This is the face of a 40-year-old woman who feels as much like a child as a middle-ager. I've kept my struggles with mental illness quiet. Quiet like a moth, fluttering to sources of light. I've sought God in spiritual teachers, enlightenment in intense retreats, good energy in the food, furniture & clothes I buy. I flutter to the light in the music I write and in the faces of the students I help. But I am the face of mental illness when that light isn't shining.
I hear voices. They're not inside my head. They're out. They don't sound like anyone I know or choose words that I would ever use. They are mostly negative, peppered with the occasional neutral. For the last six months the voices find reasons to call me whore. scum. disgust. pig. cow. satan. devil. They seem to drop these bombs precisely when I'm most vulnerable, like when I'm doubting myself or even when I'm excited about myself. They occur all day and night & more intensely when I'm stressed or making a decision. But then, sometimes they just interfere with mundane things.
I've started a new practice. I carry a large notebook around with me and write entries every time I hear a voice. Sound like the ingredients for a tedious day? It is. But it's liberating me, so far. This is why: for ten years I've heard voices. They've interfered with the smallest and largest decisions I've made in my life: Going back to school. Buying fruit. Taking a shower. Marrying my husband. Booking gigs. Taking meds. Drinking water. Starting this blog. I have used up so much energy giving the voices the benefit of the doubt that I've become suicidal, lost my apartment, lost friends, overstayed my welcome, been in bed 16 hours-a-day, eaten so little that I had to be hospitalized and been delusional.
Writing down the voices short-circuits the tendency to give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead, I give them a sentence or two of context on paper, then promptly forget about what I've heard. Being self-employed and working from home allows me the freedom to do this all day. I'd do it even if went to a workplace every day. After so many trips to the psych unit, I had to ask myself what lengths I would go to to gain self-respect, presence and power?
Writing down the voices has helped me reach you. That's recovery.
Recovery is worth diving into. That's why I seek God, play music, take meds, work the 12-steps and go to therapy. A friend & my former psychiatrist once told me that even a pinprick of light makes a day worth living.
I am the face of recovery.