother spent more time with our mother. There were tensions there too but they did talk to each other about their feelings. Talking about feelings with my father was just not done and so my brother and I went to our mother. For a while there it was the three of us who bonded and my father who kept to himself. But when my mother and brother would try to gang up on my father I invariably took my father's side. I guess I instinctively knew that my father was wounded in a way that none of us had been.

Until now. Now I've experienced some of the hidden things that my father has experienced: living with an alcoholic and mental illnes. I thought maybe we could bond over this and who knows, maybe we still can but for now, I'm not going to push it on him and if it turns out he can't, I'll still love and respect him.

(A few hours later...)

I tried calling my father's hospital room at three but a nurse answered and said he had gone to another hospital. I tried calling my parent's cell phone, no answer so I left a message. Then I worried a bit. Why did he go to another hospital? Was there a problem? Why hadn't my mother called me? I felt tired and lay down but I had said I would bring a tape of a soccer game over to my brother who is a soccer junky. Also I had to go to the pharmacy which would close for the week-end in the next hour and a half and I was hungry and thought my brother and I could go out to lunch. So I called my brother. No answer, then he called back 20 minutes later. So we went out to lunch. When I got home still no message. So I started working on a portrait of my father and mother which kept me occupied till the phone rang. It was my father saying he was home. The diagnostic test did did show two blood clots in more minor veins but this could be treated through drugs and there was no need for any surgery and so he was let go and went home with my mother. He called me soon after they returned.

It is a great relief to know that he doesn't require surgery. He has a slow acting leukemia which is in remission but because of his age and condition surgery would not be a good option for him. He will go see his doctor on Monday and have his medications adjusted. He sounded in good spirits and glad to be home.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Last Few Days

After I cleaned the back bedroom last week I've been sleeping in my bed. This small change signals more recovery for me. For years I've been sleeping on the living room couch mainly because of the psychosis. I think the behavior stemmed from my paranoia and a general lack of self care. I also used to listen to meditative music to help me to get to sleep and my stereo was in my living room...and the tv...and the kitchen nearby. I guess that's why they call it the living room. Another change: I'm also trying not to sleep in my clothes but to put on sleeping clothes before bed. Sleeping in my clothes also started with paranoia. I wanted to be prepared in case I had to leave the house quickly. But I haven't been paranoid in over four years and yet I continued to sleep in my clothes and not change them the next day if I didn't have to go out. Luckily I have very little body odor and so usually I just wouldn't notice it. So many things I stopped noticing and it's only just now that I'm starting to return to a healthy pattern. May it continue.

Thursday I finished Azar Nafisi's READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN. What a good book. I think I'm going to purchase it and read it again. It really gave me a feel for what it was like to live in Iran post revolution as an intellectual woman. Ms. Nafisi is a good writer passionate about Western literature but she lived in a repressive anti-Western culture for eighteen years. That's what makes this book interesting. She survived pretty much intact, neither the repressive regime nor the eight years war with Iraq stopped her, though many were not so fortunate. Too many were tortured, imprisoned, even killed because their beliefs didn't fit with the "Islamic Republic". One of Ms. Nafisi's best students had been in prison for two years for protesting against the regime. The book gives glimpses into Ms. Nafisi and her "girls" (her best students) showing several different perspectives. Ms. Nafisi was very fortunate indeed and ultimately left Iran with her husband and two children to live in Washington, D.C. Two years after she left Iran for good she began to work on this book and about three years later it was finished, but the book itself moves swiftly and gracefully, covers her eighteen years without dragging it out. Her chapters are short and plentiful. I found this made the book easier and more enjoyable to read. As memoirs go, this is a good one. I hope she writes another about living in the U.S. someday.

Friday I got a cell phone. Now I truly am part of the 21st Century. The phone itself was very cheap because of a special deal for first time buyers. The monthly fee is about what I expected it to be, a bit too expensive but doable. I don't know how families afford getting each child a phone. The customers ahead of me were a mother and daughter (and also a very young daughter--too young to have a cell phone). The mother was buying a new phone and phone line for her teenage daughter. She said to her daughter, "You know you are a very lucky girl" and "Your father really is a softie." My phone cost about $21 and the phone they chose cost about $145. I'm satisfied with with my (cameraless) cell phone and am in the process of learning how to use it. Well, making and receiving a call is fairly simple, it's the computer program that needs to be memorized. If I want to pay extra I can text messages but I've never done it before and really don't have enough of a social life to make it an attractive activity. But I am curious about it. Still I'm not too crazy about the new computer language, "I will c u later" and such though I understand it's out of necessity. But really, this phone is for my own peace of mind in case of an emergency with the car. It's still too new. I've only made one call so far. But who knows, maybe this year I'll make some friends and get over my anxiety with using the phone. Maybe I'll be like so many other people apparently talking to themselves in their cars or along the street or in restaurants.

Saturday I studied the I Ching (Yee Jing often spelled Yijing). As you've probably noticed I haven't been writing about the I Ching for months now. That's because I stopped consulting it and stopped working with my online I Ching teacher Hilary. But for several weeks now I've been considering returning to the oracle for guidance. Hilary was teaching me various divination practices and I got overloaded. There's so much to learn and it can be quite time consuming. I think I just needed a break from it. I have been having trouble formulating questions to ask it. I second guess myself and feel as if my questions aren't good enough. Or I feel as if I already know the answers. Or I feel as if I'm just plain lazy. Whatever the reason (perhaps winter depression) I now feel ready to return to the I Ching and to Hilary. I went to Hilary's online I Ching community (which as it turns out I haven't visited for over three months) and began a thread about having trouble asking the I Ching questions. I've gotten some excellent replies that have set me thinking. I also think I have to change my approach to working with Hilary. The course I signed up for with her is a 12 month course. She has about nine suggested lessons to work with to begin with. I got up to lesson 7 but I think what I really need to do is have a general discussion with her, get to know her and let her get to know me. Try to deepen my understanding of the Yi through her insights and my own. I also need to participate in her online forum. It's just that all this is new to me, this community around the I Ching. For me it's always been a solitary thing and I had no idea how deeply people are involved in it, some almost mathematical in their approach, others very intuitive and emotional but all very educated and serious. I feel like an awkward novice because, well, that's what I am.

I've been drawing and painting each day, small watercolors. I was inspired by an online friend (thanks J.P.!) who is getting into art. I sent her some art books (one of them a great how to book I studied when I was a young woman) and a couple of small paintings I did last Fall, both of little girls. I've been working on portraits and figure studies from two famous photographers: Jock Sturges and Sally Mann. Both focus on children and teen-agers with a few adults sprinkled into the bunch. Many are nude studies and there has been some controversy over whether their photographs should be considered pornographic which I think is absurd. From my perspective they are beautiful psychological studies. I find them compelling which is why I started painting them. I actually did one moderately large oil painting of one of Jock Sturges photographs but mine is modified and in color (all Sturges' and Mann's photos are black and white) my first year back at school which is still one of my favorites. My watercolors are also obviously in color and this is hard because I have no color to reference from the photographs and so I've been guessing and doing it intuitively. Not really a good way to learn natural color, better to have a color photograph or a model. I'll look around for some color photographs. I can also work from dvds on my computer by freeze framing a shot from a film or video, well, in theory I can because I've never done it before. I can certainly draw from the computer and that would just be some great practice for proportions of the figure or portrait and composition study. I've also been drawing and painting from a book on cats (full color photographs). One of my best watercolors so far is of a kitten. I wish I could post some of my photographs and paintings on this blog but I haven't been able to upload images for many months now. I'm thinking about starting another blog just for images if that's possible.

Three years after my initial breakdown I took a month long watercolor class to prepare me for going back to art school. That was a great class. It's why I'm studying watercolor now (though when I went back to school I painted primarily in acrylic on medium to large stretched canvas'). Some say that watercolor is the hardest painting medium to master but it is also the most practical. You don't need alot of space because paintings are usually small compared to oil and acrylic painting. All you need is a pencil, paint, water, brushes, paper towels, watercolor paper, a drawing board or table and some light. The back bedroom that I cleaned and now sleep in is where I set up a little studio, mainly a drawing table, a large cork board, a table to hold the paints, brushes, paper towel and brushes and and bookcase with books and supplies. The room has excellent daylight coming through two windows. The walls of the room are painted white and so the room has open (though it's not large) and airy feel to it. I draw and then paint a small study soon after I get up in the morning and return to study my work several times a day. My work is uneven, some studies stronger than others but the main thing I want to do is persevere with it. Just do it each day. I'd like to give some of my work away as presents to my family. This is making me more goal oriented which is challenging me to continue generating ideas about what others might enjoy looking at. The bottom line is being creative is essential to my happiness. Lately, since the depression has lifted, I have more motivation and this makes me happy.

Today I worked in the library. It was terribly dull work I'm afraid, folding hundreds of newsletters to be mailed out locally and while I was doing it I felt physically uncomfortable. I yearned for my cd walkman so I could study or listen to music while I worked but I didn't sqirm or complain, I just did the work. I listened to the director, the clerk and visitors talking to each other about house repairs and pesky chipmunks and the exceptionally dry weather we're having. I listened to a young man at their only public computer talk and joke about what was selling on ebay and whether or not he should bid. So mostly I listened and didn't talk, though I did smile a lot. My favorite person so far is the director. She's modest, funny, unpretentious, hardworking and honest. There's just something about her that is loveable. She seems like somebody's mom and grandmother. But she's also very proper. After I left the library, I felt good. The work itself had been unpleasant because monotonous but I knew I was doing something useful, I was contributing and being social (if only in a limited way). It was a new sensation...working, being useful to a part of my community, having actual contact with members of the community instead of thinking of them in the abstract. I've lived here for 18 years and I'm only now just trying to get to know others. I've been a semi-invisible member of the human race. Shame has held me back from joining with others but I'm learning that mental illness should not be something I'm ashamed of. I'm hoping that I will eventually tell the director of my schizophrenia. Each time I've told someone it's taken pressure off me and I think it makes me easier to understand. I'm not bad, I'm not a failure. I have a handicap but I'm still a worthwhile person. I think the only way to end the stigma attached to mental illness is to end the isolation of those who live with it. People with mental illness should show their colors instead of hiding them away. We all have talents and strengths. Let's show people that we can be productive members of society who have meaningful lives. There's no room for shame in the recovery process, no room for shaming stigma.

Tonight I went to my first Al-Anon meeting in three weeks. There were seven of us and I chaired the meeting. Part of today's reading had to do with the 4th Step: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." I have broached this step several times but never actually have taken it. It's a hard step but a very important step, one that is key to seven of the steps which all have to do with self-understanding and learning to accept responsibility. I want to take this step now. I think I'm ready to take an honest look at my weaknesses and strengths. I won't truly recover until I do. And both aspects are very important. Understanding what my weaknesses are is crucial to overcoming them and my other strengths are crucial to doing the same and building a meaningful life. I have a 4th Step workbook filled with questions that I'll have to answer and I'm very glad I have it. It will help give structure to the process of self understanding, a sort of gentle guide as to what I should reflect upon.

Well, it's past my bedtime but I've really enjoyed writing this update. I feel as if I'm making progress and I'm grateful to have you as readers. Just being heard is such a great feeling. I'm going to try to pick up the pace if I can writing in this blog. I kind of slowed down this week.

How have you all been?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Car and NAMI

I called the place where my car was towed on Monday but the phone was disconnected which surprised me because this is a place I've gone to since around 1990. So I found a local yellow pages and discovered a local shop. I called there and a man with a heavy Russian accent answered the phone (turns out he's from the Ukraine and his name is Yuri). I could only partially understand him which was a frustration but he seemed good tempered and patient. He towed my car to his place and studied it. Meanwhile I waited for him to call back. I had to cancel my library work till next Monday mainly because I didn't have a cell phone and I didn't go to Al-Anon. When he called back he said that I would need a rental (which he could provide luckily) because the car would be in the shop for a while. Not only was there something broken near the front right wheel but my tires needed to be replaced. The next day his son (who couldn't have been much more than 18) was sent to pick me up in the car I would be renting.

We went to the shop and Yuri began painstakingly explaining this and that about the car. He seemed to want to help me to save money. I felt embarrassed because I knew so little about cars and about money. The main thing I wanted was to have a safe car because I know my father has set aside some money to take care of this car so that I can hold onto it for as long as possible. Yuri kept mentioning insurance but I was pretty sure that my insurance didn't cover non accident related expenses. He pointed out a dent in my car on the same side as my flat tire. I told him I had bumped a deer a while ago. So he said "Why didn't you report it?" I had no good answer for him other than ignorance. "What do you like to throw away money?" Turns out you are supposed to report hitting a deer within 24 to 48 hours because the insurance will cover the cost to repair the damage. He even went so far as to say I should lie to the insurance company and say that I hit a deer recently to get them to pay to fix it. I said I didn't want to lie. Then he had me study the tires and tested me: "Which tire is in okay condition and which tire is not in good condition?" At first I didn't know but we studied them together again and then I could see which one was probably newer. He told me his regular customers get preferential treatment (like not having to pay a rental fee), "You, I don't know." So, in effect, he was both instructing me and checking me out. This made me nervous but he seemed good tempered and I needed to have my car fixed. I had mentionned talking to my father about the car before deciding when I first got on the phone with him. He assumed I was just a young woman and was obviously surprised and puzzled when he saw me. He asked me if I owned my car. I said yes. Later he asked me where I worked and I eventually told him I didn't. I felt ashamed and drove home a bit dazed. He wasn't really unkind just set in his ways. I told him I was "a bit strange" and almost told him that I suffered from schizophrenia but it was just too soon because I don't know him either and I guess I was checking him out too. He said I didn't seem strange and even tried to lift my spirits by complimenting me gently.

After I told my father about the car and what would need to be done, I felt relieved. Whereas Yuri, a hard working but poorer man than my father, is concerned about each dollar, my father's main concern was that the car be taken care of properly. But I knew full well that someday I will have to learn to handle money better because my father will not always be there. And I should know what my insurance does or does not cover and I should try to get the best deal. I've just let myself remain financially dependent on my father and now I'm way too ignorant, too soft. So now I need to get some files and start organizing important papers instead of throwing them in a particular drawer unsorted. I need to take a crash course in growing up. Despite moments of doubt I know I have come a long way. I'm starting to be well enough to look outside myself. I may have been somewhat uncomfortable with Yuri but I didn't shirk my small responsibility to talk with him and work out a deal. He showed me how small my world is but he also showed me that it doesn't have to be. Gradually I will take on more responsibility. I have strong hopes for progress in the next 12 months.

I saw my therapist today, the first time in over a month. She had major surgery on her foot and only returned to seeing her clients last week. Her foot was in a cast and she propped it up on a chair while we talked. After catching up on my story I talked to her again about starting a NAMI Affiliate on campus. I handed her a print out from NAMI on starting an affiliate and she read it. She gave me two names of people to contact at the university: the director of the counseling center and the vice president of students. She also said I could use the Office Of Special Academic Services as a resource. I sent an email to NAMI around the last time I saw J. but never received a reply that I was aware of, so I'm going to try again. My last resort is to actually call but I'm not good with the phone. I have to practice what to say before I say it and it takes me a while. Frustrating but doable once I set my mind to it. After I send the email I'm going to try and write a proposal to mail or email to the people from the university showing why having a NAMI Affiliate on campus is a good idea. J. said that the director of the counseling center had tried to set up some kind of support group but found that the students themselves were shy about coming forward, still afraid of the stigma attached to having any kind of mental illness. I said to J. that a support group could be small and still function quite well. Obviously if noone showed up for months at a time there would be no support given or received, just me in my lonely quest. But I have to give this a chance. It might really help someone (other than me) someday. The murders at Virginia Tech could have been avoided if there had been an active support system available. NAMI has a bunch of schools participating and I hope more join. I hope this university joins.

Monday and Tuesday I couldn't go online (only one phone line) because I had to wait for Yuri's call and so I got restless and started cleaning which felt very good. My vacuum cleaner was not working well so I unplugged it and went to work cleaning out the clogs in the machine. I'd clear one and it still wouldn't vacuum well. I'd discover another clog and then another and finally the vacuum was working very well indeed. It still amazes me how much that one appliance can do to improve the appearance of things. I feel proud of myself for working a mere two hours on my house. I decided to work on the back bedroom so that I would actually sleep there at night instead of sleeping on the living room couch which is in the process of falling apart. There's is much more work to do but just that I had the energy to do some of it at all makes an impression on me. Little depression and a basic amount of motivation, this is cause for happiness. : ) But I have also noticed in my reaction to Yuri and a bit of my reaction to seeing my therapist has made me feel self-conscious. It's a passing feeling but I'm more keen on paying attention to anything that feels out of whack. The sooner I'm aware of it, the sooner I can take some action and diffuse the situation.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Back From Spoleto Festival

We stayed at a Hampton Inn on the perimeter of the historic district in Charleston within walking distance of the various performances, though there was a bus stop conveniently just across the street. The hotel was very nice (and not too expensive) and came with a full breakfast. Various coffees and teas were available all day and night and in the afternoon they put out trays of freshly baked cookies as well as donuts. There was a courtyard with tables and chairs and a swimming pool. Despite the heat we would have our breakfast outside in the shade. Very soon after we arrived we went to a nice restaurant less than a block away. I had mussels for an appetizer and trout for a main course. The trout surprised me at first because it consisted of the entire fish. I don't know if I've ever had fish that way but it was very good and there was no need to complain. It was completely deboned and easy to eat. I conveniently forget that the meat and fish I eat come from once living creatures, so this was a gentle wake-up call. Soon after we finished our dinner we went to see a performance of Verdi's Requiem. It is an operatic performance with a bass, tenor, mezzo-soprano and soprano and a full chorus. I had gone to a performance of it several years ago at the festival. Then it made an impression on me but this time I think I was too tired. My mother has been a fan of opera since she was a girl and when I was growing up she would take me to the opera a couple of times a year but this performance was solely music without any spectacle. My brother dutifully sat through it but did not enjoy it much. His musical tastes are eclectic but don't include opera of any sort.

I won't go into all the things we went to see and hear, I'll just say we went to two chamber music concerts, a play, a musical performance by an avante-garde composer named Philip Glass (which I did not like), the aquarium and the last night my mother and I went to the ballet (Swan Lake). And, of course, we ate out at some good restaurants. Due to the stress of the first 24 hours, the voices were a bit active but as we slowed our pace down, they settled down too. So initially I was uncomfortable, I felt too hot and too overweight and I worried about getting my clothes dirty. Also, my parents didn't get me a smoking room (they want me to stop...). I've been used to that before but though I smoked less I felt more tense than usual. Still, all and all it was a good trip. I got to see my parents and spend time with them. They seemed pretty good. Very little bickering between them. And my brother, though he got annoyed a few times, was generally pleasant (he can have a sharp tongue at times when irritated).

I brought three books (I don't know why) and my notebook but did little reading or writing. Either no time for it or I was too tired. After lunch we would retire to our rooms and nap for a couple of hours and then take a walk and go to dinner and an evening performance. I find I can stay active for a week or two but then I have to go home and return to my slow rhythm and I'd say that's true for my family as well. I think initially my mother wanted us to do more but she too needed rest in the afternoon, especially since it was hot and humid walking around outside. The last full day we were there my parents got a call from their retirement community saying that their apartment had a flood because of a broken pipe, but even that news didn't bring my parents too down. So, we left on Friday morning, we all took the same plane to Atlanta Georgia, the place where we could get our connecting flights home but had to wait several hours once we got there. We had lunch at a food court and sat a talked for a while. Then my brother and I saw my parents off saying we would see them in August. Our flight was delayed due to thunderstorms but since I had left the car at the airport we were in no rush because no one was meeting us. Once we were in the air I did a lot of praying for us to have a safe trip. I'm just more nervous in planes now, not sure why. The flight was relatively short and I was relieved when we landed. Thunderstorms at home too.

Yesterday I was driving over to my brother's house to pick up Allie when my front right tire blew. I was so grateful that it hadn't blown when we were on the highway coming home which could have been very dangerous. So I hiked to my brother's house and decided then and there that I would get myself a cell phone, something I've been putting off because of the added expense. It would make me feel so much more secure on the road, especially during the winter months. It was a lucky thing this time that my brother's house was in walking distance so that I could use his phone to call triple A. It took a couple of hours before someone came to help because it was the weekend. The plan was that he would put the spare tire on but when he got part way through he said the car would have to be towed because something had actually broken. So I had him tow it to the place I usually go for car troubles and I will call early tomorrow morning to tell them about my car and ask them to try and fix it. Tomorrow I can hike into town to get some more pills and work in the library and Wednesday I can hike into town to see my therapist, but Tuesday I had a mammogram scheduled and I probably will have to reschedule that appointment which is unfortunate but not serious.

The main difference between this trip and trips taken within the last seven years is that I felt comfortable talking with my parents and brother. I could engage in the conversations because the voices are so much quieter and respectful. This is a great relief and leaves me feeling hopeful that I will continue to recover. Not much more to say for now. I'm still somewhat tired, still adjusting to being home again but the weather here has been lovely, sunny days and comfortable temperatures. It was good to get outside yesterday. I hope you all had a good week...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Preparing For Charleston Visit

Pamela's back, so check out her blog and say hello.

I'll be off to Charleston, South Carolina early Monday morning and I'll be gone till Friday evening, so I'll be offline. I'm going to bring my looseleaf notebook with me and try to record some of my impressions so I'll have something to write to you about when I get home again. I'm looking forward to seeing my parents. I haven't seen them for about five months. My father turned 80 last year and my mother will turn 80 next year, so time spent with them is precious. For now they are both in fairly good health, may they stay that way for a long time to come. I'm barely able to face the fact they they will die someday, just as I will and I feel like I need a couple more years in recovery to start to come to terms with it. It's another stage of growing up, albeit an unpleasant one. So for now, I will enjoy myself and the company of my family and let all morbid thoughts go.

But first I have to get there, so for the next couple of days I'll be washing my clothes, changing the kitty litter boxes, watering the plants and doing various last minutes things. And so I'll be unsettled. I usually start to settle down when I'm in the airport and waiting to board. Then I can watch people while listening to an audiobook or read. I won't be able to smoke for about six or seven hours but I can handle it as I have no choice but to handle it. (Sometime in the next 12 months I'm going to make a serious attempt to quit...) I'm really a homebody right now, so traveling unnerves me but I will be traveling more in the next 6 months. I'll visit my parents in mid August and then I'll visit my uncle during the first week of October and then I'll be visiting my parents again for two weeks in December. I'm hoping we'll also all get together for my mother's 80th birthday in March. The main thing I don't like is leaving the cats. I'll have to bring Allie over to my brother's house for each trip because one of my other cats attacks her and I have to keep them separated. She's an old cat, about 15 though she could be older. She was left by some stranger on my front door step sometime in the early 90's and she was full grown then. I can live with being five days away from them, even a week but two weeks is too long, so I only do that once a year at Christmas time.

Charleston should be lovely though. As I've said before, I've been there several times. It's the kind of small city I've fantasized about living in and I recommend it to everyone, especially the Piccolo Spoleto festival each year at the end of May into early June. I know I couldn't really live there because it's too expensive but for a visit it's quite excellent. From what I remember it's got a tropical feel about it in late Spring, a little bit like Key West, though it's really not tropical but I believe there are palm trees. Growing up in New York City has made palm trees seem exotic in any season. It's one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and so the architecture is lovely to look at. And it's on the coast and I miss the east coast so I get to be near water again for a few days. I also like the colors in the city. Many of the older houses are painted in pastel colors which I think softens things and makes them appear elegant. I guess it's just that there's history to the place and even though I'm ignorant about much of the history (though I did read in my encyclopedia that the Civil War started on it's waterfront) I still suck it up in the general experience.

Well I've got my new clothes and my new shoes and today I got my hair trimmed which I've been meaning to do for months now. I even got a simple necklace that I've grown attached to these past two weeks. So I'm pretty ready to go. I'm looking forward to having my brother with us. I know he'll have a good time. Good food, good music, good company. Can't go wrong with that.

If I don't write again this week-end, I hope you all have a great week!