Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thank You, Sanity

I have gotten back on the track I want my life to take, I think. My illness is still there, but the symptoms are almost manageable right now. I also have, slowly, gotten in touch with the core of myself more than I was for a number of years. By this I mean, I do activism work now because I care about the issues and because it is what I want to do with my time, on a regular basis, and a purposeful, organized manner within two different organizations.

When my ex-boyfriend, Jim, lived here, I did not do activism work. I also did not write. I did not really do anything that I actually wanted to do when I was with Jim, other than go to movies, where he would humiliate me by playing video games in the lobby while we waited for the movie to start. I was not perfect gem for Jim, but what I was, back then, was inauthentic. I did not actually care about baking chicken, after having been a vegetarian half my life. I did it for him, to please him, much as I have frequently - like so many women - felt the responsibility to please other people, throughout my life.

After Jim, there was the depression of no-Jim. I had no one else in my life, really, and I was miserable and lonely and hopeless. I had no job for eight months, and that was a hell on earth with the financial issues and the weight on my shoulders to find a job, while I was actively hallucinating and having many delusional thoughts. Then, I got a job, which I've been at for the past year and a half, but within that year and a half there have been, more often than not, the daily auditory hallucinations and delusional thoughts.

I can tell you that today, I am not having daily auditory hallucinations and delusional thoughts. A couple weeks ago I was. But today I am not. And that is progress which counts. I have also, gradually, over the past couple of years since Jim left, changed a lot of things about my life, and I'm finally now at a place of relative happiness and peace - at least part of the time. When you are having what my therapist kindly refers to as "perceptual problems" (as opposed to "hearing things"), and the voices of everyone who is around you are distorted so that you hear several secret hidden CIA/mind control/Illuminati messages being said at once, and you cannot do anything without having to question what is real, and what is not - well, it's hard to function like that. This should come as no surprise to anybody, but it's a fact I frequently overlook.

I forget. I think, "Oh I am such a failure/loser/pathetic waste of space", because I haven't "done this, and done that, and gotten this degree, and that job, and had that marriage, or that kid, or whatever". It is easy to fall into that trap. Society generally doesn't take into account the fact that a person might be seriously mentally ill and not look like she is. People don't think, when they ask you what you do for a living, that maybe you cannot do much for a living because you cannot think clearly. So if you say, "I work part time answering telephones", they basically think that you are a loser. At least, this is my perception of what people think.

It's hard to understand that when some one's mind is a mess, that person's life will, inevitably, be a total mess too. This means that the person will probably not be getting adequate healthcare, will probably not be addressing any serious illnesses that they have physically or mentally, will probably not be enjoying leisure activities, will probably not be able to function at a job or a college like they normally would be, will probably not have an active social life, will probably not spend time doing things that require clear thinking, like reading and writing, will probably not have the luxury of being able to consciously make the choice to eat health, non-fattening foods, will probably be eating unhealthy, fattening foods (especially if they are taking medications that make them constantly famished)......A person who cannot think clearly, cannot live clearly. Cannot BE clearly.

I feel that I am near living clearly at the moment. My apartment isn't spotless (and never will be). I don't have an incredibly active social life or a ton of friends. But my apartment is livable, and I do have friends. My job isn't one where I am really challenged, where I learn anything, or where I see a future career blossoming. But I like my job, and it is a low-stress job, and a job that I do well. And that is a good thing. It's important to count the good things, especially when you've been blinded by the bad ones for years. I am not an author of books, but I do write this blog, and I feel satisfaction and usefulness in using my voice to speak what I need to say here. I live in poverty, but I do it without being homeless or without a car. I have a car. It's got a big old dent in the back, but it's an awesome car. I am grateful for my car because for four years I did not have one. I am grateful to not be near homelessness, because I have an income with which I pay my bills. I am grateful that I am not floundering alone in a sea of hallucinations, because I have medication that is working for me right now. I also have an excellent therapist and a thoughtful case manager, who I appreciate very much, and who have helped me a great deal to feel that I can make progress.

I have made progress. Seroquel helps me. I am on 1000 milligrams a day now. That's a lot of Seroquel. Someone I know couldn't take 50 milligrams without falling asleep at work. But I can manage on the 1,000, and the 1,000 appears to be what I need at the moment.

My schedule is busy these days. I am accomplishing things. I'm not watching a lot of TV, lying on the sofa, thinking of the things I wish I could do. I am standing up and going places and doing things. I AM ABLE TO because I am on medication that works for me. That makes all the difference in the world. You can't compete if you're not even on the playing field, and for someone like myself dealing with this illness, without medication you're not even in the game. I believe that the combination of medications, therapy, and good luck, is helping me make great strides, and I want to make note of that here, because so many times I have talked about the things that are the easiest to discuss - the problems. I have concentrated on the problems because the problems where huge, looming, and overwhelming. They overpowered me. They don't overpower me right now. And for this I thank the universe.

Currently, my days are filled with college classes, my part time job, helping to organize a statewide conference for a women's rights organization for which I am the membership director in Florida, attending NAMI meetings and taking notes as the secretary, going to the gym and exercising as much as I can when I have the time, going to therapy weekly, getting my Risperdal injections every two weeks, studying, studying some more, studying some more (because, unlike in my younger years, it takes real work now for me to get good grades), playing with my two kitties who I adore, attending meetings, attending activist events like the recent Hands Across the Sand last Saturday, going to see movies with a friend or my mom and sister, grocery shopping, paying the bills, cleaning the kitchen, living.

It feels good to be alive.

Knock on wood.


Borderline Lil said...

A beautifully written, positively-charged post Jennifer - it resonated with me. There are so many wonderful things in your life, and so many accomplishments - you are definitely "living near clearly". Thank you for sharing and for inspiring x

Jennifer, aka beautiful mind, complex life said...

Thank you, Lil. I reread what I had written in that post, and thought it might sound a bit arrogant to people, as if I were bragging that I am making progress. But the intention was not to brag at all, but to acknowledge the reality of things. I am doing better right now. That is progress. My therapist pointed it out, but I was aware of it already. It might not last - this feeling "better". But it's here now, and I'm going to appreciate it and value it, and honor the reality that my life is not all one big ball of pain and misery at all. So many times when people have a mental illness, they can easily lose hope. I know I have so many times, I couldn't count them. But you *have* to have hope, and I think that appreciating the times when you are doing better, and recognizing that you actually are capable of functioning in the world - well, that gives me hope at least. I hope (double entendre not intended) it gives someone else hope too.

The Medcalfs said...

This was such a godo post for all of us that live with mental illness. I think it is so awesome that your therapist pointed out that you are thinking clearly now and to live in the moment and let tomorrow be whatever it is...we could all dwell on the negatives but just like you, I have chosen to see the positives. As your long distant friend, I am so proud of you and what you are doing! I am so glad we connected!!

Seeking said...

I hear gratitude, not bragging, in your post. Your post, once again, is a glimmer of hope in my day. My son is still fighting the diagnosis. He left yesterday to hit the Appalachian trail. He is not taking his meds and is just 10 days out from a 10 day stay at the state hospital. I wonder if I will see him again. When I check in to your blog I try to remember that this is just part of the process. And Jennifer I am so very grateful YOU are ok today. Thanks for having the courage to put your self out there. :)

The Medcalfs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Polar Bear said...

I think you are incredibly brave. I suffer hallucinations too when I am under stress, and I know it can be very hard to function when that happens.

It's great that you hold a job, even if it is part time and not as challenging as other jobs. But you're doing what you can, and that means everything. That is just as valid and important as someone who works as a big boss earning heaps of money.

Wanderer62 said...

Great post Jen! I came upon your blog a few months after Jim left when you were so unhappy, but I was so impressed with your writing and your obvious intelligence that I started to stick around and encourage you to hang in there. Somehow I knew you would get to this point in your recovery. I'm so proud of you. You are such a vital and useful person. Keep it up!

Kate : )

Will Norrid said...

so glad to see you making progress day by day in facing your mental health challenge

C. Virginia said...

Your post is wonderful. Thank you for sharing. It's both brave and positive. It's in no way arrogant - and it's something that everyone needs to stop and contemplate and be understanding of. I wish you all the best on your journey! :)


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