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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Home from the Grassroots Festival. The only day that was a bit problematical was the first day. We got a lot of rain. For most of the rain we stayed in the covered bleachers then the rain lightened up and we got to move around. The hard part was getting the car out of the free parking area. We got stuck in the mud but luckily someone helped my brother push the car through the worst of it and we made it to the road. For the next three days we parked by the side of the road instead of in the parking lot and that worked out fine. The parking lot was several miles away from the festival, so there was a free shuttle bus running 24 hours a day. We were fortunate in that every time we used the bus we got a seat whereas many people had to stand. Each time we used the bus we would tip the driver a dollar a piece, but I was surprised how few people actually left a tip. I didn’t envy the drivers. That kind of work is mind numbing but hopefully they got paid well for it.

There was a lot of music, so we only got to see/hear some of it. We gravitated more towards the African music which was consistently good. We got to see Vieux Farka Toure (son of the late Ali Farka Toure), Mamadou Diabate, Hugh Masekela and Samite of Uganda. The first two from Mali, the second from South Africa and the third obviously from Uganda. The headliner was Arrested Development which is a hip/hop type of band that was very popular ten years ago. I was somewhat into them then and was hoping I would be again but I didn’t respond to a lot of the music they played. It was overproduced, not particularly soulful. But after we listened to them we went over to the dance tent and listened to a Cajun band called Balfa Toujours and that lifted my spirits and I got to watch couples dancing which was fun. On Sunday we listened to a Mexican American singer named Christina Ortega. She had a great voice and I wouldn’t mind getting some of her music. Then we listened to a Canadian band, the Duhks who had two female singers (one a fiddler) that also were very good. We saw them the year before and my brother had gotten some of their music, so we made a point of going to see them. And the last non African band we got to see was The Avett Brothers. It’s actually a trio, classical bass, banjo and guitar and they do what my brother calls “folk/punk” and I thought they were a lot of fun too. All in all the music was good but no real highlights for me. Sometimes something grabs me but this time that didn’t happen. I can’t complain though because I did enjoy myself.

Part of what made the trip enjoyable was that we got a hotel room near the event whereas in the previous years I would drive 40 minutes to get to a hotel each night. One afternoon we went to eat at a very good Thai restaurant. We had Pad Thai (Thai noodles with shrimp), a beef curry, some Gai Tom Ka a chicken/coconut milk soup and some Thai beer--Singha. Eating Thai food is special to me because I got to go to Thailand for 10 days when I was 24 years old. I stayed with a friend/boyfriend who won a Fulbright scholarship. He had been there for six months and knew some of the language. He shared a modern house in Bankok with two young women. It was great to be in such a foreign and beautiful land with someone taking me for my own private tour. Thailand made a big impression on me. I almost didn’t want to leave. I could see how Vietnam veterans could choose to stay in Thailand and not go back to live in the U.S. There’s just something magical about the place, or there was to me then.

That was over 20 years ago before I met Brendan and before I fell ill with schizophrenia. Now, at this festival, I felt my age and my illness. Not acutely, not enough to really dampen my spirits, though the voices at one point started to act up a little, but enough to make me notice. But that’s all a part of life. Things change as time passes. I have to accept that I am not perfect, that no one is and that it’s okay. I’ve been given a chance in this life and I’ve made some poor choices but still it was my choice and I have to live with it. And I have to realize that I still have the power of free choice for many things which means I should try to exercise that power wisely.

We left the festival at around 9:30 and got home a couple of hours later. I did some praying on the way home because I’m not very happy about driving at nighttime. People put a lot of trust into their cars and into themselves as drivers. They have to or few people would get in a car and go places. I found myself missing living in a city with public transportation where you don’t have to worry much about accidents, though you may have to stay alert to the possibility that someone might hassle you, especially late at night. In New York City I could really get around because the public transportation was so good and extensive. To be honest, I didn’t love the subways but I was grateful to have them or I would never have gotten out of Brooklyn.


(Next day...) Well, I went to the doctor today to get a pap smear done. I haven’t had one done since before I got sick so I knew I had to do it today but I wasn’t so happy about the idea of a man doing it. In the past I’ve had female gynecologists do it but there aren’t any I can go to nearby, so I decided to go ahead with it. It turned out better than I thought it would. I wasn’t too nervous and it went quickly. I also had him prescribe me some medicine that should help me quit smoking. I think I might try in about a month, just after I get back from visiting my parents. That will give me a little over a month at home before I visit my uncle in Chicago. Enough time to get used to it. The doctor says it’s a new drug, not an antidepressant and it shouldn’t interfere with any drugs that I’m taking.


(Next day...) Exercised twice today and did some cleaning. Worked on putting together an afghan for my uncle. Talked to/with my therapist for 50 minutes. Did a little singing/playing. So I got some things accomplished today. While I was sewing together my afghan squares I listened to an audiobook called A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. It’s a memoir about his stay at a rehab when he was 23 years old. It’s graphic and sometimes moving and made me think of Brendan and also of myself. Listening to his story makes me look more closely at my own addiction to cigarettes, the habitual, addicted pattern of it. When I don’t know what to do, I light up a cigarette. Instead of facing my temporary discomfort I go for some kind of instant gratification and miss an opportunity to grow, to change for the better. I go on automatic. Smoking at the festival made me feel self-conscious but I did it anyway even though I knew there were children around. It wasn’t automatic. I thought and looked around before I lit up. I noticed some people smoking but it was a sad kind of comfort. I didn’t really want them to be smoking either. After I finished a cigarette I would take the stamped out butt and put it in a small zip lock bag that I was carrying with me. I felt a little like a delinquent adult. And I thought maybe this time next year I will have quit for good and I won’t have to worry about it anymore. Now I’m thinking maybe by October I’ll have gotten some distance from smoking. I think it’s important to quit while I’m home instead of on a trip because it’s home where I’m most addicted and it’s home where I have to fight the good fight. I realized pretty quickly that I’ll have to change my living room around so I’m not going to the same seat in the same place where I’ve been smoking for the past year. I have to make some concrete changes while the drug gives me respite from nicotene cravings. I also hope that I have an exercise program in place so that I don’t just start going for food in place of a cigarette. Also crocheting and listening to audiobooks is a good way to stay focused. And, God, I know it sounds a bit weird but I would love to get into cleaning the house. I want to stop smoking, to lose weight and to keep a clean and organized house. If I could accomplish that in the next 12 months then this will be a good year indeed.

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