The Value of an Education

On Saturday, John and I made homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for our niece’s graduation party. She earned her bachelor’s degree and is currently working on her teaching credential. Graduating from college is no easy feat. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1992, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Twice I almost dropped out, but in the end, I finished and I’m very grateful that I did. I’ve always considered my education one of my greatest accomplishments in my life, although I haven’t always felt this way. Sometimes I take my education for granted. Often, I think that my education hasn’t amounted to much because I wasn’t ever able to make a career out of what I studied in college and graduate school.

At UC Santa Cruz I majored in Environmental Studies with an emphasis on Policy & Planning. In graduate school, I focused on Urban & Environmental Policy, but specifically narrowed it down to international environmental policy. I loved this field, and I moved to Washington, DC after I graduated to find work in this area. I had a few internships, but never found a permanent job in this field. I was always disappointed in myself because of this. I thought I didn’t try hard enough, or chant enough, or didn’t communicate well enough, or write well enough. I thought there was too much competition in my field, and that I didn’t have the right skills. Whatever the reason, I spent 3 years looking for a job that I never found, and ultimately came back to California to teach.

At this point, I am rediscovering the value of my education. I learned so much about issues that seem even more relevant today than they were when I was studying them. I continue to write about environmental issues as a freelance writer. What is most important to me is my happy marriage, my Buddhist practice, and finishing my memoir. I work on my memoir every day because this is also the story of my life. I’ve been reflecting on many different parts of my life recently: my childhood, my high school years, my friend who lives in Hawaii, college life, my marriage to John, in addition to the struggles I’ve had since my diagnosis. I realize that my illness and the things that have happened over the past 10 years does not encompass my entire life. There is so much more to me than that. I will bring this out in my memoir as I continue to write.

Thanks for reading!    Jen

Social Anxiety and Fear of the Voices

John and I had a nice weekend. We drove to Los Angeles to visit his brother for 5 days. Mostly we relaxed and visited. We also celebrated his brother’s 50th birthday too! I did very well over the weekend. I was proud of myself. We had a small dinner party on Sunday for George’s 50th birthday, and I actually spent quite a bit of time talking to the other guests! I didn’t withdraw and sit silently in a corner, or retreat to my room. It was fun! John said he was proud of me too, in terms of working on my social skills.

I told my new therapist about our trip at my appointment on Wednesday. We talked about a variety of issues, and discussed different ways that I can be more active and more social with other people. I told her that I had taken Savannah to the dog park before and talked with a few people there. I also told my therapist that Savannah is more sociable than I am! She thought that was funny. Savannah is a very friendly puppy!

We also talked a little about when the voices started threatening me and my family. At first they only threatened me. Once, they told me they had put a bomb under my car. We were at our old apartment complex at the time, and I looked out the window into the parking lot but didn’t see anyone. I only heard silence. Eventually they stopped threatening me and started threatening my dad, my brothers, my niece (whom they called my “cousin”), and lastly John. She asked me if I still felt threatened and afraid and I said that I am no longer afraid of the voices, and of the things that they’ve said in the past. I’ve moved beyond that, and I continue moving forward in my life, not backward.

The Heart Is The Most Important

I’ve heard voices a little bit every once and awhile over the past week or so. I noticed that while my brother and sister-in-law were here, I didn’t hear them. Mostly what I heard was a woman’s voice mocking and imitating me, kind of like an echo. This wasn’t frightening or scary, mostly just irritating and annoying. I told John about what I heard and then just let it go. Now the voice doesn’t seem like such a big deal. John also forwarded me an article about a new anti-psychotic waiting FDA approval. It’s an injectable form of Abilify that performed very well in clinical trials. I thought I would send my psychiatrist an email and ask him if he has heard of this new type of Abilify.

Here is the link to the article:

Last night I went to my monthly Buddhist discussion meeting. It was fun! We sang the Beatles song, “With a Little Help From My Friends”, and talked about perseverance and hope. I finally decided to share a little bit of my own experience. It is always very difficult for me to speak in front of a group of people, especially when I am talking about my own life. I’m always trying to think of what to say, and I get nervous and often don’t say anything at all. This is something I really need to work on and that’s why I’m glad I shared at the discussion meeting last night. I mentioned how I have a friend that I’m encouraging to chant, and how I haven’t been working in over a year while I’m living on disability. I still feel like I have a lot to work on!

My Buddhist group was very encouraging. One woman said that what encourages her is another person’s heart, rather than the seemingly more tangible aspects of someone else’s life. I liked that. She’s right. What really matters is what’s in our hearts!


One Year Hospitalization Anniversary

I went to my first appointment with my new therapist today. The voices are starting to bother me again. I’m seriously considering trying a new medication, but I want to talk it over with my husband first. I have no idea why my brain does this, but I know it wasn’t always this way. I even remember almost to the exact date (at least the month and year) that I started hearing voices in my head. Another woman suffering from schizoaffective disorder read my last blog post and sent me an email. She was having trouble getting quality care for her illness so I wrote her back and shared my experiences with her. In many respects I’ve been very fortunate, and have always received great medical care when it has come to dealing with my illness. Many people are not so lucky. I hope she seeks out the best care possible because in the long run, it’s really worth it.

My brother and his wife are coming to visit tomorrow, so I’m excited about that. I’ve been doing small repairs around the house and some housecleaning as well. I remember this time last year, I had just been released from the Kaiser Behavioral Health Center and was staying at an adult social rehabilitation home in Hayward. After that, I went to intensive, half-day therapy sessions for two weeks. John took off one week to stay home with me, and my mom flew out for the second week to stay with me so that I wouldn’t be alone after being released from the hospital and the adult rehab home. I stopped chanting for about one month during the time I was at the hospital and in Hayward. I didn’t start chanting again until after my mom left. It took me that long to get up the nerve to start chanting again. Before that I was terrified. I realize now that I’ve made so much progress over the past year! Looking back, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come!

My Big Benefits In Life

I submitted my memoir proposal to a few more literary agencies this week. I keep writing and making notes of my ideas of what I’d like to include in my memoir. The more I write, the more I remember, and the more ideas I have of what I can add. I want to tell a great, exciting, encouraging story that gives hope to my readers. I tend to focus on the negative memories, but it’s not all negative. There are a lot of positive memories as well. I’m really focusing more on my Buddhist practice too. What I’ve learned through my practice is very important, so I will work this in also. I’m chanting and participating more in my Buddhist meetings and activities too, so this really cheers me up. My husband and I want to open up our own bookstore & coffeeshop in the future. I have this idea of serving great tasting coffee among new and used books, while my husband or some local musician plays guitar in the evenings. What fun!

I never went to the group therapy. I decided that an hour and a half is too long to spend in a group therapy session, given that I rarely participate. I called my therapy clinic that I went to before to set up an appointment with a new therapist. I’m looking forward to meeting her! Private therapy and Kaiser have really been a big benefit in my life in terms of psychiatric and medical care. My loving husband and our family have been an even bigger benefit for my mental health and emotional support. I’m very grateful for both, and for the Soka Gakkai Buddhist organization that has supported me all these years. I have so much to be thankful for! Just keeping this in mind always helps me through the difficult times. I think a lot of people never realize what they have in life – they don’t think they have anything to be thankful for.