Encouraging Stories

My husband and I spent the weekend at his parents house in Gilroy. We brought some boxes down on Friday night, and on Saturday, John took his dad back to Sunnyvale to get some more things. We’ve moved a lot of our stuff, but we still have the heavy furniture and our clothes. I’m going to start packing our clothes this afternoon. I’ve really been focusing on ignoring the voices, and not letting them affect me. I told John last night that I heard them say something to me during dinner. We had finished eating, and were still sitting around the table at his parents’ house. Someone said, We’re not going to let you take advantage of your relatives! At first, I was kind of mad. I don’t think we’re taking advantage of Raul’s family, or my family either. It was just another way for the voices to try and stop me from doing what my husband and want to do. Then, this morning, they told me to only chant an hour a day. If I agreed to only chant an hour a day, then they said they would leave my cousin (meaning my niece that they refer to as my cousin) out of it. I continued chanting, but didn’t agree to anything. My voices frequently try to get me to make an agreement with them. A couple of times I have, but I’ve found that nothing changes. I’ve decided not to do that anymore.

I talked to my mom and dad yesterday, and my dad told me about an encouraging article in the New York Times. I looked it up, and it was an interesting article about a study researchers are doing on people who are functioning well with a mental illness. The title of the article is “Lives Restored: A High-Profile Executive Job as Defense Against Mental Ills”, and the link is http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/health/23lives.html?ref=health. There is also another link on that same page to an article about Elyn Saks, a law professor suffering from schizophrenia who wrote a memoir a few years ago about her life. I just ordered the book, it’s called The Center Cannot Hold. It’s very encouraging to read about other people who are also affected by mental illness, and to know that mental illness can be controlled and managed successfully. I hope that I can also function successfully in society by managing my illness and my voices.

More Threats

I talked to John last night about some of the things the voices were saying yesterday. I guess they were starting to affect me because I ended up canceling my tutoring session. I didn’t want to go because it felt weird and kind of creepy. When I’ve gone in the past, I’ve felt a little awkward, and out of place. John said that maybe it’s because of anxiety. That could be part of it. The voices were saying they had taken a contract out on John, and that if I moved to Gilroy, they would kill John’s dad. They also told me I had to put a time limit on how much I chant. I’ve been chanting about an hour a day. The past few days, I’ve chanted a little more than that, maybe an hour and a half or so. I think it’s better to chant more, rather than less. I added an entry to my Thought Record, so I can bring that to my next therapy session.

I have an appointment next Wednesday with my psychiatrist. There’s always the question of medication, and whether there needs to be any adjustments made. I’ll probably talk it over with him, but I don’t think we’ll change anything. I’ve thought about trying Clozaril, the antipsychotic used as a last resort when nothing else is effective, but I’m not sure if I want to, or even need to. It’s only when I let the voices affect my mood that I get sad or depressed. The rest of the time, I’m usually fine. I heard from my Buddhist leader Michelle this morning. She said she would connect me with some people in Gilroy that I can chant with while we’re there for the next few months. I told John I would practice speaking Spanish with his parents. That should be fun!

Our Limitless Strength & Wisdom

I went to my monthly Buddhist discussion meeting last night in Cupertino. Two young men played an Afro-Cuban rhythm on the drums accompanied by a saxophone. We also discussed an article titled “Our Limitless Strength and Wisdom”. The article discusses the idea of never seeking our Buddha nature or enlightenment outside ourselves, and that whether we reveal our Buddhahood relies solely upon the depth of our own conviction and resolve, or faith. I chant every day to be able to strengthen my faith, yet sometimes I am not sure if I am strengthening my faith or not. It’s hard to tell. I told my friend Beth that John and I were going to be staying in Gilroy for a few months and then coming back to Sunnyvale when our house is ready. We plan to have a housewarming party when we’re moved in!

I also went to my group therapy yesterday. We had to go around the room and say what we were doing for relapse prevention. I said that I was making an effort to ignore the voices, and not pay attention to them. I still hear them. Yesterday, they said I had to choose between my dad and my husband. This morning, they said I wasn’t allowed to move to Gilroy. Last night, I wrote in my journal that when I’m in a better mood, it’s easier to ignore what they say, and not let them affect me. Also, I find that when I ignore them and don’t pay attention to what they say, I’m usually in a better mood. Funny how that works. My therapist said not to focus on what they say, that it’s all nonsense, and that I should pretend like they’re speaking to me in a language that I don’t understand. My husband says the same thing, that it’s all nonsense. I tend to agree, but it still takes a lot of effort not to listen.

Support & Encouragement

Last night I went to my therapy session in Los Altos. We had a good session. I printed out my blog from yesterday, and we went over what I had written. My therapist pointed out that I had several good coping strategies for dealing with the voices. I am looking forward to the future (our new house), I appreciate my husband, my husband is very supportive of me, I have my Buddhist group for encouragement, and I have my faith that I won’t give up on. She also mentioned that when I write down what the voices say, I give them power. She doesn’t want me to focus on what they say specifically, but rather the thoughts I have in response to what they say, and how those thoughts make me feel. I find it difficult to separate the two. If I’m ignoring the voices, and not listening to what they say, then I don’t tend to have any thoughts about them, and I am not affected.

She also talked a little more about mindfulness, and to practice really focusing on what I am doing at each moment, rather than listening to what the voices say. This works well too, although sometimes I get distracted. I find that the less I listen, and the less I pay attention to them, the better. I chanted for an hour this morning, and I’ve got to do some more packing today. This afternoon is my group therapy. I missed it last week because John and I were house hunting. We’re both happy that we found something nice.

Battling the Negativity

John and I drove back from Gilroy yesterday morning. I went to a Buddhist meeting at the Buddhist center in Santa Clara, and it was very encouraging. A few women shared their experiences, and another woman gave a brief study presentation on faith. One quote reads, “Buddhism is like an ocean that one can only enter with faith.” While the idea of faith may seem somewhat intangible, our SGI Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda states: “Faith, which at first glance may appear weak, is actually the most powerful force in the world.” I am always trying to strengthen my faith, especially when I get discouraged by something that the voices say.

We were in Gilroy at my in-laws Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. We went for a ride to Half Moon Bay on Thursday, and had lunch at Sam’s Chowderhouse. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the drive back through Santa Cruz on Hwy 1. Friday, we worked out at the gym in Morgan Hill, and I wrote down a few things that I heard. My voices have a tendency to tell me what I’m allowed to do, and what I’m not allowed to do. Sometimes it’s Buddhist meetings or chanting, other times it’s our travel plans or what I’m writing about. Lately, they’ve been focusing on our living situation. On Friday, they said, If you write your book, we’ll kill your dad. I told my husband, and Saturday, they continued. First they said that I wasn’t allowed to go back to our apartment in Sunnyvale, then they said that we’re not allowed to stay with John’s parents in Gilroy until our house is ready in February (you’re not going to do that to John’s parents!). Then they said that I had to stay in our apartment, and that I couldn’t leave or move into the new house that we bought. Eventually, I lost track.

I showed my husband some of the things they said on Saturday night. He said that the voices were very demeaning. They are extremely negative, so it’s a constant battle to stay positive. John’s sister and brother came over for dinner, and we were all sitting around playing a card game. They were threatening my husband, and said You might as well take that ring off! A woman’s voice said, You’re the one we really don’t like! Someone else said that the reason why they are doing this is because of who I am as a person (meaning that this is happening to me because I am such a terrible person). Sometimes they say, You’re not very smart are you?

I was writing in my journal last night, and I looked briefly at what I had written the night before. I realized that I was about to write the same thing. I had written “I think it is best not to listen or pay attention to what they say.” I still strongly believe this, although sometimes it can be difficult. Buddhism provides me with a constant source of encouragement. So does my husband, and I am very fortunate to have him.

Today, I start packing. Yesterday, we gave notice at our apartment complex. We’re going to move out and spend a few months with John’s parents, and then move back to Sunnyvale in February. We’re going to have a busy month, but we’re both looking forward to moving into our new home.