Questions About Love and Socialization (Plus a Little Art)

I have so many questions for you!


Do you need love to survive? I know there is a love hormone, but is it vital? And what kind of love are we talking about here?

I know it’s really important to show children love so they thrive in development, but is that love or caring? 

Is it in our genes to fall in love? If you’ve never been in love do you actually know what you’re missing? Can you crave something you don’t understand?

What happens when we’re adults? Some people are afraid to be alone and I am probably one of them. There’s always been a man around throughout my adult life. Would I have benefitted from more periods of alone time? Is love as important as independence? 

Some people are so afraid to be alone that they will stay with their partner no matter what leaving the people around them baffled. How much will people tolerate in their quest for love? I’m not really talking about abusive situations here because I know a person can become trapped and not have many options. I don’t know what that feels like in a relationship but I have felt trapped in another sense and I know it’s horrible. I can’t imagine what that must feel like with a partner.

But what happens when you put your own needs aside to please someone else?

When does love for yourself come into play? Is it more important to love yourself or others? Can you love others without loving yourself?

Socialization and Depending on Others

As someone with a mental illness, I greatly depend on my family. I drive. I work part-time. I take care of my daughter to the best of my ability, but there’s still a lot I need help with. I look to my husband for validation. Are my feelings valid? Was my reaction appropriate? I look to him for reality checks and he lets me vent about my frustrations with stigma and many other things. There are very few places I go alone. I feel my experience is not typical, so how much does an average adult need to depend on others?

Are we really social creatures? Do we have to be? I personally find being around others to be overwhelming and exhausting. I talk to my friends via Facebook and texting sometimes, but I hardly ever hang out with anyone. I like being alone with my sketchbooks and journals. I would rather be home than out.

Is there ever too much alone time? Can alone time be detrimental?

Then there was the pandemic. I finally returned to work last summer. That really fucked me up as I’m sure it fucked up a lot of people. Obviously, I spent a lot of time at home and it was devastating to my mental health. It makes me wonder what exactly the problem was. Did I need to be around other people or did I just need more to do? Boredom has never been good in my life so I try to stay busy under normal circumstances. But for once, did I crave to be around others?

I want to read what you think. How important is love? Do we need to be social to thrive? How often do you crave to be around others? Do you find it as exhausting as I do?



I haven’t been posting to my blog as much because I have been writing articles for a content marketing agency as well as focusing on my artwork. I am sharing a few pictures of my paintings and I am also including a couple of drawings I did this week. I have spent so much time painting but my husband told me yesterday that he actually likes my drawings better. My husband is incredibly supportive but also very honest. He tells me when my artwork doesn’t look right and my poems don’t make sense. He’s probably the best kind of partner you can have as an artist or a writer. 

I forgot to mention that the paintings are finger paintings, acrylic on canvas and the drawings are Sharpies and colored pencils.


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?

Do you believe in luck? Do your trinkets have meaning?

You hear people use the term “luck” all the time. I’ve always thought luck was a very random thing so it probably doesn’t exist at all. Do you ever describe times in your life as having good luck or bad luck?

Have you heard the phrase “when it rains it pours”? Does negativity snowball? My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck like many Americans do, so if there’s an emergency we’re screwed. 

A few weeks ago our cat was injured and needed to have her leg amputated. We spent our last 500 dollars on the surgery and the next day my husband’s car broke down. We don’t like asking for help but we had no choice. We were in a very desperate place. Thankfully a relative came to our rescue.

That’s some bad fucking luck right there.

I bitch but I know everyone has stressors in their life. Bad luck didn’t just pick me – I’m not special. No one has good or bad luck; there’s just random shit happening all the time.

Is there ever a balance between the good and the bad? I see a lot of both in my life.


Do you ever feel luck and sentimental value are related? Like carrying a special trinket around and hoping for good things?

When something happens in my life I often buy something small to remember it by. Sometimes it’s a plant or toy; other times it’s jewelry or a small trinket. 

For example, I recently submitted my art to a local gallery. They had a lot of requirements for their submissions and I worked really hard to put it all together. I finally sent the email and later that day I bought a small toy giraffe to remember what I was working on. I carry it in my bag for “luck” but really it reminds me to stay focused. 

I did the same thing for some poetry submissions. I bought a toy lion and carried it around. When my art was at a consignment shop, I bought a blue necklace from the shop. 

Probably the most meaningful one was a Valentine’s bear I bought when I was discharged from the treatment center last year. I came home on Valentine’s Day and I wanted to remember that.

This is a habit of mine. There are little things all over our house that I bought and have some sort of special meaning to me. It might be getting a little ridiculous. I think I have more stuffed animals than my seven-year-old daughter. 

Even if you’re not superstitious, do you have meaningful trinkets that you keep close by?


How do you feel about “luck”? Do you use the term (even if you don’t believe in it)? How do you feel about sentimental value? Is it something that affects you?

How much are you influenced by the people in your life?

Do you remember your relationships when you were a teenager? I swore I was in love. When I was nineteen, I moved from Ohio to California with my boyfriend. Moving had been my idea and when we got to California, it was pretty clear that he didn’t want to be there. The relationship fell apart soon after and he moved back home.

Why would he agree to such a drastic change if he really didn’t want to do it? (I’m going to ask myself that question in a minute.)

My next boyfriend was Jewish and his family was unhappy that I wasn’t. At the time, I didn’t consider myself an atheist yet, but I was definitely turned off by religion in general. Despite my true feelings, I started taking classes to convert to Judaism. My boyfriend’s parents were paying for them, of course. 

I didn’t want to be Jewish so why the hell did I agree to convert? (I never followed through, by the way.) 

Many years later I met my husband. Our relationship is different from any of my other relationships because we didn’t have to change for each other. Our similarities and differences seem to balance us out.

Influence can be positive or negative, but what if you lose yourself in the process?

I know someone who is heavily influenced by the women he’s with. He takes on their traits and it can be good or bad depending on the woman. It’s been going on for so long that it makes me wonder if I truly know who he is as an individual. 

How do you contribute to a meaningful relationship if you’re not being authentic?

Is it possible to be easily influenced because you just don’t know what you want?

What makes a person easily influenced? I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a stronger sense of self. I’m not saying it’s always easy to be authentic but I’ve learned that it’s harder not to. Does a less–developed sense of self make you susceptible to the influence of others?

How do you get to know yourself outside of the influence of others? I spend a lot of time alone and have had lots of time to think about the things I want. Being alone has allowed me to develop my sense of self which has given me a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger. 

Does age affect how easily influenced you are?

One thing I regret is not living alone. When I was in my twenties I had an apartment near campus for a very short time, but other than that I lived with my parents or a boyfriend. Had I taken more time to get to know myself back then, I’m sure it would have had an impact on my relationships and goals.

What do you think? Have your partner, family, or friends influenced you in some way? Do you stay true to yourself? What makes a person influenced or influential?

Living with a Mental Illness: What I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

Living with a Mental Illness: What I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger


  1. You don’t have to chase after a “normal” life. A normal life is not necessarily the goal of recovery – even if your friends and family think otherwise. Do what works for you.
  2. Find a way to embrace and celebrate your uniqueness. I’ve learned it’s better to accept your differences than to change them. You’re going to stand out and you have to find the confidence to be okay with that.
  3. Beware of people that invalidate your thoughts and feelings because you’re mentally ill. It’s really just an excuse for them to not hold themselves accountable. Watch for phrases like “too sensitive” and “crazy” and then find more thoughtful and understanding people to hang out with. 
  4. Medications are great but therapy is also really helpful. There have been so many times in my life when I said I’m on medication and don’t require therapy but really the ideal situation is having both.
  5. You are not damaged. You are just as worthy as everyone else. A mental illness doesn’t make you less than others. You are deserving of a fulfilling life and a seat at the table.
  6. A wise man with a similar diagnosis once told me that sometimes you have to stretch yourself to see what you are truly capable of. I actually took this advice when I was younger and it has served me greatly through the years.


People in recovery, what would you add to the list? For everyone – what are some things you knew when you were younger? What would’ve been helpful? What would have saved you some heartache?