Today I am grateful for the Unitarian facility I attend, which some would refer to as a "church", but it is technically not named a church, due to the fact that they openly welcome and accept everyone, including atheists, agnostics, humanists, and others who might not like to be affiliated with a "church". And that is why I go there.
I mention this because my post before the last post, was about "telling your story". I would like to tell you what happened on Sunday.
There was a visiting minister who spoke about "telling your story" at the "church" that day. He said how there are four questions we should ask ourselves:
1. When did you stop singing?
2. When did you stop dancing?
3. When did you stop playing?
4. When did you stop telling your story?
He spoke about coming out as a gay man to his parents and to people he worked with when he was an elementary school teacher. His speech was moving, and of course, I loved it because, if you read my post on telling your story recently, I strongly believe that this is the way social change is created. If people in populations that are discriminated against never tell their stories about what their lives are like, then no end will come to that discrimination.
No one will ever end the stigma against mental illness if people who have mental illnesses never talk about their experiences or let people know, "Hey guess what, you know someone with Schizoaffective Disorder. It's me."
Just like gay people come out as gay, when they are able to, when it is safe, when they are ready, if that time comes, people living with mental illness need to come out too, when they are able to, when it is safe, when they are ready, if that time comes.
So after the service, which was lovely, all of it, even singing there is fun to me now, I went up to the minister and said, "Thank you so much for your message about telling our stories and how important that is. As you can see, I am carrying this bag that says "NAMI" on it, it's from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and I do public speaking about living with Schizoaffective Disorder."
He said, "That is really wonderful, and you know some people are coming out now about their experiences with things like depression, in my congregation, and opening a dialogue about how depression is not just this thing that everybody has, but rather, it is an illness that is real."
I thanked him, and then, just then a woman came up to me. She said, "Jennifer I've heard you tell your story through NAMI" and we had a discussion about her involvement with NAMI and why it interested her and I was so happy to hear that someone in my beloved new "spiritual home" is a person who has heard me tell my story and seems so friendly. What synchronicity! She said she had kept looking at me, wondering where she knew me from, and now she had finally figured it out.
It may have been a couple years ago that she heard me tell me story or months ago, I'm not sure, but in any event, she remembered it and she thanked me for it.
This is one of many reasons I am grateful today. I am grateful for many things. I am grateful for the people at this new "congregation" who have accepted me wholly, without criticism or judgement, who have been warm and welcoming, who are kind and intelligent and intellectual and interesting. I am grateful for this place. I have taken the new members' course, and I am planning on joining.
Other things I am grateful for are: my brother's sobriety (that's his to claim, I'm just saying I'm grateful because I love my brother and I'm glad he's not suffering like he used to), I'm grateful for my cats of course, and for the food pantry that I'm going to today to get some things to eat as I have no food left in my apartment except some "sandwich thins" that came from a food pantry, and some canned corn, that came from a food pantry. I'm grateful for the people who donate food so that those of us who cannot afford it can eat.
I'm grateful for the job interviews I've had recently, for the job I have right now which is ending at some unknown time in the upcoming months, for the friends I have at work, especially Cynthia who is hilarious and always makes me laugh. I'm grateful that ten people (or couples) bought my book and that I can now send them signed copies on Friday and that they were willing to pre-order it which was incredibly kind. Jessica Leach and I don't make money on this book. I believe we get 64 cents per copy to split between both of us, so that is not going to ever amount to anything, however, as I can sell them I can make a tiny bit and that is helpful, but more importantly, I wanted the book to reach people who want to learn about Schizoaffective Disorder, and I wanted to write books since birth, so I have now gotten some copies of the first one and I am grateful for that. I am not planning on just leaving that as the only book I write, though! Certainly there are more books in me!
I am grateful for my ability to use my arms. Yesterday, it was raining hard, and when the small group of us working the late shift finally got to leave to go home, I said, "I wish all the umbrellas I buy didn't always break because it's pouring." And a woman with a physical disability who has to use crutches said, "You're lucky you can even use an umbrella."
And I said, "Oh, I am so sorry. You are right. I did not even think about that. Thank you. Maybe the security guard will let us borrow his umbrella and I can hold it for you and walk you to your car."
And that reminded me of something - at .least I have the physical ability to use both my arms and legs and walk without crutches.
I'm grateful I've lost thirty pounds in the past couple months too! I wanted so badly to get rid of a lot of my weight (I'm really overweight) and to be more healthy. I've worked very hard at it. I still can't exercise much, but I do not drink diet soda anymore. I drink water or green tea. I do not eat fast food or restaurant food or frozen dinners or any other food that is totally too expensive and also unhealthy. I do, when I have the ingredients, make green smoothies and drink two of them a day. I also watch my portion sizes more. And all of this has helped. The other thing that has helped is getting of the Clozaril, which, for me personally, was a weight-gaining drug. I'm not saying it affects everyone that way, but most of the antipsychotics I have ever taken were weight-gaining drugs,which is how I ended up obese after being 100 pounds until I was 30. It's very hard when you have lived through years of anorexia as a young woman to end up obese. It is very, very hard. And I can't be obese anymore. I don't want to be diabetic, and I'm very tired of people assuming I am some sort of fat, lazy pig.
I'm grateful for my 86-year-old grandmother, who I adore. She lives far away and I don't get to see her. She's in bad health now and she might be nearing the end of her life. But I am grateful that she is still alive today and I can call her on the phone and hear her voice. I am going to miss her so incredibly much when she's gone, and I don't know how I'll be able to handle that.
I'm grateful for the friends I have and for the learning experience of having to come to terms that some people I thought of as friendly are not my friends and are not friendly to me. At least now I know where I stand with them. I am making new friends, branching out, talking to many new people at my non-church, and I will have a new social life there which will enhance my existence greatly.
I am grateful for poetry.
I am grateful for music.
I am grateful for my laptop which, right now, is working! Sure, it has on Microsoft Word, and I don't have internet at home, but I'm grateful to own it! Lots of people do not have working computers at all.
I am grateful for the woman I met at Walgreens last week who said to me how she had been sober 22 years and she was proud of that so she talks about it all the time. This led to a conversation about making boxes. She has a "God Box" someone made her where she writes down her troubles and puts them in there. She also has a "Principle Box" where each day she takes out a principle, such as honesty, or something like that, and then makes that her principle to live by that day. I told her how I make Hope Boxes (I might also call them Dream Boxes), and I told her exactly how I made one and and she loved, loved, loved the idea. She exclaimed, "Oh this is so wonderful that I just happened to meet you here and I am so happy to have this great idea you gave me which is so creative, and I'm going to go home and make a Hope Box! I'm going to make them for people for Christmas presents!!" And that made me smile. She was a really lovely human being. And we just happened to meet while sitting there waiting for pills.
I'm grateful for the warm sweatshirt I'm wearing. It's the only really warm thing I own and I'm awfully cold a lot lately, so it's helpful.
I'm grateful for friends, family, and this universe where magic can happen, where good things can occur, where, even when you are under incredible, incredible stress like I am right now, there are flowers, and there is a blue sky, and there are birds, and there are humans who are beautiful and warm and lovely.
Also, I'm not sure it will work yet, but I've put up a Paypal button where you can purchase Episodes of Schizophrenia and I can send you a signed copy.