Too Many Excuses.

I love writing. I write lists as a comfort, and my thoughts as an outlet. Sometimes, I get hung up on others opinions of my writing. Opinions I shouldn’t worry about. I write for me. Most of it doesn’t make sense but it feels right.When I freeze while trying to consider opinions I haven’t heard yet, I am hurting myself more than anyone. With no paper to spill my feelings into, I find myself fixating on them more than ever.

So I am just gonna go for it. I am sorry if this is a little scattered.

Remember the first time you watched a movie from your childhood, but as an adult? Maybe there was a joke that went over your prepubescent head, or maybe it confirmed a theory you had. Either way, I find myself doing this often. I used to really push away from religion and even claimed to be atheist (ZERO opinion if you are or aren’t religious). I talked about things I didn’t have any knowledge on and put down anything that sounded like a religious comment. Now I turn to the Bible as a comfort. The words in that book mean more now.

The word mindfulness means more now. I understand how I can be mindful, and how that benefits my growth as a person. My BP diagnosis was my first step towards mindfulness. I finally recognized something wasn’t right and sought help for my mood and subsequent actions. With that came the realization that I had formed these habits that were hurting those around me. I didn’t want to just mask symptoms, I wanted to find the cause.

I have had a lot of great things happen lately, and I had a lot of shitty things happen too. As I revealed recently, I was hospitalized for thoughts of self harm. All is better now, I just had to get some meds tweaked and take some time to process my feelings in a safe place. I get back to work and disclose to a close coworker what my hospitalization was for. My boss comes back from vacation and suddenly, after almost a year, fires me for “low productivity”. I had just signed a lease on a two bedroom apartment for my self and my mom who I care for. I just bought a new car earlier this year. A lot of people close to me pointed out the timing of being let go, right after I was hospitalized. I just don’t want to be one of those people who blame others. I honestly was shocked when they let me go. I had never received any indication that my work was not meeting expectations. I have filed for unemployment, but I haven’t received anything as of yet. It has only been a week.

Isn’t it weird the things that can trigger depression. My job loss didn’t. I was upset and down as to be expected but it wasn’t depression. Having to ask and receive help from my sister who is so judgmental of any actions that aren’t 100% responsible, and my grandmother who I have been trying to set boundaries with, especially financially.

I got a verbal offer for a job today. Since completing my degree, I haven’t been job searching. Let me tell you, I am being offered hire positions then I have ever held. Positions that I most certainly feel I am unqualified for. I accepted but am waiting for the official offer letter.

I feel like things are looking up and all in all, this year wasn’t bad. It might be one of my best yet.

My First Time.

I have never been hospitalized before. I think that I am pretty good at hiding things, but I couldn’t hide this from myself. I knew there was something wrong. I wasn’t sleeping more than a couple hours, I was becoming emotionally abusive, and I was falling back into overspending. Mania. This isn’t the first time I have been manic this year, but I hope it is the last. I moved into a new apartment earlier this week and I already can’t make rent. I am exhausting. I am tired from being me.

I took myself down to the hospital which I think we can agree is a feat on its own. Not having insurance was both a blessing a curse. The plus side is that I could choose whatever hospital I wanted and the downside is that I am uninsured. I can’t help but laugh that this insanely expensive vacation I just took and I didn’t even get to go to the pool. I am constantly, actively working to better myself. I take my medication, go to all my doctors appointments, religiously see my therapist, use the breathing exercises. I am not immune to it. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. Clean, hospital like in some ways, slightly degrading, and cold. BUT I am blessed to have gone to a place that provided me a private room and bathroom. Granted, everything was bolted to the floor and the bathroom had no door. Overall it was a really nice place filled with people actively trying to get better.

I was sad and anxious that I was taking all these days unpaid, but I had to. I had to go and get help. It was an out of body experience watching me set fire to all the relationships that took years to rebuild. One conversation has sent it all tumbling down. Here I am, trying to intervene and slow the damage. I was discharged yesterday afternoon and it seems that my grandparents are going to be the hardest to recover. I suppose it is divine timing because we just moved away after living next door to them. I am fortunate to still have my mom in my corner because it would be hell living together for the next year if I am going to be the source of her pain and anger.

I am doing better today. Better than yesterday, better than a week ago. I just have to keep pushing forward. My anxiety is manageable right now and I hope that it stays that way. I hope that this made inpatient stays a little less scary for those who haven’t experienced it.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Clarity.

This is a two part post: The next part is scheduled to be posted tomorrow.

I want to start off by saying that I voluntarily see my psych doc weekly because I need a lot of accountability regarding my medication. It is a personal choice and in no way does it reflect my dedication to my mental health. I also have a therapist that I see biweekly. I am in no way manic and this is not a manic episode and it is not religious mania. I have been on a spiritual exploration for a few years now.

I always said that I was an atheist, and then I realized what an atheist is and I am not that. Then I said I was agnostic. I told people that I am too selfish to sit and learn about a particular faith to claim one. People really respected that and I meant it, but I wasn’t agnostic. I believed in a God, I just didn’t know which one. I prayed to a God. My God. It didn’t matter. I knew that I had no true control in my life. I wasn’t an accident. The world is bigger than me.

Then I started finding myself longing to be like a lot of people who emulate Jesus. I wanted something to be passionate about and to continue learning about. I wanted a higher power that I could name and a way to get to know Him. I turned to the Bible. Turns out it is literally thousands of pages. Where would I start? Would I understand it? Will it capture my attention or overwhelm me and I quit?

I tried a few bible studies and I completed maybe 3 of them. I tried and quit several. I really wanted a starting point, a place to get a foundation for the rest of my learning. I joined a small group so I could dive into the Bible and its meaning with an intimate group. It was amazing, and then I felt called out about being the only single person in the room. I didn’t go back. Then I started googling “what the Bible had to say about….” and reading from there.

I was having a really tough time with my sister. We were going back and forth about everything it seemed. Who is cleaning more, who is chipping in more, you name it. It was causing a huge rift. we smoothed it over but I still feel this tension in the air. Like she is waiting for the shoe to drop. It is familiar because that is how I felt when I had to move back in with them. It is strange to be on the other side and needing to forgive. This is the first time it occurred to me to turn to the Bible first. So I googled, “the Bible and forgiveness” and “biblical stories about forgiveness”. It returned wonderful scripture. I then wrote some of it down. Once I reviewed what I had found, I picked out some of my favorites. I noticed a lot of them were from the book of Matthew. I found myself emerged in this story that finally told me the ins and outs of how Jesus came to be. It has all kinda tumbled from there. I think I pick up my bible at least every other day now. I still am not completely independent. I still reach for the internet for a starting point, but I still read from there. I just feel better. I feel like I am in love with learning and also seeking comfort and guidance. It really calms me. I started to wonder if maybe that calm can be obtained through meditation and manifestation. I believe in manifestation. Maybe it is the positivity that it exudes or the feeling of influence it provides. Either way it feels like I accomplished something.

So I started looking into meditation and homeopathic ways of treatments or guidance.

(continued in next post)

Thirty.

30. Thirty. The big 3-0. I want to mark this time. (peep that pic of me celebrating graduation in late May)

If you would have asked 20 year old me what the next 10 years held…she would have thought that it sounded scary and wonderful, but it could never be her. She blamed everyone for her problems. She was endlessly in love with Joseph Anthony but She was months away from the hardest break up she had faced. She was wonderfully oblivious that her life was about to change courses in a big way. She didn’t really have a lot of close friends outside of Joe. Hannah was dating David and you all didn’t really get along with David. She had a less than ideal relationship with her family and believed that it was beyond repair. There were a lot of questions about where my life would lead me. She was also very secure with herself. She of course thought she could improve in her exercise and diet, but she had confidence and it was obvious. She had no idea that these fleeting, endorphin filled time was mostly a product of her bipolar.

 

This didn’t seem like a big deal until I thought of how fast it went by. How quickly 30 years of my life happened. What have I accomplished?

 

I am well established in my career. I have been in the health care field for 10 years.

I got my master’s degree.

I moved to Texas and back.

I have a pet kitty that makes my days better (You count your kids right?)

I received my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and started treating it.

I repaired many relationships that I had broken.

I have moved countless times, and it has allowed me experience more than one small bubble in Arizona.

I bought the newest car I have ever owned this year.

I made the big decision to start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice.

I have realized that it isn’t a relationship I fear, it is that I wouldn’t be accepted or understood. I am asexual.

I have made peace with the fact that I will most likely have my mom living with me for the rest of her life. I am truly okay with it.

 

30-year-old me is on a camping trip in the future. This is 29 years and 359 day old me. Present me is sitting in my room. She is in Mesa and live in a crappy one-bedroom mobile home with mom. That is right, you now care for your mom. Mostly financially because she can’t work but is still independent.  She sleeps in a recliner because you haven’t been able to afford the lift bed she needs. We just got approved for the apartment we are moving to. You prefer to rent an apartment over owning a home and having all the responsibilities or renting a home and having to landscape. This apartment is a dream. You have always looked at the high-end apartments as something you dream of living in. You dreamt of living in a beautiful apartment that looks like a model home. You love the idea of living in a really nice place and decorating it so that you are proud of it.

You love living with your mom. You rarely argue, and she holds you accountable on your self -improvement.

You packed up your shit, quit your job, and drove to Texas where you lived with your dad and Nicole for a year. Much needed. Super impulsive.

Things are rocky with your sister right now. She is following your footsteps and headed down an emotionally destructive path. That is a scary thought seeing as how you went without a diagnosis for your bipolar until you were 25. You have had a couple of relationships that fizzled out. It has been 7 years since your last one. It only feels like an embarrassment to say that when you imagine other people’s reactions. You are oddly okay with this. You have spent the last 7 years working on yourself, nurturing your mental health and mending relationships. You reconnected with Joseph. He turned into a real bar fly when you two hung out together. I do mean hook up if you are wondering. Turns out he had an ex-girlfriend living in the same house. You still love him, and you still think he is selfish and inconsiderate. He has gotten weirder and less mature if that is possible. He loves to wear leggings and outlandish attention drawing outfits and attend raves. He did meet a girl last year. They are expecting a boy next month. You don’t know that Joe has grown up, you think he just found someone to act like a kid with. She has a son in high school….don’t know if that was a teen pregnancy or she is that much older than us.

Hannah is still your true friend. She has changed A TON. She stands up for herself, has really matured career wise and is making more than you! She still feels like she doesn’t know what she is doing with her life. She is living it. She needs to look around. She is still letting pretty boys walk all over her. You constantly build her up and she is so critical of herself and her appearance. She got a boob job that she hates…and botox! As long as it is safe and makes her happy, I will never judge her.

You made the decision that you would start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice. It is a long and expensive process, but you want it badly. Your mom and grandmother both had issues and could not have any kids after 30. Your aunt Cherril has cervical cancer. She isn’t doing well either. She has decided to not have any kind of treatments and doesn’t even want to take pain medication.

You write. You write in notebooks, on the back of paper plates, you have a blog, you bounce around on your ideas and just end up writing them all in a jumbled mess.

You lost your confidence and have gained at least 100 lbs. But your confidence was gone long before the weight came. After Sean, you were down. You were approaching the BPD diagnosis, but this sent you on a journey that you can credit your life to.

You started gaining weight and staying home. You went to the doctor for weight loss and then disclosed how you were really feeling, and she referred you to a specialist. Between the sadness and the weight gain, you felt ashamed. You stopped going out and packed on more weight. You are hyper aware of those around you. Careful never to agitate or inconvenience anyone. You have actually become pretty boring. You rarely show emotion and are too concerned about other’s opinions to be the silly person you were.

 

You hope that your next 10 years bring more joy, revelations about yourself, dreams come to fruition. You hope to overcome your biggest obstacle. Yourself.

In the next 10 years, you will have a baby. You will do two rounds of IUI before you get pregnant. You will become more confident in your work. You will increase dramatically in your salary as you are beginning to really establish yourself. You will become more involved in politics and religion…after all the wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.”. You will continue learning and educating yourself through reading and may even entertain the idea of a doctorate. You will most likely lose your grandparents. That is going to be the kick in the stomach of the decade. I hope you are somewhat graceful in your grief. I doubt this though. You will most likely have some issues in managing medications and potentially start being reckless at this time. I hope you come back here and remind yourself of how far you have come and how many people go through this.

My first 30 years have been challenging to say the least. I was dealt a tough hand and it didn’t help that I was manic for most of it. I have made strides in my mental health that have definitely rippled into the rest of my life. I am happy. Genuinely happy. I have you fine people to thank for some of that.

 

A Weekend That Changed My Life – Part One

A Testimonial of a Life-Changing Weekend

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Make an investment today.

When change happens to me its only when someone challenges me. This person usually challenges me to look beyond my feelings of insecurities and take a look inside to the core that is causing my pain. To challege me to seek what I am looking for in this life.

Then Grounds for Clarity and its Thought Founder Kim Johnson found me and interviewed me about my suicide attempts. As she began to know my story, and as I shared my life beyond my writing. Kim made me challenge: would you invest in yourself to better understand the feeling of the weight of what at my core was causing me to be unhappy? My answer was yes. 

I made a financial investment in myself and joined the Master Your Mind Retreat with Kim Johnson. A Mental Health Skills Lifestyle Coach.

Day One of Two

Heading into day one of a two-day and eight-hour digital retreat split evenly, I was anxious. I knew there were things in my life weighing me down. The feelings that I wanted to express were ones I have never really put out into the world. I knew Kim would challenge me. I needed the challenge.

What do you want?

That question would bring an avalanche of triggers and emotions. Was I ready? The first things that came to mind were the following: I want happiness in all aspects of my life, figure out why I keep people at a distance in my life, and most of all, why do I shy away from relationships and human intimacy? These are struggles that have always eluded me.

The Gremlin

After we talked about what we wanted out of the retreat, Kim spoke about an essential part of the weekend that we needed to face. Our inner voice–The Gremlin. what it was was keeping us from the success and satisfaction in our lives. My inner voice has always been loud because I keep people at a distance so that it makes it easy to rationalize why I am, for the most part, going through life on my own. I spend my day alone. I work online, alone. Grad school is online, and I do it alone. My mental health advocacy online, alone. I even do my shopping online, alone. Isolation for me was not only during COVID-19.

The most significant glaring part of my inner voice was the separation of James, the writer, and David the human being. Kim and my fellow retreat members helped me realize that I was using James as a wall to keep people out of David’s life. (I separated my writing life as James from David because it made me a better writer.) I was in awe at the end of the day, one that I was beginning to feel less invisible. It was only day one, and I was already blown away at the challenges Kim was asking me to make.

The most emotional core feeling was that I was not enough. Not enough to be happy. I was not enough to be with someone that loved me. That we only get one chance at true love and that I had been there, and did that once. It was holding me back. Every relationship since my life I compare to this unicorn idea. I felt that I was not worth anyone’s time at a level that allows people into my life. I needed to be alone.

Day Two

What I was learning is that there are no right or wrong answers. Kim is not there to fix me because I have to make the changes. I was broken but that means that those core feelings could be changed.

She is the catalyst that makes you think and challenges the regrets, the guilt, the denial, and what the inner voice is telling you. On day two, I knew I wanted to focus on one thing. What happened in the past made it okay for me to go through life alone and be unhappy as David. That was the challenge, finally letting David into the fold. 

What is great about Kim’s retreat is that she is part of it, not just as a Mental Health Skills Lifestyle Coach but as a participant. She has all the training at her disposal and it allows her to be a part of the healing process. That was what day two was for me, a chance to begin to heal. I decided to take the challenge: what my running away from happiness was costing me? I opened up in this retreat for the first time about a relationship early on that has defined the reason I feel that being alone is preferable to letting someone into my life.

I cried because I have held this in for so long. I had to face that I was okay with being alone. It hurt to admit that I wanted someone in my life. Friendships beyond the few that make it into the inner circle. The pain of opening up to others outside the retreat that I am not okay with being alone. I read once in a book that “pain demands to be felt,” At that moment, the pain was demanding that I let it into my life because that is where you can decide to make a change. If you never feel, how can you heal?

The retreat members helped me understand the feelings I had shoved deep into a box marked “never open.” The homework before was answering questions that led to my Energy Leadership Report. I learned with my results that I don’t deal with stress well. I learned that I am better than I treat myself most days. I can help others, but my own self-care is left to the wayside. I learned that I am worthy of making changes that are important to me. I became a better human being than when I started the retreat.

The Purpose Statement

I will make a commitment to let go of the things I think I need to control using my writing, to accomplish traveling more, and, in doing so, achieve to begin letting people into David’s life.

Final Thoughts on the Retreat

If you want to stop the feeling of being a burden, alone, quit living with regret, feeling weak in your life, or what is keeping you from being truly happy. Kim’s Master Your Mind Retreat is the place you need to be. It was for me. I don’t often promote something unless it’s important to me because that is how The Bipolar Writer Blog was founded.

When I say that when you invest in yourself with Kim, it is for life because that is how she runs her business. This testimonial is my heart and soul pouring out to those like me that are struggling with something that is keeping you from being happy. You have the right to feel better than you are at this moment and time. I invite you to reach out to Kim to spark this necessary conversation and to begin the inner work.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron!

Featured Picture: Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Saving Myself Through Discomfort

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” – Susan David – TED Talk “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage”

This pandemic caught me at a really odd time in my life, an odd time that has been going on for at least two years and which was exacerbated by the death of my semi-estranged mother. The scenario: 50 years of work (amateur, semi-professional, professional) in a field which always put me in front of people as their entertainment; 17 overlapping years of teaching which always put me in front of people as their instructor and entertainment. These fields were not the only work I’ve done but they were the most consistent, to the point where over the last three-or-so years I’ve been fantasizing about getting out. But my skills and talents fall where they fall and so it has been easy to just continue down these paths, despite a growing desire (desperation) to get out.

The pandemic snatched my work – all of it – right out from under me. Consequently, I have been fortunate to actually be relieved by this situation, almost as though I’d been saved. Yes, my money left but my financial and home situations don’t really require that I make much money anymore (thank you, anal retentive tendency to throw money at my debt until it is all gone). At the same time, about a sixth of my work has been salvaged through the magic of video so I do get to make a little money and still feel released from bondage to my career.

I have every reason to be happy.

So why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

I said before that this pandemic caught me at a really odd time in life. Yes, I’ve been at a crossroads but I’ve just been standing there, paralyzed, looking at all the street signs pointing in different directions and listing to myself all the reasons why none of those roads is a good choice, the problems with each one, and why I just can’t. Here are all my great reasons for staying paralyzed:

  1. In two years I’ve gone from a little inclined not to hang with others to downright unsocial. I prefer my family and I’m uncomfortable spending time with anyone else.
  2. After over 50 years of depression and anxiety, it is exhausting putting myself under the judgmental eyes of people who can probably see all that and I’m uncomfortable with what they’re probably thinking. (Performers know that the artist is one entity, the person is another.)
  3. I hate talking on the phone. I’m uncomfortable giving my very important time away to some voice that I probably don’t want to listen to and don’t want to tell anything.
  4. I already spent way enough time using my office and administrative skills. I’m uncomfortable being tied to a desk all day (although I’ve had a standing desk for years, so there is that).
  5. I’ve been completely self-employed for 17 years, partially self-employed for way longer than that. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being an employee and having a boss again.
  6. I’m 60 years old. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of starting something entirely new, learning something entirely new.
  7. I’m uncomfortable doing the same old things I’ve been doing and using the same old skills I’ve always used.

You get the point by now, I’m sure. I’m uncomfortable with so many things that I have made myself unable to make any choice whatsoever as to what to do with this next chapter of my life. Go ahead, try to think of any field in which I might work without running into one of my discomfort zones.

You can’t do it. I haven’t been able to either.

So why haven’t I been happy? Why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

Because I feel useless. Useless. Of no use. No use to me and, even worse, no use to the world. I have avoided discomfort in favor of being useless.

Today – actually before taking a much-needed long walk and listening to the Ted Talk quoted above – I signed up for COVID-19 contact tracer training. I said to myself, “I bet this is all on the phone. I hate the phone.” I said to myself, “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get a job, so what’s the point?” I said to myself, “People are so angry and uncooperative right now. I’m afraid of dealing with them.” But I started the training (all online) because I had told my husband some time ago that I wanted to learn to do something I know not even a little bit about, from the ground up. (Direct contradiction to #6 above.) This meets that criteria. And I started the training because it most definitely is needed. I said to myself, “I’ll deal later with the fact that I probably won’t do anything with it because it’ll make me uncomfortable.

And then I went for the long walk and listened to the Ted Talk and that brilliant statement: “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” The speaker also said, in response to someone whom had told her all the things they didn’t want to feel, “So, you have dead people’s goals.” Wow. Dead people’s goals. She went on to explain that only the dead get to exist without feeling discomfort. Mind … blown.

I’m going to continue on with this contact tracer training. I love learning and even taking tests (yes, I’m a nerd). When I’m done, I will be very uncomfortable with how to proceed. But I will proceed. Because I’m tired of feeling useless. I’m tired of being paralyzed by discomfort; by feelings; by waiting, wishing, hoping for some magical scenario to materialize which will bring me some income and make me valuable to the world again all while making me feel like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket. It ain’t gonna happen that way.

I want to be of use to the world once more. I want to have a meaningful life. So I choose discomfort.

Learn to Love Yourself in the Alone Time

I have spent the last several months going to work and going home. Not much socializing. Sometimes once a month I would go out if invited to something. I was trying to save money. And I was trying to work on myself. I went to counseling and did other activities to pull myself out of depression. I don’t have insurance so that was the best I could do. I remember feeling alone often. I looked for ways to stay busy and distract myself from how I felt. I wished I could afford to go out and spend time with even one person.

As I was getting to a better place with my finances, the pandemic happened. Everything shut down. I lost a lot of work. Other than concerns for my income, my daily routine didn’t change much. I couldn’t read a book at a coffee shop, but I could live without that. I had grown more comfortable with myself and didn’t mind the alone time. I still feel alone but it doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve grown to a place where I enjoy cooking again. I read more. I write fiction more. My creative ideas are never ending.

During the pandemic, there were videos of celebrities feeling upset during social distancing. This reminded me of how I felt. I realized there wasn’t anything wrong with me or how I felt. We were all reacting in a normal way to isolation. I hope people are discovering new things about themselves. If you’re bored during isolation, you need new hobbies. If you’re alone and uncomfortable, you need to love yourself and enjoy your own company. We all should set time aside to be alone. It’s important to our wellbeing. Find your happiness in the alone time.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

Bringing Color Back.

If you have followed along, you would know that I have had some pretty big gaps in medication management. Whether it be from my own failure to comply, medications that didn’t work, or just a hard time finding a doctor that stuck; it has sucked. I had been seeing a doctor since I got back from Texas and she was working to find the missing link in my medications. I was feeling so much better after resuming my meds that I was taking before the big blackout where I stopped everything. I still had this edge. This darkness peaking through the cracks that was slowly consuming all the progress I had made. I was cranky and then depressed and then fine. It was just a hint to let me know that something wasn’t right.

Then my doctor quit. She left the practice without a forwarding address. So on to the next.

WOWOWOWOWOW. This guy. He has just painted the color back into my world. He found the combination that worked and just in time. I was making some progress in getting back out into the world when every fiber in my body just wanted to stay home where it is safe, no judgement, no chance of troubles. Then BAM! Stay home because all my fears came true, it isn’t safe out there. So here I am, working from home. I am so blessed to have that still. To not have that taken away from me and further rock my little raft. I think about my people here all the time. I hope that you are all doing well. I would love to have a hang and maybe chat with some people if interested. I need that social connection just as I am sure others do. It is just as crucial as my medication.

Stay strong, keep on keepin on friends.

The Best of Me

“You gave me the best of me, so you’ll give you the best of you,” are the lyrics to “Magic Shop” by Korean pop group BTS. I have been listening to this song over and over because I keep thinking about these words.

Sure, it’s not the most eloquent phrasing but I think that they are on to something here.

For ages we have all been told to give everything our best whether it’s academics, athletics, music, art, relationships, etc. That if we give anything our best effort we have a higher likelihood of succeeding.

During the many times I have sat and contemplated these lyrics, I understand it as we so often give the best of ourselves to others but have a harder time giving the best for ourselves.

I try to give my best to my family, boyfriend, pets and friends but when it comes to giving my best for me, that’s a different story. I know that eating well, exercising and having human interaction is good for me but I don’t always put in the effort. If I had a paradigm shift, I would try harder to do the things that are good for me so I could be at my very best.

If I gave my best for myself, what would my life look like? This is a question I have been focusing on, digging deep into it to find a possible answer.

I still don’t have an answer but during these weird times of social distancing and staying home basically all the damn time, I have time to really think about it. I also have the time to focus on giving myself the very best of me.

What do you think of these lyrics? Do you have a similar interpretation or not? Do you think you give yourself the best of you?

Please everyone be smart and safe!

7 Ways I Changed from Hunting the Good Stuff

I spent some time in the Arizona Army National Guard. They had started a program called Master Resiliency Training (MRT). Arizona had one of the highest suicide rates among soldiers. They sanctioned this program to help soldiers “overcome adversity.” The Psychology Department of the University of Philadelphia created the program. After a few years I had forgotten a lot of the training. One thing stuck with me though I never practiced it. It was called “Hunt the Good Stuff.” A simple exercise of writing down three good things that happened to you that day before bed. And writing why those things were important to you.

I remember a Major telling everyone about when he first heard about this exercise. He thought it was stupid. His instructor told him to try it. What did he have to lose? The training went for three days. He noticed by the second night of “Hunting the Good Stuff” he was sleeping better. This Major also had two young daughters whom he didn’t know how to connect with. One night at dinner, he asked his family to tell each other three good things that happened to them that day. His family started doing this every night. His daughters start talking about their good things before anyone else. He was able to learn about and connect with his children with this exercise.

Over the last couple years, my life has had many ups and downs. After so many things chipping away at my resolve, I grew more depressed and negative. I got so negative that someone close to me told me they didn’t want to be around me anymore. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt I had hit rock bottom. My job offered six free counseling sessions and I took them. I started a “Hunt the Good Stuff” journal. I still have a long way to go but I’m 1000% better than I was. That was five months ago. This one exercise has done more for me than I ever imagined. I wish I had started doing it sooner.

1. When I Look for Good Things, I Find Them

When I first started this exercise, it felt daunting. I wasn’t sure if I could find three things to write in this journal every day. I had to think for a few minutes. The more often I did this, the easier it got. I used to get angry and sad because my mind autopiloted into negative thoughts. When I sat down and thought about the good things, I always found good things. Perspective and attitude do play a role in one’s mindset. Reflecting on something good, no matter how small, every day has helped to change my way of thinking.

2. Others Noticed a Change in Me

It took several weeks before someone said anything. My sister mentioned noticing a huge change in me. A better change. My coworkers noticed too. One of them wanted to take photos for a work Instagram. I joined in and enjoyed being in the photos. I overheard someone say they had never seen me smile so much. Coworkers were happy to see me when I went to work. They were excited to work with me that day. Positive thinking has led me to enjoy the people I work with even if I don’t enjoy the job itself. 

3. I Gained More Self-Confidence

I talked with a coworker about some of the things I had been doing since I felt my life had fallen apart. I mentioned my counseling and “Hunting the Good Stuff.” I thought she would say that she noticed I was happier. But what she said surprised me. She noticed that I was more confident in myself. I never would have guessed that would be a result from positive thinking. It makes sense. Being positive had made me act sillier and have fun without the concern of what others might think. I can’t remember the last time I was like that.

4. My Attitude Changed; I’m More Positive

As expected, positive thinking has led me to see the world in a positive way. I don’t always assume the worst from people. I rationalize things differently. When someone says they forgot about plans we made because they didn’t put it in their calendar, I understand. I’ve done that too. Before I would assume, I wasn’t important to them and that’s why they forgot. Sometimes people get busy and it has nothing to do with me. I don’t make plans as often now, but I don’t get upset if things don’t go to plan.

5. I Changed How I Talk to Myself

One of the things I started along with “Hunting the Good Stuff” was a positive affirmation. The person I was close to who didn’t want me in their life anymore gave this to me. I repeat the phrases, “I like myself. I love myself. I deserve good things.” I once repeated these words over and over for about 20 minutes. This helped but writing three good things every day helped too. My internal monologue has changed. I don’t call myself stupid when I make a mistake. I don’t say negative things to myself as often. It’s still there now and then, but less frequent.

6. I Sleep Better

It doesn’t work every night. Some nights I’m still restless or only sleep a few hours. But overall my sleep has improved. I have dreams more often. Fewer nightmares. I sleep longer and deeper. I don’t always feel energized, but I don’t feel drained upon waking up anymore. I give myself a couple hours in the morning before work. I allow myself time to ease into the day. This has added to my daily productivity and attitude when going to work. Most of the time, I can go to sleep at the time I want to start sleeping.

7. I Enjoy Things Again

I used to have a general crabby disposition. Even when I used to enjoy something, I didn’t show much enthusiasm. I find myself feeling good after doing things. I go to movies alone and reflect on having a good time with myself. If I go to a party, I socialize for a bit and enjoy some food. I walk in with no expectations and walk out having had a great time. I get more reading and writing done because I enjoy doing it more. 

I’m surprised how much this one activity helped change my perspective on life. I still have hard days where I have to force myself to find good things. The last few weeks I’ve moved from at least three good things every day to four good things every day. More and more days are having five to seven good things. As of writing this, I’ve been practicing this exercise for over 150 days. That’s five months. I may never get back the people I lost when I was negative and depressed. But I will do everything I can to not make the same mistakes twice.

The good stuff is always out there. You just have to look for it. Happy hunting!

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.