Monday, June 06, 2011

There is something to be said about clean sheets on your bed (despite disappointment in life)

Yesterday and the day before, really the whole past week, I had been in a good mood. I had cleaned my apartment a lot, and unpacked most of my stuff, and decorated the walls. I had finally gotten the place looking good, for the first time since I moved in two months ago.

Two days ago, my mom and my sister came over for dinner, and I cooked real food (something I rarely actually do) and was happy to show my new place. It was renovated before I moved in, so although the building is ancient, ugly, and in the worst neighborhood of the city I live in, the inside looks relatively new. It has new windows, new kitchen and bathroom floors, and new cabinets and kitchen counters. It is a small place, for a person with a small income, and it's okay. I like it here. I liked my place before this alright too, and that was not renovated at all. It was in the same building, but I had to move out to accommodate the renovations. Moving was such an overwhelming task for me. I didn't realize how hard it would be physically and emotionally to try to organize all my junk. I was totally freaking out about what to do, where to move to, etc., as mentioned in previous posts here. But then the decision was made because this is a place I can afford, and I can't afford much else that is decent. Being only able to work part-time has its drawbacks, and a meager income is certainly one of them. But I'm glad I am able to work part-time, as there were years when I couldn't even do that.

I am pleased to report after my posts about not having sheets on my bed (which was partly because I never had sheets that actually fit my bed, because it has this comfy feather-bed on top that my ex-boyfriend's mother gave us, and which I still have as the only good outcome of that relationship, so the regular sheets never fit the bed), I now have a new bed set, and new sheets, all purchased at discount stores. I can't tell you how many stores I went to, or how much ridiculous comparison shopping I did, before I found a good price on a nice bed-set (a REALLY good price!) that I liked, that I could afford, and that I am happy to sleep on. I then purchased matching deep-fitted sheets from Ross, which actually fit my bed. So I can now sleep on sheets and not just without any. I was embarrassed to admit here that I never made my bed for years, so I wanted to show you this picture (not everything looks perfect in this picture, but it looks a million times better than before when I had piles, and piles of clothing on the floor and in laundry baskets, where they sat, all the time, for years)

The curtains match (in color, even if not in design) and are from the same company, though they only cost ten dollars a panel. This means a lot to me - as shallow as it may sound - because never before have I had curtains that matched my bed, and I looked everywhere (yeah, really, everywhere) for some I could afford, because it was something I always wanted. There is something to be said for the soothing nature of creature comforts. I am not a person who places a lot of value on money, but it is nice to have something nice sometimes. And I feel like my bedroom is nice now. The "dream, imagine" stickers on the wall that match are from a separate store (Marshalls) for $4.00 on clearance. I love them. Yes, I am frugal, by necessity.

A lot of people who live with serious mental illnesses live in crappy places. If you saw my neighborhood, with the prostitutes and the drug dealers and the many homeless folks, you'd say I lived in one for sure, too. And I have lived in much worse circumstances: homeless shelters, motels, a car, numerous rented rooms, a crappy shack-like apartment, and others....I have been forced to move more times than I can count, due to this illness. But for five years now, I've lived in one building. And that, for me, is an accomplishment.

People with mental illnesses I've known, like me, often share our rampant disorganization, or lack of organizing skills. I don't know what in the brain causes that, but I know I'm not the only one I know w with this problem. I am - really - a person who lives like a slob a lot of the time. And it's really not intentional. I certainly don't like living that way; it makes me horribly depressed, and it makes me a nervous wreck. In short, the anxiety it causes me to live like a slob is good motivation to try not living that way again. Sure, I have tried, and failed to maintain neatness in the past, but now, having company again for the first time in probably over a year, I like having a place where I'm not ashamed to open the door. I like having a place that looks decent. It makes me happier to be home. My case manager was the one person who I allowed to visit me, even in the worst of times, and she saw how bad it was before, and said last week that my place now looks better than she's ever seen it look. I used to avoid going home at all, just because I hated being there, when it looked really bad, so now, I have more peace of mind.

So, everything was going pretty well after all my work in the past couple weeks. Then, today, I got the news. I was rejected by the university I wanted to transfer to. I wanted to go into social work, to be a case manager, or a social worker. And so, I really wanted to go to this university where I could either major in social work (if I could get admitted to that program and handle the internship requirement) or sociology, which might be easier. Since I finally got my A.A. degree last December, after going to college off and on for nearly twenty years (17 exactly), I thought I would automatically be admitted into a Bachelor's program at a state university, because that is the way it's supposed to work in Florida. But not if you've withdrawn from as many classes as I have over the years, due to severe depression, and then, to psychosis. For that, they can reject you. My completion ratio was too low. I cried, rather a lot, when I read the letter.

I decided when I didn't like some things about the Bachelor's program I'm in at the community college, to apply for the university where I could pursue what I really wanted to do. And then I thought maybe this was not a good idea. So I wasn't totally sure, as I have mentioned here before, about what to do. But once I had decided to go for it, I really was starting to picture myself at the university, difficult course load and all, long drive and all, everything that would be hard and all, and managing it. And then this happened. My completion was too low to "succeed" at a competitive "research" university. I had mentioned on my application that I had this history with a mental illness and that my life had turned around. I don't know now if I should have mentioned that, but they can't deny admission on that basis. In fact, I can appeal this rejection, because I have a disability. But they say on their website that only ten percent of appeals will be accepted. I have to get more information on the appeal process, how involved it would be (I only have three weeks to complete it), and decide whether or not it is even worthwhile to bother.

It's just disappointing. I worked hard. I got A's in most of my classes. I struggled, and got through, and then it came down to this. Now, I might live the rest of my life regretting that I never got a chance to do social work, which was what I really wanted to do.

It's not the worst thing that has ever happened to me, by any means. Much worse has happened and could happen again. But it is disappointing, nonetheless.

For now, I will take comfort in my clean, decorated home, and the nice, clean sheets on my bed. I will not be ashamed to open the door. One night, I will have my neighbor, Mary, over for dinner. She has had Bipolar Disorder all her life and now, in her sixties, rarely leaves her apartment. I have visited her place downstairs numerous times, and now, she can visit mine.

This is Ribbit in the living room:
This is the Van Gogh wall in my kitchen:


  1. Jen,

    I believe that everything happens for a reason. You mentioned a number of negative things about the program at the university, such as the long commute, the heavy courseload, etc. and all of those might contribute to a relapse of your illness.

    I understand how hard it is to be rejected. I got fired from my job last October, ostensibly because of my fibromyalgia, but really because of my bipolar disorder. I am still bitter and not over it. But it was the best thing that could have happened to me because it was really causing me so much anxiety that it was making my symptoms much worse. Even though it is hard to be "disabled" and unable to work, I am finding that I can now begin a much less mentally taxing "job" in writing and that my mood has somewhat stabilized.

    Grieve for the loss, appeal if you really feel it's the right place for you, and move on if not because you are on the path you are supposed to be on. As Joko Beck said, "There is nothing wrong with your life; even if you are suffering. It is just your life." I really believe that.


  2. Oh Jen, I am so happy for you even though this post contains some sadness also. Your room looks gorgeous and must be so relaxing to be in after a busy day! Ribbit looks happy (-: I'm disappointed that the University couldn't see past the surface and accept your application, you've tried so hard to turn things around. But as Chelle says, maybe it's better this way. You will probably find other ways into social work. You'll be so good at it!! Wow, I am just so proud of what you've accomplished in moving and cleaning and organising. This is a big thing for people "like us" my friend xx

  3. Hi Jen,
    It does feel better when our home is as tidy and organized as possible, I'm glad you've settled in.

    That is unfortunate about the university rejecting you, but I hope that you can either get in on appeal, or find something else to devote your energies towards.

    On a lighter note, you have a cat called Ribbit? Man, that is really cute!

  4. The feeling of creature comforts is not shallow at all, it is a creative outlet expressing who you are. I am a huge bargain hunter/thrifter and feel a great sense of pride at being able to do something for less money than someone else.

    As far as school, I wish I had some good answers. I have been in (am in) similar circumstances and don't know what I will do about it. I wish you peace.

  5. Sorry Jen that you didn't get accepted at the University. If you're serious about going there, then maybe you should appeal it. It would give you an opportunity to speak out for yourself. You have done and are continuing to do a lot for your local and online communities and the University should take note of that.

    Congratulations on your clean and comfy home! I'm a little bit better than I was about cleaning and that has made a difference in the quality of my life. It's still a struggle, but I'm working on it. I think it is great that you went to so much trouble to make your home the way you like it, especially buying those sheets for your bed. I also admire your positive attitude despite your let down with the University.

    Kate : )

  6. Little things like sheets can make life a bit brighter! Since you feel the social work is out what about being and advocate for those with mental illness like yourself? Have you ever read "The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness" by Elyn Saks? if not she suffers from paranoid Schizophrenia that goes on to become a Psychologist and a lawyer teaching at universities, she is pretty amazing. here is a link to her book, I just recently lent my copy to a gal who's daughter is Schizophrenia around 16 and hoping it will give her some inspiration! Good luck to you!

  7. sorry forgot the link

  8. Jen give yourself more credit! You've really done a lot in spite of your illness. It's truly inspirational to me. The apartment looks great and sometimes it's the small things that mean so much.

    The university rejection would be a hard blow for most anyone, but don't let it deter you from reaching your goal. You have worked hard and someone will recognize that fact. I always hate when someone tells me I can't do something, but it's also like fuel to me to prove them wrong.

  9. I haven't followed your story, but I love the way your apartment looks. You don't say what your mom and sister said. I hope they were proud of you.

    I say, appeal. Don't let the University hold you back. You worked hard, 17 yrs, to get that AA. You know what you want to do now and you're better. They need to accept those of us with mental health issues. We, of all people, need to prove to ourselves and others that we can do. Everyone else sounds like they are giving up. If you don't want to, don't! Go to the admissions office and ask if they have a disabilities advocate that can help with the appeals process. If not, see if the law center can help if the have one. Or check with a disabilities lawyer. But get going. If it sounds like too much work, then don't bother. But don't give up on your dream if that's what you really want!



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