An attempt to write a pretentious memoir…

Lately, I have been experiencing some recurrent flashes of previous psychosis.  I recently experienced a stressful event where a person was… essentially preying on me.

I want to talk about it to you.  I want to tell you every detail of it.  But all my friends… they tell me I should keep it to myself.  Keep quiet.  For my safety.  For my protection.

I wonder.  My entire life, I have indeed been an open book, to the extent that I have been vulnerable to attack.  But… as a peer… isn’t there strength in me, disclosing my stories?  Sometimes, I feel that so many people suffer in silence, because we don’t share our stories.  We hide them because of fear, and as a result… we are isolated.  We are alone.  Instead of standing together, united, we hide ourselves to preserve our reputations.

I wish the world would change in this regard.  Of course, one little person like myself cannot just share her whole life story and then expect the world to change…

Unless I wrote a book.

A friend of mine recently advised that I write a memoir.  Save the stories for something big, like a book… and then get it published.  It would potentially be financially lucrative, and also just a concise document, stylized to “perfection.”

Although, I’ve got a hella lot to write.

It’s comical, a bit.  Last week, I was sitting in Starbucks, typing away at “the memoir.”  A dude from OkCupid messaged me, asking if I was up for a spontaneous date.  I accepted, and advised he met me at the Starbucks where I was currently parked.

He came by, and I was somewhat attracted, except for the fact that he looked somewhat like a family member of mine.  Which was a buzz kill.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m writing a memoir.”

Skeptical, he seemed.  “Um… you’ve only lived like, one third of your life…”  Instantly, he thought I was pretentious.

I remained friendly, partially because I was oblivious and enjoying his company, if only because it was something different to look at.  “Yeah, it’s fun.”

He tried to make conversation.  “So, how experienced are you with meeting people online?”

“Oh, I’ve met tons of people.  I’m trying not to do it so much these days though.  I did a lot of stupid shit.”

“Oh yeah?  Like, what is your funniest story?”

I told him of a time when I double-booked myself with 2 guys off of Craigslist.  He laughed, but was obviously appalled at my lewdness.

“Yeah, I’m thinking of deleting my OkCupid profile,” he said.

We made small talk then about traveling, and I disclosed that I speak German.  I was envious that he had seen most of Western Europe.  He glanced out the window often, as we talked lightly about the economy or something, I don’t quite remember.  I also said that I liked Bayside, where I live, because it is a Korean neighborhood with lots of quaint restaurants and coffee shops.  Regarding the coffee shops, I said that they were as pleasant as the hipster joints in Manhattan, except without the hipsters.

At that moment, I probably looked terribly hipster to this guy.  Given that I was writing a pretentious memoir, and that I have a history of being an internet slut.  So be it.  *sigh*

And then… he said that he was getting a migraine, and that he was seeing spots and having tingling in his hand.  He stood up to leave.

“Good luck writing your memoir.”

No skin off my back.  I guess.  He probably didn’t want to be a character in the “memoir.”

I wonder.  Do I even have enough to write about?  I think… I do.  I have extensive experience as a classical musician, have traveled a fair amount, and then there is the mental illness, which is the crux of why I’m writing in the first place.

My illness has taken me to the weirdest parts of my brain.  Like, peeing in the street before being hospitalized.  Rubbing olive oil on myself in the shower because I was trying to harness my chi.  Smelling appliances in a store, determining which ones were heterosexual versus homosexual based on which nostril the air entered my nose.

One thing about my experience with schizophrenia, is that it causes my brain to go a million miles a second.  Idea after idea after idea, and I try to oblige them by acting on them.  But there are so many thoughts, that I simply stagger around, frantically minded, feeling like I am overwhelmed with divine revelations.  As if God chose me to be a messenger to the world, and that I must reach Obama to open the book of the Seven Seals.  And also… the messages from inanimate objects.  Everything starts communicating with me.

Some people say that, in times past, schizophrenia was viewed as a spiritual gift.  Sometimes I wish it was this simple.  But for me… even if schizophrenia creates a well-spring of creative energy, it is not enjoyable.  It is FUCKING EXHAUSTING.

My brain, it flits from idea to idea uncontrollably.  And then I look at the world around me, and I feel frustrated and isolated, because it seems to be going at a snail’s pace.  My brain is light speed, and yet no one can keep up with me.  So then I start saying “weird things,” trying to get people to notice me and help me, or whatever.  But they’re “slow.”  They do nothing.

I’m thankful to have been hospitalized when I was.  Because then, I was able to rest.  My brain, newly medicated, could have a chance to use different brain cells that were not burnt out from the breakdown.  Some medications felt fucking horrible, in that they caused things like week-long constipation or extreme weight gain… but others have saved my life.

I still take meds today.  I’m glad they exist.  Because of them, I am now able to live the life that I have always wanted for myself.  Truly, I didn’t even know who I was until I started Clozapine, 2.5 years ago.  Clozapine… it erased the pessimism and paranoia that I have had since early childhood.

The side effects are not the best, but I am able to accept them.  Mostly, extreme sedation at night, which makes me sleep like a rock for at least 8 hours.  I can never ever scrimp on sleep.  There’s also drooling in my sleep, but a wet pillow isn’t too much to cry over.  It is potentially a very dangerous drug though.  I have to get monthly blood tests to monitor my white blood cell count.  At times, I need to repeat the blood work because the numbers aren’t good.

But still… it’s worth it.  I finally know who I am.  I finally have mental clarity and peace.  Many people think you attain Nirvana by meditating and having a spiritual practice.  That works for most people, but not for me.  For me… only meds can make me experience mental silence.

Perhaps this is sad.  Perhaps this offends some people.  But this is my story.  And I will tell it.  I am not afraid, because there is no choice to be such.

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People Micromanage Us

I am frustrated.  I feel like certain people, who are very close to me, make it their business to micromanage everything I do.

I understand that they do this because they care about me.  And it grieves them to see me stumble and fall and make mistakes.  They, and I too, chalk it up to my mental illness.  And this is a reasonable “excuse,” if only because there is no other excuse.

One problem, though, is that overall, I am very naïve person.  And even though I’ve been victimized several times, due to being naïve, I have not “learned my lesson.”  So I continue to be victimized.  And I continue to be harassed.  These people think I’m stupid for broadcasting my personal business on Facebook.  They think I should hush and be mum.

I sort of agree with this.  We should be private in some regard.  But, these people seem to read everything I write, and then comment on arbitrary things I write that they don’t like.  They expect me to then not make the same mistakes again.

The problem is, I can’t freaking mind-read which comments they “won’t like.”

I really don’t like how some people use Facebook, the same way old ladies back in the day would sit on their porches looking at the neighbors go by.  Come on.  I’m nearly 30.

I also don’t like being bossed around and told what to do, because nobody is perfect.  No one is an expert at living their lives.  So why should they be experts on mine?  Perhaps I should shut up.  Perhaps I shouldn’t write this, because of course they’ll read this and think that I’m dissing them.

But… just because I have a mental health diagnosis, does that mean that people without a diagnosis are better experts at life?  Does their lack of a diagnosis mean they can tell us what to do, and we have to dogmatically follow what they tell us?

I have a friend, who is in quite a sad situation.  He has a physical disability, and although he is capable of living an independent life, his mother forbids him to do so.  This man, in his forties, seems to find happiness regardless, but he acts quite like a small child.  He holds a stuffed animal for comfort.  It grieves me, that his mother claims to shield him “for his own good.”  What kind of love is that?

So please: if you are a person who has a loved one with mental illness… do NOT micromanage.  Do NOT spout the “you should do this and that” advice.  One thing I learned, at my peer specialist training program at Howie the Harp in Harlem, NYC… was to keep it on the I.  Instead of saying, “you should do this, that… you you you…”  you should instead use the word I.  “I don’t like it when you do ___.  It makes me feel ____.”

Because, when you use the word “you,” it becomes an attack on the other person.  A criticism.  And as a result, the walls go up.  And communication and diplomacy end.  When changing the word to “I,” you then invite communication, because you are simply expressing your feelings.  That allows the other person to do the same, thereby allowing greater compromise to occur.

Of course, I am adopting a “you, you, you” tone with this article.  But, part of my aim for writing is not necessarily about “changing the reader.”  I also just… want people in my situation to identify.  I want people to feel like they are not alone in their pain and suffering. Maybe, I hope… that when people read this, maybe they can feel some relief that someone else gets it.  Or maybe someone wants to ask me a question, who knows.

I kind of had a cruddy day, but I’m taking next week off from work.  I deserve it.  I haven’t had a vacation since I started my job last December, 2014.  I have really earned it.

Feeling the Trauma and Fear FULLY, to Let Go

I used to want to date nerdy white men.  Everything about them seemed attractive.  Their “shyness,” I interpreted to be politeness.  Their interest in non-athletic pursuits, I used to find intelligent.  But always, I have never been able to snag the attention, or the even flirtatious glances of a nerdy white guy, at least eye to eye.

I’d always chalk up their disinterest to the fact that I was not attractive enough.  When riding through the subway tunnels of lower Manhattan, I’d see these… hipster types, I could say, holding hands with pale-skinned hanger-skinny white girls with bone straight hair, having sorts of conversations that seemed boring, even without my being able to hear a thing.  Or, perhaps I’d find these young men holding hands “charming” immigrant east Asian girls, crooked teeth and all.

My friends always tell me I’m attractive, to this day.  But despite their encouragement and honesty, I never feel like I am.  I see these hipster couples with their MacLaren strollers, and their front-sided baby pouches, and I think, “Why can’t I be like them?  Why can’t I be stupid and vacant like them?”  Really, I mean, they look boring as shit, and yet I want to be like them.

These days, I don’t want to date.  I’m not interested in nerdy men anymore, and I have never been into more macho or thuggish types.  I’m incredibly friendly, kind and somewhat naïve.  Truly, any person who has been attracted to me thus far has been the predatory type.  Typically, people find me attractive because I bat my eyes away when men flirt with me, and so I attract the more aggressive types.  While nicer men will leave me alone after my withdrawal, the go-getters (and typically the more cocky and over-confident) will perceive me as prey, and attack.

For this reason, I have been subject to numerous unwanted sexual encounters.  My kindness and naïvety, I mean.  Over the years, various predators have enticed me as easily as candy with a baby.  One time, a bald man at my local Barnes & Noble told me I was beautiful, spoke a few words to me in German (which I speak), and then lured me into his car, wherein he molested me.  He claimed he was 35 years old, but looked more like 55.  I sat silently and listened, while he told me he loved me and wanted to dress me like a princess.  I remained mute… and then he “benevolently” drove me home.

Another time, an acquaintance from my college, a Latino married man, began flirting with me on Skype.  I was unable to catch on to the sexual innuendos.  He invited me to have a “recording session” with a friend the next day, which I agreed to attend.  I traveled there, and spent the day sitting idly in a recording studio, waiting for the “musicians” to show up.  One was busy taking a shower for 2 hours, another was getting Chinese for an hour, and so forth.

For dinner, I went to an Italian restaurant with my acquaintance and 3 other Latino men, during which they spoke in Spanish the entire time.  I was unable to understand a word they said.  After a while, my acquaintance invited me to leave because it was “boring” and I “couldn’t understand,” and then he brought me to his car, whereby he began molesting me.  The other 3 men showed up and joined in, and then I was driven to a motel.  I really had no idea where I was.  I lay there quietly, like a dead fish.  They attempted to do whatever they wanted, and I dissociated.  Was mute.  After a while, they sensed my “disinterest,” and told me, “Oh, we just wanted you to have fun.”  Benevolently, they then drove me home.  I didn’t tell anyone about this episode until a full 24 hours later, when I called 911.  I was then interviewed by a brute lady cop, who told me that it was not rape because I didn’t express any protestations.

Really?  So, if I dissociate and become mute and am unable to move due to fear… is that consenting to unwanted sexual contact?

Who knows.  I think the worst time was in September-ish time in 2009, maybe October.  I was feeling sad, whilst loitering in Washington Square park in downtown Manhattan, near NYU.  A black guy came up to me, and told me I was beautiful.  I felt a bit better, and began following him around.  He told me he was a rapper, and took me to a nice French restaurant for an early dinner.

After a while, we entered a cab, and he had me pay for a hotel at Times Square for about $169.  In the bedroom, he essentially lied that he was scratching himself while sitting next to me.  Again, I was a stone.  He attempted to go further, but I dissociated and made no noise.  He then gave up, and we retired.  The next day… I think he asked me for money, I don’t remember quite, but I said that the card on my person was my mother’s.  He then allowed me to leave.  2 days later, I received a call from the police, telling me that this man was a wanted serial rapist, known for slashing women with knives.

There have been other instances of my being taken advantage of, again and again.  Why does this keep happening to me?  Why am I unable to protect myself from predators?

I guess because I’m nice.  I guess because I assume good will with people, and those who are predators… thrive on nice types like me.  They perceive me as “stupid,” and “street-dumb.”  They feed me sweet lines, and they do what they want.

But I’m fucking lucky.  I always wonder… why did these sinister rapists leave me untouched?

Maybe… I always remember that, when these people were violating me, I still regarded them as people with feelings.  I regarded them as people who were entitled to have that which made them happy.  And if it was my unhappiness that they desired, they were entitled to have it.

Maybe I’m an idealist here, but I wonder… maybe they sensed that respect that I offered to them.  Maybe these sinister people were touched emotionally… maybe they felt that I “understood” them.  Or maybe… maybe they saw that I was not putting up any fight, and so they found me a boring conquest.

I might be saying something odd… but sinister people are people too.  My problem, has always been that I never learned from my mistakes.  I allowed myself to be advantage of, over and over again, yet I never learned to protect myself.  And these assholes… they take advantage of people over and over again, and they never learn either.

I’m terribly an idealist.

I think I have a clearer picture to tell.  In 2012, I briefly dated a guy I met in a bar in Brooklyn, at some hipster joint.  We became soulmates overnight, and then spent a good deal of time together.  The details of his life that he shared with me were tumultuous and sorrowful, and so I developed compassion for him.  Yet, my instincts were such, that he made me sad often, and I broke off with him a few times within 6 weeks.  The façade he presented quickly began to crack, and I realized that his presence was far more dangerous than I expected.  But in the end… it was him, transforming into a utter monster while speaking on the phone to some hapless phone representative.  I saw shades of my father.  I saw what this man was capable of.

Then something unexpected happened.

When he hung up, he looked at me, with tears.  “I’m wrong for you.  I’m just going to drag you down.  You’re better off without me.”  And he left.

I think… I think that he was ashamed of who he was, or maybe he was a victim of circumstances that caused his integrity to weaken.  “Sinisterize.”

I CARE TOO MUCH.

How do I heal?  How do I reclaim myself?  Or… how do I just CLAIM myself?  Sometimes, I wonder… have I ever known who I am?  This shit started when I was so young.

I’m happy though… I’ve come this far.  And I want to go further… but right now I just need to grieve.  Cry.  Feel it fully.  And feel it by myself.  I don’t want to try and find the answers from others.  Asking for advice.  I want to find it in myself.  It’s so hard though.  I hope I can do it soon.  Because I don’t want to live in the past, and I don’t want to live in fear anymore.

The fear… that is what causes me to limit my future.  That fear of friendship and beyond… that is what causes me to still be in the dark, when I look at romantic couples and marriage partners… I don’t get what binds them together.  I only understand violence and hatred.  I only understand manipulation.  That is why I’ve been afraid.  And… for me to say it here… maybe some sicko will read it here, and then find me and get me.  But… there are so many of us out there, suffering like me.  Suffering like the way I write here.  And we are intimidated into remaining silent, to save our skins.

It’s almost as if, every hipster couple reminds me of how they have no tragedy like this, and so their lives are easier.  Smoother…  but… in my soul, I know I’ve got it better.  Because I’ve got depth.

I’m Writing A Book

A particularly strange occurrence occurred to me… that this strange occurrence was not normal.

In other words, I have something to say that cannot be succinctly described in a single blog post.  Nor can it be explained in a journal entry that I can tuck away into that little neglected book by my bed.  Nor can it be verbally explained to a close friend in under an hour.  Not even if I type lightning-fast, as I often do.  No no, my fingers are only so deft.

Let’s just say, something happened, that broke the camel’s back.  The straw, as it were… when it touched my buckling shoulders, it not only made me realize that I had had enough… it made me realize that I am a freaking camel.

This is a metaphor, but I am trying to illustrate a point.  Sometimes, the person you are, or the person you think you are, is not at all who you really are.  Or… it is not at all who other people perceive you to be.

For years, I’ve been downplaying myself, all in the name of “humility.”  Let’s call it it’s real name: self-deprecation.  Or rather: self-hatred.  “I’m sorry” here, “I’m sorry” there.  Oh, I’m sorry, I tripped over a woman’s foot on my way out of the toilet.  I’m sorry, the woman who shined my shoes at the train station starts huffing when I tell her she made my shoes too shiny.  Poor her, and her two extra wasted minutes… and her half-assed attempt to… to do what?

This is why I need to write a book.  Not for you, not for me, not for the woman.  But because for some freaking reason, that is beyond what we know.  All of us.  I think… I’m writing it for the reason of intelligence.

Intelligence is fading away, because no one sees it in their waking lives.  And… shreds of it still exist, in some of our minds.  It might be as dim as a feeble candle, it might be non-existent in others, and still others, it’s a freaking super nova covered by an opaque lampshade.  Sadly, we are now all encouraged to wear lampshades, as it is the fashion.  I speak metaphorically, and yet many soon might be too dumb to differentiate between a lampshade and reality.  We do talk of virtual reality helmets as the next wave of video game consoles at times, don’t we?

In any case, I also have an arrogant realization to make:  I’m brilliant.  And I’m tired of down-playing it so that others can feel like I’m their friend and equal.  Because I’m not.  As a preschooler, my favorite melodies were Christmas carols, and I’d sing them all year.  Pop songs were unstimulating baby songs, in comparison.  It only got worse as I became an educated, classical musician.  Pop music made no sense.  Even today, I have trouble remembering this pop song from the other because it all sounds the same.  It all sounds like baby music, with dry, empty lyrics that feature no poetic artistry or character.

There’s more to say, but I’m tired.  I’m starting my book.  I’m going to write it, because I want you, or whoever reads it, to really look within themself and recognize that little shred of intelligence that remains, and really water it.  Give it sunlight, and allow it to grow.  Because if we allow our intellects to flower and go where they will, as does ivy along a wall… we will have freedom to direct our lives where we want them to go.  As of now, we have not this freedom.  It lies trapped.  It is covered by an iPad.  It is covered by Kim Kardashian’s ass.  It’s covered by the fragrance of money.

We need to stop this crap.  We need to stop trying to be popular and famous.  Whether it’s in your first grade class at the lunchroom table, or if it’s about becoming the star of the next viral video online… we need to learn that there is more to life.

That’s why I’m writing this book.  And now I’m tired.  I’m going to bed, right after I drink my fucking diet soda.

Out of the Mental Illness Closet

As a mental health peer specialist, the crux of my job is that I openly talk about my personal experiences with mental illness.  By doing this, my clients feel that I understand where they are coming from.  Because… even if you’re a psychiatrist or a social worker, years of school cannot give you the perspective of a person who’s ACTUALLY BEEN THROUGH IT.

I love this job.  I’m basically being paid to be myself!

But an idea occurred to me today.  If, in the event that I wanted to switch careers, and no longer work in the mental health field… what do I put on my resume?

I mean, do I write that I was a peer specialist?  Do I truthfully describe my job duties?  A lot of the world is not forward-thinking, the way we wish.  If a potential employer sees that I was a “peer,” that might turn him/her off to inviting me to an interview.  And what if I wanted to be a teacher?  Or a cop?  Would this sabotage my chances completely?

I don’t know.  There is always the option of leaving the job off completely.  But then… there’d be a gaping hole in my resume.  They’d wonder… “What did this person do during that time?  Were they *just* unemployed?”  No matter how bad our economy gets, those who are unemployed are THEMSELVES blamed for not working.

How disgusting.

So of course, I can’t do that.  What if I lied about what I did as a job?  I could maybe write that I was a “mental health specialist,” or a “recreational director.”  When I talk to strangers about what I do for work, I’ll sometimes use these terms.  I do it less for privacy’s sake, and more because it takes a few sentences to describe what a peer does.  And sometimes… I don’t feel like talking to people for that long.  Because I’m tired, and sometimes anti-social.

I don’t think I could lie about my job on a resume though.  I could ask my job in advance if they’d permit that, but… then again, it’s LYING.

That’s the thing.  Being a peer specialist… it’s not only about sharing experiences.  It’s also about living a life of integrity.  Practicing what we preach.  We speak to our clients about recovery, and we LIVE recovery in our own lives.

It goes beyond this too, I’ve discovered.  After thinking about this resume conundrum, I realize that being a peer specialist… it is a LIFETIME COMMITMENT.

For me though, this is not so bad.  Because, for the first time… I’m not living in a closet with my illness.  I’m open.  I’m out.  I’m disclosing, and I’m not forced into shame about it either!

So why would I ever want to go back into the closet?  Being “out” now, I discover that there is power in it.  I can unite with others who are out, (no quotations needed here!) and we can …

Wait, what can we do?

Change the world?

How do we change a world that doesn’t want to be changed?  How do we change the opinions of people, when they are too numb to know that it is possible to change an opinion at all?  “Me, a republican?  Hell no!”  What…?  Liberals don’t know shit.”

We are so inflexible-minded.  We are so confident in who we are, that we fail to question ourselves.  This is what the peer profession does.  As a peer, I question how I got “well.”  I question everything that happened to me, so that I can be wise.  So that I can help my clients as best as I can.

There’s no going back.  There’s no hiding in the closet anymore.  I’ve got a mental illness diagnosis, and I’m proud of it.  I can’t be anything except proud.

I am a Violin Teacher Again!

Recently, I acquired a violin student.  And I’m quite happy!

I began teaching violin regularly about 5 years ago.  Before then, I learned a good deal of violin pedagogy in college.  I attended a top conservatory, and had the chance to observe and learn from an excellent violin pedagogue.  One of the best in the United States.

It was incredibly fascinating, learning about this teacher’s method.  She really taught me that learning violin is more than just showing up to lessons.  It’s about understanding the physical mechanics of the body, and knowing how to impart those concepts in lessons… and to small children!  A big part of her success is due to the heavy reliance on parents.  Ideally, a parent is fully involved in his/her child’s education, and serves as a teacher in the home, who practices daily with his/her child.

After leaving college, I certainly was armed with a plethora of knowledge.  But when I started teaching kids on my own… my education fell short.

Namely… I wasn’t dealing with compliant students… or parents.

At first, I tried to really get parents involved.  I’d explain to parents that their presence in the room would greatly contribute to their child’s progress.  And yet… they’d just drop their kid off and leave, no matter.  It was then frustrating, trying to teach small children, as young as 5 years old, and give them practicing homework to accomplish on their own.  When parents would pick their children up, I would then talk to the parents, trying to cram what I wanted them to do with their children as they walked back to their cars.

It’s hard to do your best, when the other person doesn’t do their best either.  Or rather… makes no attempt to do their best.  I remember… I wanted so badly for my students to be accomplished musicians.  I made an effort to establish friendly relationships with each of them, and explained each concept in language unique to each student.

And yet, my efforts fell on deaf ears.  Quite inconvenient, when they are supposed to be listening.  It is music after all!

I tried to remain motivated.  And… it wasn’t that bad, in a sense.  I taught for a solid 3.5 years, sometimes having as many as 11 students.  During this time, I learned a tremendous amount.  I was able to modify the pedagogy I learned in college, into a system that worked for the type of students I had.  Not only did I have to teach performance, but I also had to teach literacy.  Note reading.  Which involves “note names” (A, B, C, etc.) and rhythms.  (Quarter notes, half notes, etc.)

Progress was slow, but the children learned well overall.  Sadly, I had to drop my students permanently after I became ill in November of 2012.  I was hospitalized for a full 3 months.  I guess it was a relief at the time.  I was exhausted from an over-booked schedule.  I was a full-time grad student in Queens, and a near-full-time music teacher at a private school in Brooklyn besides.  Sometimes, I’d be schlepping 3 instruments at once: a violin and a viola in each hand, and a cello on my back.  Through the bus and subways.  At the time, I wanted it this way.  I wanted to be prolific and productive.

Needless to say, I was stressed.  But even worse: I was denying that I was stressed.  Of course, this concept can fully open another conversation, but for the purpose of this blog entry, I will not “go there.”  I hope you understand. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, I obtained a new violin student.  And… I realize how much I miss teaching.  Even better, I am more confident in myself, and I seem to be teaching more efficiently as well.

I have had a dream for a long while, that I could somehow integrate my love for teaching violin with my desire to help those with mental illness.  Sort of like… Professor X from X-Men.  Starting an academy, where students would learn artistic disciplines, from excellent teachers of course.  But… it would be different.  The lessons with teachers would not only serve the purpose of teaching the curriculum, but also allow the student to develop as a person.  Material would be presented in a way, that would stimulate the student’s creativity and curiosity.

In this process, the student would be able to develop confidence in his/her ability to strive towards excellence.  So often, these days, children feel useless.  They attend classes taught by people who are burned out and tired.  The curricula of the grades, K-12, is retarded (meaning, held back), and concepts are taught far too apart from one another.

In my opinion, there should be no summer vacation.  Children would finish everything by the 9th grade, age 14, and would have teenage rebelliousness that would be quelled by the overwhelming responsibilities of college.  Additionally, no summer vacation would develop a superior work ethic at an early age.  Children should view school, as an adult views a job.  Indeed, it is a child’s job to do well in school.  You don’t get 3 months off from work usually, unless you’re a teacher!

The logistics of such an education reform would be time-consuming and difficult to implement, given the status of our current system.  But it bothers me to no end.  The lazier we are with how we run our education system, the lazier our children become.  And what future does that spell for us?

Anyway, my dream would be to have a school for kids.  Like Professor X.  But… my school wouldn’t only have “mentally ill” kids.  There’d be “regular” kids thrown into the mix.  Because truly, everyone is different.  And… having both groups together helps each be more tolerant and diplomatic with the other.  I remember… when my brother was young, he attended a preschool that was mixed.  Some were learning disabled, others weren’t.  Overall, the teachers were far superior to those at regular preschools, because they were actually practicing some sort of evidence-based pedagogy, instead of just babysitting crying kids with no curriculum except for a diaper table and some finger paint.

I hope that, sooner rather than later, I can acquire some more students and start a little school.  Teaching students, one on one, and then having a group meeting every weekend.  Sort of emulating a Suzuki school with the group lesson concept, but also… creating my own system.

Also, adult beginners would be with children beginners.  I think that, as the 21st century progresses, we need to tear down the barriers between child and adult.  Because, children are far more savvy than in the past.  They have the internet, and they are exposed to everything an adult knows by the time they’re 7.  So let’s stop trying to baby them.  PLEASE.

Anyway… please comment here if you’ve read, and let me know what you think of what I’ve proposed.  I want to take this idea further, but I need feedback in order to do such.  IN the near future, I hope to create a couple of videos, promoting myself as a violin teacher.  I live in Queens, NY.  If you know anyone, send them my way.

~THANKS~ 🙂

Meds Changed My Life, and Now I’m Happy

It’s rather exciting, getting a lot done in one day:

I wrote a good chunk of a nice song.

I taught a 2 hour violin lesson.

I recorded some music with a family member.

I cooked shitty brisket.

I worked out to Tony Horton, P90X3

It feels good.  It feels good, being productive.  Damn good.  But… for years, I wasn’t.  I was depressed, and then… psychotic.  Lost in an alternate reality, and imprisoned within walls of negativity.  I couldn’t work, or enjoy my talents.  I couldn’t even smile.

And… I’m thankful now.  I’m thankful because I am now a normal person.  Even since babyhood, I never seemed to “get” life.  I’d see people around me, laughing, socializing, being close to one another… and I felt like it was all foreign to me.  What is there to smile about?  I felt lonely, as if no one understood me.

For many years, I thought there was a “key” to life.  Some sort of secret that, if only I had it, I would understand happiness.  I would understand fulfillment.  I searched and searched for many years.  I tried several religions and spiritual practices, trying to grasp at straws to make my life meaningful.

That’s another thing.  Mental illness caused my life to have no meaning.  After developing schizophrenia in my early 20s, I couldn’t work, and I couldn’t forge friendships in the way I wanted.  I took medications that were not ideal for me, and I suffered from it.  I gained 90 pounds in 2.5 years.  My psychiatrist would say “get a job.”  I’d say, “I can’t.  I’m a violin teacher, and it’s impossible to find students these days.”  In response to my weight gain, he’d say, “You should exercise.”  I’d say, “I’m too depressed.”

And then… end of conversation.

A tangent: it baffles me that this MD told me to “exercise” to lose weight.  In my journey of weight loss, I learned that weight loss largely relies on DIET.  And yet this doctor didn’t make that suggestion to me.  It’s absurd, really.

Anyway.

My life was without meaning.  Even though I had many acquaintances, I felt isolated.  My facial expressions and my overall “aura” was not inviting.  It was instead “intense,” “tortured,” and just ugly.  I’d have a perpetual frown.  I was… shy?  Disinterested, rather.  And I thought that everyone around me was shallow, vacuous and immature.  Because only “immature” people have something to smile about.  To me, life was a dim experience.

But then… my perspective changed radically.

In November of 2012, I experienced the second worst mental breakdown of my life.  I was hospitalized and then sent home about 3.5 weeks later.  That night, I had the worst breakdown of my life, and then was hospitalized 2 months after that.  And… this hospitalization changed my life.

What happened?  Well, I was put on Clozapine.  Clozapine is an incredibly powerful drug, and is usually a “last resort” for treating psychosis.  Doctors are cautious in prescribing it because it can cause agranulocytosis, or a reduced white blood cell count.  As a result, regular blood tests are necessary.  For the first 6 months, you need to have a blood test once a week.  For the next 6 months, a blood test every other week.  And then, if all is well, every 4 weeks.

After starting Clozapine, my life radically changed.  Finally… I got it.  Those dark and gloomy thoughts that I’ve had for my entire life… they’re gone.  Completely gone.  And I realize now that those thoughts are not me.  That’s right, I used to think that I, Neesa Sunar, was my thoughts.  That those thoughts were my identity.  But when they disappeared, I was then able to realize that I am something much more than my thoughts.

Many people decry the psychiatric system, and say that medications and treatment stifle the human right of mental freedom.  Many say that their problems started only after starting medications.  I respect these people, and applaud that they speak out without fear.  But, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  For me, and for many others, life was unbearable until we started medications.

I wonder though.  So many years of my life were tortured.  What if I had started Clozapine at an earlier age?  What would have been my destiny?  Would I have written more songs?  Would I have been able to get a job and keep it?  Would I have more money?  I am frustrated at my psychiatrists’ conservative prescribing habits.

I think a problem that I encountered over the years, was that I was always labeled as “high functioning.”  In general, I present myself as a very articulate and intelligent person.  Well-educated doctors see me, and think that I am well, and “not that sick.”  Even in my sickest moments, I was able to speak and articulate precisely what was happening to me.  And as a result, they were conservative in prescribing medications.

It saddens me also, because for those who are less savvy in conversation, or simply those who are less articulate or intelligent (dare I say), doctors assume they are lower-functioning, and so they take more aggressive measures to treat these people.  It saddens me, how those with borderline mental retardation are pegged as sick, and suffer from terrible tremors or incomprehensible drooling.

I mean, what makes me different from them?  We have the same sicknesses.  We have the same right to being happy.  Why is it that they get the stronger medications, and I don’t?

I’d rather not dwell on the “what ifs,” though.  My life is happy now.  Better late than never.  I should be thankful that I have what I have.  A roof over my head.  Air conditioning in this terrible heat.  Enough money to buy healthy food.  A family.  A career.  And many gifts.  I’m a violist, a violin teacher, a songwriter, an articulate blogger, a conversationalist, an enthusiast for the German language and a loyal and loving friend to many people.

My hope now, is that I can share my wellness with those around me.  Especially as a mental health peer specialist.  I work at an agency that provides housing for those with mental illness disabilities.  When I interact with our residents… my greatest hope is that I can forge poignant relationships, which will cause them to learn things about themselves that they didn’t know.  And in this process, they may discover a well-spring of confidence, and then forge ahead with greater independence and fulfillment in life in general.

I also have other aspirations, regarding the direction that I want to take my career.  But that is for another post for me to reveal.  As for now, I am satisfied with where I am in my life, and I appreciate the slow process of it all.  I am not impatient to get “promoted” or to “get a masters degree” overnight.  I find that the true joy in life, is to learn how to appreciate each little baby step.  If we can do this, then we will find happiness in every moment of life.