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, July 23, 2009

Feeling Good

Thanks Chris for your advice and concern. I went to see the doctor this morning. I'm okay. My blood pressure is good, pulse is good, heart and lungs sound good. He was also pleased with my weight loss. He told me the symptoms for a heart attack and for a stroke and those weren't the symptoms that I had. He said many smokers experience something called pleurisy which is a inner inflammation that causes painful breathing, but is not life threatening. So I was relieved and left his office feeling good.

All in all, the painful breathing was a good thing because it got me to wake up to the fact that smoking is not an option for me any more. I'm also pleased that I made myself make an appointment to see my doctor, even if I should have done it sooner. The life expectancy for someone with schizophrenia is not good. I think this is partially due to the fact that over 10 percent of those who suffer from it commit suicide. I'm pretty positive that I've pushed past that point, but the other side of the coin is that many people with schizophrenia have a lot of trouble taking care of themselves. If you don't get symptoms treated early, you are courting potential disaster. Illnesses that could have been prevented with early treatment wind up cutting one's life short. It's also just a part of getting older. You have to get more check-ups and take more tests. I will see the doctor again in a month, but I will have blood work done to see if my bad cholesterol is coming down and my good cholesterol is going up.

The doctor did say that I should start exercising again and I plan to after my parent's visit. And I will return to the Anne Collins weight loss site because this past month I have plateaued-- that is neither gained, nor lost much weight. Losing 20 pounds is great, but I can't stop there, I have to keep going. Once I lose about 15 more pounds, I will no longer be considered obese, just overweight. I won't stop there either, but when I reach that weight I will be very proud of myself and I will begin to look and feel lighter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Mixed Bag

I started smoking again a couple of months ago, off and on, but last week I began getting a pain in my upper right arm when I breathed deeply. This was right around the time that I was about to go off to the Grassroots Music Festival for three and a half days. I began to worry about having a heart attack or a stroke, but didn't tell anyone. Instead I went to the music festival. I worried a bit, but the voices reassured me that I would not have a heart attack or stroke. They also told me to quit smoking on Monday and call my doctor's office to make an appointment.

Richard and his son Aaron took care of the kittens and Rob and I had a really good time at the festival. The pain in my arm went away by Sunday. I finished the last of my cigarettes and set my quit date for the next day. On Monday afternoon I called the doctor's office and made an appointment for Thursday (tomorrow). I told Richard, who is a nurse, about the pain in my arm and calling the doctor's office. He said I really shouldn't have waited and I know he's right, but at least I'm committed again to not smoking and I will see the doctor tomorrow.

I was surprised at how smoothly things went at the festival. I even felt confident driving at night when we headed back to the motel each night. The music was good, the food was good, most of the people were friendly and there was very little pressure.
Rob did complain that there was not enough African and Latin music and that the festival seemed to be getting progressively more "whitebread", but the last night we were there we got to see a female African singer, Oumou Sangare, and her band backed by a well known American banjo player named Bela Fleck. Bela Fleck had spent about five months exploring parts of Africa and playing music and learning music with other African musicians. After that performance, we got to see and listen to a very good Latin band called Novalima, from Peru I think. That wrapped up the night and the next day we went back home. I had been calling Richard at least once a day and when I got home, I saw that the cats and kittens were all very fine and I was grateful.

My parents arrive from Florida in a week. I have been cleaning only minimally, but I have to step it up. If all goes well, my father will be staying with my brother and my mother will be staying with me. All of the downstairs will not be finished, but the bedroom and the bathroom should be. This week, with Richard's help, I picked out some linoleum to cover the floors and that should be installed next Monday, just a couple of days before my mother settles into her room. It will be good to see my parents. I haven't since them since Christmas six months ago, but they will want to stay busy, which means I'll be doing a lot of driving my family around, since there's not a whole lot to do around where my brother and I live.

That's the thing about suffering from schizophrenia, at least for me, I'm not used to going out a lot or entertaining or cleaning, so I'll have to appear perhaps more together than I am, at least for a week. I think I can do it, mainly because going to the festival went so smoothly. I'm hoping that my doctor won't find anything really wrong with me tomorrow. I don't want to go in for tests at the hospital and all that. In fact, I've been very fortunate that I haven't had to be inside a hospital much ever, not even for my mental illness. I got through the worst of my psychosis mostly on my own with some help from my therapist.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Opportunity

The president of the NAMI group I went to from the next county over wrote to me with three suggestions for starting a support group. Her first suggestion was to start a NAMI group in my town as an extension of her group. She said that there would probably be guidelines that I would have to follow and that she would find out more if I was interested, which I am. If I could find a meeting place, it would be the ideal solution. I told her I'd be willing to ask around at the local churches or the town hall to find a place. Her second suggestion was to start a non NAMI support group for students with mental health problems. She said that a college in her town had started a group and that it was part of a nationwide organization and that she could find out more information about that as well. I told her that that was a good suggestion, but that I was more interested in having a meeting that was open to both the schools and the surrounding community, if possible. Her final suggestion was for me to lead a support group in her town, just for those with mental illness. She wants to split the meeting she has now into two groups-one for family members of those with mental illness and one for people with mental illness because the two groups have different needs. I told her that though I would love to lead her meeting, that her town was too far away for me to commit to being available on a weekly basis. I said that since I became ill, I have become anxious about driving, especially in bad weather and at night time, which is why I would much prefer starting a meeting in my town. I live close enough to town that even if the weather was terrible, I could walk to the meeting place and hold a meeting every week. Still, I feel honored that she considered me, since she only met me once. At the end of her email she asked if we could get together for lunch to talk about the possibilities and I replied definitely yes.

I am so pleased that she was thoughtful enough to think of these suggestions and contact me. She is a busy woman with a full time job as well as being the NAMI president of her county and I am grateful to her for reaching out to me. I am hoping that NAMI higher ups will give her permission to let me start a group in my town. To be under the wings of such a major national advocacy group can only be a good thing and give the group even more credibility in this community. For me, personally, it would be a wonderful introduction to my own community service and would boost my self-esteem a great deal. I am so excited by the prospect of it, but will know more after I meet with Ms. Stanley. I have lived in such isolation from others who suffer from mental illness for over a decade, but now, all because I reached out to this woman, I may finally get to meet others like me and form some long lasting bonds and do some good for others in the process. God willing. The main thing is that now I might be ready to actually take on some responsibility, which is such a good sign of progress in my recovery from schizophrenia. It's amazing how having the support of even one person has given me such a boost to get out there and make a difference.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kitten Photos

Home Life

I took the two cats and three kittens to the vet yesterday afternoon. I'm happy to say that they are all in good health. They got their shots, though I have to return in three weeks for the kittens to get their second round of shots. I also made an appointment for the cats to be castrated, but not for another month. I found out from the vet that one of the kittens that I thought was a male is a female, so there are two females and one male. I'm tentatively calling them Pablo (after Picasso), Ani (after Ani DiFranco) and Jessie. It was Jessie that I wasn't sure about, so I gave her a gender neutral name. When I thought she was a boy I was naming her after Jesse James. I also called her the Sundance Kid. They aren't strikingly original names, but that's all I could come up with on short notice. They now have a room of their own, a real play room with a play center that has several levels and two other pseudo caves to play in. I've also set up a way for them to get to the window and a way for them to get up on my wicker chair in the corner of the room. The doctor says that they are seven to seven and a half weeks old, so I was approximately right about their ages. They alternate between having high energy and practically bouncing off the walls and sleeping or resting. They are getting more and more confident about climbing and jumping daily. They've come a long way in just a week.

My parents arrive from Florida in three weeks and Richard says he thinks the work will be done downstairs by then, so one or both of my parents might be able to stay with me in the bedroom downstairs, but I have to get the upstairs cleaned up. I was getting ready to vacuum and shampoo the carpets in the upstairs bedrooms, but discovered that the electrical outlets weren't working, so I told Richard. He said they were overloaded and so they shut down and when he tried to turn them on again one outlet in particular sparked/flamed up. He's been busy with other work and will get to the outlets in the next day or two. In the meantime I've been going through my books and picking out the ones I want to give away to the local library and the Salvation Army. So far I've collected three shopping bags worth of books and will probably collect several more bags of them. I just don't need all these books. I used to be a reader, but now I read in fits and starts, so I only want to keep the ones that really mean something to me. I'll still have plenty of books to read.

I must confess that I've been smoking again off and on for the past two months. I haven't re-addicted myself, but I'm getting pretty damned close. I did go to one of the quit smoking sites and let them know about it, but I only went once and haven't been back in about a week. I'm going to have to pick a new quit date and try again. The main thing is to never give up on quitting. I know this.

About a year ago I was writing about making tie dye clothing. I got all the supplies for it, but never even tried it once. I realized that I really couldn't do it in my kitchen or bathroom, but now I think I will be able to do it downstairs using either my darkroom sink or the new sink that Richard is going to install in the laundry room. I will give it a try after my parents leave on the 5th of August, if the work is all done by then. I have three instructional DVDs on how to do all different kinds of tie dyes. If I master some of the techniques, I will try selling what I make online and locally. I think I could do that without feeling self-conscious the way I do about the portraiture work. I have neglected promoting myself as a portrait painter locally because I still don't feel confident enough in my skill level, but I'm still hopeful that I will be able to post my business cards sometime this year. This month I have only painted one portrait, but Nancy might commission me to paint a portrait which I'm hoping will get me back in the swing of things. And Chris Bruni, I'm hoping to paint your portrait if you're still willing.

I told my brother last week that I couldn't go with him to the four day music festival starting on the 16th because the kittens are too young to be left alone. I tried calling him twice, but he won't pick up the phone. I think he's angry about it and giving me the silent treatment. I miss him. Tomorrow I go shopping and I've invited him, but I haven't heard back from him. I'm still hoping that he will find someone else to go with because he's bought both our tickets already and I've reserved a motel room near to the event.

Friday, July 3, 2009

House Cleaning

I began house cleaning yesterday and continued with it today and am praying that I keep cleaning throughout the next two weeks. What has given me the motivation to clean is the fact that I can't keep the kittens in the bathroom much longer, so I started working on one of my bedrooms and then on the other. I'm hoping I'll be able to move the kittens into a kitten proof room in a couple of days and then keep working on the rest of the house after that. I have prayed for help and I have been getting it. It will be a lot of work, but it will be wonderful to finally face the mess and clutter. I have two carpet cleaner machines, one for general cleaning and one for deep cleaning, but first I am going through my stuff and throwing things away and clearing up room. I've told Richard that I want to keep the cats downstairs, or at least the kittens, when the work is done down there. I will have linoleum put on the floors for easy clean-up. I will have the outdoor enclosure rebuilt and a cat door installed so the cats can go out and come in whenever they want.

I take the cats and kittens to the vet on Tuesday. The cats will get their shots and I will make an appointment for them both to be castrated. The kittens are doing well and I've been doing a good job of taking care of them. It will be great when I can let them loose in a decent sized room. They have so much energy. Today while I sat and watched over them, I listened to a tape by Thich Nhat Hanh called Living Buddha, Living Christ. On the tape they sound a meditation bell at different intervals and it startles the kittens, but they listen. I was thinking that these kittens are my teachers and so I watch them and listen to them and touch them gently and talk to them. With their tiny claws they climb up my back and with their tiny teeth they chew my finger tips, but mostly they wrestle with each other and run around and play. They are Buddha nature: genuine, open, playful, responsive. My motherly instincts have taught me how to handle them, with attention and respect. And in taking care of them, I'm learning how to take care of myself and my other cats.