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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thoughts For The New Year

I began 2010 quietly, no fireworks or family or crowds of people, just one lone firecracker in the distance to mark the second the new year began. At that moment I felt expectant and excited to be beginning yet another year of life, but a couple of days later I fell into a slump. It's like my life is this puzzle with some pieces missing and I won't be content until I find the missing pieces. I know no one stops me from being happy. I do that on my own, not willfully or anything, but I slip into the negative and then return to the positive eventually. This blog is a witness of that. Life is about ups and downs, good times and bad times, confidence and insecurity.

This year I found two old friends on the internet, but my insecurity has made me shy away from contacting them. They weren't just old friends, they were my best friends in high school. After we drifted apart, time stood still for me. I didn't make new friends. They were the last close friends that I had. But that was almost 30 years ago. To reconnect with them would mean a lot to me, but it would require revealing myself and my circumstances. Why don't I feel ready to do that? I'm afraid of rejection. That's not a good enough reason. We all have to take risks in order to grow. Still, when it comes to me bonding with other people, I pull away. A part of me wants to pull away and a part of me wants to get closer, so I get somewhat pulled apart.

Pam Wagner once wrote to me that she thought that I might be using my schizophrenia as an excuse, that, in effect, I was stronger than I thought I was. Sometimes I think that might be true, but other times I can't ignore that I have the classic symptoms of schizophrenia: social withdrawal, problems with self care (i.e. cleaning my house, making doctor's appointments, changing my clothes, etc...), lingering voices in my mind that I still do not believe are self-generated, financial dependence (in my case on my family instead of on the government). Of course, that is not the whole story. I have also turned into an artist, even though my output varies from month to month--sometimes very creative and other times not. But if I'm not painting, then I'm making up songs or writing.

What do I really want for this year? To become more consistently creative and to earn a little money through my artwork. A couple of months ago a man who owns a design studio in Orlando bought a couple of my abstract paintings from my Artid site. He said he wanted to commission me to do more work for him. He implied that I wouldn't be needed until the beginning of 2010, sometime after the holidays. If he's serious, this could be a little dream come true. So tomorrow I will contact him to see if he's still interested in using me as an artist for his design studio. But I know I shouldn't stop there. I need to promote myself to others online and in my community and not solely rely on this wonderful offer. Still, the offer, whether it happens or not, has helped me to take myself more seriously and that is a good thing.

Despite the schizophrenia, I know I have a lot to be grateful for. When I first got really ill and I read that schizophrenia was a "brain disease", I saw it as almost a death sentence...no cure, a gradual or not so gradual decline into insanity. That is not what I've experienced. Initially, yes, I became deeply psychotic, but then I wasn't taking the anti-psychotic medications regularly. After I did commit to the reality that I suffered from a serious mental illness and that I needed extra help, mainly in the form of medications and therapy, I gradually began to improve. Now I have my days where I'm lost and unhappy, but those days do not last for weeks and months anymore.

Beyond the medications and therapy, what really gets me through is my own creative spirit. I get down, but I don't give in and give up. I also have a supportive family, a home and (I thank God) health insurance. When I think about how much I have, I know I'm blessed and my troubles shrink to a more manageable size.

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