A smart man once told me that if I’m not uncomfortable, I’m not changing. Change and fear are the strongest motivators of my behavior these past few years. I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone’s feelings or I’ll do something wrong, say something wrong. Fear and change have become my prison.
I’m beginning to make some changes, small ones, that help me get out of my comfort zone once in awhile. I don’t stall as much as I used to looking for any excuse not to leave the house. The last year or so has been the worst depression I’ve ever been through. I have become practically a shut in. I don’t leave and I don’t answer the phone. As these occurred in combination with increased panic attacks, another back injury and intense therapy I shut down almost completely.
Then I’d get a rush of energy for about a week or so and burn out trying to get everything done that I’d let go for months, become depressed over it and sink again. Sleep was my very best friend and depression gives me plenty of that. I had become completely paralyzed with fear. There is no one reasonable fear I can give that has gotten me here. In fact the best I can do is say the big bad world hurts and it hurt me so I’ll just stay in here thank you very much.
Unfortunately as wonderful as that sounds to those who know what I’m talking about eventually we realize its not normal. I had read somewhere that its not a mid life crisis when we get to an age and realize we haven’t done anything or reached any of our dreams, its a mid life unraveling. A therapist can help in this process by unraveling all the layers we’ve built up around us, our belief systems are even challenged, things we thought were real were perceived, its a very difficult process. It is a painful, depressing process but it has to happen to get to the gooey center and learn to deal with negative experiences, loss, pain and suffering in a more healthy way. That’s a heavy journey to recovery but it’s great news for anyone who feels lost in their mid life. There’s hope for a more meaningful life if the person is willing to do what they need to.
Of course everyone is different and everyone’s path is different but change and fear I think, are the two enemies that imprison people when they should be teachers and motivators. Maybe if we take baby steps out of our comfort zones we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m beginning to take small steps and I am not going to hide anymore.
Dreaming big and having wonderful goals is a great way to live your life with purpose. Having dreams and goals are meant to be achieved. They create a path of smaller goals to be accomplished in order to reach the larger ones. It’s the things we do everyday that bring us closer to our dreams or change them as our lives change while we’re on our path. The challenges in life that seem to place you further from your goals and dreams may be a lesson. Watching and being mindful helps us to see the lessons and challenges if we look hard enough.
Each day I look at a list of my own approach to my days It keeps me on my journey and helps me use my senses and intuition to recognize the lessons and what they mean and the adjustments I need to make for tomorrow. Here my list you can use to help see your day, your path, journey and life and where you can examine the areas that need to be checked.
Daily Guide for Growth
- Blessed Be my Goddess is Helping Me!!
~Review these questions daily~
- What have you done for the Earth today? Did you live Her will or yours? Can you do something for Her right now?
- Did you wake up with gratitude in your heart? Did you give thanks and pray for Her will this morning?
- What can you do or have you done to reach a goal today? Take baby steps each day to work towards YOUR bigger picture.
- Visualize everything done today that you wanted to get done. Are your to~do lists realistic? Or are they from a perfectionist’s point of view?
- What did you absolutely love about today? What was your favorite time today? What moments did you have that felt productive and moving towards larger dreams and goals? What small moments had importance in your day?
- What was your least enjoyed thing today? What time of day was most stressful or upsetting? The most peaceful? The most productive? Exciting?
- Are there areas of your day that can be improved on tomorrow? And not just adding things but subtracting things as well. Stop being so hard on yourself!! You don’t have to be perfect because you are perfect just the way you are and the way things are right now is the way they are supposed to be. Baby steps to reaching our goals. If the house is a mess it didn’t get that way overnight so a few 15 minute intervals of decluttering and cleaning is a very successful day!!
- What did you do for yourself today? If you haven’t done anything for yourself today what can you do right now for yourself? Stop everything and do something for you! Go for a hike in nature, meditate, Listen to some music and dance, take a hot shower, paint your nails, write a poem, draw a picture, read a book for fun! Do something wonderful for yourself right now!!
- Write in your journal about how you feel, the different moods experiences and progress to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Try to reach a goal by spending just 10-15 minutes a day on the baby steps to reach a bigger goal.
Hopefully you can use this example to write out your own daily questions to help guide you and remember stumbling is part of life. We are not perfect and we need to look at our day and decide what to do the following day to improve or learn from what didn’t work today. Lessons are everywhere and so are the teachers. We just have to look with an open mind and heart.
Mental illness is so challenging for everyone, not just the client. The family, friends and the therapist are all involved with the client, the symptoms, the good, the bad and the ugly. Many psychiatrists do not spend hours with patients anymore, understanding them, their symptoms, coming up with proper diagnosis and treatments. Now the system is dysfunctional and the psychiatrists goes by the therapist’s recommendations and prescribes medication according to the therapist’s treatment plan, session notes and recommendations. That’s what they do, 15 minutes with a patient in these overbooked clinics for the poor, disabled and the mentally ill that can’t afford a private doctor. The therapists are fresh out of school. Filled with dreams of helping people and making a difference but with 80-100 cases and just a half an hour to 45 mins every week or other week they see how the mentally ill are treated and they see the problems with the system but they’re young, inexperienced, overworked, underpaid and frustrated. The burnout rates can be high especially in busy inner city clinics who need their youth, their new insight and passion. After months of seeing how the system works therapists leave and get other jobs and sometimes in completely different fields.
From a patient’s point of view, I feel the same frustration. I’m on an assembly line and a lab rat. Try this combination, oh you had suicidal thoughts and ideations? Let’s increase your dose 50 mgs. Fortunately I didn’t take it and walked away. Finding a psychiatrist that could help me with my bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD and panic attacks was no easy task because I am disabled and on medicare and medicaid so I had to go to a clinic. In two years I have had 5 different therapists at two different clinics because the therapists leave their jobs just as progress and trust were building and we were starting to make progress. Then like a good little rat, I get back in my wheel and start running and working hard, wanting so bad to get better but just as I get to that point were I’m not circling around and around going nowhere, things start to smooth out and become clear again. Progress begins, things start to get better and my therapist informs me that they’re leaving. I get back in my wheel again.
I am in a new clinic now. I’ve been there for a few months now. It’s still an assembly line but with a great therapist and some insight I am now making real progress. What’s different now? My way of viewing the situation. If I break my leg a doctor puts a cast on it and 6 weeks later all better. With behavioral and psychological problems its not so easy. The brain is so complex full of chemical reactions that affect our behaviors and thought patterns but we’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding the brain. When painful experiences are expressed in disordered thinking and behaviors they can be diagnosed and in a perfect setting might be treated with the right medications and live a quality of life they didn’t have before.
Human beings are unique and our responses and behaviors are unique, our thoughts and the way we view our environment. Mental illness cannot be treated the same way with each patient the way a broken leg can because the patient has to work towards change. If the patient isn’t taught how to change they will continue to suffer. Change is a terrifying concept to a mentally ill patient. Once trust is established and progress is being made it is a delicate relationship and to uproot it before the patient is ready can have severe consequences and the mentally ill get trapped in a system that fails them over and over.
The mentally ill are difficult to deal with. Therapists hear horrible stories and know the “why” it’s the “how” that is so hard. If there isn’t enough time to figure out the “how” and get the patient to begin to take steps towards change then the cycles will continue. Our current treatments are not working. The structure, the caseloads, the burnout rates and the compensation are not nurturing to patients or the therapists that work with them.
Being on both sides of the fence I know what it’s like to go home and worry about a patient or client. It is very hard to learn how to leave the cases at work without hardening your heart. I know for me, I have to work harder then ever to establish report with my therapist and get to work. The clock is ticking before I have to get back on the wheel and the only way to stop it is to beat it with change. Such a big scary word but the true path to surviving mental illness.
FEAR. GUILT. SHAME. My favorite masks. I love to hide behind them. I feel protected and comfortable surrounding myself with the walls I’ve built to keep the World, the big bad World from getting in and hurting me again. It worked for awhile but eventually my palace of protection became my prison of pain. So I began to seek help again but I cannot do the same things over again that I’ve tried in the past. This is a different approach, with different mentors, counselors and caring individuals who understand because they’ve been where I have.
The kind of change to break free of my prison needs more courage then I’ve needed since the beginning of my journey. In order to accomplish my goals and change for good; I needed to try something different. I found The Eight Step Recovery from the Buddha’s teachings is based on the 12 Step programs. The Eight Step program focuses on the Buddha’s Teachings to guide us through our journey using the Four Noble Truths and other teachings from the Buddha. Meditation is also a large part of the program and there is a 21 day program of meditations. There is an introduction and then Day one is the beginners mediation of the breath and how to meditate. Each day is a different meditation for 21 days. The importance of 21 days is that research shows that any habit whether it is a habit you are trying to rid yourself of or one you are trying to implement into your life, it takes 21 days for the brain and the chemistry to change and therefore the behavior to change.
I practiced Day Four Meditation this morning because it is based on the serenity prayer. During my mediation the word courage kept coming to me in a distracting way. I would return to my breath and try to let the words of the prayer flow but courage overtook my mind each time I’d return and it became harder to get deeper into my meditation. Then I remembered my Mindfulness group’s facilitator teach us how to rid ourselves of “invading” thoughts. You cannot ignore them and the more you try the more they come and the more frustrated you become. He told us to use the image of a conveyor belt, acknowledge the distracting thought, notice it, accept that it is there while continuing to breath. Then when you feel comfortable and continuing to breath, set the thought on the conveyor belt and off it goes, acknowledged, filed away in your mind and able to be retrieved again if needed. Don’t force any thoughts or focus on much of anything except your breath, in with purifying air and oxygen, out with the negative, insecure and sick air. Practice makes perfect and the first day you may only be able to handle 30 seconds. I knew I couldn’t last more then a minute but before I knew it I w Keep practicing each day and try to last a little longer each day. It happens quickly once you realize no one’s watching, no one’s testing you, and it’s just you and your breath…..that’s when the magic begins!
Love & Light ~Amy~
Freedom to me is being myself without worrying about what anyone else feels or thinks. This is my life and I will live it the
way I want to. I will not be held back by social norms I do not agree with. I will parent my kids to the best of my ability and allow them to grow and be themselves with the best guidance I can. I will not wear a mask for you or you or you. No one owns me. I make choices, both good and bad. I learn from my mistakes. I learn from other’s mistakes. I am done with living my life under the pressure of approval from people I don’t even want to be around. I am who I am, love me, hate me or somewhere in between, I don’t care anymore. I am living my life on a painful path of recovery from not just addiction but many other complex memories and traumas. So many negative things I had done, that were done to me and it prevented me from growing in positive directions. I could not even look at my reflection for more than a second and continued to fall deeper into the dark places inside me. I am not a bad person. I am worth something and I am loved. I have trouble accepting it, being loved; it’s hard for me to believe why anyone would love me, until recently. I have broken down walls, I have reached out, and I have become stronger and defeated many of those demons of my past. There are more to conquer and they snap at my heels as I walk ahead creating a life I want without thinking what others would approve or disapprove. I am not willing to sacrifice my happiness to be something I’m not. My mask is coming off and the walls are coming down. I believe in myself today. I can become somebody, I can learn to love myself and rid myself of those negative voices telling me I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I don’t have what it takes, all I do is hurt people, I’m bad and worthless. I don’t let anyone in because they’re better than me and if they know me they’ll hate me, leave me and hurt me. Those voices from my past keeping me down are all from experiences with people who I feel sorry for today, to live inside their own prisons. Every day I write down very specific things about myself that I love and that I’m grateful for. We don’t know what today, tomorrow or the future will bring but I’m breaking out of my prison for the first time in my life and I’m not following other shadows, I’m in front with the sun warming my face and my shadow’s behind me. I make my future with the choices I make today; it’s as simple as that.
~What are you going to do today that will lead you towards your dreams and goals?~
Suffering for weeks, sometimes months through boughts of dreaded depression is no joke and very real to millions of people. I have suffered with it for over 10 years, maybe longer but I had children young, I was in University, working and doing my internships. I did not have time to stay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself. I have since realized that depression is not laying in bed feeling sorry for yourself. It’s much more then that and much more serious. Major Depressive Disorder can be as deadly as addiction, both steal our lives, our self worth, our strength, our will to live.
This last battle forced me to look and the facts. My depression has been getting worse and lasting longer then 6-8 weeks, they’re lasting for months now. Each time stealing more of me. I knew I had to do something, not just for myself but for kids, they deserve better and have gone through more then any child should have to. They may be teenagers but they still deserve a healthy mom. They’re very smart too. They tell me what my therapist and everyone else says, “You think too much, it’s not that bad.” I make it bad in my mind thinking it’s worse then it really is.
Bottom-line, I had to get help and so I did. I fought back, got a specialized therapist and psychiatrist. I agreed to medication and I am well on my way to loving life again. It all takes time, healing does not happen overnight,
We post quotes, cute pictures with inspiring words and click “like” or repost it on Facebook, I do it all the time. The problem with that is after a few minutes, it’s gone, forgotten. A moment, just a single moment of a few words inspires some moment of clarity and motivation to change. We who need them know this. Deep down it is going to take a hell of a lot more then a picture of a sunrise with a motivating quote to “fix” us. Some of us are so broken and we get up every day and try. One foot in front of another just surviving. To live another monotonous day. Please don’t misunderstand, it is not my intent to cause pain, hopelessness or discouragement. Quite the opposite actually. You will not find the answers on a Facebook post or in a book. The answers are inside of you, where the demons and darkness that hold you back are. Where the battle must be fought, not ignored, suppressed and buried. Truth, you want truth? Here’s what I look at every morning and every night on an index card;
“If there is peace in your mind, you find peace with everyone. If your mind is agitated then you find agitation everywhere. So first find peace within and you will see this inner peace reflected everywhere else. You are this peace. You are happiness, find out. Where else will you find peace if not within?” ~ Papaji~
I know, another quote. It’s not the quote. This quote spoke to me in ways other ones haven’t. Whatever speaks to your heart, use it. This one hit me and it affected me and it has been helping me face my demons. It may not work for you but you have to find something to keep you moving forward through the depression, the fear and the war within. You won’t find it in a lover, a doctor or priest. You won’t find what you’re looking for anywhere but within yourself. No one else will ever know what you’ve been through or know you as well as you do and even then, you still don’t know everything about yourself. That’s the beauty, there’s always more things to learn about yourself but even though you have to do the leg work here’s the good news. You don’t have to do it alone. Guidance and support comes in many forms and many different people. It may be a friend, a doctor, counselor or a priest but they can’t give you the answers that only you know. They can guide you through it, support you and love you. It’s human nature to need other human relationships, encouraging, supporting, loving relationships to guide you through your journey whether it’s addiction, mental illness or spiritual or all of the above.
There needs to be trust in order to let people in so they can help you on your journey and give you that guidance, love and support that you need. For many of us that’s a huge barrier, trust is not something that comes easy to us. That’s another post for another day. I write how I feel, what I think and what I think I know and I share it. I am not perfect. I do not have the answers and I am happy that I don’t because without goals, the drive to seek knowledge and answers well life would be simply boring! I have found a new spark within myself that is driving me to fight for my life. That’s what this blog is about isn’t it? My journey, the good and the bad. My truths, my feelings, my experiences and I share. I believe it’s why I was saved. I try not to hold back and sometimes it’s not pretty. That’s what sets me apart I think, a real person that someone can relate to that it takes a lot of work and a lot of pain to fight this war. It’s a war we each much fight within ourselves but trying to do it alone only leads us backwards, running to the relief of what we knew and what hasn’t worked for us but we need our comfort zones. If you can stop yourself, play the tape through and do what’s new, uncomfortable and strange. Call a support, tell on yourself and save yourself because you are the only one who can do it. Change is uncomfortable and change is scary but if we embrace it, if we do something different, we start to see that change is not only not that bad but eventually we can see its beauty it just doesn’t happen overnight.
I love posting encouraging words with a bright sunrise in the background or a fabulous quote I come across and they are important to keep us going but the answers are within us, the changes are up to us and within us. It all begins within each and every one of us in all of our unique and different ways. It just takes patience and time. ~Love & Light~