Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Not Lazy

Had a short spat with my husband yesterday. The name calling and yelling rose in pitch, I called him a swear word, he controlled himself and did not swear back. It was an old issue, one we have fought over before.

I object, strenuously, to being called lazy.

I have no problem with my husband calling himself lazy. But do not include me in that statement. I do not want my husband saying that "we" are lazy people.

The first time we fought over this issue my husband's daughter called on a Saturday evening, and over the phone, asked her Dad what he was doing. My husband said that he and I were both being lazy. Hadn't left the house all day. Hadn't gotten any exercise, were still wearing our pajamas. We had been working on the computers all day. He said that for both of us, it was a lazy day.

I remember that that day I had worked on my computer and wrote. I probably wrote for my book. Book writing is intense, tiring, and usually difficult to start. I was exhausted by what I wrote. And I was suffering from symptoms of my illness. I had to take things slow, not because I was lazy, but because my mind was malfunctioning. I was, at the time that my husband said over the phone that we were lazy people, suffering from my mental illness. And there is, as far as I am concerned, a big difference between being lazy and suffering from schizophrenic symptoms. That day, when my husband called me lazy, I felt that I had been valiant in accomplishing something creative, and was riding the effects of being riddled with mental pain afterwords.

Often, about half of my day, my activities are difficult to do. In order to accomplish things I must push myself. I believe that with the schizoaffective illness I have symptoms of amotivation - the scientific term for lack of motivation. In order to do something the act is often initially accomplished by a feeling of anxiety. I often force myself to move. I force myself to think. I force myself to make a phone call. I force myself to do anything that involves getting out of bed or using my brain. The alternative is just to lie in bed and read a book or watch a movie. Sometimes, when I'm really sick, I just want to lie in bed and close my eyes. Not to sleep, but to rest. No music, no books, no television, no physical movement, I lie under the covers frozen in place. It can be boring. But when I am sick I am often up to doing nothing else.

The problem with my husband telling his daughter that I was a lazy person is that once, she made comments to the effect that judged her life as more significant, and worthy, then my life. She summed up the activities we both do during the day and said that based on how much each of us got done, she deserved to be on my husband's health insurance policy more than I deserved to be on his health insurance policy. At the time she was busy, going to school full time and working at a grocery store. No doubt about it, she was not a lazy person. What was I doing? At the time I think I was working on oil paintings. My creative period is short, about three hours in the morning. Usually after I create, either painting or writing, there is a time of suffering where my brain is very weak and I am capable of little. In other words I spend time paying a penalty for thinking too strenuously. Most sundry activities are strenuous - painting, writing, walking to the library, cleaning, going grocery shopping, etc. Normal activities are strenuous, simply living and being active is strenuous.

Knowing that my step-daughter has shown contempt for my lifestyle, and contempt for the value of my life itself, I did not want my husband characterizing me to her as being lazy. I do not characterize myself as lazy. I am, within the confines of my illness, very driven.

There are very few schizoaffective people who have the creative output that I have or are capable of the level of quality that goes into every creative project I do. I do not feel like I am dancing or floating through life. I feel like I am walking into a stiff wind that is blowing against me. I slog. I am in a swamp wading through mud, muck and mire. I am sometimes in the dirty, befouled, trenches of a battlefield. And sometimes I've been shot. Oh no, I am not lazy.

My husband apparently feels some slight embarrassment over the amount of time he commits to his creative projects, like his comic book making. I think he calls himself lazy out of guilt and self-abuse. He is astonished at how selfish he can be with his time and get away with it. He can literally do nothing other than work on his computer for eight to twelve hours on the weekend. There are no children demanding his attention. Housework does not get done. Chores do not get done. Conversations do not happen. Friendships are not practiced. He is solitary. His hair is unwashed and oily. He does not eat. He does not move from his one chair.

One of the ways that my marriage is a success is that I let him have this time to himself to do his solitary pursuits. He wakes at 4:30 am, I wake at 11 or 12 noon. See how he has the house, and the time, all to himself just by the differences in our schedules? And after I wake, it is my time to practice my creative pursuits. So he is left alone, to do what he wants, for even longer. Basically he does not want to be bothered until 3pm. This is when he feels burnt out. Then he is open to some different type of activity, like walking the dog or doing a household chore or taking a shower.

Yesterday my husband was talking to our dog when he called us lazy. It was 3pm in the afternoon. I had woke, spent some time on the internet, and then wrote for several hours. I had been productive. After I finished my writing I suggested we walk down town and look at a thrift store and an antique store. I felt like I was pushing myself to do something physical and get dressed, get moving. I had not, since waking, spent a moment not using my brain. This was when he turned to the dog and said, "Aren't mommy and daddy lazy?"

The dog does not care whether or not my husband calls me lazy. The dog was, in fact, mighty distressed when mommy and daddy started shouting at one another. She ran and hid under the bed.

Part of my husband's argument, and his belief that no apology was needed, is that "normal" people talk to one another this way. He was making "normal"conversation. I had to suck it up and just accept that "normal" people prattle on and say things that make no sense, but that are accepted by other "normal" people. Apparently he comes by the information of how "normal" people act by his vastly superior experience of having a full-time, job - at which he learns this "normal" pattern of discourse. I, who stay at home, can't understand "normal" interactions between people who don't have a mental illness. I, who have a mental illness, am being too sensitive. One of the hallmarks of the difference between "normal" people and the mentally ill is how sensitive the mentally ill person is to meaning, and how insensitive and inauthentic the "normal" person is when it comes to the way they talk. As far as I can tell, at work, "normal" people lie and exaggerate all the time. No one really takes each other seriously. I am trying, at home, to hold him to too high a standard of behavior.

I think, because of all the noise I made, my husband will not soon be calling me lazy. But because my husband really feels that "lazy" is an innocent, innocuous word, and because he does harbor guilt and self recrimination against his lifestyle on the weekends, I will hear the word "lazy" again. My only hope is that when he uses the word, he calls himself lazy, and leaves me out of it.

Friday, January 29, 2010


There were many beautiful girls at the strip club.

When we came in we were on time for the pole dancing competition but it looked like it was going to start late. We were met at the entrance by my step-daughter and she had a little cheering crowd assembled; her male roommate and his girlfriend, their stripper roommate and some other guy. It was a strategy because the way you win in the pole dancing competition is by noisy applause.

My step-daughter was drinking caffeine and doing a shot of whiskey. It seemed she was very nervous about competing. She told us, immediately, that we were to be just named Mike and Karen. Even her stripper roommate didn't know our real identities. Her male roommate she had dated before, we knew him as an old and well liked friend. Curiously her boyfriend did not show up for the contest. He may have had a job or boycotted out of principle; he didn't think her Dad should see the strip club where she worked.

I've seen my step-daughter wearing a bikini. She was slightly more clothed. She wore black high heels, a funny little bottom that showed the cheeks of her butt but had the crotch in front tied up with black laces, a generic gray tee shirt, and a pin-striped fedora hat. When it came time for the contest part of her dance routine she immediately whipped off the hat and shoes and tee shirt. Underneath was a black bra that surprisingly covered completely. By far she had the most boring costume of all the strippers participating in the contest.

She told me that the knee stockings I bought her for Christmas are a big hit with her customers. They are rainbow striped. She says it makes the customers think of all sorts of names for her; strawberry short cake, Pipi Longstocking, and things I did not recognize but that seem innocuous enough. Her long blond hair is dyed orange-red with black tips. She brags that she has "the girl next door vibe".

I could not get enough time staring at what was going on between the girls and their customers who were working the floor before the contest. Each girl seemed to have her "take" on what being sexy was and what she was willing to do in terms of touching the customer. A favorite play was to shove her butt in his face and wiggle it vigorously. Some did splits and then touched themselves down there - it seemed that they were discretely removing the thin strip of material that covered their vagina's.

Most all the girls wore thin strips of cloth for a bottom and tops that could be pulled up, pulled down, or pulled apart and show their bare breasts. Some girls would smoosh these breasts into the face of a client. Other girls decided that they would simply forgo any top at all. No tease, just a desperate "look at me". One of the girls cheated in the pole dancing contest and took off her top during her pole dancing routine. She did not get advanced to the next round. What seemed to work better with the judges was to have a top that moved while you danced and gave peeks of your breast. This could be accomplished simply by having a bikini top that was too small - and when acrobatics were done, the crowd got a peek.

I was most fascinated by an older gentlemen, he had white hair and a white beard. The girl who was dancing with him let him touch her breasts and pushed all parts of his body in near his face. The physical come on worked because next thing I knew the two of them were walking toward the private part of the room where lap dances are given. There fake trees and plants are pushed together to form walls. Apparently single dollars pushed across the floor for a girl to show you her breasts does not add up to much money; definitely those girls make the majority of their money with the lap dances. And to get a man a lap dance it seemed that you promised to "go far" with him.

I asked my step-daughter if the older man with the white hair and the white beard was married and she said he was; further, he had two children and multiple grand children. I don't know if he was a lucky man or a bastard, he certainly knew what he liked from life and got it. He liked to have sexual relations with young girls. The feelings of the other people in his life be damned.

My husband noticed that some of the girls while they preformed looked bored - these ones he said wouldn't make much money. I had to think what it is that makes my step-daughter such a high earner. She said that in one top night she earned one thousand five hundred. I bet that this was accomplished by a lot of lap dances. She doesn't get it - being a high earner as a stripper is only a sign of how far you are willing to sexually sell yourself, left yourself be touched, and mess with the heads of the guys. Is seduction an act? Is she just a really good actress? I don't know.

The woman who owns the bar was on the microphone and she kept up a vulgar dialogue while the girls were dancing, at one time saying, "That girl (the stripper) makes me wish I was the pole she's got between her legs. I wish I had a pole. I wish I had a penis. You guys are so lucky you have penises." The way all the people who work in the club talk is like love and sex is being exchanged everywhere - but frankly, the most graphic display I saw was between the old white haired man and his girl and then two girl strippers who were putting on a show with each other. One girl stripper payed the other girl stripper to do a little dance with her, and what I saw, was the the first stripper probably loved the exhibitionism of it. I mean, she payed for it. That dance ended with kisses between the two girls.

Some of the girls who were successful in the pole dancing contest were real athletes. These were the ones who went to gymnastics as little girls, had dancing lessons, and perhaps now worked out at a gym. You couldn't tell that they had muscles, in no way did they look masculine, but they held themselves sometimes sideways up in the air, just their arms gripping the pole. Some would suggestively rub their crotches against the pole. You realized that they were successfully defying gravity when suddenly they let go of the pole and their bodies plummeted to the ground, often ending in a split on the floor. And then, for a few moments, they would hump the floor.

Alas, my step-daughter has some muscles, but not enough as the other girls, and her transitions from one stunt to the next wasn't often smooth. After her first routine my husband turned to me and said, "she has a little way to go", but she made the first cut into the final six strippers. Probably because she had prepared a cheering section. In her second routine she slowed down her dance and her moves a little and the presentation seemed better. This contest really seemed to mean a lot to her. She told us again and again how happy she was that we were willing to drive the distance to come and see her. After she got off the stage she came immediately to me and her dad and said, "Was I sexy?" It seemed for a moment like an up-side-down world, where we, the parents, sitting in a strip club, should be the judge of such a thing. You want your children to grow up and feel sexy, you want them to feel good about themselves physically, but you do not want to be teaching the lesson so late in life under such circumstances.

But I do recall too, that when I first met her at the entrance of the club, my advice to her was, "do whatever you have to to win". It was as far as I could go to say,"go ahead and sell yourself sexually, don't mind that we are here watching, if you win it will have been worth it." I don't know if that is good step-mother advice, but idiot that I am, it was the only advice I could think of.

When we first came into the club she offered us drinks, and my husband had a beer and I had a coffee. Then she offered us a lap dance, with one of the other strippers of course. She said that they could do couple lap dances. I said that we had discussed this very thing in the car coming over, and decided, to decline. But it was another moment of pathos; what she was offering was the best form of welcome that the club had to offer. The way to get us settled in and comfortable; offer us to join the debauchery.

I'm glad I went. It really made my step-daughter glad. The pretty girls were interesting eye candy. Kind of like watching a pornography film but live. I don't watch pornography. It doesn't interest me. The pole dancing contest was a really a contest about skill and athletics and theatrical presentation; it was fascinating.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Candle Shopping

Yesterday I went candle shopping. The day before I went candle shopping while my husband was reading magazines at Border's Book Store. Tomorrow I will probably go candle shopping.

I don't always buy candles. And yesterday I returned two candles that I had bought the day before. But my kitchen table has become a thing of obsession.

I like to have a new table cloth on the kitchen table every month or two. Had dark harvest yellow with a brown acorn beaded center piece and three matching red candles for the Fall season. Had a green and red plaid with metallic gold thread table cloth for the Christmas season. That table had a potted Poinsettia plant in the center. Currently have a light green table cloth with a cream center piece and three clear crystal candle sticks, at varying heights, with faceted glass that the light bounces off of. They remind me of ice and snow, with their white wax candles, perfect for January.

As you can see the table cloth is always coordinated with some type of candle. It can be in a jar. It can be on a candle stick. It can be a tea light holder. We actually do light the candles some nights when we are having dinner. Very romantic. But when you walk into the apartment, I believe, that the first thing you notice is the kitchen table. So in my book, it has to be a thing of profound beauty.

The kitchen table is very small and compact. It can be opened up into something much larger. There are two dropped panels on either side. But for my husband and I, a small kitchen table to eat at, holding just two plates, is perfect. If we have company or need to do a craft project it is easy to prop up one or both of the side panels. Otherwise, everyone walks completely around the kitchen table if they spend any time at all in the kitchen. The kitchen table is an island in the center of the kitchen.

When my step-daughter brings her dog (and sometimes her roommate's dog too) over to visit I remove anything that might get knocked over and broken from the kitchen table. Some of my candle sticks are tall. Multiple dogs like to play, and as they play, they knock into furniture and sometimes try to go under or over it. The kitchen table really moves around a lot when there are frisky dogs in the house.

February is Valentine's Day. My husband does not know this but on Valentine's Day I will switch the table cloth to red. Just yesterday I bought a black runner to put in the middle of the table that has a cream embroidered flourish (with complicated loops and swirls) running down the whole strip of cloth. At the end of the cloth are plastic beads,- very ornate to go with the ornate flourish. It is quality, the fabric looks like stiff silk, bought at a steep discount at T.J. Maxx for $14.99. All that is missing is a single, red, pillar candle in the middle of the table. I saw one yesterday but did not buy it. So I'm going back to Pier I Imports tomorrow to buy it. If I'm fast, and beat out the other shoppers, I can buy a large, surrounding glass holder for the red pillar candle left over from Christmas that has been marked down twice to an amazing $6.99. It boggles my mind that I did not buy it immediately. But apparently ideas need to peculate for a while in my imagination. There were two left.

Part of my gift to my husband is that on Valentine's Day I will not write, I will not read or watch movies, but instead, I will clean the apartment. So when my husband comes home from work he will find the rugs vacuumed, the dishes done, the nick-knacks dusted, the bathroom shower stall scrubbed, the bedding changed, and hopefully too, fresh laundry. And on the clean kitchen counter he will see a heart shaped box of candy and a card. My husband does not read my blog so I can plan all this here and it still will be a surprise for him.

My husband tells his co-worker about my mania of having a lovely kitchen table and his co-worker is amused. The funny thing is, he knows we don't have any company. Several weeks ago my mother came by. When my husband's daughter comes by usually nice things are removed from the kitchen table and put on the counter. But we don't have any friends to visit. We are loners. So the kitchen table is a thing of beauty for our eyes only, not to impress the world.

However, should we have company, I am prepared. We are prepared for company in other ways besides decorating the kitchen table. We have many many dishes and glasses. Most of them are made out of the collectible green glass called Jadeware. Most of them have come from antique stores or ebay. If it isn't Jadeware, then we buy ceramics and glass in as near to the Jadeware color green as we can find. As much as we love Jadeware, there are several draw backs. You can't use Jadeware in the microwave. There are no drinking glasses in Jadeware, only cups and mugs. And Jadeware is expensive. Most of our Jadeware was a wedding present from my mother.

We love our Jadeware so much that we bought milky green glass pulls and knobs to put on our kitchen cabinet doors and drawers. It is contemporary glass, but it is a perfect color match to the antique Jadeware. There is such a large amount of people who collect Jadeware that some company thought people would like this accessory. And they were right.

The only thing that makes me sad about our kitchen is that we don't have a nice couch. Yes, with the tiny kitchen table, our kitchen is large enough to hold a couch. Our couch fabric got holes in it so we put a large blue blanket over the couch. There are some nice pillows on top of the blanket, but it is a poor person's couch. It is what you do to an old couch when you don't have money to buy a new couch. Which is exactly our situation. A nice new couch costs about $1,000 or more.

I would be happy to forgo a vacation to instead buy a couch but this would not be a wise thing for my husband's frame of mind. He works every day at a standard job and I don't. If I want, any day can be a vacation for me. My husband looks forward, all year long, to his vacation. It is like a carrot dangling at the end of a stick. And he wants to go someplace special on his vacation. This year we are going to my Dad's cottage in Maine. Next year we will probably go to his folk's home in Iowa. Traveling costs money, even when the place where you are going to stay overnight is free.

So when I dream, I dream of having a new couch. Its a tiny, harmless dream. I don't dream of a different husband. I don't dream of fame and glory. I don't dream of a house of my own, or a different lifestyle where I am visiting museums, seeing plays and listening to symphonies. I don't dream of owning more shoes, more jewelry or more clothing. These things I have enough of. Sometimes I dream of having a child, but I know that if I had traveled down that path, I wouldn't be an artist. I had to chose one or the other and I made my choice in my mid twenties. Now I have to live with my decision. Instead, I dream of having my hair done at a hair salon professionally once every two months and owning a new couch. All my dreams could come true if I have a book published. So I write diligently every day. I don't have much faith in my talent. I'm not going to be a superstar, not someone new and exciting, I won't make a splash on the scene. Those all were dreams of my youth. Currently I would settle for just being published.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Grey Roots

This weekend I'm dying my hair. I buy the color at the drug store and do it myself to save money. I try to go for as long as possible without dying my hair in order to preserve its health. The ammonia and other noxious chemicals they put in the hair dye can make the hair brittle and dry. My hair is long, so its state of health isn't hidden, its obvious to the viewer. I've seen older women with long hair that they dye themselves that looks horrible. I feverishly hope, (here you can see how wide my streak of vanity is) that I don't look like some of the women I see sitting in the psychiatric health center I use.

I got my first gray hairs back in 1990 when I was hospitalized in a psychiatric institution for two years. I was only twenty. Know that old story about the mental shock that turned the man's hair white? Well, I suppose that living in that hospital, and weathering the onset of a mental illness, turned a couple of my hairs white. Stress can make you prematurely gray, this I know is true. President Obama, after a year in office, apparently has more gray hairs. There was an internet article about it. Some of those hairs might be old age, but I am certain that trying to lead a country out of a depression (I'm not going to sweet it over and call it a recession) while it is at war in two countries, and develop national health care, has given him stress related gray hairs.

Dying my hair is a complicated affair. First of all, during the winter, I can only do it on the weekend. This is because during the week we only heat our bedroom, but on the weekend we turn up the heat for the whole apartment. On week days outside the bedroom the apartment has a little propane heating, but the setting is low, only enough so that the cats stay alive and the pipes don't freeze. Usually the bathroom is very cold. And it is in the bathroom where I sit, naked, with the chemical dye in my hair for approximately 25 minutes. It has to be the bathroom because I don't want the dye to ruin anything in the apartment. Every room in the apartment is covered with Oriental rugs. (I know one woman who collects teddy bears, another woman who collects light houses, but I have collected, over the years, Oriental rugs.) Inexplicably, I have noticed that once I got brown hair dye on the white bathroom wall. I know I get dye on my shoulders and forehead. So I do not underestimate that it is a messy process.

Once, a women told me that she puts her hair, wet with hair dye, in a plastic bag, knots it shut, and then walks around the house. This is a sensible habit. And perhaps a necessary habit for her because she has three children, two of which are young. But I can endure the discomfort of sitting in the bathroom naked. I usually pass the time reading a book.

I don't mind that a little bit of my natural brown hair, streaked gently with gray, should show at the roots. This is part of my punk sensibilities. I used to be punk when I was in my twenties. Punk says "Who cares if you show some artificiality?" Punk says "Don't let the pressures of conventional society mold your behavior." Punk says, "This is who I am so fuck off."

The dye I use is the same color every time. And it is one shade lighter than my natural color. So that is why my roots are dark. I like the lighter shade because when the sun shines on it there are glints of red and gold. If I had my hair professionally colored they would put in it unmistakable streaks, whole long locks, of blond or red. I am slightly saddened that I cannot afford my hair to be professionally colored. A women in my peer support mental health group that meets Wednesday night has long hair - she is post menopausal, and treats herself with a professional dye job. She has glorious, sophisticated hair that appears to be worthy of a girl many decades younger. She told me last visit the price was $108. I believe this was before a tip.

I dream that if I publish a book I will treat myself every other month with a professional hair dye job.

Realistically I could go for another month without dying my hair. But I have an event to go to next Thursday. It will be in a place where I hope to look as young as possible. I will be going to a strip club.

I've never been to a strip club and I have to admit I am glad of the opportunity. I prefer not to go to my grave and never have been to a strip club. My curiosity is unchecked. My husband's daughter specifically invited us. She will participate in a pole dancing contest, with a thousand dollar prize. She has been practicing complicated moves. She will have a costume on that will cover her breasts. We would not go if her breasts were uncovered. Still, after she competes, we have to immediately leave because then her real job begins. She will change into a thong and she will pole dance and give lap dances mostly naked.

I believe that what my step-daughter is doing is about two steps up from prostitution. She teases her customers with sexual fantasies, and enhances the sexual fantasies by very sexual behavior. She flaunts her practically naked body and manipulates men's minds with flirtatious conversation in order to get as much money as she can out of them. I used to wonder, would it be better for this girl, after she had just lost her high paying job, to go into the army or become a stripper? She had only a couple of college courses to her credit and two years experience as a customer representative at an internet company. The economy was in a depression and nobody was hiring. When my husband was young, inexperienced, and at a cross roads in his life he joined the air force. The discipline was really good for him, he traveled widely, and he got training that lead to a job with a police force when he became a civilian again. Oh, he disliked it while he was serving, but now older and wiser, he looks back and says that he made enormous gains of character while he was in the military.

I know, with my personality, that I would join the military rather than be a stripper. However, my step-daughter has a different type of personality. She can handle the emotional strain of sexually selling herself. She dances three nights a week and goes to college full time. When we saw her last she had just signed on for another semester of school and told us that she wants to get her Master's Degree in computer science, and eventually, start her own business. There is nothing stopping her from making these dreams a reality. Unless, perhaps, she accidentally becomes pregnant. She makes more money stripping, three nights a week, than my husband does working a 50 hour week in manufacturing. His daughter is apparently a very good stripper and out earns the other girls. She drinks a lot of coffee for energy while she dances, drinks "fake" drinks that are really just fruit juice with no alcohol that the patrons buy her trying to get her drunk, and has told us that it is no use making friends with the other strippers, most of who are alcoholics and drug addicts and prostitutes. The owners of the strip club are really happy with her and she is secure and proud that she is making them, and herself, a lot of money. All the other jobs she has ever had she complained about. She complained they were unfair at the grocery store. She complained that they were making her work too hard at the internet company. We hear no complaints about stripping. She has the job figured out. Probably she is a very, very smart girl.

As far as I'm concerned my husband and I are going to see his daughter in a play. She's an actress. And I really hope she wins the big prize. Her boyfriend has not committed whether or not he will come to the contest. He thinks it is enormously wrong that her father is coming into her work place to see her perform. Well, I know perhaps a little more about this family. My husband used to walk around his house in the nude. He used to sunbath in the back yard nude. When his kids got old enough he dropped the habit. But he and his daughter are related, they have the same genes, they have some of the same emotional make up. They both are very sexual, sensual beings with very little (at least compared to me) sense of shame. If his daughter can succeed in her job, how much of a stretch is it that her father would not support her in her job?

I call the love that my husband has for his daughter "Jesus love". I don't know much about Jesus, but what I do know is that he seemed to have a bottomless pit full of love and compassion when it came to the people around him, the good and the bad, the holy and the sinners alike. My husband has a bottomless pit of love for his daughter. She could be a murderer and he would forgive her and visit her often at prison. She literally, can do no wrong. Oh, he calls her a diamond in the rough too. He says that she has some sharp edges that times needs to wear away. He isn't naive. But I think, when it comes to his daughter, there are two forms of judgment. There is the quick judgment, a surface judgment, and then beneath this an ocean of pride and acceptance.

I don't think that I will dress sexually at the strip club. I'll try to look nice, obviously I'm dying my hair for the occasion. But I don't want the men looking at me, I want them to focus on the strippers. I'm debating wearing a pair of black heels or my beloved blue canvas converse sneakers. I don't know if I'll wear some big gold earring, and flash some bling, when in real life I prefer to wear the little diamond stud earrings that my sister gave me. I may curl my hair and make it big and fluffy. I could wear the clingy wrap around dress with fish net stockings that I wore one Christmas, or I could wear my favorite pair of jeans with a gray sweater. I think that the environment will be so scary, and such a new experience, that I will opt for comfort over all else. Probably I'll get to the strip club and just hope to be invisible.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


It is Sunday, and churches in Haiti are holding services. I have just returned from my church in Vermont. I opened my wallet and all that was in there was a single dollar bill. This is what was left after we bought groceries this week, put money away for dog food, got my husband a haircut, washed the car, and put money in the pledge envelope. We were encouraged to give to a church relief fund above and beyond our pledge money. I took a plain envelope and wrote on it "Haiti" and put my one dollar in it.

I read this in an article on line;

At the cathedral, the Rev. Toussaint described his own near-miraculous survival.

"I watched the destruction of the cathedral from this window," he said, pointing to a window in what remains of the archdiocese office. "I am not dead because God has a plan for me."

"What happens is a sign from God, saying that we must recognize his power - we need to reinvent ourselves,"

Others, however, were angry.

"It's a catastrophe and it is God who has put this upon us," said Jean-Andre Noel, 39-year-old computer technician "Those who live in Haiti need everything. We need food, we need drink, we need medicine. We need help."

I don't know where God was in the earthquake. I do not believe that God punished the Haitians. I do believe that all the deaths from the earthquake, falling ceilings and falling walls of concrete, were innocent deaths. God kills the innocent and the good alike. He kills through cancer, he kills through earthquakes, he kills through automobile accidents. He killed off a portion of my brain through a brain disease. I certainly did not get a mental illness because I was a bad person. I do believe that the mental illness challenged me, and perhaps, I have learned from it. I have learned from being powerless and in pain. The survivors of the earthquake are now all learning through their struggle to stay alive. Their courage is tested. Their ability to do good or evil is tested. Their faith is tested. My mental illness tests me every day. I believe in a God that challenges and tests. And yes, I suppose, I worship a God who has the capacity to cause great suffering.

This does not mean that I believe in a God who does not love or have compassion. I believe that God gives his companionship through all tests and challenges, and that this companionship brings healing. I feel loved by God. I feel that in his eyes I am special, even though in the eyes of society I am weak and ill. I am one of the meek who Jesus had special words for.

Sometimes, when I am feeling blessed, having a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator and people who love me, sometimes I get scared that it will all be taken away from me. If you believe in a God, like I do, then you feel that your life is somewhat being carried or being guided. I suppose that the priest who lived, and thus feels that his life was spared for a greater purpose, definitely has faith in his God. Not faith because he lived. He doesn't believe in God because God spared him. He believes in God because he believes that a greater power is shaping his life. He knows very well, in his gut, that he could have easily been killed. But he attributes the fact that he lives not to luck, but to God's choice. God makes some choices, like the deaths of children, that are almost unfathomable to the parents of those children. Yet all life must come to an end. It is just that some endings are bitterly too soon for those who stay behind and survive. For those who die, their end may have been decided before their birth. I certainly believe that my illness was genetic, and decided, coded in my DNA, before my birth.

I feel that it is God's choice that I have my blessings, but I know, in my gut, that it could be God's choice to take my blessings away and test me a little more. I dearly hope, that should I be tested, I will be worthy and graceful. I could get a physical disease. My house could burn down. My husband could die. If God were to take my blessings away I would probably cry a great deal. I might take prescription drugs that would lift me up and numb me. Currently I am probably already taking prescription drugs that are lifting me up and numbing me. My anti-depressants and anti-anxiety and anti-psychotics. I am such a fragile creature that psychiatric medicine is trying to keep me alive. The drugs enter my life as good people would. As good people are like angels walking this earth, so the psychiatric drugs are like angels ministering to the suffering.

If a void entered my life I might turn to prescribed, psychiatric drugs, or, I might pray a little more. I could foresee that if the degree of suffering increased, so would the fervor of my prayer. I would pray until my ego was obliterated and all that remained was the mental ground upon which God makes his presence known. If I suffered more, I would die more, so that the God in me could better live. I do foresee in my life more tests, more challenges. Old age brings infirmities. Nothing remains the same forever.

Already, this last year, one route of my survival was threatened. My anti-depressant Prozac lost its effectiveness. And this led directly to two things. One was to my joining a church. The other was to find a therapist. I had gone about three years without a therapist. Didn't need one. Had gone for about 6 years without going to church. Didn't need a church. But when the anti-depressant failed, and nothing as good medically could be found, I reached out - to God and to my fellow human being. While the Prozac was failing I became very suicidal. Now, I sometimes feel despair, but I am relatively free of suicidal fantasies.

I doubt people who have survived the earthquake in Haiti will be killing themselves. They may die from thirst, hunger, and exposure, but they are trying their best to survive. Maybe some will be so grief stricken and traumatized that they will take their own life. I hope the help agencies that are raising money get aid to the nation to rebuild. I hope the UN can do something. I hope the people of Haiti continue to cooperate with one another, in brotherhood, and that the place does not descend into lawlessness. For those that live, I have a prayer, that may seem like a strange prayer. I hope that they feel as the priest does, that their life was spared for a purpose. That they are the agents of goodness and change. For those that live, I hope that they can value their lives and not give in to despair. If they must suffer, and they will suffer more, I hope that this does not make them turn away from life and God. God does not reward the good and punish the evil in obvious, self-evident ways. He is almost, but not quite,beyond our ability to understand.

Those that hate God do not understand God. God is not human. He is life, but he is also something which is beyond life and exists in the realm of death. There is the life that our senses observe; taste, touch, hear, see, smell - all in time that flows from past to future, all in a pattern that is comprehensible. But there is a curtain that separates the logical phenomena that we observe from something that is beyond logic, beyond rational, that is supernatural. Oh, I believe that the supernatural is real. I've had too many close encounters with it. I've heard stories from people who have had close encounters with it. And there are famous prophets from history whose consciousness expanded and touched the supernatural. Buddha was one, Christ was another. To me these people were not crazy, they were instead super sane. They felt God so keenly that they transcended their own humanness. They moved away from being human when they moved toward God.

If death has any meaning it is to love one another better, and closer, and with more passion. The meaning of the death in Haiti is not that God has turned his back on humanity, or that he is vindictive and punitive. Death in Haiti is not proof that God does not exist. Death and suffering is never proof that God does not exist. Those that think this way are merely hurt and angry. I've been there. I've been full of hurt and anger and outrage against God. It is merely a place to rest, a temporary attitude on a much longer path of evolving consciousness. I should know, I had my mind taken away from me. This is not quite as drastic as having your life taken away from you but it is close. Almost every day my mind fails me and I fall into symptoms of mental illness. I have reason to hate God. But I don't. And I am coming to believe, that the more I love God, the better I am able to weather the mental illness. I'm not crazy in love with God, my feelings are mixed and tepid, but there is a direction, slowly, I'm being pushed along toward.

I have a feeling that when I'm a little old lady, probably frail and alone, me and God will be friends at last.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Recovery Prognosis

I recently read a short New York Times article about an artist living in New York City who has paranoid schizophrenia. He's been homeless. He's attempted suicide. He hears voices. The article ends in this way;

But Mr. Smith, who continues to receive counseling from FEGS, understands the future he faces.

“You have to come to the realization that this is the way you’re going to be for the rest of your life,” he said. “I never met one schizophrenic go back to their regular life. It doesn’t exist. That person is dead. This is a new person in there. I will never again be the person that I was.”

His voice grew softer. “That’s the sad reality that I live in,” he said, looking away. The voice became a whisper.

“That’s the way it is.”

One doctor predicted to my family that I would make a full recovery. I don't know if this was when they gave me the diagnosis of "depressive with psychotic traits" or after they changed the diagnosis to "schizoaffective". This is like going from mild to serious. The doctor who told my family the optimistic forecast liked me a lot. Did he think "she's got guts, she'll tough it out?" Idiot. As if my drive, my motivation, my character could compete with a brain disease. Many days the brain disease wins.

Yesterday was such a day. Consciousness simply wasn't that strong. I woke with a headache from sleeping over 12 hours. I do this if I don't set my alarm clock. My medication makes me sleep 10 to 12 hours every night, but some nights, this is physically too much and I wake with a headache. I try with my alarm clock to cut short my sleeping. Consciousness is groggy and doesn't feel good, but at least, I'm awake. Drugged consciousness is not fun or psychedelic or cool. Its horrible. To have a mind but to be unable to use it fully. Its like having a penis that is impotent. Its like having a car that will only drive 20 miles an hour. Its like having a pet dog that always growls at you. Its like visiting friends knowing that your hair is oily and your face is covered with pimples.

Let me make myself clear. I love the power of the mind. I love books that have been written and art that has been painted by people with glorious minds. I think that the power of the mind is the most fascinating, enchanting, sparkling power in the universe. Sometimes I feel I have it. Sometimes I don't. And when I don't, I mourn. Oh, how sad I am when I am symptomatic. Sad and angry.

Yesterday I woke but I woke from sleeping too long and I couldn't attain clear consciousness. I think maybe I did too much the day before. I had a good day Friday, was proud of what I wrote. Had fun visiting my therapist. Had fun going grocery shopping with my husband. Watched a movie and then watched old episodes of "The Office". The show made me laugh. I suppose that in many ways on Friday I did not rest, I did not pace myself - I just flat out lived. Used my mind up living. Normal people don't use their mind up living. They simply get tired. Me, if I use my mind up living I get symptomatic.

Yesterday I "coped" with my altered and abnormal consciousness by eating chocolate and other foods. I sedated myself with food. Bad strategy. I'm supposed to be on a diet. But large amounts of food takes the strain off the brain. Excess food floods your brain with feel good chemicals. I've never seen a paper written about coping with a schizophrenic illness by eating too much. I've seen research that drugs for schizophrenia will cause out-of-control hunger and craving for poorly nutritious foods. But what about the schizophrenic that uses eating as a drug? Bulimics use eating as a drug. Some morbidly obese people must use eating as a drug.

Went to see a movie in the movie theaters "Sherlock Holmes" - the new movie with Robert Downey Jr. directed by Guy Ritchie. Kept on closing my eyes near the end of the movie. Was I bored because of the movie or was I symptomatic? Don't know.

Came home and tried to read. Kept putting the book down and closing my eyes. Reading Jane Austen, "Sense and Sensibility". Not her best book. Written in an old english style of prose, what I suppose most people would find boring. Was I bored? I don't know. I know that I had trouble concentrating. Nearly finished with the book, so I guess my tolerance for boring old literature is high. Sleep found me early, before my evening medication hit.

The day only had one bright spot, wrote several pages of rough draft for my book. I suppose the only real moments during the day that I had clear, clean consciousness. It was a character study. What did the character of Sue Gerber look like, talk like, act like. Will continue over the next several days doing character studies. This is all leading up to a scene in the book where there is group therapy going on in a psychiatric ward in a hospital. Writing group therapy is a bit like writing a party scene - many people taking turns talking. I want to know about each patient in group therapy. I'm curious about their looks, their diagnosis, their peculiarities and their back story. It helps to have these details before I put them together in a room and have them interact. Must not forget the nurse and the social worker. The "sane" people in the group who steer the conversation.

Oh yes, speaking of sane people. Talked to my paranoid schizophrenic friend R. yesterday. She doesn't think that sane people exist. She thinks that all people are in emotional pain and they are desperately trying to hide it. Most people, in her opinion, are wearing masks, pretending to be happy and sane. I told her that I have met sane people. That most people are sane. She didn't believe me. For some reason she likes believing that all people are flawed and mentally in pain. It seems to be one step away from describing a world view where most people are mentally ill yet somehow superior to her in hiding it. She is like a fish in a fish bowl that thinks the whole universe exists of other fish. She can't think outside her water. The water of a paranoid schizophrenic.

To back up her assumption that most people aren't sane she gave me several examples from television. For instance, the model whose boyfriend threw a cup of acid at her face. After much reconstructive surgery the woman is happy, looks like her old self when she smiles, and is a model of recovery for us all. But, the television investigative journalism tells us, there were dark days when the model thought of suicide. Happily therapy helped her through this. My friend's conclusion - therapy has to be widely used. There is an urgent need for it because so many people are in pain. My skeptical question - how many beautiful people have acid thrown in their face? My friend is getting her reality from television and the Evangelical church she attends. Something about a steady diet of television and talk of the devil will make people believe that suffering is the common condition. And of course, being paranoid schizophrenic and hearing voices telling her that people want to beat her up and that she is a whore, makes, perhaps, suffering the common condition of her life.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Old Jeans

I read this news headline and I had to smile;

Women think fitting into old jeans is better than sex or a promotion

Under my bed, in a plastic container that moves on wheels, is a pair of old jeans. They are the pair of jeans I loved to wear before I gained weight on the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa. They are the jeans I felt sexy in. They had magic - when I wore them I felt like I blended in with the rest of the human race. I really felt less mentally ill when I wore these jeans.

This New Year I had a resolution. I saw what I was able to accomplish last year. Last year I started dieting the day after Christmas and then lost over 12 months 3 pants sizes. This seems to be the reasonable rate of success. I really can't do it quicker. I have a slow metabolism because of age and medication and lifestyle. The drugs really do make me hungrier, especially after I take them at night. If I don't fall asleep then at midnight I'm craving like crazy a piece of bread with cheese on it or yogurt with granola in it. Sometimes I save a hard boiled egg - low calorie and high in protein - as an answer to the inevitable cravings after I have taken my medication. A late night apple works as well.

The jeans that are under my bed are two sizes too small. That's o.k. I figure if I'm good I can be wearing them by summer. I write down everything I eat every day in a diary. I also write down type of exercise and its duration. What I would like is for my legs and heart to get strong enough so that I can jog on the treadmill. I want to sweat. When I was wearing my favorite jeans I was running five miles most days.

I had a boyfriend to go running with then, in the old days. I have to say, it is an inspiration to know that the Obamas, every morning at the White House, go running in the early morning hours before breakfast. They must use a treadmill. If they can do it, I can do it. But I'm going to settle for jogging three miles. That's all. From my perspective where I'm at right now, that's a lot.

When I met my husband I was jogging two miles. On a treadmill. And then, after a jog, I would put on some music and dance. Use my whole body - arms flying. Express myself physically, heart and soul. It was good. It extended the sweating process. It all happened in a basement where no one could see or hear me. The music could be loud and I was uninhibited.

Now our basement is mostly dirt, rocks and some concrete, but certainly not suited for inhabitation. I have my art room to use. It has three windows that look out onto the street. Well, I don't think anyone will be looking in. And when its dark, I'll dance in the dark, seeing where I am by the light of the street lamps shining dimly through the windows.

Dancing makes me feel so young. I used to go to clubs when I was in my early twenties. Now I would feel to heavy to dance in public. Isn't that sad? I'm so envious of celebrities that go dancing in clubs like Madonna. But she has said in public that she works very hard at keeping a fit body. I don't have Madonna's motivation. Literally, when I'm sick with schizoaffective symptoms I don't have much motivation to do anything. And one of my symptoms is catatonia. That is like, the impossibility of moving your body. Sometimes I feel it mildly. Yesterday I was very social and after talking and listening to people for several hours I felt catatonia mildly. Also felt like I wanted to cry for no reason at all. I was overwhelmed. I knew I had several hours to go before bedtime but I couldn't go on the treadmill, I was having problems moving. Low motivation. No energy in my body.

So last night I told my husband "About the only movie I can stand is an old black and white movie with James Stewart in it". Nothing with violence and action. We decided to watch the movie, "The Shop Around the Corner" staring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan,- what the modern movie "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan was based on. Now I've got both versions, the old and the new, in my movie library. Recently we bought both old and new versions of "Cape Fear". The first had Robert Michum in it playing the bad guy, the new version has Robert De Nero in the same role. And of course, in step with the philosophy of my husband, we have in our library the book the movies were based on, "Cape Fear" written by the superb John D. MacDonald.

The only reason we have "Cape Fear" in our library, even though it is a gem of a book, is because a movie was made out of it. On principle my husband does not like the book "Cape Fear" because its married hero had an affair with another woman, making him, in my husband's vocabulary, an "ambiguous character". My husband does not like heroes who are anything less than totally heroic. If they have character flaws such as infidelity or drunkenness he won't stand reading the book.

Recently he walked out of a movie and waited for me in the lobby. The movie was in the beginning, so he had to twiddle his thumbs for a long time. It was the romantic comedy "The Proposal" starring Sandra Bullock. The plot is about a bitchy New York City publishing executive, Bullock, who stops herself from being deported back to Canada by getting engaged to her male assistant. The fact that the assistant has always been poorly treated and hates her does not stop her, she promises him a big boost in his career in exchange for the marriage that will give her an American passport.

In the scene that sent my husband running, Bullock was wearing high heals and awkwardly pulling a pile of luggage over a stone paved area. Her assistant walked on in front of her, offering her no help. At this point in the movie there is no romance, he can barely tolerate her. But my husband was incensed that the man not help the woman with her luggage, to make her suffer when he could have helped was intolerable. This male character flaw, of not being gallant, made the movie impossible for him to watch. So in a mild fury, he walked out.

I suppose I should mention that my husband sometimes runs ahead of me so that he can get to my side of the car first. Then he opens the car door for me. It makes him sad when I walk quicker than him and open the door myself. Personally I like opening my car door myself. I guess I'm an independent woman. But my husband has said that it embarrasses him in public when he is so obviously trying to open the door for me and I ignore his efforts. So when I can remember, I hold back my instincts and let him do the small thing that he feels, so deeply, is his duty to do.

His favorite spot for opening the car door for me is in our driveway. Our driveway is narrow and there is a tree next to the passenger side of the door. I really have to submit to a complicated ballet. First I go around the tree to the car door and wait. Then he (on the other side of the tree) opens the car door. You wouldn't think that it takes work to be a lady, but it does. It would be so much easier for me to open the door myself. But he looks so sad when I do this, I can picture his face when he is poised and waiting, on the other side of the tree.

My husband's list of gallant acts;

making the bed at night just before we get into it
doing the dishes
cooking me dinner
buying me chocolate when I am sad
going to a Christian church with me every Sunday even though he is Wiccan
giving me bites of his dinner when what he is eating tastes better than what I am eating
giving me his whole dessert so I can have two
letting me buy things for myself on his gift certificates
buying thick, expensive wrapping paper if he has a gift for me
asking my permission before he spends money
making me tea (with milk in a separate creamer to add after the tea leaves have seeped)
riding his bicycle in freezing weather to work so that I can have the car during the day
tickling my back while he is reading a book
letting me decide where we will go on his vacation
taking the dog out to poop when I am just as able
telling me he loves me, just as I am, no matter what weight I'm at
holding my hand in the grocery store parking lot
putting his arm around my shoulders when my eyes leak tears at Church
letting me decide each night what movie we shall watch or if we shall read books
promising me that we shall bankrupt ourselves if I want plastic surgery
never complaining that I leave a heap of clothing out on my dresser
always believing that fresh flowers on the kitchen table make a house a home
giving me a full body rub when I feel suicidal
tears sometimes in his eyes when he says he loves me
telling me I'm brilliant when I fear I shall never get published
transporting all spiders from indoors to outdoors
changing the cat litter when its really my job to do it
listening to music with headphones so that I'm not disturbed
stopping after one beer when we eat out even when I tell him there is money for two beers
kissing me before he goes to work even though I am deep asleep when he does it
never pushing sex on me when I'm not in the mood
addressing all his cards and letters with the term "beloved"
emailing me any funny jokes or video he finds on the internet
swearing that my beautiful, beautiful sister is "not his type"
telling me that if I die he shall become a drunk and vagabond

and of course,
opening the car door whenever he manages to reach it first

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meeting People

I had to go to a stranger's house yesterday. I had a packet of information to give to her. I'm helping the church create a picture directory of all its members for 2010. The directions from the photography company are very confusing (to me) and require digitally manipulating photographs using a computer program that I don't have.

I've had this information now for about three weeks and have been frozen. Probably frozen with fear. The minister gave me two member's phone numbers; one member was new, like me, inducted in in the same ceremony, and the other member was a long time church member. I knew I needed to call these people but I had real fear about calling strangers. Even nice strangers, as I knew they would be.

Finally I wrote an email to the minister confessing my difficulties phone calling, and thus having never shared the responsibility for the pictorial directory. I wrote that I would call that evening and send her an email the next day describing the phone conversations. I gave myself someone to be accountable to. A minister is a pretty big person to be accountable to.

The new member was easy to talk to. The long time member was more difficult. The woman had enormous energy and I felt myself wilting on the phone. My ego, my boundaries, my sense of self were all being pounded by someone who happened to shine very brightly in the energy department. Let me make this clear; she was a nice person and she was saying interesting things, personal things, about a vacation in the Caribbean that she was taking soon. But I am weak. This is probably why I spend so much time in isolation. I can't tolerate strong emotions for very long. It isn't the emotional content, I'm good with happy or sad, but the projecting of emotions by another is something that causes me to shrink back. The schizoaffective illness can't handle it. This isn't something that comes naturally to my personality. I had no difficulty handling expressive people before the onset of my illness. Before the onset of my illness I couldn't imagine the idea of people causing me to step back and send me running. I was always bold myself.

I went to the new member's house yesterday. Was nervous going someplace I'd never been. When I got there A. asked me if I would like a cup of tea. I said yes.

Saying yes to a cup of tea means that you are going to take off your coat and stay a while. I could have just dropped off the packet of material for the pictorial directory and run. But I didn't. I did the more difficult thing; trying to connect with another human being.

I had no anxiety in her apartment. A. lived in special town housing for the low income person. It was obvious that she took pride in her surroundings. First thing I noted, and commented on, were the fake ivy and flowers that she had decorated with. They added color, femininity, and festivity. And they said that she noticed the little things, and took pride in the little things. The apartment was clean but because it was small, everything was tightly packed together. I liked how she had hung lace curtains at the end of her bed to separate the sleeping place from the rest of the living room.

While I was waiting for my tea to cool A. gave me a portfolio of her photographs. Many of the photographs were of her grandchildren and some were of beautiful places, local to Vermont. I could tell that she was looking, while she drove, for beautiful places. A photographer's eye apparently is always on the roam for new material. Several of the photographs were taken outside during conditions of fog - very beautiful black branches in front of white, lit fog. A gleam of sunlight pierces a portion of the photograph like a sudden epiphany of thought.

I suggested that she have a show at a local library that displays art. But I warned her it could be costly; you have to pay for all the frames and matting. The photographs naturally could not go bare on the walls. One of the reasons I do not do works on paper anymore is that it is too much work and expense for me to frame them.

Talking to another artist about their art is easy for me to do. You pick up on the details of their work and simply show admiration where admiration is due. You look closely. A creative mind always has some way in which it reveals itself and shines.

Describing my life to A. proved a little more difficult. I didn't want to say "I've got a mental illness." Instead I said that I was on disability, but that what little money I got mostly went to pay for my medication. I said that my husband supported the both of us, so we had a simple life. Then I said that I was writing a book. I said it was fiction but that some of it comes from the experiences of my life. I said that my main character was now in a hospital attending group therapy. I said that I was stuck - the thing to do was to invent some interesting patients for her to be in group therapy with. And then I proceeded to describe a manic-depressive character who won't take his medication. I got animated, I know. When I got home I sat down and wrote a six page rough draft of the group therapy. So I guess I also got inspired. Probably A. now knows I've been to group therapy, maybe even guessed I'd been in the hospital. That's o.k. She told me personal things about her life too. She might have gotten a little inspired talking as well. Inspiration to an artist is a personal, private thing, but over a cup of tea, inspiration in talking about one's life is probably a group phenomena. You feel free in equal amounts; each person takes risks when they sense that taking risks is safe. At some point the meeting of strangers moves into feeling safe. I believe this is what happened.

I mentioned to my mother my difficulty in calling strangers and said that it was a symptom of my illness. My mother disagreed. She said that I've been sheltered because of my illness. Not that my family has been over protective but that I've withdrawn a great deal from the world. I did say, in a recent conversation with my husband, that I felt like a nun. He looked at me like I was crazy. But what I meant was that I've withdrawn from the world, very little outside the confines of my apartment engages me. And I have to have it this way in order to maintain sanity. So my mother believed that calling strangers was simply foreign to me - if you don't have practice doing something it is difficult. I still think that interpersonal relationships are harder because of the illness. The only argument against this is that when I really get to know a person, like my husband, like my family, like certain members of the church or peer mental support group - I can socialize easily. I need familiarity and a history with the person before I am comfortable.

My mother says that there are many shy people who would have a difficult time making phone calls. She is determined, I can tell, to find answers that are different from a psychiatric diagnosis or symptom. She wants to see me in terms of health instead of illness. She wants to see me simply as part of a wide variety of different types of people.

Hurrah for mother's love.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Irenaeus, 2nd Century Bishop

It amazes me that so early in the formation of a religion, someone wrote this. Christ has only been gone one hundred years. And yet someone understood, keenly, the type of God that Jesus had told others about. It is a loving God. It is a personal God, one who keeps close to your side and has intimate relations with you.

"It is not you who shapes God,
it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the work of God,
await the hand of the artist
Who does all things in due season.
Offer God your heart,
soft and tractable,
And keep the form
in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
Lest your grow hard
and lose the imprint of God's fingers."

-Irenaeus, Second Century Bishop

My therapist said that when I use the words like "should have" and "could have" and "would have" to describe the life I might have if I were not mentally ill then my clay grows hard.

I'm less afraid of what God might do to me than the violence that I am capable of doing against myself. I am my worst enemy. Nobody hates me like I hate myself. Nobody rejects me like I reject myself. My therapist can't envision a loving God, I suppose he's heard too many horror stories but I think in my heart I can envision a loving God. The term my therapist likes to use is a "challenging" God. I think God loves, and then he weeps. Maybe I've got my religion wrong. Maybe God never weeps. Maybe it is only the soul of Christ that can weep, him having been a man himself. I'm still learning a lot about religion. I wish I had started learning younger.

The funny thing about modern society, and this quote, is that Freud would have said that we make God in our own images, that he is a merely a projection of our unconscious mind. Then you have someone like Marx who said that "religion is the opiate of the masses". So much of modern human thought has God being invented by humans. God being shaped by humans, not the other way round. But I like the idea of an outside force shaping me. Partly this is because I trust that the shaping is in the direction of a better, more improved form.

Last Sunday the whole Congregation was offered to pick a paper star out of a basket. The stars were on colored construction paper and they all had one word printed on them. The stars were arranged in the baskets face down, so when you picked your star you did not know what word you would get printed on them. The minister said that we weren't prophesying. But she challenged us to reflect upon the word that we chose, and to let it guide us during the coming year. I whispered to my husband, a Wiccan and practitioner of Tarot, that this was the same as reading tarot. He agreed.

I picked the word "humor". My husband picked the word "motivation". Funny thing is, if our words had been reversed, they would have been inappropriate as challenges. My husband is largely humorous, telling jokes, smiling and laughing. He does not need more humor in his life. And I, on the other hand, am certainly motivated, tightly wound, trying to do the utmost with what little skill I have been granted in this life. I am always planning, and worrying about the future. If humor should come into my life, how it would ease my mind! What a relief it would offer me, and how it would balance me! While on the other hand, while my husband is not lazy, neither is he particularly motivated. He has a long "to do" list that rarely gets done. I have to prod him. But in a more fundamental sense, he is content to just ease through life. The word motivation was a mild horror to him I think. At least, it gave him pause. In our relationship I provide all the provocation, and most of the motivation. We each got a star that pulled us in a new and surprising direction. We both pinned our stars to the kitchen refrigerator with magnets.

I am at a lost as how to bring more humor into my life. Read funny books? Try to think of one humorous incident a day? Yesterday it would have been the mess I made on the kitchen counter. I poured water into the coffee making machine and it spilled. Then I spread crumbly cheese on crackers. The cheese and the water sat on the counter for the whole day before I got the gumption to take a paper towel and wipe the mess clean. I guess my mess was funny. What was funny too was that I had planned to eat something low calorie for dinner (written here in my blog) and my husband on his way home stopped at the grocery store and bought me a chocolate fudge sundae! And not one, but two! And he saved from work half a meat grinder! Now I could not resist. I ate nothing nutritious. I ate it all. I failed my diet. And I suppose that this is either sad or funny. Can I see such a failing as funny? I don't know. Female weakness when it comes to chocolate and food with much flavor.

My husband is not my co-conspirator in my diet. I have to hit him over the head to get him to try and help me. He likes to make me happy, and he thinks sweet food will delight me. Which it does, until the guilt settles in the next day. And oh, that sweater I bought yesterday with the pink and red stripes? He thinks "it will look a little better once I've lost some weight" which darn well means I'm not going to wear it in public until I've lost some weight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Walked downtown. Haircut at 4pm with Kaylin. Stopped at the pharmacy and got my three month supply of Geodone. Then into hair salon.

Kaylin was serious. Glasses and hair braided around the crown of her head, pulled in back with high, short ponytail. No stray hair to impede her view. Skin the color of coffee with a lot of cream in it. I kept on saying to her, "shorter bangs, shorter bangs, out of my eyes." Apparently for $6 you can stop in and have just the bangs trimmed. Honestly, will probably do it myself. But oh, how great my hair looked after she put styling gel in it and then carefully blow dried it. The blow drier had a huge head attachment on it, to diffuse the air, and she would take a long piece of my hair, twirl it, and then twirl it again against the diffuser. My hair ended up full and wavy. She showed me the different ways I could style my bangs. I tried to explain that I shower before bed, put something in it to avoid frizzies, fall asleep with wet hair (this makes a wet pillow) and then wake with dry hair. That is how far I go to style my hair.

When I got outside it was gently snowing and dark. Went a couple of shops down the street to a second hand store. Felt fabulous darling. It is an upscale second hand store, meaning, they steam all their second hand clothing and sell it with new clothing mixed in. Bought two suit jackets to wear with jeans and two sweaters. Both sweaters hugged my curves. Came home and worried about having curves. Maybe the curves are too big? One sweater was pink and red striped and made out of Shetland wool. Got that one for $16.50. The other sweater was see through yellow and striped with glistening silver. Got the yellow sweater for $10, seeing as perhaps it came from H&M. Have to wear it with a silk underlining. I like wearing underlinings, they add layers of warmth in the winter. The yellow sweater was so thin that it looked good under both jackets. One jacket was Banana Republic, the other designer Kitkit. Neither jacket can button well, my bosom is too big. So I don't wear them buttoned shut. But I kinda like the feeling of being buttoned shut. Being buttoned shut is being neat and presentable. It is like tucking your shirt into your pants. It is like pulling a knee sock all the way up to the knee. Its like buckling your belt on the perfect notch. If I lose weight my shoulders will be too small but the bosom will be smaller and I can button the jackets shut.

Kaylin and I talked and I told her I was writing a book. She didn't blink when I said that I had started it ten years ago, but was then unable to finish it. She didn't seem to care either when I had no answer what the book was about. Do I say life and death? To say it was a book about mental illness seemed to reflect on me, and out of hiding perhaps comes the fact that I have a mental illness. I simply did not want my hair cutter to know that I had a mental illness. And it just sounds bad, to be writing a book about mental illness. What a downer. If I was so delicate, as to not be able to say what the book was about, you can bet I never for a second considered telling Kaylin that the book was about suicide.

I was perhaps helpful to Kaylin. There is something of our conversation that she may remember. She has a 13 week old german shepherd that has the runs. I explained how my german shepherd can only eat Eukanuba dry food, expensive food that you buy in a pet supply store. Anything cheaper and she gets the runs. Kaylin said that they had taken the dog to the vet and the vet explained that it was allergic to corn and something else. Kaylin knew where the pet supply store was in Keen New Hampshire where I get my dog food. Told her my dog is 8 years old and very healthy - due I'm certain to a life long diet of quality Eukanuba. It was what the police dog trainers fed their german shepherds too.

I warned Kaylin that I had been on the verge of cutting my hair myself. Of course she seemed politely horrified, and said, that if I had done that, I probably would have wound up in the salon anyway after. This is when I said that when I was her age I had shaved my head. More polite horror.

I came home and had weight watcher's for dinner. Worried about those curves being too big. Frozen weight watcher's meals are low in calories. Might have an apple later, before bed.

Really want to drop two more sizes. Maybe three more sizes. Gluttony last night. Half a spinach calzone, a pint of Ben and Jerry's chocolate ice cream, and a square of chocolate cake. Pre-Menstral-Syndrom. Once a month I have an out-of-control appetite. But tomorrow I'll be back in control.

Want to do a You Tube video when I have lost the weight. I am certain there can be something said about a schizoaffective disorder that hasn't been said yet on You Tube.

Worried about my book being indescribable in polite company. Was really stuck this morning on writing it. Got to a scene where the patient was with her doctor. The doctor was recommending an anti-psychotic and she was refusing it. The doctor said that she was thus a risk for suicide and couldn't be released from the hospital. But the patient knows it is just a waiting game. The insurance money will run out, she can deny many times that she will suicide again, saying it was all a big mistake she made. She knows better now.

What does she really think? Probably that she won't do it again. Does she have any insight? Not much. Living moment to moment. Maybe need an incident to show this type of apathy.

If I'm really stumped on how to continue my book I have to break out the paper and pen and write rough drafts. Am thinking this is the way to proceed right now.

Emily's Advice

This poem is a simple poem, but I take its advice seriously. It was written by Emily Dickinson.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---

I've memorized the poem to recite it to my therapist during our next meeting. In our last meeting I explained to him that there are times when I don't tell the truth about symptoms of my illness to others. To the therapist I'm clear, but to acquaintances, especially people who don't have a mental illness, I'm circumspect.

When I joined the church I was in a class with several other members. We were asked to explain our spiritual journey and what had brought us to want to join the church. My reason was simple. I had switched anti-depressants and the new anti-depressants could not fully help me to survive. I was suicidal a lot. I came to the church looking for meaning in life and a way to cling to life. I had noticed that as long as I attended every Sunday, I stayed well and did not have many suicidal fantasies. Church was a silent bullet - I got hit, but I don't know where and I don't know how. All I understand is that I cannot hold a belief in God in my head and be suicidal at the same time. God will win. This was the truth as I experienced it. Yet to the potential members who were listening; a lawyer, his wife, and a school teacher, I changed the problem of being suicidal to a problem with depression. I said that it was depression that lifted when I went to church. I told the truth but I told it "slant" and in "circuit" (as Emily suggests) because I didn't want to scare the people with the severity of my crisis. I didn't want to tell them that I considered church a life or death matter. I didn't want them to know that I was that fragile, or that very different from them. I perceived, that letting them believe that we had more in common than in difference would be soothing to them. I told my story with their comfort in mind. People don't mind someone who confesses depression, but someone who confesses suicide is cause for alarm.