I built my entire community in the last eight years. Eight years ago I was recently divorced, unemployed, on six psych meds, and homeless. I invited everyone I knew to a party and four people came.
Last weekend I invited everyone I knew to a party and 120 people came. If you haven’t seen me online lately, that’s because we’ve been busy planning this. People came that I love and people who love me, and hopefully many people in both categories. Now I own a home, work full time on my own business, have lots of fun, have a new family, and own a car that I don’t drive much since I’ve found that bicycling gives me a better quality of life. I’ve completely exited any mental health care. I told someone last night, “I’m rich.”
Even though my income is still small, I am happy, I eat good food, and I have people who love me. One of the previous commenters on my blog said that I shouldn’t count myself as recovered by my material possessions, and he’s completely right. But also I think that recovery isn’t just a lack of symptoms, it’s building a great life. We can work towards our goals financially, spiritually, in family affairs, in education, with our physical health, and in personal relationships. Wes Cole, a longtime Kansas mental health advocate said during the 2010 Kansas Recovery Conference, “Of all of my communities, you are one of the richest. Not in terms of material possessions, but in terms of connections, of having a group of people around you who really care about each other no matter what happens.”
Eight years ago I had very few friends. I was living the life of someone else, my first husband who was emotionally very isolated and a low energy person. My mom at one point suggested that I had to get a mental health label to get my high ambition self slowed down enough to match him. When I was divorced, I thought I would never re-marry. I consciously built a community bit by bit by finding things that I enjoyed doing and people I liked to spend time with. Some of them I told my mental health history, and for most of them, it didn’t even matter.
I wasn’t in the man market because I knew I’d have to date another cyclist. How else were we going to get places? Then, about a year and a half ago, I met one that I liked right from the beginning. Here’s his story about how he met me, and my story about how I met him. Of course, these should be the same story from different points of view, but you’ll have to check. We had an awesome wedding. We invited all of our friends, and had a great time. We had a bike race, an art show, a community fire, an on-site tattoo ceremony, a poetry performance, pedicab rides, a business display table, a Judo Walk of Shame, and a frisbee golf demonstration. This was collection of all the communities I’ve build in the meantime, all the activities I’ve found along the way. We don’t recover in order to do things, we do things in order to recover.
It was great fun. I wish you could have come. Many of my local advocate friends were there, and some from farther away. And I’m so glad that I found my fellow psychiatric survivors, mental health escapees, anti-authoritarians, deviants, creative people, passion fighters, dreamers, and catalysts for change. You’re the ones who helped me make it all possible.