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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Good Week

I’ve had quite a good week despite having bats in the house. On Tuesday evening I discovered an email that I had overlooked from a man named Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD. He wrote: “....I’ve taught and practiced Internal and Emergency Medicine for over 25 years at Harvard and Stanford medical schools. I’m also the Chief Medical Information Officer at Wellsphere (www.wellsphere.com), where we are building a network of the web’s leading health bloggers, and I think you would be a great addition. Wellsphere is a fast growing, next-generation online platform that is revolutionizing the way people find and share health and healthy living information and services. Our platform connects millions of users with the valuable insights and knowledge from health leaders and knowledgeable writers like you.” He was inviting me to be a featured blogger for their soon to be launched Schizophrenia community.

I thought about it for a couple of days and asked for input from Nancy, Pam and Christina. Nancy said it sounded good but to talk to Chris, Pam said--go for it and Chris, well, I had forgotten that this was the week she was going to be very busy going to the NAMI convention in Orlando, Florida. Eventually I thought, how often does an opportunity like this come along to get my writing read and to support other people? Not often, and so I wrote back to Geoff and accepted. I mentioned Pam and Christina in my email to him, saying that they were also excellent choices for blogging. I haven’t heard back from him yet. I joined Wellsphere, but, for some reason, my password keeps getting rejected, so I’ll have to contact someone. All I know is that it is a legit corporation and that it is widespread. There are people relatively close by to where I live who are members. And so I wait and see...

This week I was struggling with wanting to write a blog to introduce myself on Artid. My therapist counseled me to not reveal that I suffer from schizophrenia and Jeni, Nancy and Chris all agreed. But it just didn’t sit right with me. Meanwhile I had introduced Pam to the site and she joined; without any hesitation she revealed that she suffered from schizophrenia. She also proudly said that she was one of the winners of a NAMI art contest. And I was proud of her. She made it look so simple and natural and so I decided that I would also reveal that I suffered from schizophrenia. It just felt like the right thing to do. And so I did and asked for members of the Artid community to respond to the question of whether or not I ,or any artist, should hide basic truths about themselves to clients.

To my surprise five people responded and all with words of encouragement. You can read what they wrote by clicking on the Artid link I’ve listed in my favorite links section of this blog and then clicking “Blog”. I printed out a copy of their comments because I would like to make a response to each of them and also I would like to show it to my therapist on Monday. It’s such a weight off my shoulders to be honest and I will be glad to be honest with my local community, regardless of whether they respond to me or not. I know a certain percentage already know that I suffer from schizophrenia. I told several teachers while at school and I told my brother that he had my permission to tell his friends if he wanted to. I want people to know why I am so withdrawn. It’s not because I dislike people and it’s not because I think I’m better than others, it’s because I have a mental handicap which makes me somewhat eccentric, but not hateful.

I really believe that stigma can’t be lessened unless more people with mental illness are open and honest about it. I actually think that being that way is reassuring to some people instead of frightening. It’s the odd person who says nothing who is going to be more the object of fear and/or scorn. Also, regardless of what I believe about my voices, I know this is a physical illness and should be treated as a medical condition and not something to be ashamed of. This is my opportunity to take a stand and perhaps make a small difference in my community. And generally, I’ve found people are more receptive than some would think. Not all people, but I have to take the good with the bad and teach myself to be tolerant of those who are not tolerant themselves of others with differences and weaknesses.

Another plus this week is that Nancy bought the gouache of Ronda and she also sent me photographs of herself and her familly. Thank you Nancy! She is turning into a great email companion and she’s been so supportive of me by encouraging me to paint. And yesterday, as you can see by the previous post, I painted the portrait of her father and niece which I will send off to her on Monday. I happened to get one of the how-to watercolor portrait books on the same day as I got her photographs and that helped to inspire me to paint right away. It is worth knowing other artist’s techniques and applying them. As I go through the book I see what I have already learned somewhere along the line, but I also get all this great information on things I didn’t know like underpainting with a cool color in shadow areas before laying on a wash of flesh coloring makes the painting start to come alive. I have a lot to learn and this is good.

Oh, and I got my business cards and they look good, no mistakes. I sent some to Nancy when I sent her the painting and I will give some to my brother to hand out to his friends. I’m hesitating over whether to post them in the post offices and other places right now. I might wait until the end of August or September after I’ve gotten some practice painting portraits in quantity. I still haven’t heard from Richard about getting photographs of his soccer players, which I would really like, so I don’t know whether he’s changed his mind or not. What I need are photographs, lots of photographs to work from. Maybe my brother will encourage his friends to give me some. That would be excellent. I love photographs and I love paintings, but getting a photograph from someone is like a window into their life and it’s magical to paint a portrait of that. So send me photos!

And wish me luck getting the bat out of the house---again!

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