20 Dec

The Work Is The Medicine

Broken bones heal.

A cut is stitched closed and heals.

Infections are treated with antibiotics and are cured.

Muscle aches and pains, while not visible to others, can be treated over time and suffering ends.

How are illnesses of the mind treated? Is there a treatment that heals, cures or ends suffering? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Unlike broken bones, cuts and infections, there are diseases that have no immediate or long-lasting cure. A great example, presented to me by a physician, is diabetes. If you are diabetic you NEED insulin. There isn’t a cure. There isn’t a way to heal yourself of this illness. Does this mean a mental illness has no cure? You can’t get better from depression? No. There is no cure. You won’t get “better”. You can feel well though. That wellness comes from doing the work. There are ways to manage your illness. Acknowledging your mental illness is the first step on the road to recovery. Understand you have a condition that requires work on a consistent basis. I’m still learning this.

I wanted to believe a new diagnosis and a better understanding of my thinking would make me “better”. This thinking is how I started to feel not-so-good. This is okay though. A couple things happened that made this experience a positive event. There are a few people in my life right now who are fully aware of my situation and are my support team. I trust each of them. I also know I can get angry and frustrated with each of them and not receive harsh judgment.

The other day, I was convinced I was not well. To such a degree that I was erasing all my hard work and assuming all the positive changes I had implemented were a waste of my time, I was a failure. I wanted to run. One of my support people, would not let me run. I was angry. I felt very frustrated that this person had no idea what I felt and couldn’t possibly understand how I was feeling. I didn’t run though. Another of my support people did not entertain my emotions of the day. This person was not going to allow me to succumb to my feelings.

The next day, I gave myself permission to hide. I was still not being entertained by two of my support people. My final support person is my psychologist. I had a session with her that wasn’t playing out as I wanted it to. She wasn’t letting me run. She wasn’t letting me believe my thoughts. She wanted to know what else was going on. In my mind, there was nothing else going on. I changed the subject and started to tell her about the other five active situations that are playing out in my life. I was telling her how I was managing each of them. How I was patiently taking one step at a time and making thoughtful decisions. How I didn’t feel stress from any of these situations. She asked, “You have all that going on?” I replied, “Yes.” She commented, “And you are handling all of those things, really well?” Hmmm. That’s interesting. Look at all the things I’ve taken on. I’m allowing one little thing to turn into a ginormous issue. I’m also allowing myself to feel like a failure rather than celebrating my wins.

How did I do that?  I stopped working. I stopped working on me. I assumed I would just “naturally” be able to handle all situations. Guess what?! I didn’t suddenly become ill. A lifetime of events brought me to where I am today. During this time I learned a way of thinking that is detrimental to my mental health. Being aware of my thoughts doesn’t mean I suddenly know how to stop them. Being aware of my thoughts doesn’t mean they’ll stop affecting me. Awareness is only one part of the treatment. My thoughts now need new answers. They need to hear a different perspective. They need to have less impact. This is what I need to work on now. I can’t just run and avoid all situations that will give me harmful thoughts. I won’t be able to leave my house if that happens. I need to fight. I need to do the work that will provide the skills to combat my thinking. My thinking may never change, just as a diabetic will always need insulin. How my thoughts are allowed to make me feel, is completely in my control.

Less than six months ago, my thinking and how it made me feel, led me down a dangerous road. I started down that road again, not thinking there is a different way. There is a way that allows me to celebrate my successes. There is a way that allows me to “feel”. There is a way that allows me to choose what I do with those feelings. I’m learning I have the power to make a detour around the dangerous road. With these skills, I can feel empowered over my emotions. It’s not easy work, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s positive work. As hard as it will be, it is positive!



06 Oct

Don’t Wait for Better Days, Make Them Happen!

20150926_130336[1]Autumn holds different meanings for different people.   It can mean the end of a cycle or the beginning of a cycle depending on the nature of the being and the climate it exists in.  It means waking to cooler mornings, with the hope of being able to enjoy warmer afternoons.  It means seeing the bright colors of changing leaves, and hearing them rustle under foot as you shuffle through raked piles.  If you have school age children, back-to-school time could mean a change in routine from the go-with-the-flow, laid back attitudes of summer.

For some it can feel like the end of a cycle.   In the spring, you are in a position of preparation.  Like a farmer who spends daylight hours seeding his fields for the coming season.  Like the carpenter who begins to spend more time in the outdoors, building decks and fences.  Like the proud homeowner, wanting to have that golf green lawn, the preparation would begin in the spring.  Even wildlife, that have spent the winter in a warmer climate, venture home in spring. Spring is a busy time, leading to a summer of adventure.  Summer, is the time for family barbecue’s, taking advantage of and making use of that new deck. Enjoying the lush, soft, and very green grass you have worked so hard to keep weed free.  It’s summer camps for kids and weekend trips out of the city for adults.  It’s planning every moment , in order to take advantage of the time of year that seems to creep up on us so fast and fade away just as quickly.  That’s where Autumn comes in.  It’s a breath of fresh air.  It brings us back to a place of schedule and routine.  It allows us family weekends at home.  It allows us spontaneous outings on those days that are extraordinarily warm and pleasant. It allows us to rest, regroup and prepare for what’s to come.

Many people that live in a climate of four seasons, dread the coming of winter. How can this be?  It’s the longest of our seasons.  Does that mean you really dread waking each morning for a large portion of a year?  Do you wish the cold away, counting down the days until warmer weather returns?  If you are trudging through winter with an attitude of waiting, doesn’t that make winter even longer?  And if waiting is what you are doing, what are you missing while you wait?  What do you not take advantage of during those cold months?  What is there that you could be enjoying?  Do you take the time to walk outdoors in the sunlight after a snowfall to see the snow twinkle as if lit by tiny lights?  Do you walk outdoors when it’s so cold it almost hurts to breath, and listen to the sound of the snow crunching under foot?  Do you take advantage of bright sunny days and go outside to feel the sun on your face?  Have you thought of taking up a winter hobby?  Find a way to enjoy this season, as much as you enjoy the others. When you do this, it’ll be over before you know it, and you have enjoyed life at the same time.

This is not what I had planned on writing about today.  I wanted to explain my horrible mood.  Probably more like complain about it.  I was wanting to explain that even when we know we are in a horrible mood, it doesn’t make it any easier to remain positive.  I wanted to say that it’s hard to push away thoughts of giving up.  I wanted to say that it is SO frustrating to work so hard and feel like I have to start over again.  I wanted to say I’m not not starting over again, I quit!  But, isn’t giving up really like waiting for winter to be over?  Would I not be wasting days that could be wonderful days in the making?  You don’t hide yourself away for the winter, waiting for it to go away?  You shouldn’t hide yourself away when a mood has gotten the better of you.  Don’t let it win.  Don’t let it be a day to hide from.  Find a way to make it positive or at the very least bearable.  If not as positive as a summer day, how about just more enjoyable than a day spent hiding away.

This is what I’ve decided.  If my mind wants to be in a mood, that’s fine.  It can go right ahead.  I’m going to do everything physically in my power to ensure it doesn’t have an easy time of that.  I’ve come this far.  One day is not a set back. It’s a challenge!  Sorry mood, you don’t get to win today!


15 Sep

Keep Pushing Forward

keepingonWhen can we stop “working” on getting “better”?

When can we say, “I’m all better!”

I’m sure you already know the answer to both of these questions.  Never!

You may never get “better”.  You have an illness, or a disability, or a chronic condition, that will not go away.  There is no cure.  It is a permanent ailment.

How about we change the question to, “Now that I feel “better”, what’s next?”

You feel better, that’s great!  It doesn’t mean it is time to stop working.  You need to remain on medication(s) that have been prescribed to you.  You also NEED to keep doing the things that helped you get to this point.  It is these practices that were a big component of helping you feel better.  They are the non-medicinal ingredients of your wellness treatment plan.

Medication is never enough on it’s own.  It can help relieve some symptoms. Some of the symptoms of your condition went away or were relieved by the extra things you DO to feel better.  To stop any of these activities would mean you are stopping a part of your treatment plan.   When medicines are prescribed to patients with chronic illnesses, the patients cannot stop taking the medication because they feel better.  A great example…..I take anticoagulants.  I will take anticoagulants FOREVER!  If I stop, my blood would clot, the clot could travel to my lungs and a Pulmonary Embolism could kill me.  I survived this once.  I am not testing that fate again.

When you have found activities that help you feel better, make them habits.  Make them an important part of your daily routine or part of your life in general.  These activities can help keep you well.  So many times over the years, once I felt better, I stopped doing the things that were partly responsible for how I felt.  I was better!  I didn’t need to do that any longer.  This time, for me, is not about getting better.  It’s about finding what works, making permanent changes to my wellness treatment plan.

What activities do I add to my medication regime to have an overall effect on wellness?  Reinstate old practices that you thought were no longer needed.  If it helped you before, make it part of your plan.  This practice can now help you every day.  Here are some ideas if you need inspiration; try a new craft, take a course on a topic that has always interested you, read a book about the same topic, join a group with similar interests, to name a few.  Just don’t give up!  Find what works for you.  Incorporate this practice into your wellness treatment plan.  Your wellness treatment plan will be longer-lasting than medicine alone.  It will help you feel better!