Someone I consult with about my horoscope repeats the expression, "You've ‘collected the evidence.'" It's her way of saying that the universe validates who you are, a form of good old-fashioned reality testing.
We are human beings, not independent of each other, and are vulnerable; this is hard-wired in our chemistry. So the risk of rejection is high, and we're tempted to keep silent.
As a writer, I'd like to talk to you about finding your voice. Once you do, you will heal. It took me five years to reclaim my voice, corresponding with the time I spent in the original writing workshop.
That is why I believe writing SharePosts here is a noble, courageous act: a gift to yourself, a way of "collecting evidence" and building your self-esteem. I'm please that all of you are writing SharePosts. It's a way to vocalize your dreams and paint a picture of your life apart from the schizophrenia as well.
We can't go back to the way things were, yet we can find the strength together to embrace the future. We are not our illnesses, even though we are in recovery. The road leads back to self-acceptance. It takes confidence to be honest, and to reveal ourselves.
That's why I ask people not schooled in the reality of mental illnesses to see who we are. Who am I? I'm a writer, public service librarian, aunt, sister, daughter, lover of music, clotheshorse, and yoga student, among other things. Who are you? I'd love for you to write in and start a dialogue on this.
Another way to find your voice is to become an advocate. Mental Health America would like you to join their Advocacy Network. Log on to http://takeaction.mentalhealthamerica.net. As a member, you will: receive alerts to take action on important mental health issues; gain access to online petitions and surveys; track important mental health bills in Congress; and send e-cards of hope and recovery to friends and family.
Alternately, you could join or start a creative writing workshop, like the one I was in that met every Thursday night for five years. The object isn't necessarily to publish your memoir, however, with iUniverse and other independent publishers it's now easier than ever to do so. And I urge you to consider attending poetry readings where you can read what you've written at an open mic. These are two wonderful ways to speak out.
A woman I interviewed here, Kate K., uses a tape recorder to talk about how she feels, and plays the sessions back. The key is to take the first step and find ways you are comfortable with. Another option is to keep a blog, by writing a SharePost or using a site like Blogger. If you do, let us know about it if you'd like us to read it.
In addition, Schizophrenia Digest, the quarterly magazine, has a column called "My Voice" in which you can write about your recovery. Log on to www.szdigest.com for details.
The author Wally Lamb, in the February 2008 issue of O, the Oprah magazine, shows you how to "tell your story!" He quotes Michelangelo, the 16th-century artist who once said about his work: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." Lamb believes we are "damaged angels-in-waiting who have the potential to sculpt our best selves with the aid of paper and pen."
The link between creativity and mental illness has been examined in the past, yet who among us could boast of good works while actively psychotic? As the years pass and the symptoms fade, or are easier to manage (hopefully), that's when our creative spirit will sparkle.
When we find our voice, we will soar as if we have wings.
Published On: February 12, 2008