Nineteen Years

Today, I celebrate nineteen years of sobriety. A friend reminded me that’s a long time. At first I thought about the fact that it’s only a string of single days all put together, but you know what? It is indeed a long time, and it’s a big deal.

It’s easy to live through the single successive days and lose sight of the larger picture. In that string of single days, I’ve built up a lot of really good stuff. A lot has happened that was truly good. There was some bad, too. I remember the bad, but today, I feel the good more.

The best is that I healed. I drank because I was broken. Sobriety helped me know how important it was to reach out and get the help I needed to heal. I did that, and it worked. Read some of the past posts on this blog to understand how I’ve used therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, and sleep in my recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

And today I celebrate nineteen years! Hooray!

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Using Tools

For about the past 4 or 5 days, I was feeling really good. I was having to concentrate hard on staying “in the now,” but it was working. I could meditate and concentrate on walking through my day until I would have another chance to meditate and refresh. At that next meditation, I could do the same thing.

Yesterday, I woke up agitated. I was not in the mood to allow life to flow. I wanted answers to my questions. I wanted to know the outcomes of present situations. I wanted. I needed.

I was not in a good mind space.

My strength is that I recognized it. I knew I needed help, so I reached out for it. I called my therapist, and he happened to have an opening. I jumped on it. I saw him late in the afternoon after work, and I was able to talk about what was going on.

There are a lot of changes happening in my life. I’m dating as I’ve written about here, and it’s the first time I’ve been dating in an extremely long time. There’s lots of new energy surging through my life. All this affects my equilibrium, and I know how important it is for me to stay on an even keel.

I am so grateful for the tools I have as part of my recovery. Yesterday, I recognized I was off balance, and I used a tool to help me regain it. It worked. I left the psychologist’s office much calmer.

My life is changing. Normally, that’s scary. Right now, I’m walking through it.

Rule of One

I only have to do one thing.

I don’t have to feel completely better all at once.

I don’t have to completely heal all at once.

I can take just one small step toward feeling better and healing.

I don’t have to be cheerful and bubbly if I don’t feel like it.

I can choose to smile for just one second. I can choose to feel that smile on my face for just one second.

This morning I get to take one step forward.

Just one. That’s all I have to do right now. Just one.

Living with Ambiguity

Life is full of times when we don’t know exactly what to expect. Many times it’s simple things like how much mayonnaise the deli clerk will put on a sandwich. Will it be too much or just right? Sometimes the ambiguity will be about major topics like finances.

The weather can be a source of ambiguity. Will tomorrow by sunny as predicted? Will it rain this afternoon?

People can bring ambiguity into our lives, and our relationships can be a source of it.

I have not been good with ambiguity in my life. I feel great stress by having so many unknown things going on. I want certainty. I want to remove the guesswork. The result has been that I have felt great stress at so many things.

I have transferred my stress at ambiguous situations to other areas in order to imagine I was creating certainty. I have used shopping as one means to cope with ambiguity. It’s simple. I can decide some item will add value to my life. I search for the item. I find it. I search for the best price, and then I buy it. The whole process is a means to control this one aspect of my life while so much of my life is unknown.

I also use other means to cope with ambiguity. I want to remove the uncertainty.

Today, I can recognize when I’m trying to cope with my dislike of ambiguity. I can talk about these things in therapy, which relieves a lot of the stress. I can also meditate and release my need to control. I used to walk, but I have plantar fasciitis in my right heel preventing me from getting that kind of exercise to relieve myself.

I am grateful I can recognize when I’m uneasy today and take steps to help myself feel better.

Create a Reason to Smile

Today, I was reminded that there is a lot of good in the world. There are people around us with genuinely good hearts.

Sometimes, our individual lives feel bereft of reasons to smile. Sometimes, our lives are sad.

Let’s each one of us create a reason to smile today.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be incredibly simple.

If you stand up out of your chair and walk outside and turn your face to the sun, that’s a wonderful reason to smile. If you choose a tea you like and make yourself a soothing cup, that’s a delicious, warm reason to smile. If you have a friend, thank them and smile. If you pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk, that’s an excellent reason to smile.

Our world can be overwhelming.

With a little act, we can each create reasons to smile.

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?

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.