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, July 7, 2007

Another Return To Music

I have a strange relationship with music. I listen to very little of it but creatively I feel closest to it. Writing and singing my own songs has been one of the highlights of my life, not a brilliant highlight but a muted one. There none the less. Last Fall I tried to return to songwriting after a long absence and found I couldn't sing and my words were poor, my guitar playing simply bad. I also tried to switch over from my 8 track cassette recorder to the computer to no avail. It was frustrating and gradually I stopped trying. Perhaps I wanted too much too soon without having put the effort into it or perhaps it was just the wrong time. I think it was a combination of both.

Months ago I had asked the I Ching what work I was best suited for and I got 34, Power of the Great. This surprised me because I'm someone who has wielded very little power and I have never sought to be powerful. The only times when I have felt a sense of power is when I used to dance by myself or sing my songs by myself. It was almost a spiritual experience at times and other times passionate but always when I was alone. Around other people I became inhibited. The only person I can recall ever singing with was Brendan but not a lot. When he wasn't using the 8 track and playing his music and other people's music, I would go into the music room and work on my own. I could sing about the abuse I was going through and it gave me strength and, for the most part, Brendan didn't listen. Then one of the cats peed on the 8 track and ruined it which is why soon after I left Brendan I bought a new one with some money I had saved up. I still have about twenty tapes of the music I made that year.

Anyway recently I began studying in depth hexagram 34 with Hilary's help and found myself thinking about music again. I asked the I Ching--What if I returned to music? I got a positive response and so I set up in my back room and began trying to write songs again. That's part of what I've been doing this week. I'm not sure why but my voice is stronger than it was and this really helps me to push forward. I've worked on an older song and started a new one. But I'm being cautious. The reason is because, for me, music and delusions mix well together. I start thinking I'm better than I really am which is absurd since I've barely even started working on it. I have a long way to go before I'll be able to produce good work. But it's a beginning (again) and I'm going to try to go with it.

I have a music collection but at the moment it's all disorganized and I don't listen to it. When I was most psychotic I listened to a lot of music. My delusional obsession was with the lead sing/songwriter of a band called Pearl Jam and so I would go for drives and listen to their music. I was so insane and I really should not have been driving at all but I got a strange joy out of driving to music in the countryside. But that was in the beginning of the psychosis before things got ugly and really intense. It was during this time that I made up a bunch of songs. The voices told me to take guitar lessons and so I did for a few weeks but when I tried to play they would attack me and I stopped. Stopped writing songs too. It was too painful.

I associated music with freedom. I associated singer-songwriters I liked with deep and personal communication with others. But I also associated music that moved me with passion and romance and this is where I fell into fantasy and from fantasy into delusion. I'm hopeful that I will not fall into a repeat performance and can instead concentrate on music in a healthy way. Only time will tell. I think I'm willing to take a chance on it. I want to wake up and reconnect to my heart and thoughts and writing/singing can help me to do this. Writing songs is like making a personal, musical journal. It marks a time and place and it colors it with a certain specific attitude and mood. The best songs seem to have some clear visual images in them.

I've been reviewing some songs from 1995-98. It's an odd sensation. Seems so long ago and yet very present. The magic of recording devices. I like a lot of the songs but they are a strange bunch, very simplistic, only a few chords in basic rhythm patterns. Occasionally I harmonize, other times I just double up the vocals. This is very cool but to a purist, it's cheating. I'm not good enough to be a purist and so I go for some fooling around. My voice is amplified but cushioned by the effect I choose and it allows me to really let go and sing. Once I can get past my own inhibition, even if the words and melody are not strong yet, I can start to sort of surrender to the process. If I find a line that I can actually sing, I repeat it over and over to learn it and then I modify it, the words or the rhythm or the melody but usually I stick with what seems to work until it sinks into me and then I change it, hopefully strengthen it.

(Next day...)
Today I've felt uncomfortable but I've worked in my music room several times today even so. The I Ching says I need "patience, stability and helpers." I think the practice of patience will lead to stability but as to helpers, I'm not sure where to go for that. My first thought is to take guitar lessons but I'm not feeling ready to reach out yet. My self-isolation is a definite drawback. My brother knows several people in town who are into making music and I know I should be around them, that they could give me feedback and help me but, once again, I feel inadequate trying to make friends. What I'd really like to do is have a cd made of my better work and hand it out as a form of introduction but I don't have the equipment for it and can't afford it right now. Though I should seriously consider investing a little money in this to get up to date and, really, to start to break my isolation. The really frustrating thing is I should be able to work from my computer but don't know how. There's a program called GarageBand and it's like having a little studio. Using an audio interface you can plug your guitar and mic into the computer and record on it and then burn a disc. After Christmas I got the audio interface thinking that that is what I would do but when I plugged my equipment into it I got no signal and therefore couldn't work with it. What I need is someone to explain the system and set me up. A helper. I might have to wait until September for that when the students get back into town. There's got to be someone I could pay a bit to help me out.

"To rule by serving is the secret of success" wrote Richard Wilhelm who translated the I Ching. Success is connecting with other people and helping them. I hope that some of my songs reach that level someday. I just have to break free of this isolation. I think I stigmatize myself. I hold myself back, don't take chances making friends and worry. Why do I do this? Years of mental illness. In some ways I feel like I have a little bit of talent, something to offer to people and in other ways I just don't feel good enough. I'm still afraid of life, of people, of responsibility, but I'm not going to give up. I keep telling myself that reaching out to others is a very important part of recovery but I have trouble following my own advice.
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