Exciting news!! CureTalk will host Dr. Kamran Fallahpour on the first Cure Panel Talk Show on Mental Health on Tuesday, May 14th from 4-5pm PST. Dr. Fallahpour is a Clinical Psychologist and the director of the Brain Resource Center in New York. The topic will be “The Latest Treatments Under Research for Mental Health Disorders.” I have the honor of co-hosting the panel, and there will be three additional panelists including Erica Loberg, author of Inside the Insane. Callers may be given the opportunity to ask the panel questions on mental health disorders live on the show. To register, please visit the CureTalk website or RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The show will be available afterward on BlogTalkRadio for those who were not able to listen in. For more information, please click on the CureTalk link below.
I have been starting to think of a new subtitle for my memoir. I like the “Never Give Up” part, but the rest I have received feedback about that has caused me to rethink the “Buddhism, Family & Schizoaffective Disorder” part. For me, these 3 components are the most crucial aspects of my memoir. My Buddhist practice, my family & husband, and my schizoaffective disorder diagnosis have been at the core of my experiences over the past 11+ years. At the Pitch-O-Rama in San Francisco, however, one woman suggested that I start the subtitle with “How I Overcame…”, rather than using the subtitle I have currently. She said that she wasn’t able to easily understand how Buddhism, my family and schizoaffective disorder were connected just by reading the title, whereas to me it seems obvious. Still, it isn’t easy to encapsulate my experience in just one or two words. The editor’s feedback started me thinking about how I might be able to do this, and come up with a subtitle that has more meaning, or at least a clearer meaning to a potential reader. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to drop me a line!
Overall, I’ve overcome many challenges since I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2002. I was hospitalized twice, once in 2002 and once in 2011. I received my teaching credential from San Jose State, I was a substitute teacher, tutor and 3rd grade teacher, and I met my husband and was married in 2008. My husband and I have a strong marriage, and we look forward to many more happy years together. I’ve also made new friends, and settled in with my new Buddhist group since John and I moved into our new house a little over one year ago. While the majority of my problems have resulted from my symptoms of schizoaffective disorder – the incessant yelling, mocking, harassing, insulting, and threatening voices – I have continued to focus on improving all areas of my life. In order to be able to function in my daily life, I’ve had to make a constant effort to break out of my shell, strengthen my Buddhist practice, attend therapy consistently, and work hard at my marriage. I’ve also had to reconcile some issues in my past. I’ve had to let go of my original dream of working in the field of international environment & development, and stop wondering why I never found my dream job in Washington, DC. I’ve had to stop trying to figure out what really happened the last night I spent in Oxnard – the night the “voices” started. Most importantly, I’ve learned to have more confidence in myself. I’ve learned to have confidence in my own decisions, in my own likes & dislikes, in my own judgement, my own choices, and my own writing. Confidence was the area where I was always lacking, where I needed the most improvement. Now, I am learning how to live with confidence rather than fear.
I received some very exciting news this week from CureTalk’s Scientific Media Editor Priya Menon! I have been invited to participate on the panel (and possibly co-host) CureTalk’s first Mental Health Panel Discussion on May 14th! The panel discussion will feature Dr. Kamran Fallahpour from the Brain Resource Center, and the discussion subject will be “Latest Treatments under Research for Mental Health Disorders.”
I was so excited when I received the email from Priya inviting me to co-host and participate on their mental health discussion panel. Priya also asked me if I knew anyone else who might be interested in participating as a panelist. I reached out to a few women I have either connected with or read about over the years who have also experienced various forms of mental illness. I am hoping that some of them will be able to participate as well. This is very exciting for me because I have never participated in any type of panel discussion on mental health before. This will be my first experience openly discussing mental health issues with other people in a public format.
The format of the show involves Dr. Kamran Fallahpour in conversation with three/four panelists. There will be a listeners section where listeners can ask questions live on the show. The show will last one hour and will be broadcast live on BlogTalkRadio. The broadcast will be recorded and will be made available to embed on websites. When Priya gets back to me next week, I will post the call-in information on my blog. I hope you’ll join me!
Amidst the difficulties I’ve encountered dealing with the voices, along with the daily challenges of living and breathing and moving forward from one day to the next, one week to the next, and one year to the next, I am always reminded of how important it is to live with a sense of appreciation rather than complaint. It isn’t always easy to live each day with a sense of appreciation, gratitude and joy, especially when times are hard. It’s easier to live a life of complaint, always picking out the flaws in others, and wondering why our lives turned out the way they did. Instead, if I learn to appreciate others as well as myself, I am much happier.
My favorite Buddhist story I read about every May during our annual SGI contribution month. The story goes like this:
During the Buddha’s lifetime, there lived an old woman of profound faith. She longed to offer something precious to the Buddha but was too poor to do so. One day, the old woman encountered a long procession of carts carrying an abundance of flax oil through the streets of Magadha. The oil, she learned, was a donation to the Buddha from King Ajatashatru. Deeply moved, the old woman cut her hair and sold it. With her meager earnings, she bought just enough oil to light a lamp for half a night. Still, she thought, if the Buddha recognizes my faith and feels compassion for me, then the lamp will burn throughout the night. Sure enough, as strong winds swept down from Mount Sumeru, all the lamps were extinguished, except for the flame of the lamp fed by her oil. The following morning, when people tried to blow the flame out, it glowed all the more brightly, as if to illuminate the world.
The Buddha reproached his disciples for trying to extinguish her lamp, explaining that in previous existences she had made offerings to 13 million Buddhas. He then prophesized that she would become a Buddha called Lamp Light Sumeru. In contrast, Ajatashatru, who was filled with arrogance, did not receive a prophecy of enlightenment from the Buddha.
This parable of “The Poor Woman’s Lamp” underscores the value of sincerity that arises from repaying one’s debt of gratitude. In the end, the old woman’s lamp was far more valuable than the thousands of barrels of lamp oil offered by the ruler of the country, because it was an offering given with her entire being.
President Ikeda states, “Neglecting gratitude is a reflection of a life controlled by innate negativity” (World Tribune April 5th, 2013). For me, I remind myself of the wonderful things I have in my life. I have a loving and caring husband, I have a warm, supportive family, I have my Buddhist practice and my fellow Buddhist friends, I live in a beautiful house in a terrific climate in the most beautiful part of the country. Obviously, there are parts of my life that I need to improve and there are things in my past that I wish hadn’t taken place. However, I can’t go back in time to change anything. There is no “what if”. That only leaves me one choice – to live in the present with an eye toward the future. I have much to appreciate in life, and little reason to complain. It is just as Nichiren Daishonin states, “winter always turns into spring.”