Three Years of Change

February 18, 2015

Even when functioning at its best, a theology of change - walking the way in a diverse community that teaches and learns together - is hard work. (Monica A Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way, 146)

Yesterday was a very big day for me - it marked the three year anniversary of being mental hospital free.

 And it really does feel like I have had the help of a million angels!

 I have made the three-year mark before but have never made it to four and yet I do not feel afraid. Someone recently asked me what has changed for me and my reply was that I now ask for help from my community of supporters.  It used to be that people did not know that I was not doing well until I announced that I was checking into a hospital.  Those actions made people frustrated, confused, disappointed and unable to help me before my anxious state turned into a crisis.  I tried to squeeze comfort out of an institution when there were people that had something better to offer me: love.

Today I ask for help when I need it.  Today I have a whole community of supporters and I use them.

When I recently was having a crisis with a friend of mine, I needed help.  Fortunately, I knew where to go.  I returned to support groups that I had not been to in a while and I spent more time with family. I upped the number of times I saw my therapist. I made sure to attend church and asked for prayers and hugs.  I told people what was going on and how I was feeling and got so many invitations to talk that I did not have enough time to make dates with them all.

I am truly blessed.

Another thing that has changed is that now I know how to be gentle with myself.  The second to last time I was hospitalized, a therapist said that I probably had not been gentle enough with myself and I felt perplexed because I did not know how to be.  Thanks to the skills I have learned through dialectical behavioral therapy, I do now.  During this last time of trouble, I practiced many things to help self-sooth and relax me like coloring, reading comic books, taking hot baths, drinking hot tea and cocoa, eating comfort foods, like chocolate chip pancakes and watching familiar children's movies with friends.

(from Awesome Animal Designs coloring book)
I also did some emotional eating, which may not be the best thing to do, but I cut myself some slack-I and many other people agree that a little emotional eating is okay when faced with a crisis.  Food is energy, but it is also so much more than that - it can be enjoyable and soothing too. I think it is good to treat our bodies with compassion when we are hurting and so eating a few extra soothing foods can be good for our mental health.  Of course, now that the crisis is over, I am trying to be more intentional with my food again, paying attention to my hunger/fullness signals and eating in moderation a balance of the healthy food groups.  Life is like an ocean that ebbs and flows - when the waves crash, we need to take extra care to self-soothe and relax and when the waves are gentle, we need to ease on acting impulsively. 
I am grateful for my life now.  Even when I was scared and anxious last week, I was glad to have so many people surrounding me with love.  Life is partly what we make of it and a good life includes letting authentic, caring people help us.
Link Love:

2013 German study of 935 first and second graders used a teacher-centered school-based approach designed to prevent cardiovascular disease. It started by giving excellent training to teachers. Results showed that focusing on health made a difference. An unintended positive consequence of the educational intervention was that disordered eating also decreased. In other words, instead of calling kids fat, teach them to make good food choices and to be more active.

It's past time for mental health to be a priority for colleges. […]College applicants and their parents would be well advised to check out the mental health centers on campus as carefully as the dorms and gyms. Particularly if a student has experienced psychological problems, parents should delve beyond schools' idle promises to care for the total person. What is staffing like? What is the cost? A little pressure from parents could help ensure that no one in crisis is told to take a number or handed a list of doctors they will never call.
by Stuart Wolpert
"The implication," Craske said, "is to encourage patients, as they do their exposure to whatever they are fearful of, to label the emotional responses they are experiencing and label the characteristics of the stimuli — to verbalize their feelings. That lets people experience the very things they are afraid and say, 'I feel scared and I'm here.' They're not trying to push it away and say it's not so bad. Be in the moment and allow yourself to experience whatever you're experiencing."

Sexually speaking, this movie feels like a porn you clicked on because the video title appealed, and then five minutes into it something terrible starts to happen and you close your computer and you’re worried you may never be horny again

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