Hi, there. Thanks for visiting. I'm starting this blog as an advocate for mental and physical health. I'm a freelance writer and also own a home based medical transcription business. I was diagnosed in 1978 with paranoid schizophrenia and started to become acutely ill three years prior to that, unmedicated, frightened, confused, and in trouble with the law. I graduated from university with distinction the year I became ill. I've never regretted learning how to think at university. I struggled with my illness for 35 years and have reached the top of the mountain now, I think, or the other side, where the grass is greener and the path easier. There's hope for all of us, the whole human race, and never think there isn't hope or joy no matter your circumstances. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with mental illness in all its forms: depression, brain injury, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety disorders, etc. and your positive experiences as well as those lies and half truths society and even therapists would have us believe about ourselves.

We are different folks, and we are beautiful. The whole human race is beautiful. Let's celebrate life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Starting over

I talked to the very nice volunteer coordinator at the charity today and got most misunderstandings straightened out. They have absolutely no problem with the mental illness but according to their insurance policies there would be an issue with the court case. They thought I have a criminal record. Probably my fault when I posted about the court case I might have made it sound as though I've been found guilty or perhaps you know -- hurt somebody in the past. I didn't. Well, at least I hurt a lot of people emotionally but not really slaughtered anybody or anything to my knowledge. I don't have a criminal record. I discovered today, as a matter of fact, I'm starting over where I left off 35 years ago and should have had the wit and wisdom at the time to follow guidance. I think that's wonderful, that I can start over, and not hurt anyone in the process this time, as I truly love so many really wonderful people that I wouldn't be capable even of hurting anyone now, I think. I'm quite excited about starting over and making a good life for myself, which I have actually anyhow, but it will be better, and my understanding will grow as the therapists talk to me and vice versa. I know that, as I have good therapists now, and am willing and able to work with them. I'm eager to work with them and just know there are many more wonderful epiphanies I haven't yet discovered.

I want to thank everyone -- all my friends, family, and "lurkers" -- who have been so faithful and loyal so far.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Letting go

Judi said,
What do you think this means: "The whole path to love could be described as learning to let go..."? Let go of WHAT? Ourselves, perhaps? That is, our minds and egos and our personal realities?

How does this work in practical terms in our relationships with other people (not dogs)? With God? The Universe?

I recently have interpreted letting go as letting the other person go but perhaps it means our own egos. I certainly think love is not possessive and allowing our egos to become involved suggests possessiveness. Originally, long ago, I thought letting go meant not having anything more to do with the other person, in other words, kicking them out of my life and then waiting for them to come back. Ummmm....

In practical terms it makes for freedom in our relationships with other people. I haven't thought about God and the Universe or how it affects our relationships with those rather ineffable entities, but as far as other people are a reflection of our relationship with God and the Universe (think Allah Ben Abdul and the angel...he loved his fellow man and his name led the list!)...then I think letting go allows the 12 Step saying to be truer for us, "Let go and let God". Maybe some don't understand that but I think a person with addictions perhaps has to learn that in order to stay sober or whatever the addiction of choice may be...the Universe is perhaps easier to understand and comprehend than God, unless we have a small vision of a small God. God and the Universe being somewhat the same.

So letting go IMHO may be necessary for freedom, and freedom of choice as we understand it in Genesis, or "free will" understand there are other realities out there besides ours and respect them. Certainly letting go implies respect for the other person, too. And also I'm thinking of vitriolic people whom we do have to let go in every sense of the word because otherwise they'll poison us. There's no room for toxic people in a healthy relationship.

It also implies that we can't change other people. We can't even serve as good examples.

I think letting go of one's ego essentially might mean letting go of one's exclusive rights to a single reality.

And that begs the question of the old concept of absolute truths such as Beauty, Truth, etc. that the ancient Greek philosophers held so dear. Is there such a thing as an absolute Truth? As absolute Beauty? I used to think there was. Now I'm not so sure. I think absolute Truth, if there is such a thing, would be God or the Universe, and we'll never find it unless we do let go of our own egos and our own limited realities.

I might talk about this some more with my friends, but I know certain fundamentalists believe in their version of the Truth and no one else's. That's scary and again begs the question, are these toxic people? Or simply very selfish? I've tended recently to think of them as toxic and avoided them, but I might try to open a dialogue with some of them about it and find out for myself. After all, my own version of reality could use some alternate universes, as well. And an alternate universe may very well be simply an alternate reality.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Deepak Choprah

"In practical terms surrender means letting go. Although you don’t realize it, reality isn’t a given. Each of us inhabits a separate reality. Your mind maintains your personal version of reality by buttressing it with beliefs, expectations, and interpretations. Your mind blocks the free flow of the life force by saying, “This is how things must and should be.” Letting go releases you from this insistent grip, and when you let go, new forms of reality can enter.

You only have to take a ride on a roller coaster to see who gets more enjoyment out of the experience–those who clutch tight with white knuckles and clenched jaws or those who let go and allow themselves to be carried up and down without resistance.

Letting go is a process. You have to know when to apply it, what to let go of, and how to let go. Your mind is not going to show you any of these things; worse still, your ego is going to try to prevent you from making progress, since it believes that you have to hold on in order to survive. Your only ally in letting go is spirit, which sees reality as a whole and therefore has no need to create partial realities based on limitation.

The whole path to love could be described as learning to let go, but letting go all at once isn’t possible. This is a path of many small steps. At any given moment the steps are basically the same: Awareness begins to substitute for reactions. A reaction is automatic; it draws upon fixed beliefs and expectations, images of past pain and pleasure residing in memory, waiting to guide you in future situations. Memory has told you, in a fraction of a second, that your reaction to, say, a big dog, should be fear.

Overcoming this or any reaction requires an act of awareness. Awareness doesn’t resist the imprint of memory. It goes into it and questions whether you need it now. In the face of a big dog, awareness tells you that you aren’t a small child anymore and that not all big dogs bite. Being aware of this, you can ask if you need to hold on to fear. Whether you wind up petting the dog, ignoring it, or withdrawing is now a matter of choice. Reactions result in a closed set of options; awareness results in an open set of options.

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. The past is closed and limited; the future is open and free."

Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A thorn tree doesn't bear figs

Do you want to provide others with good memories?

Your children, perhaps, or friends? It's all up to us to carve out that slice of life that leaves good feelings. It's not enough to be right.

"It's more important to be happy than right."

"It's more important to be righteous than right."

But I don't like the term "righteous". Reminds me of middle class Christian aphorisms. Being fed pap rather than meat. None of us are "righteous". If we are, it's a negative term.

I love my children to tell me when they have good memories. That's more important to me than gold. And it's important to reframe, I think - I wish I could do that more expertly, and I wish I could advise my loved ones how to do it.

"We haven't all had happy childhoods. But we all have a chance at a second childhood, and our second childhood is up to us."

In regards to my recent past, I've hurt someone. Through this truly dreadful illness, and often while I was unmedicated, I harassed someone who didn't deserve it, and I misinterpreted the situation. I misinterpreted the situation badly because I needed a savior so desperately.

I'm trying for more balance in my articles and poetry, too. And trying to realize in my regular life that I'm not the only player on the stage. Indeed, there's a world beyond the stage.

I'm withdrawing from my volunteer work. I just think it's the right thing to do. I'm still a friend to the lady I volunteered with.

I went to a movie today, "Prince of Persia." Interesting about destiny and lives intersecting. I think that happens, really it does. People have helped me from all walks of life and I've ended up a happy camper, no matter the negative memories from my past. There must have been joyful moments because I'm a happy and positive person and how did I get this way? It's a mystery to me. Must be that old Hound of Heaven pursuing me. It must be caring hearts who surrounded me.

I believe all will be well.

You're known by your fruits.

"A thorn tree doesn't bear figs."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Fine Line

I'm done now with spectacular disclosures. I think it's wise and prudent to be balanced. For example, no big angst if people know, but it's like having blue eyes or two brothers and a sister, part of me but not necessary to advertise unless it comes up.

I accept and welcome guidance but for some reason my timing is often satisfactory. And I'm in danger of obsessing about ANYTHING given my predilection for extremes. I don't want to obsess about this, any person, a church, my work, illness or lack thereof, past, present or future. I want balance.

So it's a part of me, yes, no secrets, but I'm not going to enter a float in any parade, either.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where Angels Fear to Tread

You know, for anyone following my blog, I've added a caution not to do what I've done in terms of disclosure without much thought and consultation with wise people. That is, wiser than I am! This is a form of therapy for myself after a lifetime of secrets and living in fear. I'm coming into the sunshine. But I have a lifestyle that can stand censure and scrutiny, I think, and some people could be very badly hurt by doing what I've done. Please don't if you're considering it.

I appreciate the support, and I have received nothing but kindness in my life here in the "real" world, too, but there's going to be times when I'm facing censure, I know that.

If my parents were alive I could never do this to them. If my children were younger and in school I could never do this to them. That in spite of the fact I think it's right. It's right for me, at this time, at this place.

I'm a different person because of it, too. I don't know where it will end. I have faith as a grain of mustard seed. And that's sometimes confused with foolishness. But this is not foolish. This is the right thing at the right time for me.

I'm going to try to find a church community. A church for broken people.

But if you're broken, please find help. Don't disclose first to the world without being on a firm foundation. I sought help first.

That light sure feels good, though! It almost feels like love...


I guess before now I couldn't risk censure, and I was too uptight to discuss my dearly held "secrets" for most of my life. That was a dark and scary place to be. It just is the right time now. To everything there is a season, I really believe that, and of course, many other people have skeletons in their closets but just can't risk disclosure. I think it's wise to carefully think it over as I did. In my case this is part of what I believe will lead me into the light out of an emotional prison of my own making. Nobody else did it to me. Nobody else made that prison; constructed those bars; nobody even censured me except for dishonesty and insincerity at one time.

I don't recommend disclosure for everyone. Please don't do as I did without much thought and consultation with wise people. But for myself, after a lifetime of secrets and anguish...

"If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed...nothing shall be impossible to you." Luke 17:20 KJV

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A church for broken people

I went to court today and something may be resolved. I was accused of criminal harassment in April 2009 but dating back to 35 years ago when I first became ill, and I insisted I was not guilty but when I heard the complainant is in fragile or frail health, I immediately changed my plea to guilty to spare her the trauma of appearing in court. I go back to court on December 21st. First I'll get a psych assessment and pre sentence report in the meantime. My lawyer commented I'm more centered and more at peace than she's ever seen me. That's true. I think this is good. But it's been a long time coming, to come to terms with a delusion and obsession, and sitting in the courtroom today I thought, I've lived in fear of discovery all these years and it's an illness. I never meant to hurt anyone. But I'm responsible and I did the right thing at last, although I've never done the right thing before.

I also got in touch with the pastor of a church I battled with recently, although we've made our peace, and there's a reason I hung on so tenaciously to that pastor and that church, too. It's a church for broken people.

And I'm getting more involved in my 12 step program. I went to a meeting tonight and volunteered to chair the meeting in October.

The next four months will be interesting.

This is the end of something and the beginning of something else. I will never again try to keep secrets, nor will I hurt anyone. I will let this woman go and I will never again think anyone is trying to control me or be exploitative towards me, because it isn't true. And if I don't like someone I will let them be and perhaps I'll find out I like them after all.

So that's the story.

It's good because it's turned more than one life around this past year.

I'll be 66 in October. I may have another 20 or 30 years to live and I want to live them well, and be able to play off the stage of my own limited life so I see that other people live and breath beyond my little scope. It's not all about me and that's very freeing. But in another way, it's the discovery of myself as an adult and not an infant reacting to a world that is but dimly understood beyond her own needs.

The Hound of Heaven pursued me and if you don't understand the context of that comment please google "Hound of Heaven" and read the poem.

Thanks, Sue, your comments on Tuesday were well taken. I mention it because I think your comments on that day are particularly important.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Sea Change

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

Do you know the definition of a "sea change"? It's a sudden and precipitous change, overwhelming and instantaneous, that's my take on it. And epiphany? A sudden insight. I don't know. I could be wrong. I think I'm facing a sea change, and it's because I've decided on it. I did something recently at some cost to myself for someone else. Now it's all about me. And it's all about you.

I've been wrong for most of my life.

Just something that's a fact. I'm not groveling about it. But I've been wrong about most premises I was raised with and told as truth even, or especially, by therapists and pastors. It's not weakness to need somebody. It's not weak to ask for help. The weak should not be despised and trodden upon. We should be allowed to fail. We learn from our mistakes. The most successful people make the most mistakes. Our parents were mistaken and may have abused us. It's good to compromise. Sometimes it IS all about me. Sometimes it's not. I don't have to entertain my friends and family with elocution. I can be silent and still accepted. God doesn't hate homosexuals. God doesn't hate sinners. We're not ugly and evil. We're not going to hell if we don't believe in Jesus. Hell doesn't last forever. We'll never know everything. We won't even know most things. Nobody understands God or his ways. Post modern fundamentalists or evangelists are the post modern Pharisees and if anybody is going to hell in a handbucket it's them. It's silly for homosexuals to marry other than to obtain legal rights under the law.

I've been wrong about friends and family. I won't avoid people I don't like. I'll let them be themselves and maybe I'll even grow to like them as different than I but equal.

Nobody on earth is my savior. I won't set anybody up for failure. My best friends are fallible. I make more mistakes than anyone I know. To sin is to err or "miss the mark".

It's been all about me, what takes place in my little brain, the delusions, the obsessions, the beliefs, the attitudes, the behaviors. I'm okay. I'm the Wild Rover but the Wild Rover doesn't hurt anybody anymore nor does she "spend all her money on whiskey and beer". I haven't had a drink since 1993, coming up 18 years, and I quit smoking in 1985. I'm not promiscuous. I like to have fun. I'm okay but I in my 66th year must change because God created me to be more than a little person in a little box without love or insight for my fellow human beings. He gave me life. My parents gave me life, like Liza Doolittle's father said, "I gave her life." I have been given talents and I won't bury them in the ground but I need help and I'm not strong to continue without support. Perhaps it's best the mainstream papers haven't accepted my articles on mental illness yet. Perhaps it's too soon to completely come out in the open.

Everything happens for a reason and if I've done all I can reasonably do I might examine the facts, and the consequences, and the ramifications. I teeter on the brink of a sea change.

I have a therapist and I have the opportunity to consult with others who can help. I'm going to ask them for help and I'm going to change. It's about me and it's about you. I learn to let go slowly but I'm going to let go. And those who are control freaks are to be pitied because I was there once. It's a confining and scary place to be, to control and to attempt to change others. Now I'm going to control myself. I'm going to change myself.

And I'll have a blast doing it! Watch out world, this is but one more adventure in a series of adventures, and you, good friends, help more than you know.

I need the help. But ultimately I'm responsible for myself.

I was never coerced nor manipulated into this illness. It was precipitated by love. I was born with the genes and before I die there may be a cure. It was the best thing that ever happened to me because:

I am a human being!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

Remember that book? Holden Caulfield dreams of being the catcher in the rye. He will catch those who have fallen. I may not remember this book clearly but that stays with me for some reason; the Bridge Over Troubled Waters, the Catcher in the Rye.

This winter is going to be better than last winter, I think, which was better than the winter before. I know it sounds premature to think of winter in the middle of August but it's something like thinking of winter roses that bloom in the cold and dark in our souls. The roses I hold in my heart have no thorns. I've learned to let go. I've learned to be less selfish. And I've learned to put someone else's welfare first. It's not all about me and if I start in to be just too selfish or clinging, or take myself too too seriously, then please someone point it out so I can change.

A pastor pointed out to me once that my beloved cost/benefit analysis could work with a group or (and this is my interpretation) with someone else's benefit and my cost, in other words, what is the cost to me compared with the benefit to someone else?

This makes me very happy to think about. There is so much of which to let go in life. Let go of selfishness, let go of delusions, let go of suspiciousness and paranoia, let go of control, let go of a situation which has gone on far too long like the Hatfield McCoy feud. It amounts to freedom when we finally let go of a person or situation; freedom for them - happiness and ultimately liberty for us.

I've been guilty of many errors in life.

By far the worst was selfishness.

Few understood the catcher in the rye. Few understood the bridge over troubled waters. Many think they're cool concepts. They make a good book; they make a pleasant song. I thought they were cool concepts. I thought they made a good book; a pleasant song.

I didn't understand the Catcher in the Rye.

Here is my outstretched hand. It's empty.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Greatest of These

I've been loved in my life. And I've loved. But never more than now. Because I have the capacity and the desire to be kind to someone who may be suffering as I suffered many years ago, from an emotional or mental disorder, and I know I can't directly help her. Those who know me well, know the situation, and to those who do not, all that matters is that I made a decision more than a year ago to embark on an adventure which involved baring myself to ridicule and censure, and in so doing, I inadvertently involved others.

I'm talking about my decision to lay bare and fight the delusions and obsessions which remained of my little psychological disorder, to make public the battle shared with thousands of other human beings, and certainly without the intention to do so, perhaps to hurt someone who reacted to the initial episode with compassion and strength.

So there was my descent into hell and its environs 35 years ago, and the gradual ascent.

We learn from our mistakes. And I made many.

I learned faith. I learned hope. I learned love.

But the greatest of these is love.

And I learned that means letting go. It means this is not all about me. It means there are people in my life who are hurting, men and women. They are hurting and I love them and I can't help them.

I can't help them; never did - perhaps never can.

"Vanity, all is vanity...said the preacher." The Bible KJV

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is there such a thing as "normal"?

I received notice today that someone I cared about once is "very fragile" and I don't know what was meant by that term, nor do I have any way of finding out. I don't know if she has physical problems or mental or emotional problems, but I suspect the latter. If so, I have hope that she, too, may overcome.

"We can overcome, we can overcome, we can overcome one day...
Deep in my heart I do believe
We can overcome one day..."

And I would wish for her that she, too, will overcome, and I know she will. She will do it without me now although at one time in my distant past I might have helped. I can no longer help other than be gentle with an action I started a year ago which may have hurt her. She can overcome.

Thinking there is a psychological problem is far easier for me to deal with than believing she has a serious physical problem. A psychological problem is my country, after all. I know it can be healed.

There must be a norm by which to gauge the rest of our behavior, but it seems to me to be relative. Our friends often seem normal on the outside but are they really living "lives of quiet desperation"?

I would say mental illness is not normal until confronted with the statistics, then what do you say? So many living with anxiety, depression, SAD, OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoid illnesses, ADD, autism, neuroticisms of all description. And finding joy and meaning in life.

I don't think we're flawed. I think we're compassionate and interesting.

I once drank alcohol to excess because I found it resulted in oblivion and an initial transient improvement in my mood. That got me in no end of trouble and it's been more than 17 years now since my last drink. My drinking no doubt contributed to my very unhappy second marriage and anguish for my children.

Drinking can stop. Psychological anguish can be turned into sunshine and a meaningful and rich life. It can be done.

I see a fellow human being in every person who stumbles and falls. There but for the grace of God go I. There are no White Rabbits in my life anymore. I was mistaken.

The charity is as charity does. No problem, whatever happens, and I must phone my friend associated with the charity with whom I visit every two weeks to gently say, I am your friend and will remain your friend, but perhaps our helping relationship may change.

Bad things change and good things change.

"And it's no nay never
No nay never no more...
Will I play the wild Rover,
No never no more..."

I'm still the Wild Rover, aren't I? Some people like me that way.

The White Rabbit

I received the majority of my comments on my last post about the Mad Hatter Syndrome, haha, and I appreciate my good friends who replied but I really don't want to cross that bridge until I come to it.

I wonder sometimes what makes the difference between today and twenty years ago when I started my long journey into peace, happiness, and freedom.

Is it people?

Friends and acquaintances who offered me a hand when I was too proud or confused to take it?

I didn't recognize a good friend at the time.

I'm remaking my past right now. I'm reframing the negatives into positives so that I have a happier present and a more promising future.

So I can say to the White Rabbit when he invites me to tea,"thank you, sir, I will," and to the Red Queen when she threatens to cut off my head,

"You're all just a pack of cards"...

You see, I took myself and this lifestyle much too seriously. Life is a playground for us if we but choose to view it that way. Like the saying goes, "I want to be used up not rusted out".

My father always said, "I refuse to let them make me live in fear."

I think our memories are very selective. I'm not being dishonest by remembering the good. It's like refusing to watch the six o'clock news on TV. Do I really want all those negative images burning themselves into my brain? That's not to say I'm in denial or that I don't recognize the pettiness and meanness that takes place around us every day, and impacts particularly on those who are a bit lower on society's totem pole. But there's so much that's inspirational and kind, too. Why not choose that path?

And why not believe in the good in humanity? The alternative is bitterness and isolation.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Is Alice in Wonderland alive and well?

I volunteer with a local charity and have sent them a link to my blog. They want to talk to me about it. I would guess they have concerns. Their reply was by email and not a request or a question but a statement that someone I don't know wants to meet with me next week or perhaps the coordinator will meet with me the week after. That's all I know. So I sent them a polite note withdrawing at least temporarily from my work as a "friendly visitor" and letting them know I'm not available for a meeting until after August 23rd. This is the first test of my efforts at advocating. I'm sure I did mention my diagnosis previously to the volunteer coordinator but perhaps not. I won't insist that I did. Interesting and not an unexpected development.

I want to contact the local paper again, too, to see if the life style editor is back and if he would be interested in publishing either one or a series of my articles. Another person who has schizophrenia writes for them occasionally.

I'm very grateful for my good friends and the people who do understand. The others must simply be educated. And it's true, people don't know what to think or what to say when confronted with someone who doesn't fit their idea of the "norm".

There must be a good quote to put in here but I can't think of one.

Thirty-four years ago when I was really ill the University of Alberta was more than understanding and I wish I were able now to go back and be then as well as I am now, if that makes sense. My efforts at advocating for those with a psychiatric condition seem akin to the physically disabled a couple of decades ago. The only difference is the behavior issues when the illness is untreated and I understand that. But treated, we are just like anyone else. It might be a long hard path to understanding and acceptance.

Do they really think I'm the Mad Hatter?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Adrift in my City

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. " Friedrich Nietzsche

The homeless man on the street shook my hand, crossed himself and said he was a Christian, in a unique effort at ingratiation (or perhaps not), and asked for help. I bought him a sandwich loaded with roast beef and vegetables, and a Pepsi. He ate it outside the restaurant. He had wanted money. I do not ordinarily give the homeless money. It has to be a real good story, a feeling inside me of mutual humanity, a look in their eye of naked truth, and it's only happened twice in the five years I've lived in this neighborhood that I've given coins to the homeless.

Does one take a risk in kindness? I've never been hurt by being kind. I've been hurt by being foolish, flagrantly liberal, and a poor judge of character. Never by true kindness tempered by reason.

Last Christmas Eve I made bologna and cheese sandwiches, bought mandarin oranges and candy, and put them in a big basket by the dumpster outside with a note "to my homeless friends". Late that night I looked from my window on the 10th floor to the alley outside, and saw footprints finally in the snow, approaching the basket; I couldn't see who took it, but next morning the basket was gone and there were more footprints in the snow surrounding where it had been; the orange wrappers neatly in the dumpster, a candy wrapper on the ground. I hope they shared it. I hope they weren't hungry or cold, and I hope they found a safe and warm place to sleep. I'll never know.

On Sunday, a rather cool summer day the first of August, it is a coffee with cream and three sugars for the homeless woman on the corner downtown, who swears she gave $5 to a "friend" an hour ago to buy a ham sandwich for her, and that she hasn't seen him since. I carry the coffee back to the scarred and dirty woman, and stir it for her because she is holding a plastic bag in her other hand.

A young man comes by while I'm waiting for the bus and asks for directions to the University of Alberta. I tell him which buses to catch. He leaves and walks down the street. I watch him go. At one point I think he's going to catch the wrong bus and I run after him, but he crosses the street to the appropriate stop. On my way back I pass the homeless woman holding her coffee. I slip a dollar into her hand. She is surprised and of course, pleased. I'm wondering if I am a sucker.

Will I regret helping others? I live on a limited income. People who don’t know me sometimes think I have a lot of money…it's a question of priorities. I pay my rent, my groceries, my taxes, my utilities, my insurance policies, my few amenities, and any other outstanding bills. I put a little every month into savings. Then gifts. I give back just a little to a world that has given me so much. Because there but for the grace of God go I. And what goes around comes around. And because I have hurt others so much in the course of my illness and my life. I've hurt myself; I've been in situations and places of ill repute and consorted with dysfunctional and destructive people; I've been cold and hungry; I've been dishonest; I've been jobless; I've been friendless and lonely; I've been feared and despised; I have emotionally neglected my loved ones. I've never been homeless and starving, but I know what it's like to be an outcast, many years ago. It's been twenty years since I was last hospitalized, since I last had a "breakdown", since I was last jobless or friendless or despised. But I never forget from where I came.

I'm not always kind. I can be acerbic. I can be outspoken and intolerant. I can be suspicious and argumentative.

But my illness and the road I've traveled alone for so long hasn't been so solitary after all. There were helping hands and friendly faces. The illness hasn't been so devastating that it would destroy a human life - mine - it's made me stronger and more compassionate.

I'm striving to show more tolerance because I have a tendency to think, if I could do it why can't they? They? There but for the grace of God go I!

I spent most of my life in a box of my own making, a keeper of secrets. These posts are my way of saying, "You can do it, too". You can come out of the shadows. We all can give though it might be only a smile and a handshake.

"People will forget how you looked, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

"Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets." Dr. Paul Tournier


The Soup Stone

"I swear you could taste the chicken and tomatoes and the noodles and the marrow bone
But it really wasn't nothin' but some water and potatoes
And the wonderful wonderful soup stone
" - Bobby Bare lyrics
A good friend doesn't have to be a perfect friend. Imperfect friends are best. They understand me. They're like the wonderful soup stone that gives flavor to my days when things are dry.

Their hearts are kindly and their intentions are pure.

I thank you, good friends, for all you do and all you are. And you can be family. You can be children. You can be virtual friends, old friends, new friends, or strangers who open a door for me or give me a seat on the bus when I'm tired. You may be someone who forgives me without being asked.

You could be someone I last met two years ago, who wants to help me out with a new idea or project. You are brilliant and you are caring, and you are my link to humanity at a time when I may desperately need a friend. You don't always know who you are. But you may recognize yourself. I hope you do.

And I thank you.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sweet is for Hershey Bars

"Affliction is the wholesome soil of virtue, where patience, honor, sweet humility, and calm fortitude, take root and strongly flourish."
David Mallet

Ah, yes. I was described by a friend today as "a sweet person who has problems".

I answered him that I don't have problems. I have schizophrenia.

I occasionally have challenges. I haven't had problems for years.

And the closer I get to a date that many people would dread, the fewer challenges I experience, the happier I am, the more anticipation for the future and a favorable outcome, the more patience I show, and the more peace I experience. That date is a court appearance in two weeks. I'll tell you all about it after it's over, but it's been going on since April 2009, and it's going to end on August 18, 2010 unless it's once again postponed.

I've had a lot of flak about this situation from presumably well meaning "friends" and family. It's something that couldn't be helped; I made a decision; and I think it was the right decision. Whether it was the right decision will be decided in two weeks. I must beg forbearance until then.

A fig tree cannot bear thorns.

By your fruits are you known.

Am I saying I'm a fruit? [wicked grin]

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I Am a Human Being

Have you ever laughed at (or told) a sexist, ethnic, or racist joke?

I have. There are entire ethnic groups,unnamed here, who are the butt of "jokes" in every community, particularly groups which are more visible in that particular community. I recently laughed at a "blonde" joke and told one in return. I am of Scottish extraction - am I frugal or do I like my whiskey? I've laughed at myself, too, seeing a tad of truth in some of these stereotypes, but more than that, a sense of brief superiority to the group named if it's not my own.

"Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. Generally speaking, stereotypes are not based on objective truth but rather subjective and sometimes unverifiable content-matter." *

It can be argued some of these jokes are in good humor and should be taken so, and I agree - often people with disabilities will share jokes about their own disabilities. But consider the feelings of those who are not like "you". Would you like to be singled out? I was hurt once by someone who commented on the initiation ceremony to be considered part of the Schizophrenia Society. That person who joked about it didn't have a mental illness nor did he understand the hurt a stigma or stereotype could inflict.

I used to have schizophrenia but we're better now.

Or - if a person with multiple personalities threatens to commit suicide, is that considered a hostage situation?

Personally, I think these are hilarious. But I'm on the other side of the mountain. I've climbed that rocky trail and come out the other side. I can laugh about it now. There are those who are still in agony and self doubt. I may be insensitive to my own community of people.

Do persons of other races or ethnic origins share jokes about themselves? I've learned they do. But it is hurtful and insensitive to assume a joke is harmless or that an individual has "no sense of humor" if they take offense. There's an old saying, there's truth in humor, and I've heard many slurs thinly disguised as "jokes". Or individuals who wound deeply and then protest they were "only joking".

Have minorities become too vocal? Have they risen too abruptly from obscurity and prejudice?

We, the mentally ill, are still immersed in obscurity and prejudice. And stereotypical thought: in the media, the public, and those who are charged with caretaking.

I am a person. I am not a "case". I am not a statistic. But it's estimated that one percent of Canadians have schizophrenia. Yes, you're right, that's one person out of every hundred.

And how many suffer from the multitude of forms taken by other mental illnesses? Bipolar, anxiety disorders, depression, OCD and so on. The stats of one percent for schizophrenia probably approach epidemic proportions for mental illnesses as a whole. Yet we are for the most part silent.

We are stereotyped as having "split minds" - that is the meaning of the term schizophrenia if you check out the root words in Greek. Any psychiatrist would tell you that's not true. Our minds in times of crisis can perhaps better be described as "splintered". We don't have multiple personalities. That's a myth. Unless they've changed the diagnostic criteria since I checked last.

Who am I? I am not a stereotype. In the words of The Elephant Man, "I am a human being".

Let me tell my jokes. My harmless jokes. And tell yours. But don't tell me I have no sense of humor if I don't laugh at thinly disguised prejudice, hatred and fear. And please, TELL ME if I offend you with my own attempts at making light of a serious situation. I was told once to take this lifestyle seriously. I often don't, particularly recently as I've become more and more comfortable in my skin, more trusting, and less conscious of intended slights when they don't exist. But be careful of your motivations when you laugh at or tell a racist, sexist, or ethnic joke! Or when you betray my humanity.

We are all human beings. All prone to error. But what has hurt us more, the wounds of a friend or the wounds of an enemy? The wounds of a friend are faithful, the Good Book says, but only if they are meant to build up and heal, and not a thinly disguised put down.

Do we stereotype ourselves? Is there truth in our acceptance of "I'm nuts" or "you're crazy"? How much power do words really have?

Do the hurtful words stereotype us? Or do we allow it by passively accepting or even encouraging...hey, I have an idea, and it's worked for me. Let's laugh at it, show them who's crazy (not us), or "we may be crazy but we're not stupid" - let's rise from a textbook definition of who we are and let them get to know us! Get to know us, you poor excuse for a human being! Love us! Laugh with us! And let's share the absurdity of the human race.

With all our stereotypical variety and challenges, there is hope and joy in every precious life on this planet, and this may be the best there is for us.

I used to have schizophrenia but we're better now. LOL