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.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I was proud of myself for getting to the airport and getting to Chicago okay and I was proud of myself on the return trip for getting home safely. Traveling alone can be both depressing and stressful but I managed it. My uncle met me near the baggage claim area. He didn’t look happy to see me but neither did he seem particularly dismayed. I got my bag quickly and we found his car. He drove me from the O’Hare airport to the hotel where he had reserved and paid for a two room suite for me for six nights. He took me out to lunch at a nearby sandwich place. Then he took me to a supermarket so that I could get some snacks. I got cereal and milk and bananas. He escorted me back to my room, put away the groceries and said he would return the next day again with the car so that he could take me on a driving tour of Chicago.

Chicago is situated north to southeast along the bottom of Lake Michigan. My uncle’s apartment and my hotel were about a block away from the lake and twenty five minutes north of the downtown by bus. My uncle first drove me north to his apartment complex and then continued to drive me farther north through Evanston and beyond. The farther we got, the richer the environs got. Landscaped mansions and very few people outside (mostly women pushing baby strollers or someone jogging). It was way up here in the wealthy suburbs of Chicago that my uncle took me to the Botanic Gardens. We walked for a while and then had lunch at their cafeteria.

I’m not going to go through the whole trip but suffice it to say my uncle gave me a thorough tour of Chicago, including several art museums which I love. He was attentive and talkative but we didn’t really click. I felt awkward at times and tongue tied. Here and there he would say fairly personal things about me and my brother and my parents, sometimes critical. I didn’t know how to respond and was mostly quiet. I think his main reason for having me come to Chicago was to show me his apartment which (if he doesn’t go into a retirement home) he will leave to me and my brother when he dies. Morbid yet practical. He had warned me that his apartment was a mess and I told him not to worry about it because I was used to it in my home and my brother’s home. He showed me where his important papers were and pointed out things that might be of modest value.

Seeing my uncle, whom I’ve never been very close to, in his private space made him seem all the more human and vulnerable, which was just how I was feeling myself. He told me that he rarely had anyone over except for a few close friends. His passions at home are reading and listening to music. Referring to his 30 year old furniture and cluttered rooms he said some people put their money into fixing up their homes over the years but that he chose to spend the money instead on going to concerts and theatre. In his way he was preparing me for the job I will have to do with his apartment when he passes away. But I find all this a bit premature. And ironic. I, who can barely take care of my own space and my brother who is the same... Personally, I don’t see my uncle staying in that apartment if he gets quite old but ultimately it is his choice.

My father and my uncle worry that there won’t be enough money left over to take care of me and my brother when they die. It’s something that will be out of their control. My uncle encouraged me to get a part time job saying that the added income could really help and so I will next Spring apply for help from VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities). If I can get a job and stick to it I think it will do wonders for me and will reassure my family. I hope VESID accepts my application when the time comes. It might sound strange but I like the idea of working for someone who knows about my disability but doesn’t stigmatize me for it.

I’ve suffered from this illness for years now but I’ve never been hospitalized for more than one night and because my family has some money I’ve never applied for social services. I haven’t been to a support group meeting for mental illness other than Al-Anon. And the tendency of this illness is to isolate and isolated I have been. I’m tired of it, living in a cocoon. I have to accept that I need help. I can’t do it all alone.

I was talking with my therapist on Thursday and she said my self esteem was pretty good when I first started seeing her but that over the years and due to the effect of the schizophrenia my opinion of myself has taken a nose dive. I started out thinking I was bright and perceptive but now I compare myself to others and keep seeing what I lack instead of what I have. I have to work on changing this.

A few days later... I’ve been sleeping too much again and the voices have been somewhat negative. Friday night I went out with my brother to hear a singer songwriter play. When I got home I picked up my guitar and starting writing a song and then another song. I didn’t get to sleep until early morning (I had had too much expresso while listening to the man sing and play). I made sure to record the song ideas on a cheap portable recorder so I wouldn’t forget it the next day. I really enjoyed singing and playing and I felt grateful when I finally did fall asleep. The next day I wasn’t feeling great but I did managed to make another better recording of the two song fragments in the studio. It struck me what a big difference there is between singing when I’m inspired and singing when I’m not. One has so much energy and the other struggles to sustain the minimum of energy. I guess all I need is to be inspired by a live performance each night (and drink a couple of large cappuccinos). That’s not going to happen but there are one or two open mic nights in town that I really should go to. I need to get up my nerve to be around people, most of whom have been drinking...Hey, I can do that for an hour or so...yes I can.

I hope everyone’s been well these past couple of weeks. Pam hasn’t written in her blog since September 6th. I think she’s in the hospital. I hope she’s okay. I miss her and her writing.

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