Celebrate Every Victory

Healing takes courage. It’s hard work to face our challenges no matter where they come from and turn them into opportunities.

We are brave when we call a doctor or case manager or a friend who supports us just to report on how we feel.

We are brave when we make an appointment with a caregiver.

We are brave when we leave the house to go to that appointment. We are brave when we ride the bus or drive our car or ride our bicycle or walk to that appointment.

We are brave as we sit and wait our turn to see the caregiver.

We are brave when we speak honestly to the caregiver about how we feel. Being honest takes the most courage.

We are brave as we follow through on the things we know will help our recovery.

To be blunt, people who live with mental illness are brave when they breathe. Life is not simple.

If you are a person who lives with a mental illness, be kind to yourself and pat yourself on the back just for getting out of bed. You deserve it. You’re doing a good job just living.

Advertisements

Try

Few clichés make me angrier than Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try.” I sit here in my imperfection, and I want the world to know that sometimes simply trying is heroic.

I remember one bout of depression that was so profound the only effort I could make was to lie on the sofa and sing “la la la” over and over. I barely had enough energy to brush my teeth. Singing “la la la” to myself while I was prostrate and immobile was all the effort I could muster.

I will not apologize for not being a superhero.

If you try to do one simple thing to take care of yourself today, you’re my hero! If you sit up on the side of the bed and stand up and walk to the sink to brush your teeth, you’re my hero! If you put on clean clothes despite the voices in your head telling you it’s not important, you’re my hero! If you wash one dish from your pile of dirty ones so you can look at a pretty plate under your cheese sandwich, you’re my hero!

All you have to do today is try! Don’t let Hollywood tell you that if you’re not a super-model or superhero, then you’re worthless. Don’t listen to the news. Don’t listen to the internet.

Don’t listen to Yoda!

If you’re breathing despite all the anxiety or depression or mania or voices, you’re a hero!

Life is getting better

Therapy is one of the pillars of my recovery. I have been in therapy for the majority of the past 30 years. I was even in therapy for some of the years I lived abroad.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point, I learned to be radically open with my psychologists. I tell them everything. There’s an important benefit from this habit: everything has a chance to heal. My darkest secrets can come up and see the light and either transform or vanish.

I had a session last night, and I had an important breakthrough. It sounds simple, but it was quite profound for me. It amounts to:

I’m okay.

It’s that simple. I have many desires, and many times I allow them to become obsessive. I have one desire that has been dominating my life for more than a year. I realized in therapy last night that even if that desire is never realized in the way my imagination is demanding, I’m okay.

I have a lot of fear surrounding finances, but you know what? I’m okay. I’m better off than 95% of the people on the planet actually. I have a roof over my head. I have a car. I have a job. When I go to the grocery store, I buy anything I want without worrying about the price.

Relationships? I’m okay. I have been making new friends. It took a while after moving to this city for my new job two years ago, but I’m making new friends now. I have a good romantic life, too. It’s not what I want in the long run, but it’s good for now.

The most important point is that I’m okay in my own skin. I’m better than okay actually. I like being me. I could not say that just a few years ago.

Go back through the archives of this blog seven years ago. I lived in a dark place. Fear ruled me. What changed? Me. I healed.

Recovery from mental illness is real. It happened to me.

Where to Next?

Today is Tuesday, October 10, 2017, and it is World Mental Health Day. I can’t write about mental health as it exists all over the world, but I can write about my experiences with challenging mental health.

Much of this year, I’ve been wondering about my story. I really can’t explain it. I recovered, and I don’t know why. I have a slight grasp on how, but why eludes me completely.

I like to sum up the how in just five little words:

  1. medication
  2. meditation
  3. therapy
  4. exercise
  5. sleep

I think WRAP has something to do with it too, but I’ve pretty much internalized that and rarely actually look at the written document. (You can search for WRAP on this blog in the tags on the right side of the screen of your computer. I’m not sure where the tags are, if you’re on a mobile device. There’s also a little place where you can enter search items. Just type in WRAP.)

But, why?

Why did I recover?

I work in mental health now. I talk on the phone to my peers as part of my job, and it’s quite eye-opening. I hear about the difficulties others are having with many different types of situations. Each caller is doing their best to overcome whatever may be happening that is disagreeable. Sometimes, reaching out to me is one of the ways they’re trying to overcome problems. Other times, they just want someone to listen. It’s usually very clear right from the very beginning what the caller wants from the conversation.

What’s unclear to me is myself. My own story baffles me. You can search the archives of this blog going back more than 7.5 years. I came through some dark times. When I remember those times, I’m amazed I made it through and got to where I am today.

I think I’m spending so much time thinking about the why, because it has something to do with healing. I want to share healing with my peers.

But that’s off. The healing is what happened. Does it matter why it happened, or is the how it happened more vital?

There’s one more point about how that may hold the key: one. I kept it to one step. I concentrated on just the one step I was taking. I never thought ahead to a second step. I thought only of the one. Then, I would take one more step. Then one more. It was always just one.

When I was bedridden with depression, I would do one nice thing for myself for one day. Some days that one nice thing was brushing my teeth. It was one little reminder that I was worth just that tiny bit of self-care. Some days, it was making one healthy thing to eat, or just eating one piece of healthy food like an apple.

Taking only one step. Doing one nice thing for myself. One.

Life is complex. When you add mental illness to it, it can be chaotic. There is so much to think about that it’s overwhelming. Concentrating on only one thing relieves the chaos.

One.

By concentrating on one step, I made many steps. I got from there to here. It took years. I had a lot of help along the way, but I was the one doing the walking. I was the one taking just one step. I want to share that with others.

And now I ask where to next?

Tolerance for Ambiguity

I have a lot of difficulty right now. There is a situation at work that I’ve been working on all year. It appeared that all the pieces were in place to make it happen, and then I got word that one important piece has gone awry.

My first response in situations like this is to end it. I want the situation to be cut and dried, but that doesn’t seem to be the best response. The situation can’t go on for many days, because there are deadlines. So I’m giving it just a bit of time. I’m allowing ambiguity into the situation.

Strangely, I’m rather comfortable with this ambiguity. I am allowing there to be uncertainty, and I am choosing to walk through it. I am concentrating very specifically on only one task at a time. If I can do just one thing at a time, those one-things will line up to some kind of conclusion. I don’t know what the conclusion will be at this point, and I’m sitting in that uncertainty and allowing it to have its space.

All this is very strange for me. I’m having more reaction to the strangeness than I am to uncertainty.

I had a good session with my psychologist last night talking about this. He told me to add a phrase to “tolerance for ambiguity.” He said, “You’re tolerating the ambiguity and learning to make friends with it.” That seems key. I’m learning to make friends with not knowing.

Not knowing usually causes me great anxiety – tremendous anxiety – but I’ve been meditating a lot these past months releasing my anxiety surrounding the uncertainty in my personal life. I’ve come to a place of peace with the ambiguity there. Perhaps I can learn to live with ambiguity at work, too.

I feel the anxiety, but it’s much less than past events have caused.

A decision will be made today, because there are deadlines. One possible decision may be to give it just one more day.

I’ll deal with that ambiguity when it happens.

Recovery in Turbulent Times

I write about recovery from mental illness. Recovery is difficult business. It takes a lot of hard work on each of our parts. Maintaining stability is not as simple as waking up and taking a pill. There are many moving parts, and all of them have to be kept in balance as best we can at all times.

It doesn’t help when the news is full of chaos. It’s not a simple process to keep my many parts in balance when there is messy stuff happening all around me.

In the midst of turbulence, here’s what it boils down to:

Focus.

I have to focus on my recovery above all else. I have to keep the focus on maintaining my recovery. I cannot get sidetracked by the many competing items all wanting my attention. I must be the center of the work I do daily.

Two things help me maintain my focus on recovery.

First, I maintain my daily routine above all else. I take the medicine prescribed by my doctor at the same time every day. I drink tea and start the day and meditate every morning. After I meditate, I do some stretching exercises to get my body moving. I continue my day doing my regular activities. For me, that means going to work. I eat healthful food. I need good quality nutrition.

Second, I do not watch the news. I limit my news intake to the headlines. There is a large amount of information bombarding me throughout the day. The vast majority of that information is about things that I personally can have no effect on. Dwelling on that type of information will only upset me. It will upset my recovery and tip me into instability.

I am, however, active. I have a few topics that I am passionate about like LGBT rights. I have marched for LGBT equality. I also marched with the women’s march. These are topics that I feel like I can make a difference in. These are topics I choose to be passionate about. I am also very passionate about the rights of individuals with mental illness. On this topic, I regularly write to my elected officials. The important point is that I have chosen my passion. I disengage from most news to maintain my stability.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the turbulence in today’s world, perhaps my way of maintaining my recovery can help you, too. Be focused. Concentrate on your recovery. Do the things that will make your stability stronger, and limit your intake of things that distract from recovery.

We who live with mental illness have one job: our own recovery. That has to be our priority at all times.

Coming From a Place of Self-Love

I’ve had a reason to think about my love for myself the past couple of days. I was challenged in an online forum by another individual who was writing very mean-spirited things directed at me. Remarkably, I was unfazed. It did not register at all.

Suddenly, I realized I have come a long way. The reason I was unfazed is that the other person’s opinion of me truly did not matter. I read her insults, and they passed right through my consciousness without sticking to any particular place.

Two years ago, I would have been very hurt. Last year, I would have been angry. Right now, that person does not matter one iota. I am sitting in my chair actually enjoying my day.

This stranger’s opinion is meaningless, because I do not receive my sense of self-worth from any other human being breathing on the planet. I give my high sense of self-worth to myself, and no one can assail it.

I got here through meditation. Try it.