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.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Next Stop -- Chicago.

I picked up a cold from my brother a few days ago and spent Sunday and Monday trying to sleep it out of me. It’s made me feel delicate. I even cried today. That’s something I haven’t done in a long time. I was watching a movie and at the point where the main character’s mother dies I began thinking about my own mother (who will be 80 in March). And suddenly I felt very sad thinking that I never did the things she had hoped I would do -- had a career and a husband, maybe a family of my own. When I cried I felt that old familiar bittersweet feeling from when I was a young woman and even the shocked hurt feeling from when I was a child. I don’t feel that very often. Why? I’ve lived through trauma in a relationship and in my mind and my reaction to it is to go numb. But then it also could be the result of the medication. And also just the negative symptom of the schizophrenia itself. Whatever it is, I don’t feel the way I did when I was young. Perhaps that’s just part of getting older too.

(Next day...) I wrote yesterday that the crying was bittersweet and that is true. Deeply sorrowful yet tender, open, even innocent. But I didn’t dwell too long there. I’m not sure that I could even if I had wanted to. I think I did want to stay there longer just to remember who I once was and who in some ways I still am. I’ve lost a lot of my memories due to this illness. Value your memories and the feelings they bring up because they make up who you are. I feel a little shadowy, a little thin. I wish there was some kind of memory therapist I could go to to retrieve my life. Sometimes I think I should spend some time each day just trying to remember. I do get the outline of a memory but much of the emotion is gone.

I rely on the anti-psychotic medications to keep me stable and they do, but what else are they doing to my body? I don’t really know. What I do know is that I don’t want to be lost in delusions and paranoia. And so I’ve made a compromise. Without the medications I would have an imbalance in my brain chemistry, with the medications I have less of one but still it is no cure. I have to face the hard fact that I have a mental disability. Why am I having trouble facing this right now? Perhaps it is because I am going to visit my uncle in Chicago starting on Monday for a week. That and getting this cold which has made me feel more vulnerable than usual.

My family is very small, just my mother and her brother, my father and my brother. The last time I saw my uncle was just about a year ago at my parents’ apartment in Florida. I don’t see him much at all but he wanted me to come visit him this year. He’s the first person, other than my parents and my brother when he lived in North Carolina, that I will be visiting since I got ill nine years ago. And I haven’t visited him in Chicago since I was 14 years old and that was when he had moved into his present day apartment (31 years ago!). Of course, I’ve seen him over the years but we’ve never been very close. We email each other but that’s as far as it has gone. This is an opportunity to deepen our connection and I worry I won’t be up for it.

My uncle, like my parents and brother, is a very bright, knowledgeable, and verbal person. He’s a retired English professor, loves city life because he’s so into architecture, classical music, opera and theatre. He actually has taken people on guided tours of Chicago for years now. He knows his stuff thoroughly. According to my mother, he is very fond of me. I think this has to do with his mother (my Nana) who I got close to towards the end of her life. He has told me that I remind him of her sometimes. I can’t see the connection right now but I feel honored by the comparison even so because I loved her too. She had a great sense of humor, was very honest and loved to read. She was perceptive and good with her hands (during the Depression she made all of her children’s clothes). But she, too, was reclusive, especially after grandpa died. I felt comfortable with Nana because she made me feel comfortable. Anyway, she doted on her son.

I hope I am up for the trip though. I should look at it as a small adventure. I just wish I was in better shape both physically and mentally, but I’ll have to make do and look on the bright side. The bright side is Chicago is a wonderful city and my uncle is a kind and capable man who will treat me well. He is already treating me extremely well: he’s gotten me a suite at a hotel near to his apartment. I will have time to myself each day (and he to himself) and I think that will really help me stay in balance. Though I won’t be able to go online, I’m bringing my computer because it has my journals, my encyclopedia, some music, an audiobook (Madeleine Albright’s The MIghty and The Almighty), poetry readings, and a course in Spanish. Also I can play DVDs. It will be like bringing a piece of home with me and that will comfort me. I know I’ll need that comfort. I’m used to staying in one place but this year I’ve been traveling more.

(Next day...) I saw my therapist today and found the visit reassuring. Except for a two year break I’ve known her since the first few months of my psychosis. She’s respectful, supportive, kind and smart and when I talk to her I generally feel bright and articulate. But around other people, including my brother and parents, I feel awkward often and a bit dumb. I’ve been worrying that I’ll feel this way with my uncle but talking to J. gave me some confidence. Back to looking for the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. I may not be as bright and knowledgeable as my family but I still have good qualities. And as J. pointed out, I do have two college degrees and I do know something about art. But the main thing is to have a good attitude, open and grateful. I will get to know my uncle better while he guides me through the city he loves. Instead of bringing myself down through worry I will stay hopeful that all will work out well. And it will be an adventure.

I also talked to J. about the message board idea. I was almost afraid she’d reject it but she didn’t. She’s a cautious person and she gave me tentative approval for it. Not that she has to but I would feel better if she supported the project. It felt good to air the idea out to another person and made me re-commit to the process of getting it started.

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