Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Weekly Update: 9-30-15 Schizophrenia and Taco Tuesdays

Announcement: I will be selling copies of THE CHANGELINGS as well as a few of my homemade cards at the El Dorado High School Holiday Boutique (1651 Valencia Ave., Placentia) from 10-11 this Saturday, October 3rd. Various local authors to sign from 9:00-3:00.

Announcement: On Saturday, October 10, NAMI is hosting a 5k Walk in William R. Macy Park (1810 E 17th St.,Santa Ana, California 92705) at 10:00 AM (check-in begins at 8:00) to raise money and awareness for Mental Illness.

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 Since the beginning of September, my mom, dad, and I have been attending a "Family-to-Family" class hosted by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). The class educated people with a family member who is mentally ill about everything from the types of diseases and medicines, to communication and problem-solving techniques, to where to go during a crisis. 

My younger sister Jaime has recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is only a small surprise as she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder as early as high school and has since bounced around with everything from social anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Naming the disease is actually a relief, since it means I can sit down and research it.

(This website offers a good insight into mental illness by portraying them as pokemon-esque monsters:

I should have researched it in high school, when symptoms first broke out. That was the crisis time, when it first came to light that my sister heard voices telling her to do violent things. At that time, though, I was senior in high school and it was my first experience of life going off the rails and I didn't know how to handle it. Later, I went to college and then to Japan, and my sister's condition began to stabilize, and I just sort of assumed she was okay.

But even though she's managing her disease, it hasn't gone away. So my mother suggested we all take the free class to learn about it.

Every Tuesday, my parents drive down from Victorville. We go to Rubios for their $2 fish tacos and attend the class together. And I have to admit, it hasn't exactly been a breeze. Some of the people attending the class have family members who are homeless or in jail. The heaviness of their sorrows sink into the soul. At the same time, it frightens me, since schizophrenia is a degenerative disease, which means it may get worse.

But a few things have made it more bearable:

1. Tacos! It's actually nice to go out to dinner with my family and spend time together, just hanging out and talking. We're scheduling in family time weekly, something I haven't done in forever.
2. Doodling. During class, when either the instructors are speaking or other people in the class are sharing, and I start feeling overwhelmed, I just start sketching. I'm still listening, but the drawing acts as a pressure valve, alleviating some of my stress. And, as it turns out, doodling actually helps pay attention. So there you go.

3. Understanding. It didn't exactly happen all at once. After a month of info dump, listening to other people's stories, and reading on my own, I'm only just starting to piece things together. What really helped was hearing about it from my sister herself, which tied everything together. 

One of the saddest things about mental illness is the stigma society attaches to it. If were to say my sister had brain cancer, it would cause an outpouring of pity. Schizophrenia sounds scary. Yet it is a disease. It eats away at brain tissue and causes the body to deteriorate. What's frightening about mental illness is that it shatters our illusion of control. We figure that, if nothing else, we are masters of our own mind. But if we lose our ability to reason, if we start to hallucinate, if the words we hear no longer make sense, how much control do we have?

This seems like a heavy, depressing topic. I guess there's no way around that. But the awesome thing about humanity is how they can adapt to almost anything, even turning negatives into positives. My sister uses art to express how schizophrenia affects her life. For me, just learning about what's going on, forces me to deal with my own fears and insensitivities. Yes, I'd like to live in blissful ignorance, but facing a "hard" situation and walking away with knowledge, makes me feel powerful. If I'm not in control, at least I'm aware of what's going on.

"Cup Full of Love and Happiness" by Jaime Lang

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After ending last week with a couple of subbing jobs, I spent all of Saturday making cards. I've been getting digital stamps off Etsy, particularly from a seller called Aurora Wings. After the mess of colored pencils, paper, and glue had cleared, I ended up with 20 new cards, 5 of which were quickly claimed by my mother. Sadly, this is only the beginning of card-making season, as Christmas is right around the corner.

Some of my new cards.
Barreling round the corner like a monster truck without breaks is Nanowrimo. Although National Novel Writing Month doesn't officially start until November, I usually spend all of October brainstorming. This year, I want to try and lead a group to 50,000 year word victory, so I've got to organize that as well, but as usual, I've procrastinated. 

For anyone interested, this page has good resources for preparing for Nanowrimo:

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