Everyone I meet - it matters little whether they’re mannered or rude, smart or simple-deepens my sense of interdependence and obligation. (The Message Bible, 307)
2017: this will always be the year of the Donald Trump election and so politically it is a terribly sad year for progessives. Oh yes, it’s seen an increase in activism and more Democrats are now getting elected in conservative areas but still, it seems like such a tiny consolation.
Objectively, this seems like a horrible year for me too.
In one year, I became single again after a two-year serious relationship, had a relapse with a traumatic ten-day hospital stay, which included a major psychotic break. I had PTSD so severe that I startled too easily to drive for a few months. I am now working the bare minimum hours at work and was declared still disabled by the government.
Or was I?
I am not disabled in spirit.
This year I had to confront a lot of issues that needed confronting and I have come back stronger. Don’t get me wrong - each depression where I am not in reality and every ended relationship is definitely a type of death, but it is also a birth into new discoveries and new enlightenments. What I let go I needed to let go, even if they were painful. I participated in two weddings, which made me realize the kind of romantic relationship that I want for myself. My relapse humbled me, as I had become more arrogant during my time of denial over not being well again.
I am no longer willing to let myself settle in romance and I have come to peace with my disability. I see now that working low hours at a job is not a bad thing if it keeps me well. I had always wanted to be an artist when I grew up and so I can see now that being disabled actually frees me to pursue some of my dreams. I am working on promoting myself more in regards to giving presentations and resources. I am embracing my calling as a peer support worker and as a writer.
I made a lot of big, positive changes this year - I go to bed much earlier than I used to now, I became vegetarian, cut down on milk and caffeine, added more fiber, protein, and water to my diet. I try to write something every single day. I got rid of about half of my clothes and other things too. I am very proud of these accomplishments
I read some fantastic books and I co-hosted a fabulous book discussion potluck about race and feminism by focusing on the book, Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde. Lorde’s work is still so relevant and I encourage every modern feminist to read and study it.
Other books I read this year that I recommend are:
(It really was life-changing!)
Web MD made a short documentary about the theater group I am involved with and I have performed several times this past year. I have reignited my passion for the performing arts.
I have learned to set major boundaries in all areas of my life - friends, romance, work, family. I have a better understanding of how to take care of myself. I know now that I am not so important that I should not skip an event if I am overwhelmed and tired. I MUST take care of myself first.
While I may not work at my main job as much as before, I have continued to progress professionally, as I now publish a monthly mental health newsletter and continue to make resource pdfs (check out my "Mental Health Cheat Sheet" on this blog.) I am going to pursue putting some of my art in galleries or coffeeshops.
This year I have grown in my transparency. I publish a gratitude list almost every night on Facebook - this became all the more special to me when I got out of the mental hospital. The hospital really distilled some truths for me - that while I am not eager to experience more psychosis, I can recognize its mystical, spiritual benefits. That above any job, I am called as a writer, activist, and artist. That a commitment to authenticity gives the gift of freedom to myself and others. I came to know a peace in regards to being disabled and I came to recognize my own inner strength. I have seen the power of positivity and for the first time, I went to the hospital still feeling grateful for myself and not ashamed.
I discovered some great apps: BlackOut Bard, DBT Travel, Recovery Record. I also discovered a new type of trauma therapy, called Rapid Resolution, that dramatically changed my life for the better. I rediscovered my passion for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I got a tattoo of the DBT motto: “a life worth living.”
When I think of all that I have accomplished this year, I am in awe.
The world is awful and wonderful at the same time. It is not good to live in denial but it is not good to wallow in misery and traumatize ourselves either. This past year has really been focused on finding the balance.
I cannot save the planet.
I cannot personally change any politician’s heart or prevent every horrible policy from being passed.
Most likely, many people will be dropped from Medicaid next year and that is truly tragic.
I must not become so mired in the misery that I lose sight of my own privileges. I can fight for justice while not catastrophizing my own situation.
The new trauma therapist taught me that watching news and after news about situations out of my control is a type of trauma in itself and that it may be better to focus on the specific issues I can influence instead of everything that I cannot.
I do have a few goals for 2018: to have my artwork displayed in some sort of public space besides The Rise Theater, to get higher paid speaking gigs, to start working on altered books again, to publish my poetry, to cook more, to try stand-up, and to take better care of myself.
If I am exhausted, I will stay home.
If I am sad, I will let myself cry.
If I am uncomfortable, I will enforce my boundaries.
I will take chances and enjoy life, as I balance out the knowledge that no year is perfect and that there are bound to be some sadness and frustrations in the new year too. I will learn more hard truths and experience more disappointments, but I will also grow strong and become more of the person I truly am.
Today I am grateful to be who I am, despite all the pain. I am excited to embrace the new me that was reborn when I died due to depression last year. We all die multiple deaths while we live - if we are lucky, we will see them as gateways to growth, instead of graves to linger in. Let us linger in love instead and embrace life next year.
(the article that convinced me to stop eating meat)
(this therapy changed my life)
I first heard at the Hearing Voices Network the link of psychosis to trauma, and this changed my view on mental illness and allowed me to feel more compassion for myself and others
When you own your disability, you become proud. You regain your self-confidence and don’t waste any time trying to pretend or hide (your disability); you value your time and make the most of it. You become less interested in pity and more attuned to self-reflection and self-approval. Complaints and feelings of inadequacy cease. You become kind to yourself and rejoice in your individuality. You rise into the understanding that having a disability means that you are competent and not incompetent. Self-gratitude becomes a daily and natural practice. When you embrace your disability, comparisons end, enhancing your focus and enabling you to function at your best. Your disability becomes simply a merit badge of challenges overcome and the ability to succeed