This afternoon my husband and I went to a NAMI social gathering at their main office in Santa Clara. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we ended up meeting quite a few friendly people. There was a small group of people playing Bingo, a few others in the middle of a card game, and three women working quietly on a puzzle. We grabbed a few snacks and spoke for a few minutes with a man who had driven there all the way from Oakland! I also met the woman who is going to post a link to my blog on the NAMI website, and include a brief note about it in their next newsletter. She told me about a creative writing class taught by a professor at Stanford who wrote a book called Writing Through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen. I decided to take the class and I sent her an email to get more information. Fun!
After we came back to our apartment, I was lying down. We had been debating about whether to get a pedicure and workout, or stay home. I heard someone say, You’re not welcome in Gilroy! No one wants you around here anymore either! That’s why we’re trying to get you kicked out of the apartment complex! I thought about the Gilroy comment. It made me sad, even though I try not to let the voices affect me. We usually visit my husband’s parents in Gilroy every few weeks or so. We often spend the night on the weekends, and we’ve gone to stay there in the past when I’ve had trouble with the voices. I’ve heard voices at his parents house in Gilroy too, so sometimes it doesn’t help.
The voice continued, You can go to Gilroy tomorrow, but not tonight, it’s too late. One time the voices told me that I could go to Gilroy if I wanted to, but to just tell them in advance if we were going so they would know about it. I try not to get irritated, but I don’t like my voices telling me what to do. They think they are in charge of my life, but I will never give them that power. Like my husband says, it’s a constant battle.
I read a little more this afternoon and then chanted for about half an hour. I heard a few more voices that sounded like people talking. Someone said, You’re the one that’s deluded! I thought about that while I was chanting, but I think my perception is pretty clear. I tend to view my experiences from a Buddhist perspective, using different concepts that I’ve learned over the years. I know it’s only one way of looking at life, but in my opinion, it’s probably the most positive. I found another quote that I often read for encouragement. It states: As long as one perseveres with strong faith, times of the greatest difficulty will become times of the greatest opportunity. A person of strong faith is able to “change poison into medicine,” thereby accumulating limitless good fortune. For this reason, no matter what may happen, we have nothing to fear. In difficult times, all we need to do is summon forth still stronger faith.
In Buddhism, “changing poison into medicine” means using a negative or difficult experience to create value rather than being defeated by it. I could easily become angry or depressed by my illness and circumstances, but instead, I hope to create value. Especially by telling my story in the form of a book, and also with my blog. When I was still chanting, someone else said, I wonder how long it will last this time? Another voice responded, I don’t know, she seems pretty determined. I figured they were talking about my decision to start writing a book. I’ve started a few other writing projects in the past that I have yet to finish: a children’s story, a news article on Haiti. I don’t like the idea of leaving projects unfinished, but I think I need to make time for everything.
My biggest challenge is not allowing myself to be swayed by the negativity of my voices. It takes effort, but that’s what I have my Buddhist practice for, and of course my husband’s constant support and encouragement.
Last night when I was in bed reading the book I just bought The Buddha & the Borderline, I heard someone say, We want you to take down your blog! I told my husband when he came back into the room. He asked me where I heard the voice from, and I told him it was a female voice that sounded like it had come from outside the window of our bedroom. John said to keep track of what I hear so that I can discuss it with my psychiatrist at my next appointment in a few weeks.
This morning while I was chanting, I heard someone say, Why doesn’t she just move back in with her parents? Sometimes it seems as if there are people who are talking about me or even to me, just not to my face. Occasionally I really can hear people talking in the parking lot outside, but most of the time I can’t make out what they are saying. When I hear voices that are just in my head, they tend to be clearer.
I remember back in late April when I woke up one morning, and my voices told me to move back in with my parents or they would kill my husband. They had decided that was the best thing for me to do. I never did, and don’t intend to. Yesterday I started writing my book. I only wrote one page about my attempted suicide while I was at UC Santa Cruz. I figured that could be the prologue. I came up with a title too. It’s called When It’s Quiet.
I don’t intend to live my life according to what my voices want. I never will. I need to be more disciplined, and continue to take things day by day. I keep chanting, and I will keep moving forward.
This morning while I was chanting I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming from outside my bedroom window. They said, Either give up chanting or give up the book. That’s not unreasonable is it? I kept chanting. I have not given up on my book either. It reminded me of when my voices were trying to get me to negotiate an agreement with them a month or so ago. They kept telling me to either stop chanting, or to choose between chanting and earning an income. A couple of times I actually did try to make an agreement with them. It didn’t work. Nothing changed, and I realized afterward how ridiculous it really was. How can you negotiate with invisible people, people who only exist in my head? There is no way to reason with them. It doesn’t work. I have tried repeatedly to make sense of the situation, but I have never been able to. My therapist has told me not to try to reason with the voices because they aren’t rational. This is very true.
I was driving to the bookstore this morning after I finished chanting. In the car I was thinking about how I would start my memoir and how I would approach certain aspects of my past involving other people. As I stepped out of the car, I heard another voice say, See how foolish you are? Meaning that it would be foolish to try and write a memoir about my experiences since it might identify other people who were a part of my life during those times. I don’t plan to identify anyone by name. I haven’t decided yet about locations, or even whether to use my real name. So far, I’ve kept my identity pretty much hidden. It’s almost as if my voices are afraid of being identified.
In the past, I’ve often thought that maybe I really don’t have schizoaffective disorder. Maybe I just became telepathic in 2002, and there really are people following me around, talking to me in my head. The voices have said this to me as well. I’ve never mentioned this to anyone because no one would believe me. One time I tried to convince my husband that the voices I were hearing were real. He didn’t believe me. I think this is why when I tell him what I hear, he always says, “You know they aren’t real don’t you?”. I always reassure him that I know they aren’t real, that they are just symptoms of the illness, and that I continue to ignore them. There isn’t much else I can do.
I heard another threat this afternoon while I was cooking chili. I like to make chili with different ingredients, and my husband likes the variety as well. There are so many different types of chili, trying to find a suitable recipe can take some time. I finally settled on one with lots of cumin. The cumin gives it a curry-like flavor, but also a little spice too, which is good. I add just added the tomatoes, onions, garlic, beans, and beef when I heard, Take your blog down by the end of the day! It always sounds like they are yelling. Maybe my voices are threatened by my blog. I’m not sure why. It always seems so dramatic and sometimes I get caught up in the drama.
I knew I had no intention of deleting my blog, although it’s not something that would be difficult to do. I have to make sure not to dwell on what I hear. If I think too much about what I hear, I tend to try and make sense of what they say, or to rationalize something that is completely irrational. That’s one of the reasons this blog is so useful for me. It helps me get my thoughts out of my head and written down. This is also a way to clarify what I am thinking about and to share with others.