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, May 22, 2009

On Beginning A Memoir

I haven't drawn or painted in about 6 days. This happens to me, I get active and creative for a month or two and then fall into a bit of depression. Or maybe this time I am just taking a break. Since I discovered my high school friend online, I have been doing some soul searching and some remembering. I'm, once again, thinking about writing a memoir and have been doing a lot of writing in my journal. Today I ordered a book called Writing A Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington. A former writing teacher recommended it. I'm also toying with taking a very inexpensive online class on writing a memoir and noticed that this book was recommended. But why do I want to write a memoir? And do I have the stuff to make it happen?

One thing I know, it's not easy to write a memoir. It takes a lot of careful remembering and reliving. It takes courage and it takes skill and craft. And behind it all you must have a lot of motivation to make sense of your life and a belief that your story is very worth telling. Why is my story worth telling? Actually it is my belief that everyone has a story worth telling because life is that challenging and rich. One problem I will have to get over is that I am not proud of my story. I see a lot of failure instead of successes. I know that's not quite fair to myself, but my self esteem has been sorely bruised by my mental illness and consequent poor choices in life. I have failed myself on a number of occasions. And yet, those failures are also learning experiences that may help others; that gives me hope.

I think one of the reasons why I want to write a memoir is because I am still on the periphery of society. I don't fit in and I want to fit in somewhere. My self isolation is so extreme that I talk into a tape recorder and listen back to it for company. I have been talking into a tape recorder now for about a year and a half. It is one way I bond with myself; it is also potent therapy. So, in a way, I've been telling my story to myself for quite a while now. And though my self esteem is still weak, I find that I like myself. I like that I'm moderately intelligent, creative and thoughtful. My insecurity comes out when I'm around other people. I'm somewhat in awe of all that other people accomplish in their lives, of the responsibilities they take on. I have become fearful of taking on responsibilities. I assume that I won't be dependable.

If I do write a memoir, I will be taking on a large responsibility, a personal commitment to be honest, fair and hard working and I will have to look very closely at myself, my family and my relationships. I like to look at it as a determined attempt at self-discovery. No matter how negative I get, I hold onto the belief that my life has meaning, if only to warn others not to take the path that I took. Perhaps I have some valuable things to say about the nature of mental illness. I know I certainly have a lot to say about the far reaching consequences of living with poor self esteem. I may have always been biologically destined to become psychotic, but poor self esteem led to self sabotage which led to trauma which led to a psychotic break with reality. And though I began hearing voices in my mid twenties, I didn't become out and out psychotic until just after my 36th birthday. I could have accomplished a lot up until then.

But I didn't and now here I am just beginning down a path of potential self-discovery, self-discovery that I am hoping will benefit others as well as myself. I learned a valuable lesson when I went to Al-Anon meetings (and some AA meetings) and that is that telling your story honestly to others is one of the most generous acts you can do, for yourself and others. Children learn by being told stories, well, so do adults. I write in this blog to help myself and to help others. Without this blog, I don't think I would have gotten to the point of even considering writing a memoir. Writing in this blog has taught me how to be honest in a public place. Getting comments from readers and knowing that some people may be tuning in to my writing every now and then gives me just a little more confidence than I had before I began writing here. It helps me to believe that I can make a difference for the better in the world. And it lets me know that I'm not alone. None of us are.
Post a Comment