I read some more of my book this afternoon, The Center Cannot Hold. While I was reading the voices started talking to me. They told me they wanted me to give up on my Buddhist practice because that was what started the fight between me and the Mafia. I think they mean when I was chanting last year to get rid of them [the voices]. They also said my Buddhist practice is what makes me think that I have the power to fight them. They said that if I didn’t stop chanting, they would kill my husband. I stayed on the futon reading until 5. I felt frozen. I didn’t want to get up and do my exercises. I eventually got up and sat down to chant. They kept talking to me, and telling me why I should stop chanting. I kept chanting. I sent a message to John and told him that the voices told me to stop chanting or they would kill him. He called me a few minutes later while I was still chanting. John reassured me, and said that he would be leaving work in 10 minutes. I chanted until he walked through the door.
When John came home we talked for awhile. I told him about how I didn’t want to get up off the couch, and what the voices were saying to me. He always says, “You know they aren’t real don’t you?” Of course I know that, even if sometimes I have my doubts. In the past they have told me that I don’t have schizoaffective disorder, that they are real people (i.e. the Mafia, my neighbors, former roommates, etc…), and that they can hear my thoughts. I am also able to hear them in my head, like telepathy. This morning, someone was asking why they are able to hear my thoughts. That’s another symptom of schizophrenia, the feeling that your thoughts are being broadcast into the environment.
We talked for a little longer, and then John went to take a shower. He asked me how I was feeling, if I was still nervous. I told him I was still a little nervous. I guess the fear and the worry from earlier hadn’t worn off yet. Sometimes I feel like my voices are evil, and that there’s a perpetual darkness enveloping my mind that follows me around everywhere, putting others around me in danger. I told my Kaiser therapist that the other night at our appointment. That was years ago when I thought that the Mafia was following me around, endangering anyone I was with. She reminded me of how delusional that idea was.
My ideas are still delusional. Fortunately, I am usually able to ignore them. My husband worries about me, but really I am only worried about him.
This morning I read in bed for awhile before I got up. The book I ordered, The Center Cannot Hold came in the mail yesterday, so I started reading it. It’s a very good book, and it has won a lot of literary awards. So far, I’m about half way through. It’s a memoir written by Elyn Saks, a professor diagnosed with schizophrenia. I had a hard time putting the book down, both yesterday afternoon, and this morning. I highly recommend it!
I got up and chanted for almost 45 minutes. I heard someone say Why would you put your husband at risk like that? It sounded like the voice was coming from across the parking lot. Then someone else said, What if we kill her husband? The other voice responded, I guess that resolves it. I kept chanting. The voices are trying to get me to stop chanting again. They are also trying to get me to leave our apartment. So far I haven’t agreed to anything.
Yesterday I cleaned most of the kitchen with some smelly, toxic 409. Today, I am going to get things ready to take to Gilroy tonight. More clothes, and a few more boxes. Monday is Halloween. I might go trick-or-treating with my niece and her kids if we stay in Gilroy. Otherwise, we’ll come back to Sunnyvale, keep cleaning, and get ready for our trip to DC to visit my brother. We’re going to a 49ers-Redskins game, a tour of the White House, a visit to the National Archives, and the usual museum/memorial tours. Fun!
I chanted for an hour this morning. While I was chanting the voices were telling me not to chant, or to put a time limit on how much I chant. Then they said I couldn’t write in my blog about them, or collect state disability. Someone else said they (the voices) were working very hard at coming to an agreement. After that, I stopped listening. I found an encouraging quote in my Daily Encouragement book. It reads “Whether we regard difficulties in life as misfortunes or whether we view them as good fortune depends entirely on how much we have forged our inner determination. It all depends on our attitude or inner state of life. With a dauntless spirit, we can lead a cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable life. We can develop a ‘self’ of such fortitude that we can look forward to life’s trial and tribulations with a sense of profound elation and joy: “Come on obstacles! I’ve been expecting you! This is the chance that I’ve been waiting for!” Buddhism teaches that obstacles are our opportunity to change our lives for the better. Although I admit that it is not always easy to view difficulties from this perspective. Many people don’t. I think it takes a lot of effort and discipline, and for me, a lot of chanting. Even then, I will get discouraged. It is a constant battle.
The founder of this Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin stresses the crucial importance of the heart or mind. Daisaku Ikeda states, “It is in this inner realm of life that the potential resides for dramatic shifts from evil to good or from good to evil. That is why the Daishonin’s teaching of enlightenment can be viewed as a process that begins with inner change. In other words, through the power of faith, we can defeat the negative functions inside us – workings that are governed by the fundamental darkness that resides in all human hearts – and manifest the positive functions of life that are one with the Dharma nature – that is, our Buddhahood.”
We must not look outside ourselves on the path to enlightenment. This means not blaming others for our circumstances. It also means taking responsibility for our own lives and our own happiness. Our happiness cannot be dependent on something outside of us, rather it must come from within. Learning how to be happy amidst life’s difficulties is definitely a struggle. I am going to continue to chant, and not give up.
I feel better today than I did yesterday. I went to my psychiatrist appointment this morning, and we discussed my symptoms and medication. I told him I was experiencing symptoms daily, but that I didn’t want to change the medication. I am currently on the maximum dosage of Seroquel and Invega. He asked me if I would like to try Clozaril as a last resort, but it requires weekly blood draws. Since we’re going on vacation in November and December, and we’re staying in Gilroy until February, he suggested that I wait until February to decide if I want to try it. I asked him what happens if Clozaril doesn’t work. He said that if Clozaril doesn’t work, then there isn’t anything else they can do for the symptoms. I guess I’ll wait and see.
I received a very encouraging comment on my blog today! I was very happy that I could provide someone else with hope and encouragement, just by writing about my experiences. My writing doesn’t just help me, it is also a source of hope for other people. I’m happy about that. I chanted for 45 minutes this morning after I came back from my appointment. I keep chanting and reading. I’ll do some more packing today too. Slowly but surely, we’re moving out!
I had my therapy appointment yesterday. We talked mostly about the Thought Record. I told my therapist that sometimes, the voices that I hear are saying something in response to what I am thinking about at the time. She said that was an important point, and she was glad that I had brought that up. It can seem as if I am having a conversation with someone in my head. I’m thinking about something, a voice will respond to my thought, and if I respond in turn to that voice, it turns into a conversation, or in some cases, an argument. I told her I had been focusing on not responding to what I hear, and not letting what the voices say affect me. This worked pretty well for most of the day yesterday.
Last night, John and I met with my Kaiser therapist. We discussed our upcoming move, and the stress it might cause. She asked me how my volunteer work was going, so I told her what had happened last week. She encouraged me to continue volunteering, but maybe doing some other kind of work. She said it was important not to isolate myself. My husband agrees. I woke up and chanted for half an hour this morning. They told me only to chant for an hour a day. Kind of like yesterday. They also said that they were going to get me out of the apartment complex, and that nobody wants me here. They said the same thing about living in Gilroy. John suggested that when we move in February, we go around and introduce ourselves to our neighbors. I think that’s a great idea. They also have organized social activities at the mobile home park where we’ll be living, so there will be an opportunity for us to get out, be social, and get to know our neighbors.
I’m still packing. I found some old pictures from high school and college that made me laugh. It’s funny to see how we looked back then. They bring back good memories.