Are you different? Is that normal?

Navigating life with schizoaffective disorder has left me with more questions than answers. I’ve had this mental illness most of my life and still don’t have it figured out. I have a hard time – more than what I let people see.

When you have a mental illness it’s easy to feel different, maybe even like an outcast, but how different am I truly from the average person?

I tell my story through art and writing, and I’ve always got this sense that people don’t understand or they understand all too well…like there’s not much in between. 

My emotions are very intense. Are yours? Are my feelings really any different than anyone else’s?

Of course, I feel like people treat me differently, especially if they know my diagnosis, but are there times when I want to be treated differently? My employer often makes accommodations for me, but I’d like to think they would do that for anyone who needed it. I work for a mental health organization and my boss and coworkers are very understanding. I feel like it would be difficult for me to work outside of the mental health field.

My mental illness is mentioned in my artist statement. It not only affects the subject of my paintings but also the way I make my paintings. I always hope people will find my story interesting, but as an artist, I really don’t know if it has affected whether or not people accept my work. 

On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a lot of stigma, from strangers and even my family. Why are people so judgemental? I want to prove the stigma wrong, and despite everything I do and have accomplished, some people won’t even give me a chance. It’s best to stay away. 

So maybe feeling different has had both positive and negative experiences for me.

Do you feel like you’re different? Do you want to be different? How does it affect you? I’m sure different people deal with all kinds of stereotypes. I know I’m not alone in this but it still hurts nonetheless. Most of us have probably felt judged, left out, or like the black sheep at some point in our lives.

Do you have the confidence to be different and thrive? Do you believe in your abilities? 

Do you need to be different to be successful? Does it pay to be different but not too different?

Are you unapologetically you? How do you stay true to yourself in a world full of judgment? 

How do I teach my daughter to do the same?


I would love to hear your stories, whether you have a diagnosis or label or not. How do you feel different and how does it affect your life?

Recovery is making a choice…(add to my list!)

Recovery is making a choice…

to respect your mind and body,

to protect your peace,

to choose who and what matters in your life,

to acknowledge your shortcomings,

to know you don’t have to smile all the time,

to celebrate the strength you never knew you had,

to say no,

to relish in your freedom,

to surrender when needed,

to know when to ask for help,

to accept support from others,

to cherish what’s important,

to know it’s okay to not be okay,

to show love to yourself and others,

to build your future and let go of the past,

to show gratitude,

to forgive yourself,

to turn your dreams into goals,

to not apologize for wanting your needs met,

to know god is not responsible for your success,

to give yourself credit,

to be kind,

to promise to hold on a little longer,

to make it through another day,

to move forward from here.


What does choosing recovery mean to you? Please add to my list!

Finding My Motivation: How Do You Stay on Track?

I move at a snail’s pace in the morning so getting my daughter to daycare and then driving to work can sometimes be challenging. Okay – a lot of times. I try not to complain too much because, really, I don’t know anyone who likes getting up in the morning.

Early mornings feel like a battle but once I’m over that hump and I’m at work doing my thing, my mood elevates significantly. I have the best job in the world. Getting there is the hardest part.

This week I’ve felt a resurgence of my motivation. I’ve been painting and writing poetry every day and I get excited when I think about all the possibilities and opportunities for writers and artists. 

But possibilities and opportunities quickly vanish if you’re not willing to work for them. It’s time to be honest about my time and effort. Sure, this week has gone well so far, but for the past month or so I haven’t been doing as much as I’d like. I was swallowed whole by a nasty mental and physical funk. 

How do you recover?

Are you good at giving yourself a kick in the butt when needed?

Do you let yourself rest? Do you give yourself grace? 

Better question – how do you know when to give yourself grace rather than a kick in the butt?

Of course, I know you need to rest when you don’t feel well, but there are also times when I feel I should be pushing myself and I’m not. 

I have a sense of guilt because I feel sometimes I am too comfortable with my excuses. Why is it so hard to start something but once you’re doing it, you’re totally fine? Why is it sometimes so hard to get off the couch and shut off the TV? I know it’s important to relax but I spend a lot of time wondering what else I could have done with my time.

Can you relate?

I have a lot of ups and downs with my mental health so when I’m feeling productive I have to take advantage of it because who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow. 

When I have a busy day and get a lot accomplished, I feel really good. It usually has a really positive effect on my mental health. I wish I felt that way every day.

Even though I want to accomplish a lot, there will always be something. Life interferes and you’re never 100 percent. All I can do is learn and adapt. That’s a tough realization. It feels sad but in a way, it is also a relief. I don’t have to be 100 percent. I’m getting older and perfection doesn’t exist anyway.

How do you stay on track? Is it possible? Is staying on track even a thing?

With all the ups and downs in life maybe it makes more sense to “go with the flow” rather than “stay on track.” 

How do you feel about this? Do you feel guilty when you relax? Do you call yourself out when you’re making excuses? How do you find your motivation? Do you hate mornings as much as I do?

How do people get swept up into it?

When I was a young teenager, I would go to church with a friend who happened to be the pastor’s daughter. I was still skeptical but I thought going to church was the right thing to do, like maybe if I went often enough something would rub off on me. Growing up in rural Ohio, I didn’t know any different. 

The only thing that rubbed off on me from going to church was the music. One particular Sunday I really enjoyed a hymn that was sung. It was beautiful and after leaving church, it played on repeat in my head. The music left me flying high for the rest of the day, and I can see why some people might confuse this euphoric feeling for the holy spirit, but I never fell for it. 

Music was the only impactful thing that moved me about going to church, but attending services was merely a mask for my true feelings and my efforts at becoming a Christian soon ended.

When I described this to my husband he explained that he had a similar experience when he was younger. He attended a Christian music concert at a church with a friend and he said you could just feed off the energy in the room. It was electric. 

While my husband could relate to what I felt, he never became a Christian either. 

I am telling you these stories because I’m trying to understand how people get swept up in religion or even cults, especially if it wasn’t something they grew up with. What convinces people to believe in things that others see as ridiculous? What exactly moves you to that point?

I watched a documentary on Jonestown the other day, and while the People’s Temple seemed like a good idea in the beginning, we all know how that turned out. The documentary interviewed former cult members and survivors including Jim Jones’ own son. The show portrayed them as very normal people. I consider myself a sensitive and empathetic person, but I really have trouble relating to their stories. 

How do people get swept up? What moves people to believe? My examples of church music were the only thing I can think of to relate to. How do convince seemingly normal people to go along with something so outlandish? What sort of makeshift evidence flips the switch in their brain?

Also, has anyone else felt extremely moved by church music, even if you don’t believe? (Funny side note — I was told a couple weeks ago that music is so powerful in my life because I’m a Scorpio.) 

God vs. Love

Can you define love? It’s not tangible. Is it measurable in any way? How do you know you love someone or something, and don’t say, “You just know.” 

I feel a lot of love in my life for different people and different things, all for different reasons. I can describe love, but I can’t define it. Google kept using the term “affection” when I looked it up, but I wasn’t really satisfied with that. Why is something so meaningful so hard to put into words?

Have you heard this argument – how can you believe in love and not god? You can’t see or touch love just like you can’t see or touch god.

How do you answer that question?

First off, do you really believe in love? If so, what makes love believable and not god?

Obviously, I don’t believe in god but I do believe in love. Why is that? Where’s the evidence? What’s your best defense?

I don’t have a good answer. I think love is real because I can feel it, but many people would probably say the same about god.

Back me up – give me a definition of love. Why is love real and god isn’t?

Do things have to be perfect for you to be happy?

Is there a pie chart for happiness? Do all the pieces have to fall into place? Is it some sort of secret formula – a combination of relationships, careers, and interests? Can one area compensate for the shortcomings of another area?

Those are some big questions.

I’m not really a happy person, but I’m also not that sad either. My pieces have never fallen into place but somehow things always work out and I’m grateful for that.

So what makes a person happy?


I’m guessing having the ability to accept things just how they are is near the top of the list (below having your needs met). I’m not very good at that one. I always want bigger and better things, especially when it comes to my creative pursuits. No accomplishment is ever enough. I always want more. I’m not sure it that’s good or bad.

I always think things will be better if I reach the next goal. Then the next goal and the next goal. It’s really never-ending.

But I wonder if my ambitions are just a distraction from everything else going on in my life. Sure, I love to write and create art, but am I missing something else? Do I have a relentless drive or am I actually unsatisfied in other areas?

I just feel it (or I) will never be enough. 

Helping Others

Does helping others make you happier?

I work in a helping profession and I have made some connections that are very meaningful in my life. But helping others also brings up some questions. What’s your motivation?

Ultimately, are you serving yourself or others? Which makes you happier, helping others to feel good or to look good?

I bring this up because I’ve always been disgusted at Christians who help others “in the name of god.” “Helping others in the name of god” is code for I’m trying to score points to get into heaven. Sure, they’ll give you free food from their pantry, but they’re going to make you sit through a sermon first. They’re taking advantage of vulnerable people for what is ultimately their gain.

I’m getting off my soapbox now.

In my case, it’s both – I serve myself as well as others. I facilitate art and writing groups for people struggling with mental health issues. I love creating art and writing poetry but it’s even better getting to share that passion with others. In our groups, I grow as an artist and writer along with everyone else. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from the group and I hope they feel the same way. Sometimes we collaborate and it’s amazing what we can do together. I don’t even know how to put it into words. The atmosphere just feels magical. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved. 

My job makes me happier. It’s a noticeable difference between when I work and when I have days off. Not only does it feel good helping others, but also just feeling productive in general.

Do you notice that, too?

Taking Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is probably at the top of the list, too – going for walks, eating enough food, seeing your doctor, taking medications as prescribed, etc. These are definitely things I need to work on. I take my medications on schedule every day but I tend to blow off appointments and not get enough physical activity.

But this goes beyond a physical sense.

Are people who set boundaries and say “no” happier? I’d like to think so. Standing your ground and sticking up for yourself and your needs shows you know your worth. 

I think knowing that you have worth is key.

Knowing how and when to ask for help has been important to my happiness. My life is intense and I mostly blame my mental illness. But through medication and therapy, I’ve learned to cope with my symptoms. Had I never asked for help (or continued to ask for help when needed) I would either be in a very dark place or dead. 


I’ve told you a little about my gratitude journal before. Every few days I make a list, usually of ten to twenty items, that I am grateful for that day. I know it sounds corny, but it really does help me. I learned this coping tool last year during my training to become a certified trauma support specialist. According to my instructor, there are studies that show that happier people tend to feel more gratitude than others.

Have you ever tried something like that? Do you journal?

Writing in my gratitude journal definitely helps me keep a positive outlook, and while I never actually looked up the studies, I believe my instructor. I think gratitude can play a big role in happiness.

My husband and I struggle financially and when I feel like I don’t have anything, my gratitude journal tells me otherwise. I know money isn’t everything but it’s hard to tell that to someone who has trouble keeping up with their bills. But on the other hand, I don’t need money to know how grateful I am for my family as well as many other non-materialistic things. 

I have a lot of good things in my life despite my troubles. Maybe this realization is important in my quest for happiness.

I know we all feel a range of emotions and that’s healthy, so maybe “satisfied” is a little more descriptive and accurate than “happy”. But I’m sure you know what I mean.

How do you feel about happiness and the ways to go about attaining it? We all have our ups and downs, but would you consider yourself happy? Or something else?

Things are definitely not perfect, but they probably never will be. Is happiness living in the moment or seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?