In the fall of 1993, through the summer of 1994, I went on job interviews and attempted to find better work. I couldn’t get a promotion where I was, because the director (Bathtub Guy) and the account executive I worked for (Johnson) loved to ridicule me and trash my efforts at every turn.
The longer I stayed out of the hospital, the better I felt about myself. I could function again, and did relatively well for myself. By any external tape measure, I’d succeeded: I had the car, the job, the apartment.
Yet under this façade, things weren’t all they seemed. I couldn’t get ahead, because the vituperative men turned the others against me. The commute to and from work—two hours each way—also sapped my energy and drained my soul.
Is it any wonder that I sought to be creative by dressing like a little rock girl on the weekends or writing my feelings down in the mood swirl of a journal? That was all I had linking me to my former self: the clothes, the secret notebook.
I didn’t know then that I would make a living out of having a mental illness. It was years later that I transformed my pain into a thing of beauty for other people. I reconciled this only recently. Some of us have it in us to succeed earlier at this self-knowledge; others don’t completely master it after a lifetime of snafus.
At that time in my life, I attended group therapy with other lost souls, and it went nowhere, so I left two years later when I lost yet another job and couldn’t afford to pay for the sessions out of my own pocket. Six years away from my library career, I hadn’t yet begun to write my memoir. But as I slowly sorted and shifted through my feelings about the illness, I knew I could no longer deny that it had wrecked my brain. The schizophrenia wasn’t a one-off deal; I would have to manage it for the rest of my life.
Dr. Santiago felt that there was no stigma. He told me this the night I saw a woman and her husband in the waiting area with their toddler daughter. He was more of a friend than a professional, and even set me up on a date with one of his other patients.
Yet I knew better: nobody at work treated me with respect, and it was a constant struggle to be taken seriously by the tag team of Bathtub Guy and Jackson, the skirt chaser. Something would have to change. If I wanted to stay in the insurance field, I’d need to find a new job. In June 1994, that’s exactly what happened: I accepted a position as the marketing assistant at a boutique firm.
The more I arranged my life neatly into piles—mental illness here, real world there; neatly next to each other but never interfiled—the more cut off I was from expressing myself. What happened to the daring college disc jockey who thought she could change the world, one punk rock record at a time? I turned into a woman who had a closet full of power blue straitjackets. I was split off from my true self.
Year Seven: Going Within is another kind of “woodshedding”—one in which we reflect on our lives up until now, and start to explore our physical boundaries and our spirituality. We start to question the answers we’re given, and look inside ourselves for the solutions best suited to our individual needs and wants. I’ve said it before: self-determination is simply having the right to decide for ourselves how we want to live.
Year Eight: Attending to Finances comes next. Read on for a look at this vital aspect of recovering well.
Published On: April 12, 2007