I’m definitely making progress! I really feel like I am improving little by little in all areas of my life. I keep making an effort to get away from my old habits of shutting myself off from people and remaining silent. I force myself to talk to other people even if I don’t necessarily want to, and after every conversation, I am always glad that I talked to that person, even if just for a few minutes. To this date, I’ve never regretted initiating a conversation! It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I usually have to take a minute or two to work up the nerve, but after the conversation gets going, I’ve found that I’m able to keep it going. Sometimes the other person does most of the talking, but occasionally, I am the one that has the most to say. I always try to make a point of practicing my social skills – at the grocery store, at the gym, at my Buddhist meetings, on the phone with my family, with my husband, and with my friends. Eventually I’ll become an expert!
I still hear the ‘voices’ trailing after me, sometimes whispering, sometimes yelling. I still chant to defeat these devilish functions in my life so that they will leave. I believe there is a reason they are still here although I’m not sure exactly what the reason is. This is how it works sometimes in Buddhism. Nothing is coincidence and everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know at the time what the reason is. These ‘voices’, these horrific people traipsing around after me seem stuck in some sort of demented, insane rut that they are either incapable or unwilling to get themselves out of. There isn’t any logical or rational explanation. I’ve been driving myself crazy since 2002 trying to figure it out – to no avail.
My decision has been to look at this experience from a Buddhist perspective. From the perspective of faith, there is value and there is meaning in something that might never be truly understood. This is another reason why I chose to write about my experience as a memoir. My memoir will be something meaningful that came about as a consequence of this incredible experience. In this manner, my memoir will be a source of inspiration and encouragement for others.
It was a bright, sunny afternoon when I decided to accompany my sister-in-law to one of the local NAMI In Our Own Voice presentations at the self-help center near where we lived. I was impressed by the courage of the two women who spoke. They shared the ups and downs of their lifelong struggle with mental illness. I couldn’t even begin to imagine myself standing up in front of a small group of people and sharing what I had been through with a diagnosis of depression and schizophrenia. Now, almost two years later, I am sharing my struggle with my mental health and the incredible experience I’ve had over the past twelve years.
I read Susan Berk’s story in the Summer 2013 issue of NAMI Voice. She writes: No one could experience or see, or hear, what I was seeing, hearing, and feeling. This is exactly how I felt. How could I possibly help other people, especially those closest to me, understand what I went through? Everything I felt – the sorrow, the fear, the indecision, the turmoil, and the constant struggle with the disbelief I had in my own diagnosis – I wasn’t able to share this with anyone. This is often how I still feel – that no one knows or truly understands my experience. How could anyone else be capable of understanding my story if I don’t do the best I can to share what happened? I believe that now is the best time to share my life with other people. All I have are my memories, but my memory still serves me well. After one suicide attempt, three hospitalizations, a diagnosis of schizophrenia, numerous psychiatrist visits, countless therapy sessions, and a broad array of useless medications, I’ve finally concluded that my experience lies less in the feared and stigmatized arena of the mentally ill, and more in the ray of sunlight streaming in through the living room window.
I built a silver lining when all around me were black skies and ominous clouds. I built the silver lining big and strong so I could take my life back from the evil that had stolen it from me. I lived in fear until I decided that was no way to live. Now I refuse to be afraid. I’ve turned the black skies blue and the dark, ominous clouds white and fluffy. My silver lining is no longer merely a thin, shimmery mirage – it now encompasses the entire sky and fills my life with happiness.
Needless to say, it took incredible effort and I didn’t accomplish this on my own, even though I often felt helpless, alone and afraid. My wonderful husband and loving family were always by my side to support me. My Buddhist teachings and my fellow Buddhists provided me with life changing encouragement and the iron will to never give up on myself. I am determined to do everything in my power to encourage other people struggling with their own fears, terrors, sorrows, and turmoil. Never, ever give up.
Finally! I’ve published my Kindle “mini” ebook, The Voices Never Stopped on Amazon. Please feel free to download the Kindle ebook for $1.99 or preview a sample chapter for free. Kindle has a free app available to use on other devices if you don’t have a Kindle reader. The Voices Never Stopped is an introduction to my full-length memoir Never Give Up: Buddhism, Family & Schizoaffective Disorder that I plan to finish over the next six months. This four-chapter ebook covers my introduction to Buddhism as a 17 year-old high school student, my experience with depression in college, and the early beginnings of the delusion, fear and paranoia that ultimately led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia in my early 30’s. The complete memoir tells the story of how I gained the courage to challenge my personal weaknesses and fight for justice against the ultimate evil in my life – the mafia disguised as symptoms of schizophrenia.
Nearly two years ago in August 2011, I created this blog to chronicle my daily experiences dealing with the symptoms of the mental illness I had been diagnosed with in 2002 – schizoaffective disorder. This diagnosis was based on the symptoms I described to psychiatrists: hearing disembodied voices (auditory hallucinations), paranoia, believing that I was being persecuted by the mafia, and followed around from one place to another. While never entirely convinced that the symptoms I experienced – frequently on a daily basis – were symptoms of a mental illness, I maintained in my daily writings that the “voices” I heard were not real.
“The Voices Never Stopped” describes the circumstances during the time I first started to hear “voices” in my head. In reality, I never believed that the “voices” were merely symptoms of schizophrenia. Instead, I believed (and still believe) that a form of communication which has never been scientifically proven – telepathy – was what allowed me to hear the “voices” of my enemies in my head, and which also allowed my enemies to “hear” my thoughts. These extraordinary and utterly bizarre set of circumstances, combined with the demented insanity of the mafia and everyone else involved created a horrific set of circumstances for me, my husband and my immediate family. Ultimately, the situation devolved into chaos for the people and the surrounding communities who were forced to become involved. It is my desire that my completed memoir will be a source of hope, inspiration and encouragement for all women, and that it will bring a small measure of truth to a nightmare filled with lies.
Thanks for reading,
Jennifer L Myers
I took Savannah for a slightly longer than usual walk today. She wanted to walk off the beaten path and onto the Yahoo! campus next to the bay trail. She was so stubborn that I finally gave in and let her lead the way across the brown wooden bridge into the Yahoo! parking lot. I took quite a few pictures this morning – mostly of birds, ducks, reeds, and one turtle. It was a warm and sunny June morning. I ended up having to carry Savannah the last few yards back to the car because she refused to walk. She stood in one spot staring at the wheat-colored grasses and listening to the squirrels chattering. I met a Russian man in the parking lot and struck up a conversation with him about Buddhism. Yesterday I made a determination to start sharing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with other people. Especially strangers. The Russian was a very polite and kind man. He turned out to be a physicist and wasn’t particularly religious. Maybe physics was his religion. We had a great conversation about physics, energy, chanting, enlightenment and the universe. He said his goal was to leave me feeling happier. What a great goal! Thank you Russian physicist!
Yesterday I finished revising and editing Chapter 3 of my memoir. It seems like so much has happened over the past few weeks. I feel that everything is moving at a faster pace. I’m trying to get in better shape to play soccer over the summer, and John and I are going to my family reunion in August in Michigan. Meanwhile, I continue to fight the “devilish functions*” in my life. As SGI President Ikeda states:
Everything depends on our minds and our hearts. The ultimate conclusion of Nichiren Buddhism is summed up in the words: “It is the heart that is important.” Buddhism is primarily concerned with victory and defeat. It is a struggle between enlightenment and ignorance. ‘Kosen-rufu’ is a battle between the Buddha and devilish functions. The heart is what decides our victory or defeat in all things. Spiritual victors can lead lives undefeated by anything.The secret to adorning our lives with brilliant victory is the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra.”
– Learning from the Writings: The Hope-Filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. World Tribune Press (2009). SGI-USA
*Devilish functions try to divide people and rob them of their power to stand up and do what they know is right. Those whose lives are ruled by devilish functions envy the good and enjoy seeing them persecuted. They are intent on destroying others’ goodness and integrity. “Buddha” is another name for one who conquers devilish functions.
– Living Buddhism. June 2013. Vol 17 No. 6 p 25. SGI-USA
When I view the voices as “devilish functions”, I have the conviction that I will definitely overcome their evil and ultimately rid my life of them. I can’t allow myself even the slightest bit of doubt. As I encouraged another young woman, sometimes you just have to make that leap of faith. For me, it’s really about challenging myself and my own weaknesses. In addition to the incredible fear, stress, anxiety, trauma and paranoia the voices have caused me all these years, in determining to fight them, I am also bringing forth courage I never knew I had. I told the Russian physicist earlier today that one of my biggest challenges in life is to talk to other people. Initiating conversation, having a dialogue and interacting with others is something I never learned how to do. By challenging my weaknesses I am fighting the devilish functions in my life. While fighting the devilish functions in my life, I am challenging my weaknesses. Terrific!
I took Savannah for a walk earlier this morning along the bay and saw a few men with binoculars and cameras walking along the same path we usually walk. One of the men tried to give Savannah a treat, but she didn’t eat it. She growled a little and we turned around and walked the other way. I started thinking about the conversation I had with John last week in therapy. We were arguing about the symptoms I experience that resemble those of someone suffering from schizophrenia. I explained in our therapy session that I didn’t believe my symptoms were due to schizophrenia. I’ve always believed that the voices I heard were real people. This didn’t make sense to John or my therapist. From their perspective, I am in denial of my illness. From my perspective, however, I am not really suffering from an illness, but rather something that is very similar. Hard to explain. I told John that we were arguing needlessly. He is never going to convince me that my symptoms are due to schizophrenia, and I am never going to convince him that they aren’t. So we agreed to disagree.
Our conversation reminded me of a letter I wrote to SGI President Ikeda last November. I started writing President Ikeda monthly starting in 2010 when I really started to become fearful of the “devilish functions” that had been pursuing me for so many years. I decided that since I couldn’t tell anyone what I believed was happening (without them trying to convince me it was a mental illness), I would write to President Ikeda and tell him. I’ve continued to write almost every month since that time. Last November I re-read some of the letters I had written to him, and I realized that I had been mostly very afraid and mostly venting my anger. Yet I never actually explained what I thought had happened – in other words – I never described how this extraordinarily chaotic situation came about. After all, it isn’t as if there is some logical or rational explanation that explains everything, but there are definitely a few things that occurred that are mostly plausible reasons for why things are the way they are. It’s definitely a long story, which is why I am writing it in the form of a memoir. Here is the text of the letter I wrote to SGI President Ikeda last November:
Dear President Ikeda, I am writing again to explain why I believe the mafia came after me in 2002. I don’t believe that I actually have schizoaffective disorder. I believe that the voices I hear are real people in my environment. From 1999-2000 I worked as an intern at the International Environment & Development Group (IEDG) in Washington, DC. I became suspicious of my supervisor’s activities. I noticed a few of the places that he had visited while I was working with him, and looked at where he was travelling on business, presumably to attend meetings with government officials or other non-profit organizations that may have also been interested in establishing a bioprospecting program in their country. I looked up a few of my supervisor’s travel locations on a world map, and saw that all the places he had visited were in some way related to the development of nuclear weapons, nuclear technology, or biological weapons production. He traveled to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico during the time a Chinese man was questioned for stealing computer hard drives. His next project with IEDG was located at a former bioweapons facility in Russia. He had applied for a $10 million grant for this project from the U.S. Department of Energy, although I don’t believe he ever received the money. I was very concerned and decided to submit an anonymous, online tip to a White House website that doesn’t exist anymore. I described IEDG, who I was working for, where my supervisor was travelling, and what I suspected he was doing.
No one from the White House ever contacted me, but two years later (in 2002), my supervisor and his mafia friends tracked me to Oxnard, California where I was renting a room from a young couple who lived there. Ever since that time, the mafia, the girl who had rented me the room (and her “new” boyfriend) have been harassing me, following me around from place to place, yelling at me, threatening me and my husband and my family, and my friends. In 2010 I wrote to the Sunnyvale Police Department, I emailed the San Francisco FBI office (twice), and I spoke to one person from the FBI on the phone (who told me there was nothing they could do because they didn’t deal with “harassment”). I am aware that something is being done to address this issue, although I have no idea exactly what. I (we) are still living under the pretense that I have schizoaffective disorder, and that the voices I hear are just symptoms of this illness, when in fact this isn’t the reality. Unfortunately, I myself have no proof (pictures, emails, phone calls, names, addresses, etc…) that these people exist. They have intentionally hid from me all these years. The mafia (nor my former roommate, her “replacement”, or her boyfriend) have ever confronted me in person or made themselves known to me in any way except by screaming, yelling and the occasional whispering, mocking and harassment in my head. I have never met them. I don’t know who they are or where they came from other than the former roommate who seems to have left last February. This is why it has been so difficult. I hope this helps explain things better. Thank you President Ikeda! Sincerely, Jennifer Myers.
I was getting so angry and frustrated that after our therapy session last week I told John that I didn’t want to have the conversation about illness vs. non-illness again. I also said in last week’s session that treating this as symptoms of a mental illness is like giving someone cancer treatment when they have a broken arm. The real problem isn’t being addressed. Needless to say I continue to make every effort. I have also decided to refer to the “voices” with the Buddhist term “devilish functions,” because in reality, this is exactly what they are.