One thing I know: life is shifting, and we’re evolving as human beings every day. In my ninth year of recovery, I hit a plateau in the insurance field. Things weren’t working out, so I thought a trip to therapy would be the answer. Also, I had turned 30 in 1996, and I felt like my life was in limbo.
The counselor I saw at this pivotal time in my recovery had a day job as a career coach, and when I told him I might be laid off yet again, he gave me the MBTI, a personality test, and a vocational assessment. I found out I’m an INTJ and would make a good librarian, so I applied to the three major programs in New York City, and chose Pratt Institute.
Year Nine: Ending the Cycle was a time when I began to let go of outdated perceptions, outgrown clothes and unworkable relationships. In this time, nothing I took on was meant to be permanent. I was clearing out the past and making room for new possibilities.
Every day, I got up and went to a job that sucked the soul out of me. Knowing that within two years I’d be in school helped me continue to save money. I lived at home, and was able to send in the $200 tuition deposit for Pratt. I didn’t know how I’d afford the tuition, so I decided to take out the bare minimum in terms of student loans. I also qualified for a $600 tuition waiver each semester.
In my ninth year, I sorted things out. I took out the neatly folded assumptions that I’d packed away in my mind, and started to challenge them. When I was in my 20s, my greatest goal was to find a job and live independently. That accomplished, I knew there was more to do. Maybe because I’m a fidget and can’t sit still, I will always be in action or on the move.
I believe the greatest gift you can give yourself as a recovering person is the ability to make your way in the world. In my 20s I was sensitive, yet hadn’t learned to bluff. I cried in the ladies’ room at work, and I cried on the train ride home. I wasn’t suited to work in business.
My creativity stifled, I couldn’t grow as a person if I kept pushing down what I really wanted to do: publish in magazines and write books. I’d known since I was seven years old that I wanted to be a writer. Now it was time to find the career that would enable me to freelance in my spare time.
To have a successful recovery, you have to do what you love, often. Maybe singing is your thing. Or sculpting. Or going to the library and browsing books. I didn’t know when I was 22 and first diagnosed that I could make a career out of what happened to me, or get paid to do what I love: working with books and people and knowledge.
When I was depressed and attended a clubhouse, another person told me I was just a yuppie who accessed services because it was the trendy thing to do. At the time, I wore black Levis and a navy turtleneck. “You come into a session and blast others with your feelings,” he said, as if my feelings weren’t important, or I wasn’t justified in seeking help. His comment hurt me, and I remembered it all these years.
In year nine, I was depressed. That mood had come out of a lot of anger and resentment that I got sick. However, I believe anger is never the solution itself; it’s the catalyst to change what we don’t like about ourselves, or our lives. I didn’t want the schizophrenia. It’s not something I chose. I didn’t deserve it, and neither do you. In your ninth year, or however far along in your recovery you are, reconciliation is the order of the day.
The stages of grief involve denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These tendencies could occur at any time in your recovery. It isn’t healthy to stay angry. A good friend told me that when he got sick, he knew he would have to approach things differently, and so he went back to school for a degree that would help him stay employed, because his greatest goal was to work full-time.
So mourn, and then move on. The greatest freeing energy is to accept that you have an illness you need to manage for the rest of your life. See what you can do on your own to be happy. Know that you’re the one in control of your future. When it seems like nothing you can do will change things dramatically, be patient with yourself and take each day as it comes. It took me a full 10 years to get to the point I wanted to be. So if it takes you that long, I can honestly say the wait is worth it.
Join me next for Year 10: Starting Again.
Published On: April 23, 2007