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, January 31, 2008


Just about four weeks since I last posted. Wow. I’m still okay, just going through some changes in perspective. I’ve been having trouble writing for this blog. I keep starting and stopping, second guessing myself. Still, I don’t want to abandon it, so I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and write whatever I write: I’m 150 days into being cigarette free, but I’ve put on weight. Not a surprise. It means I have to start walking. Ah, but will I? I saw my psychiatrist yesterday and told him I had raised the Abilify by a quarter tablet. He had no problem with that. I saw my therapist ( after a six week break) and told her that I had been talking into a tape recorder in the interim as a form of talk therapy. I have half a shoe box full of 90 minute tapes and you know what? it helps, it really does. I am going to continue with it even though it will leave me with a shitload of tapes. I’m thinking about making some identifying notes to put into each case, so they’re not just an amorphous mess. I want to write a memoir and these tapes might help me to do that.

What is it about talking into a tape recorder and then listening to it? I think it’s harder to lie to myself when I talk out loud and it’s easier to spot inconsistencies in my thinking. Of course I get repetitive, but sometimes making myself aware of what I keep going back to is useful, either in getting something done, or in remedying some particular problem. Making a spoken record of myself gives me a reality check. And I find myself befriending myself; I like the person I hear, she’s not perfect, but she’s good enough. When the voices are telling me that I’m evil, I feel dark, closed up, even ugly and so I speak into the tape recorder and then listen to myself expecting to hear negativity, but that’s not what I hear. I hear a woman trying to be honest with herself and succeeding. I think the tapes work because they get that sticky stuff inside, out; they objectify the problem and make it more visible. Once you can look at a problem clearly, then solutions seem possible, even probable. Listening to the tapes is listening to a living past; I think I take my life less for granted as I document my patterns and progress. I know that all this is temporary, that change is the rule. And thank God (or whatever) that a negative perspective can’t stay forever, that pain can blossom into pleasure.

So I’ve been getting into solo talk therapy but what else have I been up to? For a little while I was exploring the writing sites, Helium and Associated Content. I was excited by the prospect of being in the company of other writers and challenged by the wide variety of topics to write on. Soon I published an article. The problem was that I realized, after the fact, that the article was more of a first draft than a final piece. Be that as it may, that piece cannot be taken back and reworked. Welcome to the world of publishing, where final means final. A new concept to me, but then so was the idea of competing with others or trying to earn money from my writing. I write because I enjoy it and because it helps me, but here I was trying to take it to another level. I didn’t post another article and stopped going to Helium and AC, but I also stopped blogging. I was in transition and I veered off into yet another direction: looking for work from home. I thought, “people are earning some money from writing at these sites, but what else online could bring in income?” So I did some research and came up with three things: taking surveys, word processing and proofreading. I chose to pursue proofreading. I ordered a For Dummies book on it and then enrolled in two inexpensive online classes at another site called Universal Class. I chose Proofreading and Copyediting 101 and a refresher course in punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc... And so I’ve been studying these subjects for the past three weeks.

I think I might actually be able to learn the skills of proofreading and copyediting, which has given me a push of confidence. It suits me because it’s all about writing and reading, all about language, the art and craft of it, the sheer work of it. So I’ve committed to this, I’ve bought several essential reference books: The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition), the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White. And I’ve bought two workbooks, one for proofreading and one for copyediting. In addition to this I’ve been picking out useful books from my own collection, such as: The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists by Arthur Plotnik; Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss (a very popular book on punctuation); Fowler’s Modern English Usage (2nd edition), and Index to English (6th edition) by Wilma R. Ebbitt and David R. Ebbitt. I have been skimming through the last two books, but reading the first two. The Elements of Editing, in particular, has given me a distinct impression of what it’s like to be an editor. My latest find for reading is William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: An Informal Guide To Writing Nonfiction (4th edition). Ultimately, what I want to do is to write essays on subjects that interest me and then enter contests and/or try to get them published. I have been impressed with several writers, especially Joan Didion and Annie Dillard. My pile of books around the couch is expanding to include their works and essays by Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, H. L. Mencken, Lewis Thomas and Tom Wolfe, amongst others. I am moving away from watching television and films (though I would still like to do some of that) and into reading and writing instead. I think it is a good change. It reminds me of my college days at Barnard when my head was mostly in a book or writing a paper.

And I have been listening to recordings of my songs, writing down the lyrics and trying to relearn them. Most of the songs I never typed up or wrote down the chords. It’s led me to write a few new songs. All my songs are simplistic. My practice is erratic and so the quality of my voice and playing is likewise uneven, but I continue with it nonetheless. I think I see it as a spiritual practice; it lets me focus my thoughts and feel my feelings. Despite being a recluse or because of it, language and communication mean a lot to me. Songs and singing and writing are part of what keep me relatively healthy. They are therapy that might benefit others somewhere down the line. I hope so anyway. Where has this energy come from? Maybe the increase of the Abilify, I honestly don’t know, but I am pleased with it. May it last.

It was the I Ching that warned me not keep myself “aloof from people” and encouraged me to return to this blog. Every comment that’s been posted in the last month has meant a lot to me. It’s drawn me back here. The hiatus is over and it’s time to stay in touch.

Peace all, stay safe and find some joy.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy New Year

May 2008 be a good year for all of us.

I hope everyone had a safe and relatively happy holiday and New Year’s Eve and Day. I spent Christmas and New Year’s on my own and it was okay. I did a lot of cooking for myself and for my friend Richard and his family. Richard said that he prefers people cooking for him over giving him presents, so this year that’s what I did. I made carrot cake, a cocoa banana nut bread and a spinach lasagna using Edam cheese and ricotta. For myself I made vegetable paella and lentil soup with turkey kielbasa. Also Richard’s wife had him bring me some cookies, a plate full of food and on New Year’s day stuffed shells. Also Richard and his son did me a big favor and got rid of my old and decrepit couch and brought over another couch from my brother’s house that is in much better condition. No longer do I have a couch that is an eyesore. Maybe this year I’ll actually invite people over to my house.

I haven’t seen my therapist for over four weeks and I won’t see her until the end of this month when she gets back from her mid term vacation but in the interim I’ve been talking into a tape recorder and then listening to myself. It has been a surprisingly effective form of talk therapy for me. Though I talk to myself about my illness and reflect on my past, I’m reassured that I sound fairly stable. For the most part, I like the person I hear on those tapes; and so I also keep myself company.

I’m amazed at how much time I can spend alone and not fall apart. I’m still reading a book called Party Of One: The Loner’s Manifesto by Anneli Rufus. Ms. Rufus asserts that there is a sizable minority of loners and that these loners play an important part in society but are often disparaged. I’m not going to review the book till after I’ve finished it but suffice it to say that this author has made me feel less freakish for my reclusive tendencies. She’s made me realize that there are others like me, many writers or creative artists, who can go for days without seeing another soul and be content on their own. I know before I became psychotic some of my best times were when I was alone.

My schizophrenia complicates matters because there are times when I know I should be around people mainly in a support group setting. But the only way that is going to happen is if I take the steps to make it happen. For now, I go online to the NAMI message boards for schizophrenia and try to offer support. I also need support but I’m not very good at asking for it. It takes practice. So I’m trying to be a regular there, someone people can trust.

I’ve decided that I have to earn some money this year but I want to see if I can do it from home over the computer. There are some proofreading and copyediting jobs available and I’ve decided to try to learn that trade. I’ve ordered a For Dummies book on it which should arrive next week and I’ll study that and see if I have any aptitude for that kind of work. There is training also available for word processing work and medical transcription work. I’d also like to learn something about web design. I am so woefully ignorant about using the computer and it is high time that I get down to learning the basics.

While I was ordering books on Amazon.com, I saw an ad. It said something like: earn money writing short articles. The site is called Helium . I recommend any writers out there check it out. It’s a large site with a message board and if you’re diligent it seems you can actually earn some money. It’s competitive and there’s a rating system. There are tons of topics to write on and I’ve been having fun checking it all out. It’s a good place to meet other writers and possible employers. The articles that are written are not long, between 400 and 1,500 words an article. I’m not real familiar with the site yet but I have posted one article. I’m hoping it will spur me into a practice of regular writing. If I could earn some money too, I would be very happy but I’m not counting on it. What I want to do is to improve my writing to the point where I’m willing to submit some work to various publications. As it stands I’m a beginner, a newbie. More on this site as I get to know it better.