I have schizoaffective disorder which is a combination of paranoia schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with it in 2001 but lived with it for many years. My stepdaughter, Becky, has been couching with us for a month in our small 2 bedroom hut. Three adults in a two bedroom hut. What a challenge! She is starting life over and is a joy to live with. It has been a challenge at times for me to have my stepdaughter, Becky, here because she isn’t anything like she was when I helped to raise her as a teenager. She is almost 50, more mature, caring, and helpful. I still had pent up emotions towards her and mental blocks of her since she left when she was 18, which rekindled my thoughts of paranoia when she came back. The past had healed some, after she fought in Desert Shield Desert Storm and when I wrote Sherry Goes Sane. She wasn’t the scrawny teenager, who walked above me with her nose held in the air. But my feelings and insecurities kept me up at night wondering and worrying, “Did I say this right?” “Had I had done differently, wouldn’t it have been better?” “Will she ever change?” I would imagine myself in a picture, dragging my feet through 150 mud puddles all lined up in a row and then walking into the infinite waters of the Pacific Ocean with the paranoia I felt. I couldn’t shake the cold hard mental pain of living with mental illlness. Living with us now, we have ironed out some wrinkles. She wanted a drink now and then, I couldn’t handle it because I was experiencing flash backs of when my mom drank. I was too close to the situation, and it only caused resentments of my stepdaughter. I love my stepdaughter very much, but since I didn’t drink, nor my husband, Joe, because of health reasons, I felt locked in and couldn’t express myself, the bottle had to go. Too much was happening. Appliances going on the blink, things breaking in the house. I talked it over with Becky and she understood. As other issues came up in our household, I was able to tell her how I felt, on the spot, and not let it build. She was used to doing things differently in her house, so I tried to be spontaneous and say what was on my mind, and what was expected of her. I am not perfect at times, so often, I felt a knot tangling and twisting in my stomach when I didn’t say anything. I asked, “Maybe, telling her how I felt could of passed for another day?” I wanted to erase the thoughts that she might be telling my husband or her mom about the innocent things I’d do, which were amplified in my mind when I thought she was talking about me behind my back. Then Joe would peer over his newspaper and ask, “Are you sick?” It would bring attention to myself. I just couldn’t let it slide. I would explode. But, luckily, I spotted when I was going illogically off and talked with my counselor and kept emailing him. I confided in my sister, sent emails to friends, went on walks, explored the artistic side of me, sewed a baby book and did my lecturing and speaking for NAMI. I used self talk and took an honest inventory of myself and found out when I was feeding myself a bunch of untruths. I wrote and repeated good sound, positive self-affirmations. I was able to open up to my stepdaughter, laugh with her, cry with her, and enjoy so much quality time with her that I never thought I could. Becky found an apartment and will be leaving in two weeks. I made a pledge to myself to treat her with respect, and make her feel comfortable and wanted during this time. She is going through a stressful situation and needs my attention. I will make her feel like a Queen in our castle and make the best of every situation. Even though change can be difficult, she is still our guest until she leaves.