Reflections on an Imperfect Time

peace

I am currently in a place I never thought I would be.  I did not believe in the recovery model for mental illness even a few months ago, nevertheless thought I would be in a place in my life where the “recovery” stage would be very real and tangible in my day-to-day existence.

I never thought I would have any extended time of peace, and I never thought I would define peace as the picture to the left does:  “it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

I am there, hallelujah, amen, thank you.  There is chaos all around me, but my heart is calm, it is steady, it is beating strong.  All of those thoughts I had of giving up, have vanished.  Those thoughts of giving up that I had almost constantly through every day of the last several years of my life, the ones I didn’t *know how* to get rid of, the ones that kept me cycling through the hospital and the crisis residence and at the mercy of people (supposedly) saner than I on the other end of a phone line…gone.

I have been through months of adversity without losing my steadiness, and there are even more big changes to come.  I am ready.  I know how to climb the mountain and I am familiar with the path and the twists and turns, and I know it will be hard as Hell and that the Devil himself may stand in my way, but I know within myself that I am ready for this adventure.

selfish

QoB is moving away, and my contact with her is sure to greatly decrease.  I am learning that my mom is not the young person she used to be, and that it is time for her to turn her thoughts and her activities and her energies into herself, her new relationship, and into being a cherished Abuela.

It is hard to let her go, to stop calling her so often, to not count on her for every little thing, to really *grow up* here at age 34.  I have had my mom by my side my whole life, she has gone to bat for me countless times, and now, I need to go to bat for myself and count on LarBear to be my touchstone.  This doesn’t mean the relationship I have with her will be any less special, it just means that it is time for me to learn to count on other people.

I *DO* have other people I can count on in this life, and she deserves all the happiness available to her, and if that happiness is retirement and open prairies and big blue skies, then I wish all that for her and more.  There is such a thing called a telephone, and it isn’t like I will never ever see her.  It will just be less.  It is only within the last month, I think, that I would ever have been able to accept this for what it is.

With QoB moving away, retiring from the life here, comes the need for LarBear and I to move.  Physically move, that is, into a new home.  Of course, this creates stress and upset and all of the above, but we need to start living within our very own means, and know that we can still be okay.  We don’t have a terrible income, and it is enough that we will be able to find a nice-enough place to live.  Of that, I have no doubt.  I only wish the process were speedier, more certain, less of a time-suck.  I am ready to find the place and get the stuff moved and BE THERE.

what everyone is doing

The part of the recovery model I am most focused on now, which is also part of DBT, is that I am building A LIFE WORTH LIVING.  The past several years, I have been eking by, and I’m done with that.  I do not want to define myself by my mental illness, and I don’t want others to identify me that way, either.  I am a strong woman and I have a good man by my side, and I honestly feel I can tackle whatever is around me, that needs tackling.

I have even more support outside of my relationship with LarBear, whether it is the constant support of my mental health center contacts, or my Dad, or the Big Dawg.  I have places to turn to.  More than anything, I want LarBear and I to build a beautiful life together, and we are well in the process of doing that.

I don’t want to be “the crazy one” forever, and I tire of being looked at that way by family, acquaintances, the like.  I believe that I am even *more* sane and well-balanced than the average bear, because I am insightful into my life and I *do* examine my own thoughts and behaviors and I also spend great gobs of time practicing DBT and going to therapy and the like.  Practicing my skills isn’t something that anyone should look down on a person for.  Chances are, some of the skills could work for you, or for you, or for my mom or for LarBear or any number of people.

I have more skills in my toolbox than most people, and I think that is wherein the true advantage lies.  I have those skills and I am in touch with different things that help me to feel better, such as writing and making jewelry, and I do not let a single day pass in which I do not create something, anything.  It is so very important — not the product, but the process.  It doesn’t matter if you try a new recipe or build a Lego village or paint a picture…the creativity that dwells within us, heals us, and there is a multitude of proof or evidence out there that healing can happen, no matter how desperate you feel your situation is.  If I can do this, you sure can, too.

live beautifully

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How I Learned to Give Up Fighting the Moment


live in what is happening

I find that this is where most of my anxiety comes from:  thinking things should be a certain way, and being unwilling to accept that they are actually the exact opposite.  I fuss and I tussle and I tumble with “the way things are,” trying every day to bend it to my iron will.  Newsflash to those who might need it — the world doesn’t work that way, and it probably never will.

The way I see it, the way DBT teaches it, we really shouldn’t be trying to bend any thing or any person to our own will.  Life is meant to happen, and it is us railing against the facts of the world that make us so unhappy.  In many situations (not most, not all, but not just a few), there is very little we can do about any given situation, other than control our reaction and response to it.

For example, I may or may not have a small road anger (it’s not true RAGE, I mean, c’mon) issue, but I have been trying to practice radical acceptance in most matters, and have recently been applying that to driving.  It has been interesting.  This morning, someone honked at me because I didn’t move at a green arrow a half second BEFORE it changed.  Normally, I would have flown the bird high out the window, but today I gritted my teeth and thought, “gee, I wonder what that guy’s problem is…he must be having a hard day…thank you baby Jesus, that I am not that impatient or angry, amen.”

I felt pretty good about not flipping the angry man the bird, and felt so good about it, in fact, that I let some cars in front of me at a construction site.  My grandpa taught me over two decades ago that this was common courtesy.  Grandpa would be shocked at how people drive today, but that is besides the point.  After letting in three cars (and then moving because the light turned green), I couldn’t help but notice that I had invoked a spitting-mad, yelling tirade in the woman behind me, ,because she had to wait for the light to turn green again.

A few months ago, I could totally have been the pissed off honking man or the cursing impatient woman.  Thanks to DBT, ahem, the PRACTICE of DBT skills, I find myself no longer trapped in anger at situations where I have no control.  My mind is open and willing, and my patience for *most* people has greatly increased.

Practicing accepting situations beyond our control, as a matter of distress tolerance, is a mighty valuable tool.  I do have to turn things over in my mind repeatedly to get there, but I have been able to better manage my hostile, off-the-cuff reactions to other people’s inadequacies.

I have learned that I do not control the world around me, and I do not control the people around me, so what is best for me is to roll with the circumstances, and when things get too heated or when I start getting upset and to the point where I feel like my values have been stepped on, then I remove myself from said situation.

I really do think that radical acceptance is the hardest thing to practice in DBT, but I also feel it is most important (or at least as applied to my life).  When we can accept things for what they are, and not struggle and fight, life overall becomes much easier, much less painful.  I wish this is a skill I could stick in my back pocket and just pull out when I’m feeling like putting out the effort, but it is something that is best practiced daily, along with a heaping dose of nonjudgemental stance (and yes, I mean nonjudgmental stance toward oneself, as well).