The VA claims the most important thing a person can do for their mental health is to exercise. A psychiatrists at the VA told me to exercise to perspiration. So, I quit golf, a game I enjoyed all my life, and took up handball. I never loved golf. I just enjoyed it. I am never so happy as when I leave a handball court. I do not have a problem in the world. I play handball with fine men who do not object that I am the worst player in the league. All they care about is that I show up and play. No one complains if I miss a shot. I am not partnered with the poorer players. I am greeted with a smile when I arrive. One of the players says handball is the only thing that makes me happy. Is handball better than sex with someone I love? That was Bertrand Russel’s explanation for the highest form of human happiness. Maybe it is.
I told a member of my church, who has his own radio show, about my book. It is about being mentally ill and living well. He said many people would be interested in that subject. He wanted to talk to me about an interview when the book nears release in June of 2020. I told our assistant minster I was schizophrenic. She never suspected.
I live in a hi-rise. Many of us here are mentally ill. Our diagnosis got us admitted. No one admits they are mentally ill, no one has a job, and no one seems to do things that benefit their mental health. They talk about the affairs of the building, shoot pool, smoke cigarettes, and play with their dogs. Am I missing something? Is my treatment at the VA for my mental problems so much better? I am clinically well. I got here with the help of the mental health profession, prescription drugs, a great support network, and a lot of hobbies. An early patient of Freud called psychiatry the talking cure. There is more to life than talk. What about a fishing trip, a skiing trip, writing a book, or going to a baseball game or a concert? What about doing something, rather than flapping your jaws? Socializing is important to mental health. But all the time?
I have noticed a tendency among bloggers to be self serving. They either want to sell something, or are looking for sympathy. My job here is to act as a counselor to those who are trying to get well. I am not a professional. Nor do I counseling skills. But I have been there. I have been where many of you are right now, in despair, hopelessness, and with nowhere to turn. My life is good now. If you need a shoulder to cry on, cry on mine. If you need a boost, I’ll give you one. All I ask, is that you try to get better. None of us will be what we were before we got sick. However, in our ways, we can be better. We are a community of people who can help ourselves. Sure, we need the professionals and their drugs. But there is so much more we can do to climb out of the abyss, live healthy and happy lives, and be the envy of our family and friends. Life is worth living.
A year and a half ago, I outgrew what ailed me. With the help of a seven-week Fourth Step workshop in A.A. and a thirteen-week vocational study at the VA, I was shot into a fourth dimension. I am permanently happy. I liken the smile on my face to that of a man I met who survived the Bataan Death March. Or to that of the man I knew who survived 13 years in a Viet Cong prisoner of war camp. My book, Song for my Baby and Other Stories, is about how I got here. I was in the abyss when I wrote it. I used its tools to climb out. It is published by Unsolicited Press.
I am considered a nice young man at my church. I am a deacon, usher, and first responder. I socialize a lot after service in the Friendship Room, where we gather for cookies and coffee and fellowship. It was here, today, that I told my assistant minister and a man who has his own radio show that I am schizophrenic and bipolar. They knew already that I was an alcoholic. They thought nothing of it. They treated me the same after the revelation as before it. This is a common response to my illness. The stigma seems to be the product of the mental health profession and not the public at large. I work at Walgreens and everyone in my workplace knows I am schizophrenic. Now they know at my church. I live in a hi-rise. The requirement for living here is a mental l health problem. However, no one talks about it. It is all hush-hush. Yet that’s how we got here, a diagnosis of being off our rocker. I outgrew my diagnosis. The other residents have not.
Song for My Baby and Other Stories, published by Unsolicited Press, is due out next year. It is about being mentally ill and living well. I was in the abyss when I wrote it. I downhill skied, hunted ducks, and fished on the Mississippi River. I played handball and reviewed theater for my local newspaper. I had minimum wage jobs and lived like a king. I had family and friends. I had girlfriends, I had a full life, despite the Hell that went on inside my mind.
Just finished meeting with my A.A. sponsor. Talked abut this blog, my cravings for alcohol, and my new book, Song For My Baby and Other Stories, published by Unsolicited Press and due out June of 2020. My sophistication with WordPress is improving. My cravings are decreasing. My new book has been copyedited, proofed, and is in the hands of the publisher. Galley proofs are due out in November this year. Life is good, I concluded with him. He left the coffee shop after I said that to return next week for the next installment of the journey of my recovery from alcoholism. . I am dual diagnosed and to speak of booze requires me to talk about my head. The two are inextricable. My head improves as do my feelings, as I move further away from my relapse two years ago, after twenty-five years of sobriety. I am happy. The last two weeks, I have been cheerful with everyone I meet. This is new. Played handball today which always makes me happy.
I can’t. She has more information on drugs than I will ever have. She is an authority. She works in the mental health profession. However, I was on the receiving end of two of these illnesses for almost fifty years. I know what helped me recover. I consider myself a survivor of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, although I am still treated for them. I take medication for them. Without friends, family,, and healthy activities, a person with these disorders is screwed. In my book, Song For My Baby and Other Stories, I talk about relationships, family, and sports that got me well. When I wrote the book, I was hurting. This gave the book immediacy. I was in the abyss when I wrote it. Today I am on solid ground. The book is about how I got here.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is my first entry in my new blog. I am announcing the debut of my new book, Song For My Baby and Other Stories, due out in June, 2020. It is a testament to the fact people can live well while mentally ill. They can enjoy family life, the company of close friends, and pass times the envy of many. My family gathered around me when I got ill, my friends stuck by me, and I played handball, downhill skied, duck hunted, and fished until Hell would not have it. Anything to put me out of the misery I was in. Good times replaced bad times. No one is as sick as you are? I’ve been there, when there was no hope, no view except the bottom of a Manhattan glass. I was known hence forth as my sister’s schizophrenic bother. My only claim to fame was I lived well. Today, I compared myself to people who are healthy and have full lives. Once, I compared myself to nutcases and thought I was doing well. And I was! Those days are gone and I entered a new era of fighting it out with everyone else.
I incurred a nervous breakdown in 1974. My family gathered around me. We were in crisis. My father threw away a lucrative banking career and moved to the north woods. My sister got married five years before she wanted. My brother took me on every skiing, fishing, and hunting trip possible. My mother played golf and listened to me rage. We made it. You can too.
There’s more. I helped form a writers’ group and review plays for my local newspaper. I play handball in a league. I wrote a book about it all titled, Song For My Baby and Other Stories. It is available from Unsolicited Press.
Song for my Baby and Other Stories recounts the history of my mental illness, its medical treatment, and the life I led to replace bad times with good times. There are stories of duck hunting, downhill skiing, and handball; There are stories of friends who helped me and family who fought like stuck pigs for my life. There is one story of my idyllic childhood that helped me survive an illness I equated with Auschwitz.