April 16 – Love

I haven’t blogged in a while and I think it’s because I’ve just needed some silent time to myself in order to process what’s happening with my life. I’ve been slowly making changes to my lifestyle, weeding out bad habits, cultivating new interests, eating healthier and getting exercise. I’ve been sober from all my addictions for a few months now and I just felt so strong and stable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want in my future. I’ve decided I’m gonna go to law school after I get my undergraduate. I’ve also decided that I want to get married some day, and have kids. I never felt like those things were possible when my life was a mess. But now I feel hopeful.

So I broke up with my boyfriend. Even though our relationship was happy and healthy and we both loved each other very much, I realized that he’s just not ‘the one’. I couldn’t see myself ending up with him. So we’ve been broken up for a few weeks now, but there’s no bad blood between us. We still care.

I think on some level I knew I didn’t want to end up with him, but I stayed with him because he made me feel secure. He was very much a stabilizing influence on my life. Always supportive. But now for the first time I feel like I can move forward without him.

I learned many things from my time with him. I learned what I like about myself, what I offer people. I learned that I don’t want to be in meaningless relationships, that I’m willing to wait until the right person comes around. I learned that I want marriage and kids some day, which is totally not something I thought I’d ever want. But mostly I learned that love isn’t scary. The anticipation of disappointment and hurt is scary, but that doesn’t have to be a part of love.

Sidenote: I’ve lost 16lbs so far! Good progress.

April 2 – Controlling the Mentally Ill

I was in the car today with my father and a news story came on the radio that concerned me. I don’t know all the details, but a co-pilot in Germany purposefully flew an airplane into the side of the mountain, killing himself and the 140+ passengers. On the radio they said that this person had a history of depression, was on medication for his depression, and had confided in his friends and co-workers that he was depressed. I later discovered that at the time he was flying, he had seemed to be recovered and was given a clean bill of health from his doctor.

I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. I felt threatened and scared. The way they were talking on the radio, they had people voicing opinions on how we should “handle” people with mental illness. As someone who has suffered from depressive symptoms associated with schizoaffective disorder, I felt almost victimized by the way people talked about this story.

My father believes that people with depression can ‘put on a show’, so to speak, and convince their doctors that they’re of sound mind when they’re not. I didn’t know what to say. I guess that is technically true. I would venture to say most doctors aren’t telepathic or even empathic, so their diagnoses are going to be imperfect. And if the patient isn’t being honest with them, then there’s only so much we can do.

But what does that mean for how society should treat people with mental heath problems? Should they be monitored like prisoners? Should they be excluded from handling dangerous equipment? It’s not so simple.

I don’t know if the plane crash could have been prevented, and who would have prevented it. But I am hoping that maybe this time, we could use these event as a catalyst for positive change and discussion. Instead of rushing to condemn people, maybe we could attempt to see things from their perspective.

I understand that there is a lot of fear surrounding mental illness. Both on the part of the patient, and on the part of society. Speaking for myself, sometimes I’m scared that I’ll be discriminated against for my mental health issue. I’ve certainly feared for my life when I had to put all my faith in my doctors, when I had my control taken away from me. It’s scary. But, speaking for someone who has also been on the witness side of mental illness – sometimes conditions will drive people to dangerous, event violent behaviour. Sometimes. I can understand that if you’re of the opinion that mental health only affects a small number of people, then you could easily suggest that we should violate human rights in order to control these people.

The problem I have with that is that in my core, I believe mental illness is experienced by everyone at some point. Everyone develops issues over the course of their life that affect their mind. They may not have names yet. They may be able to function within society. They may not need to be medicated. But at some point we will think, feel, or perceive something that is to our detriment. We will all be in those shoes. Some people, perhaps, more than others.

So, I guess what I’d say is to have compassion. Every feeling is valid, including the people who feel suspicious and threatened and angry…either at mental health patients, society, or their own doctors.

March 31 – Choosing Who You Want To Be

One of the remnants of my psychotic episodes is that I will, periodically, lose sight of my identity. What happens is that I’ll be watching a television show or a movie, and I’ll think, am I that person? Is that supposed to be me? I know that doesn’t quite make sense, but it ties in with what was happening when I was sick. When I was sick, I would see myself everywhere. It felt as though actors were playing two roles: their primary role, but also my role, showing me often ugly reflections of who I was. When you see a villain in a movie and some part of you thinks, “Oh, that’s me” – it makes you feel really bad. Even if it doesn’t make sense.

I went and saw Cinderella with my mother this past weekend. It was all that I thought it was going to be: another freakin’ Cinderella story. But I caught myself thinking, (to paraphrase) “Oh the evil stepmother has red hair, that must be me. Hence, I am evil. I am bad.” Now, consciously I know that I am separate from that depiction of the stepmother. That the people who created the movie likely don’t even know who I am. But it still left me feeling shamed by no one other than my own mind.

When I came home that day, I stumbled upon an anime show on Netflix called Fairy Tail. A little voice inside told me, “You should watch this.” So I did, and the first thing that jumped out at me was the lyrics to the opening theme. I rewinded twice so that I could read them all.

This is what I saw: “Follow the part you believe in.” Out of context, that sparked another notion. No one outside of myself can tell me who I am, or accurately judge my worth. That is something that comes from within. I don’t have to be the evil stepmother, I don’t have to be Cinderella. I don’t have to make the choices they made. I can look for the wisdom and guidance that is valuable to me, instead of accepting what my illness tells me is true.

I don’t know if any of that really made sense, but it’s an issue I still face on a daily basis. In the back of my head, I’ll think, “Wait, is that supposed to be me? Are they talking about me?” It’s a hard one to let go of.

On a happier note, I decided that I do want to write (and try to get published) a memoir of my experiences with psychosis. It’s something I’ve been toying with off and on for years, but I feel like I’m at a place where I can actually sit down and process what I went through. I’ve already written the rough draft of the foreword, and have planned out the rest of the sections piece by piece. So it’s on its way!

March 23.5 – Isis

Over the course of my 100 or so blog posts, I’ve described a number of parallel realities that were existing in my mind during the time of psychosis. There was a the Nazi wartime scenario, the Satanic cult member scenario, the telepathic scenario, etc. All of these ideas about what reality was were ways for me to make sense of what was happening to me. Schizophrenia is often described as a split with reality – and I split. In many different directions. I’m going to talk now about another situation that I believed myself to be in at times during psychosis.

There was a time when I believed I was channeling a fallen angel named Isis. At first, I didn’t have a name for this being. She didn’t exactly walk up to me and introduce herself.

It first started the night after my high school graduation. My two best friends and I were driving around in a pick up truck, and my friend (who turned out to have schizophrenia) began talking about how she believed that she was a god. And that my other friend was a god, too. In fact, many other people from our gifted classes were gods as well. Then she looked at me and said, “I’m not sure about you. Sometimes you say things and I wonder…” I felt excluded from this insane (and fictional) god club and I mentally invited a god to enter my body. And while I didn’t consciously realize it, I immediately felt a shift in my personality.

I suddenly felt angry. Like I had been woken up from a long, deep slumber and found that my house (Earth) had been ruined in my absence. I was seeing the world through new eyes. I felt this righteous, maternal pull to protect my children (women, animals and nature), and absolutely annihilate anyone who threatened me or them. This anger felt like intense power. I felt tragically beautiful, and strong and dominant, And all of these feelings felt distinctly foreign to me. It felt like I was a different person.

If I could illustrate what I was envisioning in my mind it would be this: A celestial being fell from the sky and landed in my body. She stood up and looked around, saw the Earth and knew it to be what it was. And she said, “You will know my name. The world will feel my presence.”

This feeling of being a host to some entity came and went. It seemed to come out whenever I was in distress, perhaps as a defense mechanism. I often felt like I had been pushed out of the way. That I was resigned to the recesses of my mind as this being took control of my body. While this was happening, I also started to lose massive amounts of weight. So I really did feel and look like someone else.

I asked my friend (the one who was also experiencing psychosis) what was happening over coffee. I told her I didn’t know what was going on – but I didn’t elaborate. I just said I didn’t understand, but it felt like everything was different. It felt like the world was changing. And here is what she said to me: “It’s kind of like that Axe commercial. Have you seen it?”

In my mind, I immediately knew what she was talking about. And it spooked me, because it was exactly how I felt about the situation (at the time). The commercial we were both thinking about shows a ball of light falling from the skies and crashing into the earth, shattering the ground like a meteor. And a woman – an angel – rises and looks around with calm serenity. Then another angel falls, and another, until there’s ten or twelve angels walking through the streets. (The commercial then shows the angels confronting a man who had put on Axe body spray and smashing their halos…but that wasn’t the part we were talking about.) If you want to watch the commercial, you can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqieLZ3UKP0

Eventually I made it to the hospital and I started to recover. Within a few days of being on antidepressants and antipsychotics, I no longer felt the being inside me. I felt happy, and gentle, and relieved…more like my old, human self. And for a long time I forgot that I ever thought I had channeled an angel.

Years later, I reflected back on those memories. I craved the sense of pure power I felt when she was with me. I wanted it back (without the confusion). I wondered what I might call such a being and the name came instantly. Isis. I felt 98% certain that was the correct name, but I wanted some sort of sign. So I went inside, turned on the TV and played The Daily Show. And that was the very first time that I heard about the terrorist group ISIS.

Make of that what you will. A fantasy story, a spiritual encounter, a tale of psychosis. The important thing to remember is that this Isis narrative was one of many storylines going on in my head at the time. I’m not making any claims as to what was true. All I know is that whatever that was – medication fixed it. And fixed it for the better.

Liebster Award

One of my readers nominated me for a Liebster Award. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an award that exclusive to the blogging community. It exists purely online. It is a way for bloggers to commend each other and promote good work. I was nominated by teanami, and you can find her blog here: https://teanami.wordpress.com/.

The award requires some work. The nominator comes up with ten questions for the nominee to answer. The nominee is then required to nominate five other blogs and pose to them ten questions. I’ll be doing this is two parts. First my answers, then later on my nominees. So here are teanami’s questions:

1. What is one of your favorite movies of all time and why?

The Wedding Singer. I absolutely love the chemistry between Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. I think their characters are so sweet and kind, I just want to hug them. There are so many acts of true romance in the movie, my heart swoons every time I watch it. That scene at the end? In the airplane with Billy Idol? That scene is permanently in my heart.

2. Do you have a role model or someone you look up to/want to be like whether it be their hard work ethic or their character?

Oh gosh, yes. Conan O’Brien. I admire his integrity, his sense of humour, his work ethic, his energy, his optimism and his kindness. I also think he’s hot.

3. Do you play video games or do you like to read?

Both. My favourite game series is Rune Factory, which involves a mix of farming and fighting. I tend to prefer games that have cute, childish graphics otherwise I get scared. I also read. Currently I’m reading Sculptor in the Sky by Teal Scott. It is Teal’s perspective on the universe and it’s quite mind expanding.

4. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

I’ll be 28. I’d like to have published a book, have a steady income, have moved out of my parent’s home, in a long-term relationship, and preparing to have kids.

5. What’s your style of dress?

Mostly sweatpants and tank tops. On a good day, jeans and a t-shirt. But my key style piece is my black leather jacket that I adore.

6. Do you have any weird quirks?

Many. The one that comes to mind is that I often change my mind abruptly. So if someone offers me tea, I might say no and then a few seconds later say yes.

7. If you were alone at home and could put on one song/artist to dance your butt off to who would it be?

Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars.

8. If you could be an animated character who would you choose to be and why?

Lisa Simpson. I have always admired her intelligence, creativity and sense of ethics.

9. A day in the life of _____. If you could choose to be anybody or anything  for a day who/what would it be?

Um, Conan. Just to see what it’s like to be a god.

10. What/who keeps you going?

My faith. Faith that I will overcome my challenges, I will continue to grow, and I will always be where I need to be when I need to be there.

liebster5

March 23 – Giving Up the Bad Stuff

It’s 7:35am and I’ve been up since 6:00am. I had breakfast, wrote the introduction to a paper, and went for a jog. Now I’m settling in with a pot of green tea, about to work on my assignment. This is a far cry from how I used to start my day. Hungover, sleep til noon, vomit, eat a bowl of sugary cereal, get high and lay on the couch. Needless to say, I feel a lot better now.

I started making changes a few months ago when I came to the conclusion that my life was heading in a direction that I had already been and didn’t want to go again. I gave up weed, then alcohol, then coffee, then most news. All of those things were bringing me to inner turmoil.

The weed is just never a good idea for someone who has experienced psychosis. The fact that I have schizophrenia means that my brain is especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of marijuana. It can trigger a rush of dopamine which will in turn trigger psychotic thoughts, anxiety and confusion. If it becomes a habit, as it always does with me, then slowly it can rewire the brain and make it that much harder to recover. I would say the biggest reason I started using was boredom. Not having enough interests to make me happy.

The trouble is, once you start using a substance to make yourself feel better, you enter into a cycle. Eventually the chemicals in your brain will regulate and you’ll end up feeling worse than when you started. So you use again. Then crash. Then use. Eventually, you use it so often that you lose your ability to cope with your emotions. It’s like you’re a slave to that substance, whatever it may be.

It’s the same cycle with emotional eating. Eating food is pleasurable. It sends signals to your brain that increase your serotonin levels and make you feel happy and comforted. The trick is to learn how to process your emotions through healthy means of expression, instead of force feeding yourself an entire chocolate cake.

Just as some people can eat and not binge, some people can drink and not binge. I am not one of those people. Alcohol was another vice of mine. I justified it by saying I’m not a mean drunk, I’m actually a happy and friendly drunk. But the truth is? I’m an incoherent, fall down and black out drunk. I am an alcoholic. What works for me is going “cold turkey” and accepting that alcohol doesn’t play a beneficial role in my life. That might not work for everyone, though.

After a few days of feeling like shit, I started to feel better. Clearer. Happier. Safer. Healthier. So I started to target the other things in my life that were contributing to my turmoil. The next was coffee. Now again, some people can drink coffee and many people do, but it has an intense effect on me. Especially since I binge drink coffee. I’m not satisfied with one cup. But I end up feeling anxious and stressed and agitated when I’ve had more than that. Plus, regularly getting coffee outside the home ends up being murder on the wallet.

So I gave it up. And that night I went out and bought a tea pot and some loose leaf tea from David’s Tea. I made the switch to green tea. And it seems silly, but part of what really excited me about the tea was that I had my own tea pot and it was really cute. But I learned to prefer the taste of herbal tea. I did binge drink it once and learned my lesson when it all came violently back up. But this is a substance that I can sip at and drink without going overboard…though last night I had a bath and I brought the teapot in with me.

Finally, I gave up the practice of constantly checking the news. I believe it’s important for me to have a general sense of what is happening in the world, but I would rather form my own conclusions by observing my surroundings and reading choice articles. Most of the news I had been reading were fear mongering conspiracy stories, or trivial and aggressive debates, or whatever popped up in the trending section on Facebook.  I am okay with knowing that there is probably a lot happening out there that I’m unaware of. But would reading a lot of news really change that? Not when the articles are all repeating the same, anxiety-inducing narrative.

And it sounds like reducing news intake wouldn’t make a huge difference, but it really did. Once I stopped paying attention to the things that were making me anxious, that anxiety magically poofed away. I know that there are scary things out in the world, but no amount of reading about them will keep me safe from negative experiences. And I realized that was what I was doing….On some level, I thought that if I read enough and knew enough that I could triumph in any scenario. But that’s just not the way life works. Surprises happen. Life can still blindside you. You’re more likely to be blindsided by the personal life you’re ignoring than by the terrorist groups you’re reading about.

So I’ve decluttered my life of the habits that weren’t working for me. Next blog I’ll be taking about the crucial next step to this process: adding things that DO work.

March 22 – Stigma

Today’s blog entry is inspired by a friend of mine, Samantha. Sam recently e-mailed me to give some positive feedback on my blog and share with me her own experiences in mental health. Our conversation got me to thinking about the topic of stigma.

Sam has a Youtube channel where she talks about her journey in mental health. I watched a bunch of her videos and I came away feeling so impressed that she would make the leap and publicly talk about something that most people try to hide. Sam is a leader. By allowing people to see who she is and hear about what she’s experiencing, she’s ultimately giving permission for other people to do the same. And the more people who talk about the subject, the more comfortable we can all be when it is brought up in our lives.

One of the aims of my blog is to heal stigma. I don’t think we need to talk about it as something to fight against or resist, but something that needs to be healed. Shame stems from emotional pain. When you hold stigma about your mental illness or the illnesses of others, it is indicative of your personal experiences and the expectations you’ve formed of yourself and your peers.

I made a hard choice when I decided to keep the tweets I wrote during crisis online and available for everyone to see. That was a concious decision I made. Although what I wrote isn’t something that is in keeping with my normal thoughts, it is a part of me. It shows that I have fears, that I have desires, I have anger, and that I have experienced deep emotional pain. It’s not something I need to sweep under the rug so I can maintain an illusion of perfection. And yes, I am aware that future employers might see those tweets and decide not to hire me but that is a risk I’m willing to accept. In my heart, I know that I’m being true to myself.

So thanks again to Sam for sending me your support. And for my readers, you can watch Samantha’s videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8luW5M5713Jxt0zrpq9KCA . If you like them, be sure to give them a thumbs up and subscribe!

March 16 – Nazi Wartime Memories

One of the delusions I had when I was experiencing my first psychotic episode was that I was living in Nazi Germany. I didn’t know how exactly – whether I had traveled back in time, whether Nazi Germany had never actually been defeated and had expanded to Canada, whether I was actually in an elaborate bubble somewhere in underground Germany. The why and how didn’t make sense to me, as is the case with most psychotic delusions.

One of the reasons I formulated this belief is because my two best friends at the time kind of represented a version of Hitler, and the other a version of a stereotypical German ideal (tall, blonde, blue eyed, etc). The reason I say that the other friend represented a version of Hitler was because she was actually schizophrenic as well and experiencing her psychosis alongside mine. She believed she was Hitler.

This terrified me. I was convinced that she was going to take over the world or try to. Why would anyone want to believe that they’re Hitler? As well, she often romanticized the idea (as we all did at times) of revolution and communism. She had specific ways that she could take control of Hamilton and start the base of her revolution here. I started talking to other people about what she was saying, trying to make sense of it. Which, it turns out, is impossible because it just didn’t make sense.

Eventually, I started to hallucinate that helicopters were spying on me. I’m pretty sure they were hallucinations because the sheer number of helicopters and airplanes I saw were out of the ordinary. There would be one flying by every 20-30 seconds. They often appeared to circle around and follow my trail, instead of flying in a straight line. I was convinced that my thoughts, my e-mails, my texts and my every movement were being watched. I even taped garbage bags over my windows to keep the cameras out.

At the time this was happening, it was the middle of winter. Between January-mid February. So everything was grey and cold, and the streets were empty. Something clicked in my head and I started to think that I was somehow living in a dystopian, Nazi society during wartime. My psychiatrist says this is the reason why I’m still recovering memories – it’s because I was so traumatized by the thought of being in a war zone that I couldn’t process it all at once.

There’s one other aspect of this delusion that I want to get down on my blog so that it won’t escape me. It’s part of a larger picture. But my friend (the one who believed she was Hitler) claimed that the three of us were pawns in a government experiment designed to recreate history in order to find out what actually happened during World War II in Germany. The three of us were subconsciously playing roles. At times, she even suggested that our high school teachers had traveled back in time to try and alter history and prevent the holocaust.

There’s something else to this story that I’ve never actually told people. I was receiving messages about what my role in this threesome was. I was being told that it was my destiny to “go crazy and kill myself” because of comprising pictures that would later emerge, pictures “they” took during the time I was psychotic. “They” (identity unknown) traveled back in time to try and convince me to (instead of killing myself) kill “Hitler” before she grew up into a mad dictator and tried to commit genocide.

I didn’t feel good about that idea. In my heart I believed that killing a human is unjustifiable unless you are in immediate danger, which I wasn’t. I also wanted to believe my friend was a good person, that she only believed she was Hitler because she was confused. I asked a lot of people, “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler before he started the war, would you?” Almost all the time people said “yes and it would be the right thing to do.” But then I asked my mother, and she said she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t imagine doing so, and neither could I. So I decided definitively that I would remain peaceful and not harm a soul – because even under all that internal chaos I still cherished that peaceful part of myself. And it it’s okay for my mom – it’s okay for me.

But this is part of why psychosis is so freaking hard to go through. How it attacks your identity. This is why the people experiencing it are scared, and confused, and sometimes act violently. It’s not their fault. It’s not their nature. It’s something that is happening to them that can only be controlled with medication, or if it’s drug-induced psychosis, getting of that “medication”.

And even though I had been on medication for a few years and then off it, the first episode of psychosis stayed with me (plus a lot more baggage I had accumulated since then). This might explain my last “in crisis” tweet: “this was a failed experiemnt. this was afailed experient. they tried to create world leaders. but no no no. im guilty. im bad.”

I want to make another point that I think is relevant. This moral crisis that I just outlined is part of why being a “good” person is all that mattered to me when I was psychotic. That`s why when I went into crisis mode, I kept calling myself “bad”. During crisis, I believed that being good meant following orders. And I had disobeyed the orders that I received during my first episode. I know that logically, that`s a good thing. Because the “orders” were crazy. But logic goes out the window in psychosis.

In reality, I’ve come to learn that we all create our own definitions of what it means to be good. And I certainly don`t believe (when I`m well) that being good means behaving. To me, being good means holding empathy for others even when they start to seem inhuman to you. In the end, it was empathy for my friend that convinced me to resist the messages I was getting. My empathy helped me retain my humanity.

That`s all I want to write. It`s a lot for me to process. I still get memories every day, so when they crop up then I want to put them down even if it doesn’t make the best blog entry for my readers. After all, this is therapeutic for me.

March 12 – Another Eccentric Character

In a previous entry, I talked about an eccentric man named Jim that I had met on my way back from Winnipeg. Well, Jim is just one out of many bizarre encounters I have had with strangers. Strangers who treat me as though we have already met many times before.

I’ve often wondered why I seem to attract the oddballs. And I use that term “oddballs” with affection, because God knows I can be quite odd. Maybe they’re sensing on some level that we share this in common.

Today I want to talk about a man I met during my first hospitalization named Joe. Joe was a patient. He was perhaps in his sixties. I remember our first encounter. I had sat down at the dining room table with a newspaper. Flipped through it, looking for signs or hidden messages. (I was in the hospital for a reason.) Then Joe walked by and tapped a picture in the obituaries. I looked at the picture and my heart twisted. It looked almost identical to my father.

Now, I should mention that during my first episode I was seeing the same assortment of faces everywhere I went. Sometimes I was lucid enough to know that this was just my mind playing tricks on me, and other times I believed these people were shapeshifters or aliens or were even wearing disguises. I remember sarcastically commenting on a man I thought was following me wearing a disguise. “Nice moustache.” I thought it was obviously fake but in hindsight it probably wasn’t, and he was probably puzzled and maybe hurt by my comment. 

Furthermore, I should also mention that my father’s name is Joe. Coincidence? Who knows? I sure didn’t. When Joe pointed at that picture, I quickly formed a thought that my real father had died long ago and the person who raised me was some sort of alien vampire creature pretending to be my father. 

I tried to avoid Joe (the patient) because he was always muttering to himself and it seemed like if any of us in that ward were crazy it would definitely be him. But then at dinner, Joe motioned for me to sit beside him. Manners kicked in and I obliged. 

He didn’t introduce himself but I had gathered his name was Joe from the many times I heard the nurses say “Stop doing that, Joe.” 

Instead he started by saying, “I know who you are.” I didn’t reply. And he said, “You know who’s in that picture right?” I nodded. I was intrigued.

Joe went on to babble about various things, none of which I understood. It was only after listening to him talk for twenty minutes that he started to become a bit more lucid… Or I started to become a bit more crazy.

“I know what’s going to happen to you,” he said. I sat up, suddenly attentive.

“What’s going to happen?” I asked.

“Oh I would never tell you that,” he said. I must have rolled my eyes. He explained, “No one should know their future. That would be terrible. I wouldn’t do that to you.” 

I sat back in my chair and folded my arms grumpily like a disappointed child. Joe rocked back and forth and looked out the window, then finally said, “You want to know. I’ll tell you.”

What he proceeded to tell me didn’t make sense. He was telling me things that I will do but using the past tense, as if he had already seen this all happen before. Here are some of the things he said:

“You’re going to slay all the vampires.”

“You wrote the code. The code that everyone uses. It was stolen from your locker, remember? You put it in your locker and they stole it.” (A notebook of mine was actually stolen from my high school locker.)

“The economy is ruined. Because everyone is giving away their stuff online. It was a good thing, what you did. But it ruined the economy.”

“You won a million dollars, at the horse race, because you bet it all on the black stallion.”

“You’re going to be the first Pope.”

“All this land belongs to you. It’s smaller now but from here to (can’t remember) belongs to you.” 

“It’s all police officers now. Undercover cops. They’re everywhere. He’s a cop, they’re cops.” (He pointed out other patients in the dining hall.)

“They brainwashed you. They took you up on the Soviet shuttle and brainwashed you, because you knew too much. That’s why you’re so confused.” (At this point I remember looking out the window and getting a surreal feeling, like I wasn’t on Earth anymore.)

“They take dirty pictures of you. You’re in the suite room right? With the big window? That’s so they can take pictures.” (He pointed at planes flying by the hospital through the window. Also, I was in a suite room by myself at that time.)

“You’re Justin Bieber.”

As you can imagine, I wasn’t able to understand what he was saying. I still don’t. To be honest, I doubt that he understood it. 

As he was talking, I distanced myself from him and a disturbing thought occurred to me. What if this is my father in the future? If he develops Alzheimer’s or something, and he ends up here in this hospital alone and confused like me. I felt saddened at that thought.

I remember at one point, Joe asked me if he could hold my hand. I agreed and we held hands. Just as Jim had, he started to cry. I sat quietly, feeling touched by his vulnerability and compassion. Then he said, “I could get in a lot of trouble for doing this. Nobody is allowed to touch you. All those people you’re scared of? They won’t touch you.”

“Thank you,” I said. Whether or not his words were true didn’t matter at the time. I felt comforted. I will always remember Joe.

March 11 – The Importance of Receptivity

I was reading one of my friend’s blog posts on what she believes to be her past life. I’m not making any claims as to whether or not that’s correct, but personally I respect her point of view and I’m open to her ideas. If you want to follow her blog, go to www.psychicintraining.com, her name is Kate Sitka and she’s wonderful. She also hosts a podcast you can find on iTunes called the Joyful Telepathy Podcast. If you’re reading, hi Kate!

I wrote Kate an e-mail today to talk about some of the quasi-spiritual experiences I had during psychosis. One of the messages I received from, well, take your pick: god, angels, my own thoughts, aliens, etc. … One of the messages was: “You have given enough. It is time for you to receive.” And I had this distinct feeling that this message was in reference to things I’ve done in previous lifetimes. I got the sense that I had suffered in many lives, and that this lifetime was all about enjoying the experience and learning how to take what comes as a blessing. Whether or not you believe in past lives or in divine messages, I think that is a good lesson to learn.

Personally, I don’t believe that suffering gets us anywhere. No one should have to suffer. And it’s misleading to say that suffering will lead to happiness. I know that on the surface we can say, of course suffering doesn’t equal happiness. Suffering is pain and hardship. But I think you may be surprised at how prevalent that idea is in our culture. Some religions – whether we consciously accept it or not – play a huge role in the propagation of this idea. They teach people that if they want to be rewarded, they have to make sacrifices and go through some amount of pain, or they need to deny themselves gratification, or they should feel shame or apologize for indulging in what makes them happy.

I think that this idea is not something I would outwardly accept, but something that I believed deep down in my subconscious. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to accept good things, or believe that I deserve them. So when I was psychotic, I was very resistant to the idea of getting help because I felt like I had to just suffer through it and take care of it on my own. That was the right or the morally good thing to do. But I was wrong. There is no need for suffering. If the universe wants to help you – and in my case the universe was demanding to help me – then allow it. Being strong is not the same as being hard or being in pain. Being good is not the same as being a martyr.

Think of it this way. We know it is a morally good thing to give gifts – whether they are physical gifts, or gifts of emotion, affection, thoughts. To do so is to demonstrate compassion or love. Therefore we should never deny someone (or something) the chance to give us gifts unless we truly don’t want them. To do so would be depriving this other being of the chance to be good. It is not enough to give, you have to receive.

That was something I learned when I finally accepted help. When I finally started to see events in my life as blessings, because ultimately they moved me along the path of becoming who I want to be. I don’t harbour self-pity or angst or resentment from having a mental illness. I thank God every God damn day.