The Slippery Slope of Spiritual Poverty

I know that when my physical and mental states are in poverty that I fall easily into the trap of spiritual poverty. It is hard to avoid. No matter how excellent the mental health care one receives is, mental health care does not provide any type of spiritual support. There is a small movement, in its infancy, which seeks to change the current model of mental health care to add more spiritual and family support, but it is a long way from any type of implementation.

When my mental illness is at its worst it compels a withdrawal from ordinary social contact, so the I withdraw from my church and my spiritual elders and this begins the cycle of spiritual poverty. When I can not afford to purchase appropriate offerings for my Gods, I lose faith in the simple offerings than I am able to afford, and I cease making offerings at all. When I can not make offerings, I feel ashamed to approach my altars, so they go untended. Without access to my altars, I fall out of the practice of prayer, and I become divorced from my spiritual practices. This separation from spiritual practice is the ugly face of spiritual poverty.

The Orisha calm me on sad days
Obatala from

Living in a state of spiritual poverty removes a lot of joy and wonder from my life, and when this is paired with depression, hearing voices, seeing things that are not there, shame, humiliation, and anxiety I tend to spiral downward rapidly. This pattern of spiritual poverty has been the hardest of my patterns to break. I usually can not break it until I can once again afford to make appropriate offerings. Then I slowly can reclaim my spiritual life, and with my spiritual life restored, gradually the depression will lift. When I am less depressed the anxiety and the schizophrenia will lessen.

And I know this from repeated downward spirals. I know that if I can cling to my spiritual practice that I will not fall so far so fast. And yet I still lose my religion as soon as the spiraling begins. Currently, I have a job that pays decently, so I am beginning to do better. Most of my pay is spent on bills and the things I need to succeed in my new job, so I still can not afford really good offerings, but I can afford small appropriate offerings, so my altars are being tended, I have gotten back into the practice of praying, and I feel that connection with my religion once again.

But we have these patterns so we can learn from them. And I am struggling to learn from this pattern so I do not need to repeat it.

I am coming to accept that if I am going to break this pattern I need to seek help outside of myself. But asking for help does not come easily to me. I have decided that I need to begin praying to my Gods that I don’t get lost from them when things get bad. I have decided that I need to tell my therapist that staying on a spiritually even keel needs to be a major goal of therapy. But these two decisions are going to be complex. I feel very shy of asking my Gods to keep me from getting lost, I fear that losing my Gods shows poor character on my part, and my religion ever strives toward good character. I really don’t want my Gods to think poorly of me. And any discussion of spiritual matters with my therapist is getting into dangerous water. Because schizophrenia often causes inappropriate religious fixations, treatment for schizophrenia tends to be very leery of spiritual matters.

But I must overcome my fears, both the real fears and the imagined ones. I must remember that my Gods love me warts and all. I must remember that my therapist and I have been working together for several months, and that she knows that I do not have inappropriate religious fixations, and that she can help me to find ways to stay spiritually balanced.

Spiritual poverty is a destructive force in my life, and I must use all of the tools that I have to break its hold on me. My life, when it is good, is a spiritually rich place, and when I live in awareness of my spiritual wealth, my life is a joy. When I am in a state of spiritual poverty, my life is a burden, my life is something I no longer want.

I do not pretend to know how spiritual wealth and poverty effect anyone but me, but it is very clear to me that, for me, choosing spiritual wealth is a matter of life or death.

There’s No Place Like Home…

Schizophrenia and paranoia go together.

Even if you are not technically a ‘paranoid schizophrenic’ there is always a sort of dread, a feeling that ‘they’ really are out to get you. And to try to live at all, you have to learn to ignore that feeling.

But, every once in a while, there really is someone who is out to make your life Hellish. But, if your general assumption is based on ignoring anything that feels like an attack, then if you ever are actually attacked, you don’t notice. Or, at least, you don’t notice until it gets bad…

Yesterday, I guess it got bad.

My house has the misfortune to be situated in a small town. When we bought the house, the small town seemed like the best option for my partner’s anxiety. Life in the city did him no favors, and rural living was something I had done, but he had not…my personal definition of Hell is living in a small town.

I guess I’m not really a friendly person. I like my friends. I fear and loathe strangers. And, I know this does not highlight any of my better qualities, but, to me, neighbors are loathsome fear-inducing strangers who are reallyreally close to me.

Over the past year, one of our neighbors has taken up the ‘hobby’ of reporting our yard to the borough for being overgrown. The problem with that is that our yard is not overgrown. But the Einsteins of our borough never seem to look at our yard, they just receive the complaint and come stick a giant embarrassing bright red sticker on the front of our house with notations of the current complaint. The stickers leave a residue. I hate them. I especially hate the fact that we have not committed the ‘crimes’ we are accused of.

So. Yesterday a sticker was stuck on my door. The notes not only claimed that our back yard was overgrown, but additionally, that there were rodents. It ominously commands us to call. the. borough. (Our yard is not overgrown. Partner had a lawn care orgy on Sunday. He seems to like caring for the yard.)

So. I’m hurt. I’m mad. And one of us is going to have to Call. The. Borough. (It probably won’t be me, because I have a bad tendency for strong language if I’m poked)

Since we moved in here, one set of neighbors has consistently thrown their empties over the fence into our yard. Not once in a while, all the time. My beautiful moss-covered statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is often surrounded by a circle of beer cans. We don’t even like beer. My partner planted herbs around our Lady, they were killed by the same neighbors dumping piles of cigarette butts over the fence.

They brutalized our pretty Japanese ornamental lime tree. Their yard is a super highway for feral cats. (They feed them) We get to listen to the feral cats fight or bump uglies almost every night. So, again, I call bullshit on the rodent accusation.

These neighbors have screaming, verbally abusive fights, usually at night, and they last for hours.

But because I will almost always assume that my perceptions of mistreatment are ungrounded, we have never said even one word.

Our backyard is beautiful. Really. Almost anyone would envy this yard. It is tiny, but the previous owners filled it with pretty ornamental trees, and amazing groupings of plants. We never go out in it. I sometimes think I’d like to-until I contemplate the idea of sitting there and getting hit in the face with an empty beer can.

So, sometimes, I sit in the sunroom and look at the yard.

And that is a micro view of schizophrenia. These are grown-up bullies. It is junior high school all over again. My life feels very constricted. I fear and loathe whoever keeps falsely reporting us. I fear and loathe the idea of Calling. The. Borough.

I contemplate cultivating a poison ivy hedge.

And, again, it is my fault. I can’t figure out if I’m being too sensitive. I can’t figure out a way to break the pattern. And, honestly, it is already too difficult here. The added pressure is not what is needed right now. But I think this is how mentally ill people really get driven to, and past, the breaking point. The endless cycles of fear, shame, and poverty.

The gas is still off. Cold showers are awful.

But, we are still among the lucky, as far as being mentally ill goes. There is still a roof. There is food for the cat. There is food for the dog. The lights are still on. And, luckiest of all, in our house, there are no harsh words. There are no fights. I don’t know how my man manages it, but it seems like the more it sucks, the more times a day he tells me that he loves me. So. Yeah. That. Even now, even like this, even with no end in sight, I still wouldn’t trade my Hell for someone else’s.

Welcome to the Mad House…

No, really.

From the street it looks sane enough, I suppose, an ordinary-looking house in this part of the world. Perhaps it is a bit shabby, but it fits the neighborhood.

And it is mine house. Not mine and the bank, just mine. Owning this house is supposed to make me feel proud, accomplished, and secure. And absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.

The man and I have been renters forever. We are used to the joys of a maintenance man. But, if you own a house, you don’t have the joys of the maintenance man. And this house sucks. Worse than sucks. It is old. It has what is marketed as character. (That is Real Estate Agent speak for ‘a bunch of shit doesn’t work and we will charge extra for it’)

Living in the Mad House is not particularly good for my mental instability. Some of what is wrong with the Mad House is downright terrifying.

We purchased the Mad House from a couple who lived in it for over 30 years. Their name was Wonders. I shit you not. Mr. & Mrs. Wonders. We did not know when we bought the house that he was a HAM radio enthusiast and amateur “inventor” and she was really a crazy cat lady. Those revelations unfolded over time.

Even crazy people know not to buy a cat lady’s house, but if you are not clear why, here are some of Mrs. Wonders’ contributions to my rapidly dwindling sanity:

*Cat urine soaked rags packed around pipes.

*People randomly showing up trying to foist off very sick and dying cats.

*A lot of damaged woodwork.

*A large collection of ugly and terrifying lawn tchotchkes. (Some are still regulars in my nightmares…too many staring googly eyes)

What you may not know is what you get if you buy a house from a HAM radio enthusiast/amateur inventor (and I use the term inventor very liberally-I actually mean hazard in shoes) Here are some of Mr. Wonders’ contributions to my downward spiral:

*An “invention” to prevent snow and ice from forming on the roof. This is festoons of wires all over the roof attached to timed switches. The gay festoons of wire heat up and melt the precipitation. Even I am not crazy enough to have evereverever turned this thing on. But even turned off, I fear it plans to burn down the Mad House.

*A staggering collection of wires on the outside of the house. (Neighbors report he had many antennas)

*An amazing collection of “home improvements” all made of ugly paneling and really huge drywall screws.

A large part of my flavor of schizophrenia is being scared to the point of immobility by completely ordinary things. The challenge here is that I am scared to the point of immobility by these fairly extraordinary things as well.

Then the Mad House has added some new things to terrify me into further immobility.

Such as:

*The kitchen floor is caving in. Actually collapsing. With large holes in it, and places where it is unsafe to stand.

*The shitswamp. Ah, let me tell you about the shitswamp. It used to be a basement. But it is now a Lovecraftian landscape, and aromascape. And there is no escape. Apparently, two marvelous things have taken place to grant us the privilege of tending this amazing ecosystem. First off, the main sewer pipe under the house has apparently caved in for the most part. And then, the previous owner, the genius “inventor” capped off the pipe the sewer needs to breathe. The plumber cheerfully told me that it would cost 7500. to fix this. Not bloody likely. I mean, if we had that kind of money, it would promptly go to the plumber. We don’t.

*The furnace. It is haunted. Or lazy. It only works when it feels like it. Which is not when it is cold. If it is cold, someone needs to venture into the aforementioned basement and flip the circuit breaker until the furnace decides to work. Or not. The furnace feels personal to me. It really works just fine when it is chilly, or cool, or even cold. But when it gets really cold, forget about it. The furnace is sentient. It is also a jaggoff.

devil furnace


So. Take a crazy person, and make this fun house their abode. See what happens. (They won’t get better!)

My partner is fairly unflappable. And he loves this house truly madly deeply. And, when we bought it, I loved it, too. I don’t love it so much now. Maybe I could love it if I wasn’t scared of all the ways I think it is trying to hurt me. Maybe I could love it if I was not terrified that the damned basement was going to get the house condemned as a health hazard.

But, as it stands, I do not love it. I fear it. And hiding from the house you live in is a tricky matter. But, for over a year, I have been basically hiding from my house. As coping strategies go, this is a lousy coping strategy, but it is what I have.

Many many days, I sort of envy the homeless.