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, March 23, 2011

Small Business Ideas & Budding Friendships

I downloaded a book to my Kindle a couple of weeks ago.  It's called The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin and it is a business oriented book on how to sell handmade work online and offline.  She takes the reader step by step through some of the basics of business practice such as advertising, blogging, podcasting, using social networks, setting up an online shop, selling to local businesses, doing the craft fair scene.  It's an overview to turn the serious amateur into a professional.  I bought the book because I was curious and because I really do want to earn some income this year, however small.  Ms. Chapin made it clear that there are lots of options for selling one's work (as long as the work is good quality).  It also became clear to me that in order to start a small business it takes a lot of effort and a certain amount of enthusiasm.  In addition to creating quality work you absolutely have to promote yourself to others and on a regular basis and that's something I have resisted.

So I've decided to start small, do a garage/yard sale in about a month.  I haven't had a sale like that on my property since I arrived over 20 years ago.  I've always been a very private person, to the point where I barely know my neighbors.  But if all goes well, I will try to lure people to check out my stuff.  This means I have to clear out the garage and organize it and make good signs to display outside my house and maybe along the road.  I will also be crocheting, making hemp jewelry and trying my hand at tie dyeing.  I don't know how far I'll get with that in a month, but I'm willing to try.  Ideally, I would like to sell my crafts from out of my garage during the warmer seasons, become an actual small business, have a professional sign made, but I don't know if it's legal yet.  I talked to my therapist about it and she said that she knew that she could have a business from her home, but she didn't know the particulars.  I have to do some research.

I'm going to need some help too from my brother and Richard.  I'm going to ask my brother to act as a bridge between me and potential customers because he's good with people, loves to talk whereas I am rather shy.  He might eventually get into making some of the tie dyes too.  I need Richard to help me clear out the garage and reorganize it.  I'm thinking about at least putting a coat of primer on the walls to lighten the space up more.  I'll need to buy a couple of tables and maybe a double clothes rack to hang up used clothing and the tie dyes.  And so I'll be spending a couple of hundred dollars on that, but I see it as an investment.  I also need to use one of the tables to do my tie dye work on in the garage, so that will be part of my shop.  The other half of it is in the adjacent laundry/kitchenette room.  I was going to try working out of my former darkroom, but the ventilation is so poor and the darkroom sink is not hooked up and there are all kinds of chemicals that have been sitting around for years in there.  Not appropriate right now, though I would like to clear a lot of the junk out of there so that I can use the space for some supply storage.

There are some local craft fairs that go on in the spring, summer and fall.  I won't be able to apply for them this year, but I can go and check them out and apply for next year.  Hopefully by then I'll be able to afford a good tent with four sides to it and maybe an outdoor storage house to keep my work clean and away from the cats.  The acid test is whether I can be successful at garage/yard sales, whether I can promote myself, interact with people, handle money, produce cool crafts and display them properly and get help from family and friends.  I honestly don't know if I can.  Somedays I'm all gung ho and others days I'm anxious and withdrawn.  I'll have to wait and see how much I get done this month.

On another note, on Friday I got a 30 minute audio tape from one of my best friends from my adolescence.  This past year we got in touch through facebook, but she works full time as a teacher, has two small daughters and a rather unhelpful partner and so she's been very busy and hasn't had time to keep in touch with me.  A couple of months ago I sent her a 60 minute tape telling her some of my story in a very honest and forthright manner.  I told her I didn't expect her to send me back a tape, but if she could swing it, I would love to hear from her.  And so now I have and it was wonderful to hear her voice after over 25 years with no contact.  I felt a bond with her right away because a lot of her voice and mannerisms were as I remembered them.  Of course, now she's older, wiser and tougher and yet still her own bright and sweet self.  She graduated from art school in the 1980s and has returned to her artistic pursuits off and on during the last 20 years.  Though her passion now is teaching and tutoring children, she says she wants to continue drawing again.  She mentioned a particular type of sketch/journal book that she particularly liked and was planning to get and so yesterday I bought her one and some drawing supplies and I will be sending out a care package to her early next week.

I have been blessed twice this past year and both through facebook.  First, when I reached out to an old friend from grade school and junior high school.  We have been exchanging tapes for months now and I love it.  And now with one of my best friends of my youth.  Living with schizophrenia these past almost 13 years, and even before that, has left me quite isolated.  What I had only dreamed about sometimes, that I would re-connect with old friends, has become a budding reality.  Living in the computer age has salvaged some of my relationships and also has allowed me to write this blog and connect with other great people online.  Though mental illness is still a serious affliction, access to the computer and the internet and medication takes quite a few of us out of the dark ages of permanent institutionalization.  It give us a voice and the means to be creative with what talents we have.

Monday, March 7, 2011

An Online Meeting And Thoughts On Music and Work

A couple of weeks ago I got a facebook friend request from a former neighbor.  We grew up together in Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  He lived across the street from me.  I didn't know him very well, but for one month, when I was 24, I had a month long affair with him.  He wound up breaking it off because he wasn't feeling good about himself.  At the time he said that I should be someone's sweetheart, but it was obvious he wasn't ready for something serious.  We continued to live on the same street for a couple of more years, which was awkward, but I didn't have any contact with him.  And so, I was surprised when he recently wanted to have contact with me again...but pleased, too.  Tom was and still is a musician and an actor, only now he teaches acting in the New York school system, has been happily married for over 20 years and has two talented daughters, both in college.  When I knew him, he was conflicted and, as he put it, "self loathing", but he bit the bullet and grew up into a well adjusted man.  He said that for 7 years he had a 9 to 5 job while his kids were young, but that after his mother died, he decided to return to music and acting and has been lucky enough to have a kind of freelance career going from school to school, doing what he loves.  So, in short, he is a real success story, especially for someone with artistic abilities.  

I learned all this about him through facebook emails, but, of course, I had to tell my story, which is not a success story, but a story of dysfunction, abuse and mental illness.  He did get to see and respond to some of my artwork and last week I gave him a link to the sample of my songs on the Soundclick site.  I listened to my CD from the 1990s again and that inspired me to continue working on some new songs.  I have an 8 track tascam portastudio which I bought a couple of years ago, but never learned how to use fully.  The reason for that was because after I had made up my CD for the first time in a decade and sent it out to several friends, I began having psychotic symptoms.  I thought the music was way better than it actually was and that I would hook up with other musicians and start a band or something, get noticed, etcetera.  Needless to say, that didn't happen.  My friends listened to my CD, enjoyed some of it and then put it aside, while I backed away from it.  In the last two years I have worked on a lot of new songs, but I never refined them, recorded them properly or shared them online.  When I thought of Tom listening to my music, I was excited at first because he is a songwriter and musician, but then I didn't hear from him and I started to come down to earth again and get practical.  I began to realize that my music is more for myself than for others, though I still have the desire to share some songs eventually online, but mainly with just a few friends.  

Tom did get back to me today and he said some very nice things about the music, but more to the point was that he had been busy with his own life, working, playing, teaching and performing.  I was pleased by his response and relieved because I didn't this time fall into psychotic symptoms even though I worked on and recorded two songs using my portastudio.  The songs I recorded didn't come out well, but I have to wake up and realize that making good music is not about instant gratification, it's about practice.  So I will slowly keep working on the music, switch off between that and my reading and writing.  

While looking for the owner's manual to the portastudio a couple of weeks ago, I came across some writing that I did in 2002 and 2005 that I hadn't remembered and began reading through it.  A lot of it was journal/ memoir related writing, but there was poetry and a couple of story fragments.  I was pleased with parts of it and want to type up sections and try to expand them into perhaps a chapter or a section of a chapter.  It is good to write and then put the writing aside for months, even years.  I may write about the same subjects over the months and years, but there's a fresh slant on each recollection and a deeper resonance.  A lot of creative work is just showing up and doing the work, but it is also reviewing, reflecting, re working the raw material.  Eventually your personality or voice shines through.  

I've also been thinking about getting back into craft work so that I can earn some money this year.  I'm going to learn how to make tie dyes.  I bought all the equipment for it a couple of years ago, but never went through with it, but now, with the downstairs done and providing a good work space, I want to try it.  And I want to make hemp jewelry and do some crocheting.  All this means that I have to shut the cats out of my work space, but it has to be done.  I've missed the craft work.  I used to do a lot of it while I was acutely psychotic and it was very therapeutic.  

Many thanks to everyone who has been posting comments lately.  I appreciate all of them.   Thanks for reading.