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.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fish Out Of Water

Last year I downloaded an episode from a radio show called This American Life which I recently listened to; the episode was called “Godless America”. The bias of the show was obviously towards the left and the initial topic was on separation of church and state. The host of the show interviewed several people, some conservative Christians, others moderate Christians. At one point the host asks a conservative Christian: “Do you believe we can be a moral nation without being Christian?” and the man answers, “Long term morality, without God, is a myth.” My family believes that not only can people be moral without a belief in God, but that some people’s faith in God causes them to act immorally. They abhor the idea of a union between church and state. This is the classic left-right battle going on in the U.S.

I stand with my family, but I appreciated this episode for allowing me to get a glimpse of the other side and for broaching the question of what it would be like to live in a religious (Christian), non secular country. The right to choose to terminate a pregnancy would be revoked and made illegal again, Creationism would take the place of the theory of evolution in schools, homosexuals would lose any chance at legalizing marriage and might find themselves punished in one way or another. Instead of diversity there would gradually be homogenization. But then in many places in the U.S. there is a white, Republican, Christian conformity. I moved from New York City to Western New York almost twenty years ago and that is what I found. There are good people here, but I don’t advertise my liberal Democratic background by putting a pro-choice bumper sticker on my car. After surviving severe paranoia, I don’t want to stand out. I know I’m in the minority here and it is a weird feeling, a feeling that is only reinforced by my schizophrenia.

Despite the fact that the college and university here provide an oasis for some liberal Democratic activity, I still feel like a fish out of water. I’m sure if there were no separation between church and state that that feeling would be strongly accentuated. It’s already a bit creepy to live where I do, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to have it spread to the cities. I think there would be some kind of social revolt. And I can’t help but think that if fundamentalist Christians took power that we would eventually have the kind of morality police that they have in Iran. I’m not against a belief in a higher power, I’m against enforcing that belief on others in schools and in the work places and in the very laws of the land.


The university was on a two hour lock down a few days ago because someone reported that there was a man with a gun on campus. Turns out it was a student playing some kind of nerf ball game using a toy gun, but it just goes to show that the level of paranoia has increased even here. I am dismayed by the fact that there is no mental health support group for students. Yesterday I went to a presentation about the prevalence of students who harm themselves. Fifteen to twenty percent of the students (both male and female) say they have harmed themselves through cutting or burning. Quite a few people showed up for the presentation, students, teachers and members of the community. There were four speakers--a young man who is a counselor and three teachers. When I asked them after the presentation about support groups the teachers referred me to the counselor and the counselor somewhat lamely said there were no support groups except a grief support group that meets every other week and an AA meeting on campus with very low attendance. I got the courage up to say that I had thought of starting a group off campus, but silently I wondered if I would ever have the motivation to start the process. It did encourage me that people had showed up for this mental health topic and that many people asked questions afterwards.


I saw my therapist this week. I told her how I’m becoming more conscious of the fact that I start things but don’t finish them, that I move from one thing to another. This is an old pattern from before I became psychotic. I speculated that it might have to do with not having any major responsibilities and therefore little structure. Most people have to work and so they follow through on their actions. I drift. The schizophrenia just makes the drifting take a stronger hold on me. J. said that I always have good ideas and that it’s good that I can get involved in various creative outlets. She said being involved in things helps to reduce stress. I know there’s truth in that and I’m glad I don’t just give up, but I also would like to accomplish more. I discovered that I stopped meditating when I encountered discomfort and that’s what I do with the projects I work on--when it gets harder, I pull back. I realize now that I need to stay with the meditation in order to learn how to sit with discomfort. Everyone has to learn this lesson that life is a mixture of pleasure and pain and that worthwhile endeavors require working through the obstacles.


The iPod is still a trip. I also got an attachment so that I can hear local radio stations. Yesterday, after listening to This American Life, I checked out iTunes podcasts under Buddhism. I’m thinking about tuning into a podcast called Zen Punk Radio tonight. My connection is still very slow but I’ll probably be able to download it overnight. I have found that I can get spooked at night time listening to the iPod; it’s such an insular experience, sometimes a little too insular, so I unplug the earbuds from time to time and just listen to make sure everything is okay with my cats and in the house. Still, I love listening to music again, and to poetry and audiobooks. If I do get a high speed internet connection I will probably go wild downloading podcasts. I really appreciate that there are so many creative people out there communicating to the world.

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