The night before Thanksgiving I forgot to take my medications and instead began drinking coffee after a three hour nap so that I could continue cleaning and organizing the house in preparation for the guests that would be arriving the next day. I stayed up all night getting tired and wired at the same time, but I did get the house in order. Unfortunately, I was not in order as I again forgot to take my morning medications before going to get my brother early the next morning. Neither my brother or I had the chance to take a nap before the guests arrived. Compared to me, my brother was in good shape cooking the Thanksgiving meal. People arrived at around 3:30 PM, three men, one middle aged and two younger men, one of whom I had never met before.
I sat down with them in the living room while my brother worked in the kitchen. Very soon one of the young men started talking about war and religion. I knew that at some point he had been in the military; I learned later that he also had an I.Q. of 160 and a tendency towards severe depression. He was addressing the middle aged man who was also very bright. Suddenly I shut down and felt very threatened, awkward and unable to speak. Soon I found myself in the kitchen with my brother making excuses about how I had to go downstairs for a while. I wound up staying downstairs the whole time the guests were in the house, all through their meal. I was too embarrassed to go upstairs and take my medications because they happened to be in the living room right by the couch. I tried to get some sleep, but was still too wired from all the caffeine I had been drinking. My friend Richard stopped by and came downstairs to see how I was. He sat in the darkened room with me and talked and joked and cut through the tension. I was grateful.
Later, when everyone had left, my brother came downstairs. I had been afraid that he was angry with me, but he wasn't, just concerned. I asked how everything went and he said that actually everyone had a good time and a good meal complete with leftovers to take home. I was relieved to hear this and so I went upstairs and finally had my Thanksgiving meal while talking to my brother. Then I took my medications. Later I got the sleep that I so dearly needed. My brother was impressed with how clean and organized most of the house was and wound up staying over for four nights. He also got a chance to use my computer which has a high speed internet connection as opposed to his much slower dial up connection. This allowed him to explore online videos, especially on YouTube. He had a good time and we ate turkey dinners for four days. I brought him home on Monday afternoon.
The irony of all this is that because I stayed up drinking coffee and cleaning all night last week I got my house ordered and clean, something I have been wanting to do for many months. That may seem like a small thing, but to me it is a big thing. My habitual response is to not clean and watch my living space get more and more disorganized and dirty which in turn makes me quite depressed. Now I have a fresh start, a chance to change my pattern and keep up with cleaning a little each week instead of once every six months. I vacuumed a couple of days ago and plan to vacuum upstairs once a week from now on and the same for cleaning dishes once or twice a week and doing a laundry once a week too. If I can step up to this new routine, I will be stepping closer to normalcy and away from my mental illness. May it be so.
Yesterday I brought my electric guitar, amplifier and recording equipment upstairs and set up in a corner of the dining area. I also have my acoustic guitar in the living room, but I've been playing so infrequently that I don't have callouses on my finger tips and it hurts to play it. The electric guitar is much easier to play and so sounds better. That's a relief because I play so poorly as is. I had a couple of elementary lessons on the guitar when I was around eight years old, but that didn't last long. I got an acoustic guitar when I was fifteen, but no lessons. I used the guitar to make up a few very simple songs, but mostly I didn't play. I played my boyfriends electric guitar in my late twenties and would use it to make up songs, but I never took the time to try and master the instrument. I still haven't. I have told myself that someday I will take lessons. Right now I don't have the money. I did get a Guitar For Dummies book a couple of years ago. It comes with a CD and I think I'm going to study it. It's not the same as having a teacher, but it is better than nothing.
As you can tell, I haven't been writing, not here or for my memoir. I'm not giving up on it, just been taking a break, as is my way. I've been able to see my creative pattern more clearly this year. Generally it's two months of dedicated creative activity in one artistic field and then a shift to another after that for another couple of months. If I had talent in just one area that would focus me I'm sure, but I've always been multi-talented and that tends to scatter my energies. I do make progress, but very gradually. So I've started working on two new songs and I'm thinking of painting a portrait of Pema Chodron, the one I meant to do months ago. When I focus on writing, I miss the music and the painting and when I focus on them, I miss the writing. I want to do everything at the same time and I can't. Or I can sort of, but not with the level of skill that I yearn for. I'm not really complaining, just slowly getting used to myself. And actually I'm quite grateful that I am creative. It may have saved my life. It certainly has injected meaning into my spirit and made me a lot happier over time. I think everyone should be creative, especially individuals who suffer from any form of mental illness. It's been a key factor in my recovery.
I've decided that regardless of my creative pursuits that I want to continue to study the dharma and meditate. While my brother was visiting, I didn't do my meditation routine and didn't read my dharma books, but now I've returned to it. My goal is to be able to call myself a Buddhist by this time next year. That means putting my life and my artistic pursuits into a larger context. It sounds almost artificial that I want to be of benefit to others, but I do. I'm at the aspiration stage. I pray to apply the dharma teachings to myself so that I can understand the lessons and reach out in whatever way to others. Applying the dharma to myself means practicing patience, generosity. It means including discipline into the way I live my life. It means continuing the practice of self-honesty. It means having the courage to sit with the pain and not run away from it. There will be no sudden transformation for me. I'm hoping for a gradual and more lasting change.
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.