The Consumer Culture Lacks Compassion

I heard a voice earlier today after I woke up and started making breakfast. I had been thinking about my memoir, and how I want to publish it within the next year or so. Last August when I started my blog, the voices objected and threatened me for writing about them. They also objected strongly to my memoir. This morning the voice said, “Whatever money you make from your memoir, we’re going to siphon out of your bank account!” I’ve occasionally wondered about what types of events and/or people to include in my memoir, and what ones to leave out. I want to be as honest as possible, and convey what I’ve been through to the best of my ability. My goal isn’t to become a millionaire by publishing my memoir. I am more concerned about writing well, and sharing my experience with others.

I dismissed the threat, and started reading an article in my June Living Buddhism. The article is a dialogue between SGI President Ikeda and the Harvard Divinity Research Professor, Harvey G. Cox taken from the book The Persistence of Religion: Comparative Perspectives on Modern Spirituality. In this article, Ikeda and Cox discuss the market economy and the role of religion. They state that our culture has become a “consumer” culture dominated by advertising and material desires. The problem with a consumer culture is that it kills spirituality. Cox states, “The consumer culture trivializes and destroys values such as simplicity and compassion that traditional religions uphold. The market does not reward compassion. It doesn’t even know about compassion…Many of modern humanity’s desires are not real needs. In their pursuit of profit, market controllers always have to stimulate false appetites.”  This statement is very true, the only problem is that most people never realize it. I want to earn a good living writing, but I’m not out to become filthy rich. I don’t need 3 cars, a television in every room, and a million useless gadgets that I’ll never use. I’d love to simply be able to talk comfortably with strangers, go swimming once and awhile, and enjoy life with my husband.

Cheers!

Courage to Leave the Voices Behind

Yesterday I told John that I didn’t want to spend $60 a week on private therapy anymore.  I told him I didn’t think it was worth it. My last therapy session I felt like the hour was dragging on slowly and I didn’t have much to talk about. Partly it’s because I’ve improved so much since I started private therapy last September. Every week I went, I had some new pressing issue to discuss with my therapist. Now, I don’t hear voices as much, and when I do hear them, I am almost able to ignore them completely. This is a tremendous improvement over last year and the year before when I was listening to the voices, having conversations with them in my head, and treating them as if they were real people. Now, the voices are nothing to me.

John & I went to a Buddhist meeting last night at the Buddhist center in Santa Clara. Once a month we have a World Peace Prayer meeting where people share experiences and we listen to guidance from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. Yesterday I was researching information about Buddhism on the Soka Gakkai International website (www.sgi.org) and found a great quote by President Ikeda. The quote reads:

Cowardice is harmful, for it delights the enemies of Buddhism and obstructs the advance of kosen-rufu (world peace). The fainthearted cannot savor the true benefit of faith; their ability to tap the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law [of the Gohonzon] in their lives is enfeebled.

I really like this quote because when it comes to talking to other people (even just in small social settings or with family), I am always terribly shy and often afraid to engage in conversation. I am easily intimidated by strangers, and I’m always worried about what other people might think of me. I have trouble thinking of something to say, and as a result, I often don’t say anything at all. In this sense, I need to have courage. I need to have courage in order to be able to talk to other people, make new friends, and share my experiences with others (aside from posting to my blog). I also enjoy talking to other people about Buddhism, but my own fear prevents me from sharing Buddhism with others. Even in public places like Target or the grocery store, I see other people shopping, but they seem like they’re living in a different “normal” world. I, on the other hand, often feel like I’ve been living in my own little “crazy” world surrounded by the voices. I need the courage to break out of the crazy voice-world, and leave it behind forever.

 

Swimming Hole

 

New Interviews About My Schizoaffective Disorder

Yesterday I received an interview request from a medical website called CureTalk. I’m not sure when my interview will be published on their website, but I will receive the questions next week. I’m excited about being interviewed for this website. I’ve also read a few other interviews on their website, including an interview about a man who also has schizoaffective disorder. His interview is very interesting, and I really enjoyed reading about his own experiences dealing with and managing his illness. It gives me additional insight into how I manage my illness. His interview is also very encouraging, and I recommend reading what he’s said. I’ve posted a link to the CureTalk website on my blog for those who are interested. This website is also a great resource for medical information as well, particularly cancer. Happy reading!

I’m also very excited about another interview I have coming up in July. I will be interviewed by Wendy McCance on her blog Searching For the Happiness. I’ve also included a link to her blog on this website. I recently learned about Wendy’s blog through her posts on LinkedIn’s Women’s Memoirs group. She has a great blog, and also offers her own unique experiences that she shares with others. My interview will be posted on her blog on Friday, July 13th. Please check out her website at www.searchingforthehappiness.wordpress.com. I feel that the more I am able to share my experiences with others, the more I can encourage other people and offer a greater understanding of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and what it’s like for people who suffer from these types of illnesses. There is hope!

 

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.