A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Computer Is Not Working

A couple of days ago I tried to turn on my computer and it wouldn't turn on all the way, so I have to call a computer service place tomorrow and bring my computer in to be checked out. It's possible that I'll have to get a new computer. I don't know how long this will take. Right now I'm using my brother's computer. So if you don't hear much from me for the next week or two, you now know why. I hope all of you are well and hopefully I'll be back online soon. Take care.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Siblings


Another painting based on a Mary Ellen Mark photograph. What's unusual for me about this painting is that I'm also using a couple of Pitt Markers to outline the boy and part of the girl. I haven't done much with mixed media; this may be a start.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mother And Child


This painting is based on a black and white photograph by the photographer Mary Ellen Mark in her book A Cry For Help: Stories of Homelessness and Hope. And I'm back to my old problem of trying to find subject matter to paint. Of course, I'm drawn to the compositions of really good photographers be they professionals, semi-professionals or amateurs. I probably should go back to sites like Flickr and look for photographs of people. I guess it's all right to practice painting using professional photographs like those of Mark and Sturges. Working from really good photographs teaches me about good subject matter and compositions, like painting from the masters. I have to remember that I'm still putting myself into the process, especially when I turn a black and white photograph into a color painting. Even just which photograph I choose is putting myself into it. Ideally, I would like to use my own photographs, but I have never been much of a people photographer. I did get a new camera, but I haven't learned how to use it properly yet, which I must. I used to be a good photographer, but it's been quite a while since I tried. I wish I could be a traditional painter and hire models to paint. Or make studies and then create an original composition. I should, at least, do a few self portraits. I think I'm making excuses. The main thing is to keep drawing and painting.

I've been spending a certain amount of time online trying to connect/help other people who suffer from mental illness. I've done a little bit at Health Central's Schizophrenia Connection where Chris Bruni works as a schizophrenia expert. There are some really nice people at that site and it's set up so that you can have a profile and a journal called a Share Post. I've only written two entries so far, but I'm also trying to contribute by answering some questions either posed by Christina in her Question of the Week or posed by other people on the site. I'll post the link to it in my Favorite Links section, so check it out.
I've also answered a few questions on Yahoo Answers. Yahoo Answers is where anyone can post a question and anyone can answer it. So I've been focusing on Mental Health questions. But the place where I've been spending more of my time has been on LiveJournal. It's a great place to meet other people suffering from mental illness, especially young people, some of whom really need help. I find there's more of a community feeling on LiveJournal than on Blogger. Here, we're each in our own pretty self contained world, but on LiveJournal everyone visits other communities and participates and gets to know other people. You can choose to "friend" other people and you have a "Friend's Page" that helps you to follow other people's journals more immediately. It's just a different feel to it. I like Blogger because it is more formal, but I like LiveJournal because it's more informal and in some ways more creative. There's a community called Crazy Poems where anyone with a mental illness can post poems about their illness. I've tentatively created a community called Crazy Artists hoping that all kinds of artists will post some of their work and connect with each other. I haven't gotten too far with that yet because I'm not sure what I'm doing, but, hopefully, I'll figure it out.

I haven't yet approached anyone in my town about starting a support group. I still feel insecure. I have to make myself go to the NAMI meeting on Wednesday even though I'm nervous about the driving because there's a couple who suffer from BiPolar Disorder who want to start a support group one town over from where I live, which would be much more accessible to me. They've set a date for a meeting on September 2nd, which I also must go to. I hope they have success and I want to support their efforts. I'm proud of anyone who suffers from mental illness who can start a support group. It takes courage and determination and it's so important.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back To Painting



I drew and painted both of these portraits today. Nancy commissioned me to paint a portrait of her father and nephew, but I couldn't resist also painting a portrait of her sister with her daughter. They were both great photographs to work from. I was partially inspired by Pam Wagner who has just started painting portraits. She's very talented, so check out her blog and her Artid site. It's been about a month since I last painted. I'm hoping that this will be the beginning of many more paintings.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In Recovery Mode

My parents' visit was a success. My father stayed at my brother's house and my mother stayed with me. Richard and Kim did a great job of setting up my brother's house so that it would be comfortable for my father. Richard even reproduced family photographs and mounted them and put up shelves to display them in a sitting room. They also fixed up the bedroom downstairs in my house for my mother, painting the walls and everything. It gave me an excuse to go out and buy fresh sheets, a comforter, towels, etc... My mother was pleased with her room, the only drawback in both my house and my brother's house was that my parents had to climb stairs. At least I have a handrail, but my brother did not, so Richard installed one at my brother's house. I thought that was very considerate of him.

I actually cleaned and organized the upstairs in my house, but the only way that I got away with that was by storing a bunch of stuff in one of the bedrooms. My mother still complained that the house was too cluttered. She even said it wasn't fit for company, but I disagreed. Her standards are too high for me, even if I didn't suffer from a mental illness. But, on the whole, she seemed fairly comfortable. I set up a place for her to work on a jigsaw puzzle, which she loves to do. I did do a fair amount of driving, but except for the first night when I drove them from the airport to our houses in the dark and in the rain (which was very stressful for me), I didn't mind the driving. All of it was done during the daytime and the weather was good. I pretty much set up what we would do each day. I even made reservations for us several times and found that I wasn't as phone phobic as I usually am. I was proud of myself.

We saw the latest Harry Potter film, went to see a play, went on a boat ride, watched a couple of movies at my brother's house, but the real highlight was going out to eat. Every time we went out, we had a good to very good meal. I made a point of going to an Indian restaurant I've never been to for my father and brother's birthday. My brother was particularly grateful and I'd like to go back there again with him another time. And yes, I ate too much and so now it's back to regulating my diet and returning to exercise.

So my parents seemed well and were pleased with their visit and I didn't get stressed out this time. My voices have also been subdued and generally when they do speak up in my mind, they are supportive of me. I haven't had them telling me that I'm evil in months and the more they show consideration for me, the less I think ill of them. It has served me well to have compassion for them and to treat them with tolerance and kindness. I guess that's just the way I want to be. Though I am not Christian, my philosophy incorporates some of Christ's teachings to turn the other cheek and love those that abuse you. I have done it so often, that now I can coexist with them in relative harmony. It wasn't always that way. In the beginning of my psychosis I was filled with resentment, but, just as I didn't want to become consumed with hatred for my ex-boyfriend when he was abusing me, I didn't want to become a hateful person in relation to these mysterious voices. Negativity breeds negativity and prolongs symptoms. Acceptance and gratitude generate positive outcomes. Of course, when you are being attacked by the voices, cultivating acceptance and gratitude can be quite a challenge, but it is possible with practice. If I can do it, I know others can do it. There is hope.

The day before my parents arrived, I met with a NAMI president of a nearby county for lunch. I told her some of my story and she told me some of her story. I found out that she is a social worker and that her son suffers from schizophrenia, but is in the process of recovering. I felt fairly confident talking to her and she seemed to respond to me, but ultimately she can't really help me start a support group. I would have to go through a 3 day intensive training program with another person who suffers from mental illness and not only don't I know another person in my area, but the training programs are few and far between and I would have to travel quite a distance to get to one. The next one appears to be next year in Albany and I don't want to wait that long. Ms. Stanley did say that there is a couple who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder who regularly comes to her monthly meeting. I met them briefly. They want to start a group in their town, but I'm still set on starting one in my town. Ms. Stanley gave me their phone number (they don't have a computer...), but I haven't had the courage to call them yet. First I want to make appointments to see if I can find a meeting place either through the local churches or through the town hall. I've been doing so well lately, I might just be ready to try this. I'll have to put some pressure on myself in the next couple of weeks.

It's also past time to get back to painting. Nancy has commissioned me to paint a portrait of her father and her nephew. Tonight I worked on a portrait of Richard's friend with his arm around his daughter. I drew the portrait a month ago, but didn't like the drawing and so I put it aside, but tonight I decided I needed some practice, so I began painting.