Reflecting.

Mental illness can be exhausting. I feel that this past two years have been a whirlwind of emotion and change. Both fast and slow at the same time. Depressive episodes have made the days drag and falling into the pits of despair made them almost unbearable. Stable moods made days of adventure seem like flashes of happiness rather than long days of fun.

I hated this past year.

I feel like my mental health management consumed me. The constant ups and downs were exhausting and I felt as though it would be the end of me. I really didn’t think I would make it. I lost my humor and silliness. I did not dance in my kitchen, I did not play silly pranks on my sister who has come to adore them, I did not go out with friends more than a handful of times, and I did not love myself. I am an extrovert through and through, but this past year I was a shut in.

2019

4 doctors.

2 states.

4 jobs.

2 moves.

4 lapses in medications.

5 lapses in health insurance.

6 medication changes.

This is not my ideal year. I have let bipolar run my life. It has humbled me. Sometimes, when I am feeling under control, I let doubt creep in and think that maybe I am completely fine. Maybe I don’t need medication and I am just one of those people that needs and excuse to behave badly or skirt responsibilities.

I am in fact, not that person. I am completely, without a doubt 100%, mentally ill. And in 2020 I will, for the first time in my life, be making a resolution. I will consistently manage my illness.

2020

Choose a new doctor (mine quit)

continuously take my meds

blog twice per month (because I made a commitment that I never kept)

finish my graduate degree

be okay with being okay.

 

I’m Okay. Why Do I Still Seek Therapy?

I can go into public places without fearing something will happen to my children or me. This is tremendous progress. Yesterday I went into a clothing store alone.

I thought about leaving when the checkout line was long, but I was determined to stay and see the process through. Lines make me feel trapped, though it’s gotten better, the feeling is still there. Instead of leaving, I circled the store and waited for the line to go down. I had a goal and goddammit I was going to stick with it. I didn’t turn away from the end result, which was to buy what I had in my hand: four shirts and one pair of shorts.

My head didn’t rush, my heart didn’t beat out of my chest, my vision stayed normal, the panic stayed away. A year ago, I never would have been able to do this. And there were times I didn’t think I would ever be able to. Strings attached to me everywhere, by personal choice. This day, however, I was fine.

In fact, I’d had a lot of fine days. It had been going so well that I considered stopping my therapy sessions altogether. Isn’t that what we do though? Once we feel good, we back off of what’s been supporting us. I think it’s human nature to do so, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When I left my therapist and told I’d let her know in a month if I needed to come back, I thought I’d walk away for good. Then thirty days slid by painfully slow. I missed my chance to vent and let my words fly without shame.

Sometimes big news came from small conversations. A day I had nothing to discuss would lead to a significant discovery. The chance for this would be gone if I didn’t continue.

I went back after thirty days, and I told her I missed coming here, so we agreed to every 3-4 weeks depending on my schedule. I’ve held this now for a few months and here’s what I’ve learned.

  • I have new goals to push toward.
  • I can truly recognize how far I’ve come and the life I’ve taken back.
  • There’s a comfort to having a familiar, someone I know will listen.
  • It has given me a chance to explore areas I didn’t realize needed attention.

street-art-2044085_640.jpgTherapy is one of the things that I have done to regain my life. I am stronger now, I’m not sure I’ll ever be “healed,” but I can do almost everything I used to before anxiety crippled my life.

Sometimes I hear people smugly suggest that therapy isn’t working if you have to keep going. Well, who are they to tout about something they don’t understand. I’m not doing myself any harm by continuing, in fact, it pushes me to take control and prepare myself for harder days that are unquestionably in my future. Life can’t be full of rainbows and sunshine all the time.

Therapy has been one of the many factors I use to battle/overcome/work with anxiety. It took several tries to find a therapist I trust, so if you find one that’s not fitting you, don’t be scared to try again. For me, it has worked to have continual checkups. I have no plan on stopping, even if I decide to decrease to once every other month, a therapist on hand provides me with the outlet I need.

 

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a lifestyle blogger at Fingers to Sky where she writes about her personal wellbeing, gardening, and her writing process as she tackles her first sci-fi novel. Check her out on Instagram or Facebook.

Images from Pixabay.

Always keep fighting!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Sometimes, life gives you lemons. At other times, it throws them at you. Really, really hard. Especially if you’re not looking.

In one moment, you might think you’ve got everything under control:

  • Job = secure
  • Bills = paid
  • Clothes = washed
  • Social life = uhhh…work in progress
  • Prescription = filled

And in the next moment…pure chaos. Cheers, life.

Whether as the result of some external event (eg. an untimely incident or unexpected circumstance) or internal influence (eg. a chemical imbalance in the brain or a traumatic memory), chaos hides around every corner waiting for the chance to strike, threatening dysfunction and disorder.

I believe that in small doses, chaos can bring a healthy amount of excitement and unpredictability to our lives. A life without chaos is a life without challenge; there is a yin to every yang, as they say. But to someone suffering from a mental illness, chaos poses a substantial threat. If we’re already struggling to keep our heads above water in day to day life, chaos can easily overwhelm us.

Depression is a constant battle, and when we’re treading water it’s easy to spend too much time staring into the abyss below and wondering what would happen if we stopped paddling. We get so caught up in the chaos and fear that we lose sight of the bigger picture and start behaving irrationally. Life throws us lemons, so we pick those suckers up and squirt the juices into our eyeballs. Not exactly the best move.

Sometimes, we need to be better than our emotions. Every now and then, it’s important to look up from the abyss and make sure you’re still headed toward dry land.

Let me tell you about a time life threw me a nice, big, juicy lemon.

A few years ago, I was exploring my home state in Australia, driving through the ranges of north Queensland. On this day I’d driven to the peak of the Eungella ranges and spent the morning trekking through the rain forest, conquering the mountainous trails and generally being in awe of the breathtaking views of the valley below. My companion on this journey was a maroon-red ’02 Toyota Corolla hatchback, that I had affectionately named Colin. We had been through much together in our three-year long relationship, and yet nothing had prepared us for the tribulations we were about to face.

After hiking my last hike for the day, I returned to my four-wheeled friend to find that he was almost completely out of fuel. Shit. I wish I could say this wasn’t a common occurrence, but I haven’t met any genies lately.

I was about 70 kilometres from the nearest gas station, and even further from the nearest town. But I had complete faith in Colin, and he had faith in me. I’m sure that if I coasted my way back down the mountain, I’d conserve enough fuel to make it back to the bowser.

So, down the range I went, gliding gracefully along the winding road in my little red go-go machine. I felt every bump, crack and dip beneath the rubber as we rode the waves of asphalt to the foot of the mountain. Every tweak of the steering wheel, every touch of the accelerator and every pump of the brakes was made with intent. It felt good. I was in complete control.

Or so I thought.

In the distance, a sign was fast approaching. “Eungella Dam, turn left in 500m”.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. I freakin’ love dams. Some might call it “an unhealthy obsession”, but I would call it “don’t judge me, asshole.”

I grew up a stone’s throw away from a dam, and they’ve always fascinated me. They’re a true testament to the ingenuity of mankind; monolithic structures with the capability of harnessing one of nature’s most unstoppable forces – lots and lots of water. Eungella was so far away from home, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to see this dam again. How could I pass up the chance at one last incredible view?

I pulled my steering wheel to the left, and barrelled toward my new destination. Surely, this would only be a slight detour.

I started bashing through the bush, leaving a large cloud of dust in my wake. The dirt pricked my eyes but I kept them peeled, scanning every bend in the road for a turnoff or parking area. Minutes passed, and as I strayed further and further from the beaten track, I could feel every meter travelled accumulating in the pit of my stomach. Deep down, I knew that I’d made a terrible decision.

“Surely, the lookout is just around the corner. You’ve committed to this, it’s too late to turn back now.” I’d taken a calculated risk, but I was never good at math. The lemon was in my hand, and I was starting to squeeze.

Colin’s petrol gauge was well below empty. I’m convinced that he was completely out of fuel at this point and was running only on the fumes of my sheer stupidity. My red solider, loyal and true, was on his last legs.

I was so focused on seeing this damn dam, that I didn’t notice the next turn was quite a bit sharper than the rest. I brought my foot down on the brake like an anvil, and the car began to slide. Perhaps in an act of protest after being pushed to the brink of exhaustion, Colin threw his back wheels off the road the same way and infant throws his rattle across the room during a tantrum. I went careening into a two-meter deep ditch and came to a humiliating halt.

Great. Now I’m really stuffed. It was going to take some real gusto to get up this slope, most likely wasting the last of my precious petrol in the process.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes, emotions make us dumb. Really dumb.

I was so distracted by the fear of potentially being stranded in the middle of nowhere that I wasn’t thinking straight. Chaos had taken the wheel, and I was being pulled along by a four-cylinder engine of emotion straight into a ditch on the side of the road. I was acting completely irrationally. I’d lost control. I’d chosen to stare into the abyss below when I should be been searching for the safety of the shore.

But no more. It was time to look up.

Let’s turn this ship around.

I put the pedal to the metal, and in a Dukes of Hazzard inspired moment of pure triumph Colin and I aimed for the sky and fired. Without the weight of my emotions holding me down, for a moment, I knew what it was like to fly. I was finally acting level-headed, and the Corolla was back on level ground.

By some miracle, I managed to reach the petrol station. I was on cloud nine, and approached the lady at the register like I’d just won the lottery.

“That’ll be $45.67.”

“Here, just take my whole wallet.”

I think we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve decided to squeeze lemon juice into our eyes.

When this happens, often the biggest challenge is having the self-awareness to take a step back and access your current situation, put aside your predispositions and decide what is truly best for your wellbeing. You’ll use any excuse in the book to avoid the answers that are often right in front of your face. You’ll allow yourself to be distracted, and put your wants before your needs. This is destined to lead you down the path of chaos, and one day you might find yourself stuck in the middle of the bush in rural Australia.

You need to know that it’s never too late to grab the steering wheel and turn yourself around. There are many factors that influence our decisions in this modern world, but ultimately, it’s your responsibility to know what is best for you and make the right choices.

If you only follow your heart’s compass, it’ll lead you astray. But, if you play it smart, you’ll find that the little diversions take on a whole new lustre as you start to appreciate life’s various side paths and gravel roads. You’ll be free to pursue your passions comfortably, whether it be writing, mountain trekking, or visiting dams. Know that when your priorities are in order, you’ll have more mental fuel to go the distance in life and enjoy a richer human experience.

So remember to keep your chin up, and keep swimming.

Comfortably Glum

When you’re living with depression, sometimes the scariest moments are the ones where everything seems to be going smoothly.

Recently, there was a brief but wonderful period of time where everything appeared to be going my way. I was kicking goals in every aspect of my life; I’d started exercising again, I was eating healthier, I was meditating regularly and at work I felt a sense of productiveness and fulfillment. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t dread the thought of getting out of bed in the morning. Finally, I’d reached the level of stability and sustained happiness that I’d been striving for.

‘This is it.’ I thought. ‘This is life!’

But alas, it was not meant to be. For you see, depression can be a real bitch.

As quickly as feelings of joy and satisfaction had poured into my life, a storm of self-depreciating thoughts was brewing that threatened to wash it all away.

‘You’re a fraud.’

‘You’re a failure.’

‘You don’t deserve this.’

Without warning or remorse, the happiness I had found was ripped away from me. I was on top of the world, and now these negative thoughts had brought me tumbling down to the bottom of the heap. I was lower than low. I was nothing.

Things were back to normal.

Now, I know I’m not the only one to have experienced this. It’s happened to the best of us – your life is seemingly on the up-and-up and for one sweet, delicious moment you get a taste of what it’s like to not be sad all of the time. But, that depressive brain of yours doesn’t skip a beat and soon it’s back up to its old tricks of convincing you that eating an entire tub of chocolate ice cream while listening to Bright Eyes on repeat is a good way to spend a Friday evening.

When we fly too close to the sun, our urge to come crashing back down to Earth and into the familiar realm of angst and self-loathing only grows stronger. Like a fully-charged electromagnet, the further we pull away the more desperately our depression seeks to snap us back into the position of being huddled in a corner underneath exactly twelve woolen blankets. We have 200,000 years of human evolution on our side, and yet we decide that soppy music and artificial flavoring is the best way to deal with our emotions. Why the hell would anyone be inclined to behave this way? What purpose does it serve?

Well… I have a theory.

There is one thing that humans crave more than pleasure, and that is comfortability. Our brains are built to resist change. If you’re reading this blog, then I’d be willing to bet that you’ve spent your entire life struggling to deal with some strain of mental illness. Depression is a dreadful and destructive force, but in a sick and twisted way, it also feels like home. For me personally, the more depressed I am, the closer I feel to my true self. I understand what it means to be happy, but sadness is still my bread and butter, baby.

When something threatens to take my precious sorrow away, my mind immediately hits the panic button – “RED ALERT! RED ALERT! WE HAVE POSITIVE THOUGHTS APPROACHING ON ALL FRONTS! HOLD YOUR POSITIONS!” What ensues is a fierce battle within my own subconscious – a battle of emotions. And because sadness has the home advantage, my depression will always emerge victorious.

Put simply, I’m not good at feeling good. My mood will always strive to reach an equilibrium and return to its default depressive state. This behavior stems from the deeply-rooted belief that I do not deserve to be happy, a sentiment that most of us share – but that is a topic for another time.

Today, there is only one thing I want to you to take away from this post. The next time you see the dark clouds of depression looming on the horizon, ask yourself this:

‘Is this feeling due to external factors, or is this just a reaction to being pushed outside of my comfort zone and into a place of happiness and well-being?’

If you feel like shit and you’re not sure why, you should accept the possibility that this is a mental block your mind has created to prevent you from experiencing positive emotions. You should treat happiness like a skill that needs to be practiced and honed. When you’re learning a new skill, in the beginning there’s a painful period where you will try, and you will fail. Then you’ll try and fail some more. And just when you think you’re getting the hang of it – guess what – you’ll fail again. But what’s important is that you keep trying, because with each attempt you’ll bring your default mood closer to the threshold of happiness. Even in your darkest moments, you need to keep fighting.

The battle of emotions is more than a matter of life and death. It’s the fight for a life worth living. It’s a fight for everything.

And I know you can win.

Resolutions Undefined

lina-trochez-377674-unsplash

It’s that time again, time to list resolutions for the year ahead, defining a “new” start, a “new” year, a “new” you. Well, pardon me if I say, forget that noise. Don’t get me wrong, I believe setting goals and working toward them is healthy in all aspects of life, however I do not believe success or failures of your “list” should ever define you. Life has unexpected events, twists and turns, hardships and successes, and we are not given the play by play of what the next chapter will bring, so while we strive to be better every day, let us strive to accept who we are as enough.

That list, and whether or not we stop even looking at it in a week or in a few months does not define you, and is not the judge or jury on your track toward living your best life, but it can be a reminder. For me, I will be making a list of goals because I feel it’s important to visualize our dreams, but in the process I will also remind myself that this list is only a guide on the path of continuing to be the best version of me for the present moment of each day, and not a list that defines me, because while…

I will make healthier and realistic choices for me, my weight/body type, food choices and gym time do NOT define me;

I will make smarter financial decisions for me and my family, my wealth or material things do NOT define me;

I will strive to turn my “job” into my dream, my title does NOT define me; and

I will make attempts to forgive myself and those who have hurt me, my past does NOT define me.

These reminders not only allow me to see what does not define me but what does, and that is the love in my heart, the kindness I share and the peace in my soul. I am enough, and I wouldn’t trade this me for a “new” me any year, because this me is pretty darn awesome no matter where I am in the journey of this life.

You are enough, every little quirk, every scar, every smile, every choice and every piece that makes you, you. Set your goals for you, work to accomplish them for you, but always remember what truly defines you.

Reflecting on 2018, I am grateful for every lesson, fear overcome, goal reached, and connections made and look forward to each in the year to come.

Much love and happiness for the new year!

Lisa J.

If it Feels Right, Keep Running

I have an exam for my psych class I need to be doing but I felt this to be just as important. It’s crazy when inspiration hits you blindly. You’re just going along in life and BAM, you feel this compelling need to do something, whether it be something as simple as clean out the closet, organize those pictures that have been sitting for years, read a good book, write a good book, start a business or go for a run.

As many of you know I am a “runner”, a lot of my friends are runners, I run trails, I run at the beach, most pictures of me online are sweaty versions of myself after a run. What you may not know is that I hate running. I would rather go to the gym for a class or sit on a spin bike for 45 minutes than run 2 miles down my street, but I am in love with the company it keeps, the outside air, and the feeling when you are done, so I continue to tie my shoes and hit the pavement, but not without some serious convincing.

Today, however, as I was brainstorming about my newest project, and feeling a little overwhelmed by what I got myself into, I felt this insanely compelling urge to go for run. This is a rare occasion, but it was such a strong feeling that as soon as I had it I grabbed my things so quickly I forgot a water. As I took my first stride, I put on my music, I picked up my head, took a deep breath and soon the chaotic thoughts began to quiet. It was freeing, it was calming, and it was just me, then BAM, the moment I allowed myself to settle into a pace, inspiration shot through me. The ideas and the reasons for everything I am doing flooded my head, in a good way. I remembered why I started this journey and I remembered why I want to share it with you. These thoughts, this inspiration, makes me want to keep reaching, keep writing and keep running.

I had a goal in mind for this run, but when I reached the turn around point, I allowed myself a breath and just kept going. Looking ahead, and listening to my body, taking a breath when I needed it, or running faster when I felt strong, I accomplished that extra mile and much quicker than I have in a very long time.  The urge to run today felt right, I was compelled to tie my shoes, and because I didn’t stop to think about what all I had to do, or convince myself I was too tired, I ran, and people, it was amazing.

Life is screaming at you to live it, so when you are compelled to step out into it, don’t look down, listen to your voice, gauge your pace, take a breath when necessary, and sprint when your strong. When it feels right, keep running.

Much Love,

Lisa

keep running

Bruno Nascimento

Challenge Yourself! – Find 5 Meaningful Things To Do

Ever get so caught up in the day to day crap-you-have-to-do that you lose sight of what you actually need to do… or what might actually enrich your life?

Of course you do!  If you don’t, you’re probably kidding yourself.  That, or you need to immediately publish a book enlightening us on your secret – probably make a million dollars while you’re at it.

Today I was trying to distract my mind from the typical stress at work (and procrastinate from doing the crap-I-had-to-do items detailed on the to-do list sitting on my desk) so I started cleaning and organizing my office.

After reaching the bottom of a formerly bottomless desk drawer, I found a note from my predecessor.  It was a to-do list filled with 5 mundane tasks that were not unlike the ones I was myself putting off that moment.

The note was unremarkable in every way but one – the date; it was dated from just before he went out for the last time.  You see, his cancer had returned, and this time it would not be beat.  He passed away in the months that followed.

It made me think about what I was doing in that moment – just going about the motions of the day, looking at the clock, wishing it was over.  What if this was it?  What if I was running out of time and I didn’t even know it?

How many of you are doing the same thing?  How many of you are wishing for the hours to slip by so you can do something that’s actually meaningful to you?  What is actually important to you?  Challenge yourself to make a list of what you actually need to do.

I scribbled off the list sitting on my desk and made a new one:

5 Things I Actually Need To-Do:

#1 – Help My Kids Find Their Passion.

There is one really important word in that goal – “their”. I want to help them find their passion, not mine.

I love football. I’d love to have my kid in the NFL.  But I have two daughters that probably aren’t going to share that goal.  Also I don’t see many women in the NFL in 2018.

This was something I think I missed as a child; I never found something that I was really into that I could also do for a living. It wasn’t until after college that I really started developing true passions other than drinking beer and spending money.  What a waste!

Also, I think it’s really important that kids have at least something they know they’re interested in before school’s over.  Otherwise how the hell are they supposed to decide what they’re going to do after high school?

Here’s what the decision making process looked like for me:

Dad: Alright, here’s a book of college majors, you need to pick one.

Me: Wait, what?

Dad: Yep. You’re 18, and it’s time for you to decide what you want to do for the next 40-50 years.

Me: Can I just play X-Box?

Dad: Nope.

Me: Ok, let me see that book then…

Me: [Flips through book of alphabetized majors, loses interest at the letter ‘C’]

Me: Chemistry sounds good!

Dad: Excellent.

Me: [Wastes next 10 years of life stumbling down misery-path]

I really, really want to avoid that, which I know can be difficult.  I know my parents tried to get me into things and it was me that resisted.  I know you can’t make your kids do anything once they get to a certain age, but I hope I’ll be able to help them see how what they are interested in can become a career.

Here’s an example that would have worked for me. I’m really into video games.  That’s one of the only things I was consistently into growing up.  That sounds like a horrible waste of time, right?

Cut to 10 years later and I discover a passion for computer programming. Now I program video games in my spare time for fun.  Imagine if I had the creativity and vision to see this as a possibility when I was 18?  I could be doing this for a living right now, and I would have loved it!  Sometimes you need to be creative.

#2 – Pay for Kid’s College.

My wife’s parents paid for her to go to school, a generosity for which I am extremely grateful. We bought our first home when I was 24, and she was 23, because of the financial boost her parents were able to give us after we graduated.  We had an incredible head-start.

I graduated with $25,000 in debt, which is probably pretty low since I went to a public school. $300 dollars a month to student loan debt payments really sucks when you’re 22 – A huge percentage of your paycheck simply disappears.

Thankfully, I actually have a pretty decent head-start plan on this. It’s called the Stop-Obsessively-Buying-Ridiculously-Irresponsible-amounts-of-Ethanol (that’s alcohol for you – remember, chemistry major)-This-Year also known as SOBRIETY.

The math looks something like this:

$20 dollars per week for margaritas on date night.

$35 dollars per week for beer.

+             $45 dollars for Woodford Reserve because I’m one of those classy alcoholics.


$100 dollars per week

×             52 weeks in a year


$5200 per year on alcohol.

×             18 years


$93,600 saved over 18 year period.

That’s a decent head start!

#3 – Finish One of Those Damn Mania-Projects!

If you suffer from bipolar disorder you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re manic, or hypomanic, and you’ve fallen in love with… something. You have all this energy and you’ve decided to direct it towards writing a book, or starting a blog, or making movies, or learning an instrument, or learning to paint, or going back to school… or all of those things at once!

The problem is that bipolar disorder is a cruel mistress, and now two weeks later your depression is back and you have absolutely no interest in doing any of those things anymore. So what was just days ago an all-consuming passion project is left abandoned and incomplete.

I’ve spoken at some length about how mania or hypomania may be thought of by some as a blessing, but I’ve started to view it as a curse.  In my days or weeks of depression immediately following a hypomanic period I find myself surrounded by husks of beautiful, useful, and creative things that I was only able to take halfway to completion.  The sense of failure does nothing to help the depression.

Just once, I’d like to finish something. Write a book, learn a skill, finish programming that video game – anything!

I can say I have found one way to scratch this itch; break it down into small, bite size pieces! When you get the bug to start writing, instead of only working on that 100,000 word manuscript, why don’t you write a blog post!  I finish those all the time!

#4 – Travel Abroad With Family

I’ve been to two countries in my entire life. The United States, since I happen to have been born here, and Canada, since I happen to have grown up about 30 minutes from the border.

I never had a strong desire to travel (or really, to do anything) when I had the (relatively) easy opportunity to do so in college. Many of my friends did however, and it always seemed like a great adventure that enriched their lives.

I’d love to do this with my family, or if we can’t all go, I’d like to send the kids when they’re young, in college, and life is still (relatively) simple.

#5 – Start a Business

Is this every manic person’s dream, or is it just mine?

Imagine taking your energy, and your sudden, intense focus on something, and getting so good at it that you can actually start a business around that thing. Then you can screw the man and ride off into the sunset!

Ok, so I understand in reality that starting a business isn’t actually easy, and the whole riding off into the sunset thing is not likely to happen, but can’t a guy dream?

So that’s it!  That’s my What-I-Actually-Want-To-Do list – my 5 Meaningful Things.  I challenge you all to do the same thing!

Unfortunately, reality always seems to get in the way.  Speaking of which, these expense reports aren’t going to approve themselves. Back to it…

Retrospective

There are times I find that it’s hard for me to accept how things have turned out in life, being 27 and unable to work due to chronic illnesses such as scoliosis and rheumatoid arthritis, to keep it short, has had a huge impact on who I am as a person. This definitely isn’t the life I envisioned for myself, and sometimes, like most, I feel a little sorry for myself. Before my disabilities took hold, before my daughter, my husband and I were in a relatively successful local band, and before becoming a mother, music was the only thing in life that I always knew was meant to be.

Once you’ve been within reach of your dreams and gotten a taste of what that feels like, it’s incredibly difficult when lost. At one point, I actually allowed myself to believe that all my wildest dreams could come true, that I would get every little thing I deserved for putting everything I have into being the best person that I can be. Once those thoughts take hold, everything else goes unnoticed, including the first signs that what you thought was wild success, may in fact turn into a complete and utter failure of a situation.

It took years for me to get the courage to perform on stage as a lead singer, I mean after all, my only experience had been singing in choir, and singing in the car and shower. But once I let myself show the world my talent, I never wanted it to stop – I wanted to show everyone, not just those who doubted me or worked against me, but to show people who struggle to find the self-esteem and strength to follow their dreams that it could be done, by a nobody nonetheless.

While the band has been dead for a few years now, I still haven’t finished grieving, and while I haven’t completely given up on the dream, the more time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to manifest any sort of true motivation to pursue it anymore. As sad as that is, it’s a product of my ever persistent lack of confidence, despite the fact that I proved to myself that I’m definitely not lacking the talent to make it happen. Instead, I hate my body and pity myself and find it hard to open up about it, but it’s not something that anyone I know can truly understand.

I never knew until recently just how detrimental a role physical pain can play on your mental state, but it has eaten away so much from who I am, who I know I’m meant to be, and everything I wanted to accomplish in my life, that I completely resent myself and feel weakened not only physically, but spiritually as well. To some people, hobbies are silly and insignificant, and while music has always been so much more than that, I’ve got to allow this transition to take place and find some way to feed my creativity without relishing in the fact that I’ll may not ever be able to share it with the world in the way I always dreamed.

I’m not giving up, but it’s time to switch gears.

Goals in Mental Health Recovery

Yesterday I introduced a new series on the blog. My real life journal entries during some of my toughest times. My Mental Illness Journal. Today I want to talk about goals in mental health recovery.

What Are Your Mental Health Recovery Goals?

In the life with a mental illness, it can seem difficult to set realistic goals. Its roots are in the fears that come with recovery. In my own life, being Bipolar means the constant ups and downs affect my everyday. When you add more things like social anxiety and dealing with insomnia, it can be constant chaos. So goals can feel impossible most days.

Even with everything that comes with your mental illness, it is important to make goals. Setting life goals is an important part of your mental health wellness and recovery.

There are things that you can ask yourself that can be quite helpful in figuring out your goals.

What motivates me?

For me five years ago I knew I had to go back to school. I always considered myself a writer, but I need to refine my skills. I knew if I went back to school It works to keep me motivated from week to week, and it has done that in my life. As I near the end of my Bachelor’s degree my motivation is even clearer to go beyond and start my Master’s Program. It has been a tough journey of ups and downs but the motivation has always been there to succeed. It drives me.

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Writing is what gets me up each day and thought it wasn’t always so, it has been for the last two years why I wake up each day. It motivates me to write my memoir, this blog, and to always be looking for my next writing project. I write for me first, and second to share my life. What motivates me is ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.

What would I do more of if I was able?

This is the hardest question to answer, what would I do more if I was able? It’s tough because if you have ever been in the darkness that comes with depression for a long period, it may seem impossible to believe that you can do more. We have all been there, including yours truly. But, it is an important to find what is the one thing you could do more of, and for me, it was writing.

What do I want in life?

It is important to know what you want out of this life. To get to the point of starting the journey of real recovery this question seems important. I would even go further and ask what you want in this life outside of your mental illness? Find what makes you happy. We are already not normal people those of with a mental illness. So, don’t worry if what you want out of life isn’t normal. If your goal right now is to get better beyond your mental illness then that should be the goal.

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Where do I want my life to go?

For me, this question was never simple. It took me writing my screenplay starting in 2016 and ending in 2017 to find my focus. When I started this blog near the end of last year, it helped me focus on where I wanted my life to go. I want to share my story with the world through my memoir and this blog. I have done a good job so far.

What brings me joy?

This is simple and it will be very important to know moving forward. I know what brings me joy. Writing, listening to good music, sharing my experiences, and reading a good book. It might surprise you that the things that help you on your mental health recovery are the things that bring you joy.

What I did is something I would recommend to all. Five years ago I answered each of these questions so that I could find my goals in my mental health recovery. I found one thing was constant when answering these questions, it still is. My need to write. It took me a while to get to this place, but I know who I am now. A writer that writes first for me and second for my people. All the other things like selling my screenplay and self-publishing my memoir are just the results of working on my mental health goals.

Mental health recovery is never straightforward. There will be plenty of bumps along the way. Peaks and valleys. Its how you deal with it that will help aid you. Find your place in the world because even with a mental illness, you always have a real place in society.

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What are your mental health recovery goals? I challenge each of my fellow bloggers to share within their own blog.

Always keep fighting.

J.E. Skye

 

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoKelli Stirrett

unsplash-logoGarrhet Sampson

unsplash-logoJon Tyson

unsplash-logoAndrej Lišakov

Juggling, Hiding, Saying No

When there is a relatively calm week with nothing outside of the ordinary happening, I can easily handle a hiccup or two. Now, if you expect me to be able to juggle multiple situations at one time, I may start to withdraw. Like a turtle drawing his head into his shell, I close myself off.

The static in my brain starts to send out sparks, misfires occur, rapid thinking, jumping to conclusions, and hopeless impressions wander through me. You can’t do this! Just quit! My inner demon whispers. This advice is so tempting. Quitting is easy. It might sting for a while, but the wound heals pretty quickly in most cases.

There are times when we pile on too much, and saying NO can be healthy, and part of self-care. However, we must be aware when we raise our hands in surrender to soon. Trying to avoid something that is demanding, or labor intense, we might turn our head at a challenge before we find out what we are capable of.

It’s too difficult, it’s too hard, I can’t do this! There are too many things going on at one time. I can’t juggle all of this at once!

Excuse me for throwing out a term so loosely, because the truth is I do not meditate in the traditional sense. I have tried, it’s just not my dish. When things pile up and start to crash down upon me however, I do say to myself, “It’s time to meditate on this.” To me this is taking a break, a step back. Thinking out all the logical options, and most importantly coming up with boundaries and goals. Breathe through it. If a situation is elevated beyond a determined margin, then maybe it is time to make an exit. Until then, it’s time to stick with it!

I find that when more than one task (even if a pleasant) falls on me, I start to get a little erratic. I haven’t been able to stop this from happening, but I do recognize it more quickly than in the past. I’m not sure if this is my anxious tendencies or just a normal human response to a lot going on.

Continued stress can do horrible things to our mind and body. Not accomplishing goals or backing out of a commitment can also wreak havoc on our inner self. Sometimes we need a little stress to propel us forward. Understanding our limits is important. More important yet, is pushing these limits in a healthy manner so we can gain achievement and self-worth.

Brought to you by Fingers To Sky