Facing Tragedy

Taking care of our recovery as people living with mental illness is the single most important thing we can do when we are faced with large tragedies in the news. It is vital for ourselves and our families and our communities and our nations that we continue to recover so that we can help our friends who are hurting.

My recovery is based on

  • Keeping in close contact with my psychiatrist and taking the medicine that has proven to me it works
  • Keeping in close contact with my psychologist who gives me a safe place to explore my experiences and my reactions to them
  • Eating healthy food
  • Getting good sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Making a dedicated time for meditation

Our recovery does not have to be complex. All we need is a few simple things to keep us on the road to feeling better and being caring members of our communities.

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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.

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.

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!

Just One

No matter how you feel today, try doing just one nice thing for yourself. Just one.

I’ve had times when I couldn’t get out of bed. I dragged myself to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. Brushing my teeth was the one nice thing I did for myself that day. On other days, I’ve cooked wholesome food for myself. That required a lot more little things to make it happen. (Making the trip to the grocery store, buying the groceries, cleaning anything that might need it like fresh vegetables, etc.) I used to live near a beautiful park, and I would go there and sit on a bench. That was nice. It was also simple.

I’m not talking about buying myself something nice. That kind of nice fades very quickly right after the money is spent. I’m talking about a kind of nice that nurtures me.

If you’re not in a good place today, perhaps you can find the strength to do just one nice thing.

Nurture yourself. You’re worth it. You really are.

Progress vs. Movement

I had a chat with a very special friend this morning. I mentioned that I’m moving deeper into releasing, allowing, and letting go. The chat proceeded, and I added

Progress, not perfection.

He replied,

I experience the present as I move through it, without the need to define it as “better” or “worse” or “growth” or whatever… It simply IS. And I am participating in it.

I stopped. There’s something in that. There’s movement in both sayings. A person starts at point A in their situation and goes to point B.

Progress is defined as “forward or onward movement toward a destination.” However, there is definitely an underlying notion to the word that means the movement is desirable. There’s an idea that the movement will lead to a better place.

My friend’s sentences do not have that underlying meaning, because he just used the word “move.” That word is simpler. It doesn’t have the ghosts that progress does.

I really like being free of the connotations. I really do.

At the same time, I really want to improve. I want the situations in my life to get better both externally and internally.

But I really want to release the need to measure my movement. I want to stop requiring myself to always achieve a level better than yesterday.

Oh! That would indeed be a profound bit of progress. To release the need to judge would be glorious! After all, measuring our movement – measuring our progress – is judging it. We apply the critical eye to ascertain the level of achievement in order to know how much approval to issue the mover.

I want to release the need to judge myself. I want to simply move.

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?