Music Can Change the World

I went to my monthly Buddhist discussion meeting on Tuesday night and we watched, listened to, and sang along with an incredible, amazing, soulful, and wonderfully unique music video from a movement called Playing For Change. There are numerous performances available to watch on the website, but we saw the One Love video featuring musicians from around the world playing and singing Bob Marley’s classic hit, One Love. The video features performances from over 15 musicians and musical groups representing countries such as Spain, Italy, Congo, South Africa, India, Zimbabwe, Israel, Nepal, and the United States. The Playing For Change website also has videos of performances from many more countries around the world. The creators of this musical movement believe that music has the power to bring people together. With so much driving us apart these days, music has the ability to unite people from different countries, different religions, and different races. I believe as Playing For Change believes: that music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.

I received an email last week from a Canadian film director who is making a documentary about the life of a Canadian hip hop artist who suffers from schizophrenia. The director Jonathan Balazs, explores both the life and music of Khari “Conspiracy” Stewart. ‘A decade ago, rapper Khari “Conspiracy” Stewart was diagnosed with a psychological disorder, but he has rejected the label and is pursuing a spiritual path.’ The movie website is called Mars Project. I find Stewart’s approach fascinating, perhaps even similar to my own, although I have never rejected my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. I do feel that I am using my illness to deepen my own Buddhist faith, and discovering a deeper meaning in my experiences by looking at them from a Buddhist perspective. I do not see my illness as nothing more than a diagnosis, but rather something that I experience and learn from, as well as share with others on the road to recovery. I have also described the Mars Project movie on my latest CureTalk blog post, Are the Mentally Ill Dangerous?

Avoiding Social Isolation

I had my therapy appointment yesterday, and it went really well. I talked to my therapist about my struggle with “social isolation”, and said that I really wanted to get out of the house more and interact with other people. That was partly why I went to play indoor soccer last week, for fun, but also to meet new people. I was thinking of working part-time again, but it might be too stressful, so I’m thinking of looking into tutoring or volunteering near where we live. I am starting to feel somewhat isolated, although I am making progress on my memoir.

I’ve gotten some good feedback on the first chapter, and I have a better idea of the types of things I need to work on to flesh out my memoir. I need to create well-developed scenes with description and dialogue, so that the reader has a better idea of where I was, what I was doing, and what I was going through at the time. John and I talked last night too. I was getting discouraged with my writing, and also the fact that we have less spending money than we did before we bought our house. I guess that’s to be expected. I’ve also been thinking about how to describe my fear, paranoia, and schizophrenia so that John and other people will have a better understanding of what it’s like to live like that. I’m sure that it must be very difficult to imagine living with real paranoia when your own mind functions perfectly fine. I explained that to my therapist yesterday too. I told her about the movie “The Game” with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. This movie is a very good depiction of what life is like for someone with paranoid schizophrenia, although this isn’t what the movie is really about. John and I watched this movie last December when we were visiting my parents in Colorado. It’s also a very good movie even if you don’t have any interest in schizophrenia.

I will be writing another guest blog post for CureTalk next week, and I’ve decided to write about a Canadian film director who is focusing on race and mental health. He wrote me an email about his work, and I think what he’s doing is really great. There are a wide variety of aspects to how people and institutions address mental illness and mental health.

Never Give Up

I decided to request my medical records from my first two hospitalizations. I received my records from Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday, and John and I spent some time reading what my records said. I was hospitalized at Mass General in November, 2000 and released the day after Thanksgiving. I remember quite a bit about what happened during that time, but my discharge summary and my psychiatrist’s notes gave me a little more insight into what was going on in my mind and in my life at that time. I am working on incorporating this first hospitalization into my memoir, along with the events prior to this time, and of course long after. Looking back, I can clearly see that I am a very different person than I was 12 years ago. I am in a completely different state of mind, I’m stable, and so much healthier! It seems as if this hospitalization happened a lifetime ago, not just a mere 12 years in the past. In many ways, it was a lifetime ago, although I’m still me, and I’m still living my own life in the present.

I’m glad that I am able to share my experiences, both in my blog and in my memoir. That way, my past experience has more meaning and more value. I don’t want to keep my past to myself, as mere memories rattling around in my head. If I can share my story with others, than I can provide understanding, encouragement, and hope to people who are struggling, either with mental illness, or with any other type of difficulty. Just think, “If she can do it, so can I!” Never give up.

Jen

A New, Better State of Mind

I sprained my ankle playing indoor soccer a few days ago, so I’ve been trying to keep my foot elevated and iced. I had so much fun playing though, it was worth it! John and I are going to look for an outdoor, co-ed soccer team so we can both play (and not injure ourselves on artificial turf)!

I heard some faint murmurings of voices today. Not much, and not enough to bother me, but just enough to know that they are still there. I’m doing very well with distracting myself and keeping my thoughts positive and otherwise occupied. I’m chanting an hour a day, keeping up with the house cleaning, and working on the puppy training. Even going to play indoor soccer for an hour on Tuesday was fun, and although I was the only girl (woman) there, I didn’t even care! I found that I was in half-way decent shape too! Now that I think about it, I’m surprised I didn’t decide to play soccer months or even years ago. Maybe I was too caught up in the voices. Yesterday I was working on my memoir. I was writing about the first time the mafia voices threatened me in our old apartment shortly after we moved in. Looking back, I realize how much I’ve improved since that time. I don’t hear threats like that anymore, and even if I do, I ignore it, don’t believe it, and move on. I’m so thankful that I’m not in that state of mind anymore. It’s such an amazing improvement and a huge relief.

I also read an article on a new clinical trial for people suffering from schizophrenia. I wrote about it for my 2nd guest blog post for CureTalk. Please take a look, it’s a very interesting clinical trial by a San Francisco-based company called Brain Plasticity, Inc. Click here to read the article on CureTalk.

Thanks for reading!

Jen

Exercise & Gardening As Therapy

I’m back! I didn’t post to my blog last week because my niece was visiting me from the East Coast. We had so much fun last week while she was here. I took her to the beach in Santa Cruz, we went hiking and took a tour of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. We also went to the SJ Earthquakes/LA Galaxy soccer game on Saturday night at Stanford Stadium, and it was great! The fans were really loud and noisy, but the Earthquakes won! Hooray!

I’m doing better and better at managing the voices. I haven’t been hearing many voices recently, and I continue to keep my thoughts focused on other aspects of my life. I try to stay in the present, and not dwell on the past. I’ve noticed that I still feel some worry, fear and occasional concern about my safety or John’s safety, but for the most part, this fear has been alleviated. John and I are still working on getting back in shape, and I’ve also noticed that exercising really helps as it gives me something to direct my energy into. So does gardening. Instead of getting angry at the voices or other people, I take it out on the weeds and the plants that I don’t like. I rip the ugly flowers out by the root and toss them aside disparagingly, not caring if I’m weeding properly. It’s very therapeutic!

I’m still working on my memoir. I received a rejection letter from an agent in New York that I had contacted recently. I haven’t finished the manuscript yet, but I’m aiming for October. Wish me luck!

Jellyfish

Jellyfish