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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Working It Through

I've been a bit too preoccupied with my 1990s songs lately. Soundclick keeps statistics of who views my profile page and which songs are played and how many times, etc... I've been getting a little bit obsessive about it and I wind up feeling sick. Though I like the songs, the fact is that they were made over a decade ago and while I have the lyrics and can still sing the songs, many of them I can't play on my guitar. So I feel as if I'm misrepresenting myself and what I really want to do is make up new songs, songs that go into my experience of mental illness. I have been working on a few songs, but I haven't gotten very far yet because I'm not set up to record. I'll get there. I basically feel better making up songs than I do in listening back to them, so it's the process I like over the product.

Posting the songs and looking for feedback is still an ego orientation, so while I think I will upload a few more of my songs, I'm going to take a few steps back from it. Also, there are so many really talented people out there promoting themselves. On the one hand, I'm promoting myself, but on the other hand, I'm humbled by the sheer immensity of people making music and putting it on the web. Making music is a good thing; promoting myself is premature. I am not a musician, just a singer/songwriter and I have no business sense. What I should focus on is creating just one song at a time, instead of thinking that I have to make a whole album's worth before I can put the songs out there for feedback. I re-found a site I joined a couple of years ago for songwriters; it's called Muse's Muse. I have briefly reviewed some other people's songs, but I want to do more of that. That's the rule there, you have to review 2-4 songs by other people before you can get one of your own songs reviewed. I think that's fair.

What makes me feel better than promoting these old songs is sticking to a Buddhist practice of meditation and dharma study. I found a couple of Buddhist communities online, but this past week I haven't been posting. I've been being very upfront about the fact that I suffer from schizophrenia. Some people respond positively to that, some ignore it and others get uncomfortable. My aim is not to make people uncomfortable, but to fight the stigma attached to mental illnesses and to encourage others to be upfront about their struggles. Still, sometimes I think I overdo it and yet I feel more comfortable being open than hiding something that has affected my life so drastically.

I want to return to painting because I've been working only sporadically. Painting is meditation and therapy. I tend to feel more emotionally balanced when I'm working on a painting or drawing project. Someone who owns a design studio bought two of my abstract paintings on my Artid site. He said he wanted to hire me to do some more work and suggested we talk by phone. I told him that though I felt somewhat uncomfortable using the phone, that he was probably right and said I'd be available this past weekend, but he never called. So I'm feeling insecure. That shouldn't stop me from beginning a painting project of my own.

I also want to return to reaching out to people on the internet. I have made a SharePost on SchizophreniaConnection and responded to another's SharePost. I would like to get back to working on LiveJournal. There are a lot of groups about mental illness/health and maybe I can do some good. I've befriended a young woman who suffers from schizoaffective disorder and we've been emailing each other, which has been a pleasure. She's so bright and also an artist. In fact, I've come across quite a few people online who suffer from mental illness who are both bright and artistic.

I have been feeling bouts of anxiety and I've been trying to breath into the discomfort the way the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron has instructed in her books and audio recordings. The thing is not to act out or repress, but to sit with the feeling and get to know it. That's true for meditation in general and it is not easy to do. When I try to meditate often I get either restless or I get a back ache or I get sleepy. But I did get a beginner yoga DVD and I've been following that and that really helps to relax me, but it doesn't put me to sleep.

Well, that's all for now. I hope you have all been doing well and staying safe.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Songs On The Internet

I just added a widget from a site called SoundClick. It's a place where you can upload your original songs and even sell them. I'm not confident enough in my skill level to sell my songs, so I'm happy if anyone is willing to download them and listen to them. Maybe I'll even get to be on some people's mp3 players. That would be cool. Unfortunately the widget is partially cut off, but you can still play the songs. I'd love to get some feedback from people who haven't heard my songs before. I'll be uploading a bunch more of my songs this week, so if you click on "songs" on the top of the widget, it will take you to more of my music. Right now I only have the three songs uploaded. At SoundClick I've included the lyrics, if you're interested.

These songs were created in the 1990s during and after my relationship with my abusive boyfriend who suffered from mental illness and alcoholism. I associate the song "Somewhere" strongly with him as a song about the loss of innocence, but with something left over. It was a kind of protest song against being abused, but disguised in the story of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

These three songs I recorded just after my 36th birthday and just before I became delusional and paranoid. Soon after I recorded them, I sent them along with one other song to Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. That marked my descent into madness for a time. I was convinced that he was following me or having other people from his circle follow me. Of course, no contact was ever made and for three years I remained deeply psychotic because I wouldn't take the anti-psychotic medications.

In the very beginning of my psychosis I was writing and singing lots of songs or what I call song "bits", not full songs, maybe only a minute or so long each. Then the voices told me to take guitar lessons (I am a very poor guitar player), but after only a couple of lessons they began to attack me and I had to stop making songs pretty much during the next 3-5 years. Gradually I approached songwriting and singing again, very, very slowly.

Towards the beginning of last year I bought a new portastudio that made an actual CD out of the songs that I recorded in the 1990s. So I sent that CD which I called Yin And Yang (of course) out to a few of my friends. The portastudio also has allowed me to start working on and recording new song bits, but last June when I took in the first litter of kittens I had to put them in the music room, so I boxed up my equipment and put it in the closet which is where it's been ever since. But now that the downstairs room is available, I will soon set up downstairs and get to work again.

Getting a new computer with a flash player already installed, so that I can watch videos and listen to music online, has also made it easy for me to convert my music into mp3 files to upload to music sites such as SoundClick. And so, here I am, introducing myself and my music to the internet community. I hope you enjoy listening to some of them. If you have the time and inclination, leave a comment here or at SoundClick by clicking on "Comments" on the top of the widget. Thanks in advance.