Monday, July 06, 2009

is anybody out there?

When my boyfriend Jim lived with me, we had a routine. We went to bed at the same time - early, because he had to go to work early. I got up and made coffee - for him; I don't drink coffee. I'd make his lunch some days and put a little note in there to try to brighten up his day while he was at whatever difficult construction job he was doing. I loved him.

When someone asked me recently if I missed Jim, I said "no", and I meant that. I do not miss him anymore like I used to. But I do miss the routine. I miss the assumed safety - or what felt like safety - in the routine. The routine was not about him, really, or about me, really. I'm a feminist and I'll be damned if I ever make another man's lunch. But when I met Jim, we were in a hospital setting. We went through the life in the mental health realm after leaving the hospital, together, and we clung to each other. I needed something in my life to make sense, and I needed something to make me feel "normal", and I needed something that felt akin to progress of some nature (ie, a normal life). I got that through my relationship with Jim. I even enjoyed doing those little housewife sorta tasks I never thought I would do for anyone, ever, because in those tasks I was filling a role. I was the good girlfriend. I was someone else's partner. I was someone who mattered to someone else. And that is what I miss now.

Jim moved out a year and a half ago. I haven't seen him since that time period. I have never even thought about dating anyone since then, but not because I was still attached to Jim. Rather, I was, and am, humiliated and disgusted by my weight, to the point that the mere thought of trying to go on a date with someone seems hideous. Who wants to date a person who weighs this much? Society would say, basically, no one. And how am I supposed to explain that the weight gain came from taking antipsychotic medications which inherently cause weight gain? I guess I could introduce myself as a person with Schizoaffective Disorder? A lot of guys are looking for a woman with psychosis who is obese, right? Hardly.

Partly because of my weight, I did not go to a family reunion that took place in Baltimore, where most of my relatives live (and where I was born), this past weekend. The main reason I did not go was a total lack of funds to take such a trip. The other reason was that I cannot get time off work right now. But underlying those was a third reason: I am fat now. None of those people have seen me fat, unless they've seen pictures. Those relatives remember me as the thin person I used to be when I had anorexia, and I didn't want to deal with the shock and the stares and the gossip that would inevitably come with being fat. The last time I saw one of my grandmothers, she was shocked by it and basically said so by accident. I don't want to go through that process with 50 relatives. I also don't know what those people may or may not know about my mental health issues, and that is a concern. All in all, things just did not work out for me to get there.

And what hurts now, really, is knowing that almost no one cared at all if I was there or not in the first place. I'm not very close to my extended family anymore. I became homeless in the town they live in ten years ago, and after that, I never heard from them. I also did not make much effort since then to be in contact with many of them, until I joined Facebook where numerous cousins of mine have accounts. I love my family, of course, but I don't know a lot of them very well, as I live in Florida. This adds to the sense of isolation that I am feeling strongly these days.

I miss the safety I felt when I lived with Jim. I miss the safety, even, of hospitals I was in (not all of them, but one or two), where I was able to be my full-on, psychotic self and have total breakdowns without seeming out of the ordinary at all. I miss, sometimes, being locked in where I couldn't kill myself so the choice of whether to live or die was out of my hands. I miss the camaraderie of some of the people I met there. Would I want to EVER go to another psych hospital again? Hell no. I definitely would not. What I am trying to illustrate here, however, is what it feels like in my life right now. I feel very alone.

Mental illness puts up this barricade between the people who have the illnesses (or as we say in NAMI, the "consumers") and the people who don't have them. If you come from a family where people simply do not talk about such things as psychiatric illness, then when you get such an illness your behavior will likely seem weird, bizarre, and any number of confusing adjectives, because the people in your family will not know that there is a simple, logical explanation for why you are the way you are. Just as this is true within families, it is true within the entire world as well. People with mental illnesses are labeled all sorts of things, all of which have stigma attached to them, and all of which serve as barricades between the person in the bell jar and the world behind the glass. My hope is that, in my life, I contribute as much as possible to breaking down those barriers along with the millions of other advocates and people with mental illnesses around the world.

In the mean time, I still feel quite isolated and alone, which is, in turn, causing me to feel very depressed. I know depression well, so it's not like I cannot manage this, but it does get tiring sometimes.


  1. I am so sorry that you are down right now. Writing the blog may have helped some. I wish I could write something to make you feel better. All I can say is hang in there. You are making a difference. Look-- I found you and your blog is linked on a LOT of websites so people are being helped by what you write. I am making a NAMI presentation to families tonight. Will let you know how that goes. I am very nervous. TTYL Janet

  2. Hi Jen,

    Hey, thanks for leaving a message on my Facebook page. I've been preoccupied these days with my cats and kittens. You can always write to me. I welcome your friendship!

    I very much identify with this entry. The isolation attached to those with mental illness is a very big problem and the weight issue just makes it so much worse. I've lost about 20 lbs, but for the past month I've haven't been losing weight and I have to get back to exercising too. I still feel too fat to be in a relationship. God it sucks. Still, we CAN lose the weight. It just takes determination. Still, you live in a highly populated area. There must be clubhouses near you and meetings to go to. Don't give up on reaching out to people like you in your area. I wish I lived where you live. As you know I don't have the access that you do where I live. So take advantage of it.

    Are the voices still gone? That's half the battle. You will conquer your depression too. I know it.

    I'll write you an email soon. I care about your happiness.



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