I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Discomfort Signals Growth

Newness is possible; the future does not have to replicate the past; the dream of God is alive. (Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time)
I'm going through a lot of change and that is good.  It is also stressful.  I started worrying that my increase in anxiety was a signal that I would relapse into my illness.  I am so glad that I finally completed my big goal of publishing a book but trying to figure out how to not overdo it has been really hard.  Fortunately, we had another intentional peer support training at the peer center where I work and it prompted a few "aha" moments.

























Turn From Fear Towards Possibility

Discomfort Means I'm Growing

"Aha!" I said. This additional anxiety is not so bad - it doesn't mean I'm relapsing; it means I'm growing! I need to not run away from my fear and discomfort but embrace the change instead. I feel comforted by the fact that I don't need to pathologize my emotions.  I decorated a page in my journal to remind me of the direction I want to keep going in my recovery.
























donot worry - choose joy
My thoughts are like butterflies - they flit and move on!
Be mindful! Slow down!
Affirm my self worth
I am valuable!

Does this mean that I should strive to always be anxious so that I can always grow?
Ugh. NO
But it does mean that I can appreciate it, even if not enjoying it.

I HATE ANXIETY

But it does make me feel victorious when I remind myself that every low point in my life has prepared me for something wonderful later.  I don't think God intentionally gives us suffering to punish or teach us but I do think that through mindfulness we can be open enough to see the creation of good even despite our suffering.

How to do this?

I remind myself that my thoughts are not real - a bad thought does not make me a bad person.  I can choose to give my thoughts power or I can choose to simply notice the thought and then go to something else.  Creativity, watching kid's movies, cuddling with my cat, and talking to my supporters are probably the biggest and best ways I distract myself from my intrusive thoughts.  I will also say that taking my medication is another key for me.  My anxiety is just too severe without it; it is much easier to simply notice my thoughts when I have some medical help.

This is all hard but so important.  I read an article the other day about the difference between a "fixed mindset" and a "growth mindset."  Someone with a fixed mindset has been told that they are talented and so they feel pressure to keep up with their accolades.  This means they feel like a fraud and don't take as many risks-they are even more prone to lie about how well they are doing in order to keep up their talented image.  However, people with a growth mindset have been praised for their hard work.  This means they enjoy a good challenge and taking risks.  They have less inner conflict because they don't see mistakes as failure in themselves but as another challenge to overcome.  They are more honest and content.

This is the type of person I want to be.

Growth isn't always fun but it is satisfying.  

Embrace your discomfort and take care of yourself. Validate your self-worth and grow.
(from the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time-an excellent read.)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

You Can

"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." (The Message Bible) 
"Why don't they ever tell us that we can recover? 
Why don't they ever tell that us that we can be well? 
My doctor and therapist never told me that my symptoms can go into remission and that I can be really well! 
It's true, because I am!"
These were the words said by a peer a few days ago in a conversation about dynamics with mental health clinicians. I am grateful to have a mental health professional team that I trust, but so many people don't.  If you are uninsured, you have to take what you can get and often these clinicians are over worked, under paid, and burnt out.  They don't have time to share hope anymore.

In case your doctor or nurse or case worker or therapist or social worker doesn't say it, I will:
You can recover from mental health challenges.
You can be well.
You can go into remission from mental health challenges and substance abuse and experience a life worth living.
Will there be more hard times too?  Of course.

Will you relapse or lapse?  Most likely, but each time you will come back even stronger and this will build up resiliency.  Life will get better more and more often.

Life is like a roller coaster - sometimes we are on the top of the hill and sometimes we are hurtling down in a stomach turning rocket.  The one constant in life is change and your roller coaster keeps on going.  At first, riding the roller coaster is very scary but after a while, you start to get used to it.  In fact, you eventually feel thrilled and excited by the twists and turns - it's a hard experience, but it's also an adventure.  You learn that you are strong and can keep on going.  You scream and laugh.  You swear that you will never take another risk again, but then discover that you are standing back in line to ride another adventure roller coaster ride.

My life has gotten better since I started thinking of my life as a grand adventure.  Sometimes it sucks, but there are always changes that surprise me and keep me going.  There are new lands to discover and people to greet.  There are new lessons learned and exciting foods to try.

I am well, although still disabled.  Most days I feel pretty good and I accomplish a lot.  This triumph comes from knowing myself and from taking care of myself.  I take my medication; I balance sleep and food; I create art.  I participate in many communities and I both receive and provide support to others.  The only reason why I still say that I am disabled is because my wellness comes with stipulations.  If I worked the hours of a full-time employee, I would probably not be as well as I am.  I have to take extra care of myself so that I will not be burnt out and exhausted-rather a lot like the social worker who no longer can provide hope! I believe there are many people who are not well in positions of power.

Being well requires a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, but it can be done.

And...sometimes it can't.  Sometimes we can't sleep no matter how hard we try-our bodies hurt and from no fault of our own, we are not well.

It's true.

But-

It's also true that we can be well.

If you are struggling right now, take comfort in the fact that life is change.  You will get better. You will fly up and then hurtle towards the ground in a free fall - you will laugh and scream.  You will learn and grow stronger.  If no one has told you this lately, then let it be me:

You can be well. 
You can recover. 
You can possess a life worth living. 
You can.


















At a recent blog-to-book workshop with recovery authors Bicchiere Alta and Ashley Smith.  (left to right)