Thursday, December 29, 2011

A year in review: as 2011 comes to a close

Another year has almost passed. This is always a time of reflection, and a time to look forward to the future, too. I will tell you some good things that happened for me this year.

I moved into a different apartment. At first this was really stressful and actually quite horrible, but then I was happy I had done it because I had a nice, newly cleaned up unit to decorate and stuff. So it's okay.

I finished up my first semester in a Bachelor's program at one college, decided I hated it, and finally made up my mind to try to go to the other university to do what I really want to do, which is in the realm of social work. I applied to that university and got denied admission because of my past withdrawals. I appealed this denial with many letters of recommendation from various people who know me, and a lengthy letter from myself, as well as copious medical documentation of the reasons why I had to withdraw. I won my appeal.

I completed my first semester at the university. Despite a psychotic episode in the early part of the semester, and fearing I'd fail completely, I managed to get through and get A's in both my classes. I was proud of myself for this, because there were times in the past when I would have just given up and this time I purposely did not do that. And I'm glad.

I had changes in medications. I started Latuda. At first I thought it wasn't helping, but then it turned out that 80 mgs works pretty well for me, along with my other meds. I am on a lot of meds, still. I want to get off some, but that hasn't happened yet. I'm hoping for getting off Risperdal Consta injections this coming year.

I tried to keep my apartment clean, didn't always manage to do so, tried so more, sort of managed, but it is always a struggle to keep on top of this. I am still working on it.

I spent a lot of time with my cats, Ribbit and Spooky who I adore, and their company makes me happy and a lot less lonely in the world.

I read a lot of political articles, and kept up with the Occupy protests, and cheered on the protesters even though I wasn't there myself. I was happy to see this social movement for justice and economic human rights take stage on a national level and gain attention from the general public in a real, and tangible way, because we really are the 99%, and the whole world is watching. I was proud of my fellow American activists, and proud also of the activists who put their lives on the line in the Arab spring. Contrary to what this blog may often read like,  I really do not just think about myself and my problems all the time.

I have over 900 Facebook friends, and I know about 20 of them. I spent time with a few friends, mostly just two, and primarily just one. But I also went to advocacy events for NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), where I continue to volunteer, and with NOW (the National Organization for Women), where I also volunteer. These activities gave me some fulfillment I wouldn't have otherwise had.

I spoke to police officers in one of our bi-yearly C.I.T. trainings for teaching the law enforcement community about mental illness, and I told them my story. I spoke to high school students for the Great American Teach In and told them my story. I hope to continue to tell my story wherever I am asked to do so, whenever it might be helpful, for the rest of my life. I find this a fulfilling way to make a small difference in the world. If I can help one person understand what it is like to live with a serious mental illness every day, then I have done something worthwhile, and I know that in these speaking engagements, each time, at least one person is affected, because they tell me so. This year the high school class wasn't very attentive, but it was early in the morning, and I think they were mostly tired, so that was not a terrible thing.

I went to the memorial service for a fellow NAMI advocate here, who I really liked a lot, and who I miss now, because she was a true angel on earth, a person who gave more than she received, who never complained, who always had a smile on her face and a heart full of compassion for consumers. She was a wonderful woman named Paula. I picked out a frame and put a picture of her in it that was a gift from our consumer council to the man who is a leader in our council who was also Paula's roommate for 12 years and close companion. I was really glad he liked it, and it was important for us to give something in her honor that memorialized her.

I got nervous about veterans moving into my apartment building for temporary housing, some of whom are coming from the streets, and all of whom are men.  I made Christmas cookies and gave them to all of the neighbors, and I hope that we will get along. I realize that their lives are difficult, and I don't necessarily need to be afraid of them, but I struggle with the fear of being one of two women in an apartment building full of men, which was not the way I lived before, in my past five years here. I will figure out how to deal with this.

I exchanged letters and cards with my online friends Kate and Lauren, and emails with my friend and former professor Dr. Byrd, and I had lunch with my friend from NOW, and spent many nights at the movies with Kathy. I am kind of a loner, but not completely. I spent a lot of time with my family.

I saw my sister give my mom a dog (a cute collie puppy) for Christmas, and my mom seemed genuinely happy for the first time in a while.

I tried to advise my brother and my sister in ways I thought would be useful for them, but they never took my advice and generally were resentful of it, so I am learning that I can't always help people, and I have been learning this for a long time. I will continue to learn it.

I got annoyed with my landlords, the U.S. government, my insurance companies, Social Security, my friend, people in general, the public I deal with at work, my coworkers, and people in my classes. A lot of times people do annoy me; I'm human. I dealt with this and generally tried to find the good in people even when they pissed me off, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

I saw the Clothesline project for domestic violence awareness again this past October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it was a beautiful site, which you should definitely check out whenever it is displayed where you live. I have helped set it up before when I lived near Washington and it is a very moving exhibit. I attended a NOW meeting on domestic violence where we had an interesting discussion.

I attended the national NOW conference which included a protest of Marco Rubio, which was very enjoyable.

I spent a lot of time at the community mental health center. I got my shots every two weeks. I miss my nurse who moved away and used to give me the shot every time for years, but is now gone. I saw my psychiatrist usually at least once a month. I saw my therapist sometimes. I saw my case manager and talked to her on the phone regularly. I got help because I need help, and it's very important to get the help that you need and irresponsible and stupid to not get the help that you need when help is available to you. So I got help, I will continue to get help, and I am grateful to have help.

I was psychotic a bit this year. I heard voices. I took more medication, I took notes of my symptoms, I read research on medications, I read books, I talked to my doctor, and I agreed to take a medication I didn't really want which ended up stopping the psychosis for me. I am glad I did these things now. I got through the voices and the paranoia and the delusional thoughts. I told my college professor I had these problems, and I got through her classes better because she understood my struggles and was able to give me some leeway on the dates for a couple of tests. I wouldn't have gotten through this semester if I hadn't been honest even though it was hard and risky to do so. I lived through the psychosis again. I will be able to live through it again if I ever have to, although, I would really, really like to avoid that.

I had difficulties with my physical health which were frustrating because I never get any real answers to them, only more questions. My rheumatologist suggested that I had Lupus, and then saw my blood work and told me I don't have it, but I do have something wrong with my immune system, something not defined. So the questions go on. I may never got concrete answers about my health issues, but I plan on trying to.

[Edited to add this] I went to Baltimore with my mother to visit my grandparents, which was important to do because they are all elderly, and they mean a lot to me, and I don't go to Baltimore often for a lot of reasons, mostly to do with money. I got to see my grandparents, which was good, and I also had lunch with an aunt and uncle - an uncle who had been mad at me for years for things I did when I was psychotic. He apologized that he had been mad at me and said he was glad I told them about my illness. That was a meaningful experience.

I didn't lose weight this year. I need to work on that a lot this next year. I will work on it. I am definitely not perfect in this regard, and it bothers me a lot. But my weight doesn't define me or who I am or what I can do either. For health reasons, however, I need to lose weight. So the struggle continues.

So the struggles all continue. And with the struggles come the overcoming of them, and the accomplishments, the triumphs, the moments of laughter, the good times, the sleep that is always welcome when it finally comes, and life. With the struggles, come life. And life is worth living.

I am glad to be alive. I am glad I lived another year. And I'm glad you did too.



  1. Thanks for sharing. I am glad that you are alive and lived another year too. I hope that 2012 will be a happier and better year. Another year of life.

  2. I know very well that words cannot fully define the experience, but you've done pretty well nonetheless. I'm hoping for an even better 2012 for you. ~Mary

  3. Hi Jen! Happy New Year to you too! I honestly think you are amazing. Every time I read your blog, even when you are struggling, I think -- this is one accomplished person. Even if you didn't have the added burden of mental and physical illnesses, you would still be accomplished. You continue to make a difference in people's lives and you stand by your convictions. You are hard working and honorable. I'm proud to be a friend of yours. May this new year be the best yet.

    All my love,

    Kate : )

  4. Thanks, Matt! I appreciate you visiting my blog, and I hope 2012 is great for you too.

    Thanks, Mary! I wish I was better at putting things into words. You know, you are one of the most talented bloggers I've seen, really.

    Thanks, Kate!I think you give me too many compliments. ;)

    I edited this post to add a paragraph about my visit to Baltimore, which I fogot to add when I first wrote it.
    I I

  5. It sounds like you've had a pretty incredible year, all things considered! You never give up hope, I love that! : ) Here's to 2012 - I hope it's the best year yet for you!


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