13 simple ways to be mentally strong

…and 13. Keep turning it over to God.

Posted from my happy place.

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Facebook, I’m breaking up with you.

I don’t remember exactly when we met, but you instantly brought a new dimension to my life. It was like I’d found the perfect conduit for almost anything I wanted to know, and anyone I wanted to connect with. I was in a pretty sad and lonely place when you came along,  and you listened, you gave me bits of encouragement, and you helped me to find my smile again. And I felt much better with you around. You were there to bring old friends back into my life, and you even suggested people that I might like to be introduced to. Slowly but surely, I began to think of you as my go-to for any problem, or just to relieve boredom. I know you thought that all of these things were what I wanted, and for the most part, they were. 

But there was a thought in the back of my mind, nudging me toward things that I used to enjoy. Things that enriched my life and made me the kind of person that I’d only dreamt of becoming. 

Your “helpfulness” weighed on me. Your demands for attention drained me. Sure, you had good qualities, and you still do. But the scales have tipped to the negative, somehow. 

I feel like dealing with you and your incessant need to occupy my every moment has become a larger problem than I want to admit. 

We had some good times, sure, and I appreciate your being there when I needed someone. But I’m cutting the leash. The strings that kept me tied to you are not going to manipulate me any more. I just can’t afford to spend my life keeping up with you. I have responsibilities, and I have a Power much greater than you to answer to. I want to grab ahold of what’s left of my time here. 

I’m breaking up with you, Facebook. I don’t want to see you around. I have no interest in hearing about your escapades. They no longer work for me. Don’t call me. Thanks. 

…Life on God’s terms…(Part 4)

​As my baby grew, we found our “normal”, which involved frequent check-ups at the Children’s Hospital, and close monitoring of his development. 
In the year 2000, my second son was born, and I juggled one more little bundle of energy/joy, along with my “miracle baby”, who was by then 7. Not long after #2 came along, I was living the life of a single-parent, and the insanity returned for me. (The continual stresses of single-parenting brought my mental illnesses to the forefront, and once again I went to a Dr. to get help managing them. My sons deserve the best I can give them, and if that means I have to take medication to help me function, then so be it.) I didn’t know much about raising ONE boy, let alone 2! And as they grew, it became more of a challenge. I failed many times as a parent, but I’m learning to accept that that’s par for the course.  I concluded years ago that anyone who says they’ve got “no regrets” either has no children or a selective memory.

In 2010, through the wonders of technology and a Christian dating site, I met my smoking hot husband, B. I had finally divorced from the boy’s dad a couple of years earlier, and I knew that I needed help with them. God knew exactly what we all needed; my husband is my equal in many ways and absolutely surpasses my dreams in the rest of them. He is also in recovery, and my greatest support as we walk this bumpy road of life. 

First things first…

After we’d been married a couple of years, I woke up at about 4:00am and realized that I’d had a stroke. After going through many tests at the hospital, to be certain, the Dr.s concluded that, indeed, it was an actual  stroke. I had virtually no use of my left hand for many months. Physical Therapy was not in the budget, so, I just worked my hand and stretched it out, using the other one. The main thing I attribute my healing from this situation would be the prayers of the people in the church we’d found shortly after B and I were married. It wasn’t a “lightning bolt” healing, like we (instant gratification being of course my preference) would have liked, but slowly over the course of a few months, I regained the use of my hand and now people have a hard time believing me when I tell them that I had a stroke. I just love it when God does that!

…and then…(Part 3)


I followed the ambulance so that I could stop by Mom’s and tell her what was going on. I still didn’t know anything except that something was wrong with his heart.

When I got to the hospital they had him in the room prepping him for surgery.
My son underwent his first heart surgery (of 3, to date) that night, and I began to see miracles, left and right. I called my Dad, who had gotten clean and sober several months before I had, and told him what I knew. Between my sobs, he pieced together enough to know that this was serious trouble. He asked if I wanted him to fly in (he was living in Florida), and I said no. I’d learned from years of wishing Dad would step up and take care of me, not to ask. He hadn’t been capable of connecting with me emotionally until he’d gotten into recovery. I told him not to worry about it, because I’d rather have him tell me he wasn’t coming than to hope he would, and then have him not show up. Again.
I was taken to a room inside the hospital to sleep for a few hours. My baby was in surgery for 5 or 6 hours, and there was nothing left for me to do. Besides, the terror and hysteria of the day’s events had left me exhausted.  I had cried until I had no tears left.
I’m not sure what time it was, but in the middle of the night, there was a knock on the door of my room. Through the darkness I saw the outline of a figure. It was Dad. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief. I really didn’t have to go through this alone. I cried that time, for joy. I was absolutely taken by surprise, seeing him there. 

I mean, I had already seen (and would continue to) that the recovery community was going to be there for me, and along with all the fear and pain, I felt that I was not alone. God was with me, and He was using people to demonstrate His love to me. 

That was the night that I learned about faith, and about redemption. I learned through that experience what hysteria feels like, and that feelings won’t kill you.  I learned that the program was true and the process could be trusted.  I learned that I never had to do anything alone.  
What it’s like now…
After I got clean & sober, the relationship with my Dad was gradually mended, and when he died in 1999, I considered him my best friend. Part of his making amends was giving me a book called “Toxic Parents”, and later asking me what I thought about it. (And listening to my thoughts and feelings when I told him.) I was blessed to be with him during his last months of life, and I was sitting beside him on the bed when he graduated to Heaven. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I look forward to seeing him again.
The first several months of my sobriety felt like I was in the middle of an ocean, during an intense storm. I was only able to keep my head above water because of the women in the fellowship and the grace of my Higher Power. I didn’t have any time to consider much of anything besides survival, from one day to the next. 

My boy and I came home (to Mom’s place) from the hospital after a few weeks. He was on medications that had to be administered every 2 hours around the clock, which meant I didn’t get to sleep a lot. The sleep deprivation was almost like being wasted on (something), at times, which was NOT what I was looking for. Once I was warming a bottle up for him and when I opened the microwave to get it out, pulled out the nipple, instead. The bottle was sitting beside it, in plain view, but I didn’t see it until after I saw the nipple in the microwave. 

I thought about how utterly ridiculous it was that the Dr.s sent this tiny, fragile infant home with ME being responsible for keeping him alive.  I wonder now if my Sponsor and other support members were aware of the incredible job we had in front of us.  Them: helping me through the insanity of early sobriety. And me: doing everything required to keep this gift alive and make sure he thrived. And it didn’t help anything, I learned shortly, that I was no longer going to be sitting anywhere near the throne of my life. “King Baby” had to step down, and it was not without a lot of screaming and crying that I did so, one day at a time…

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ 

I have learned many little tricks to assessing where my head is, I mean, whether I’m thinking like I did in the Old Days or thinking with my “right mind”. I was taught early on -maybe you’ve heard this, too – that my mind is like a bad neighborhood at night: I don’t want to go there alone. I knew intuitively (?) from the get-go that I could not trust my own thinking. 

When I arrived at treatment, I had gone through everyone I’d known and come up with the following:

I couldn’t trust my parents

I couldn’t trust women

I couldn’t trust men

…and finally…

I couldn’t trust myself.

So it was easy for me to grasp the concept of “I no longer have a drinking problem. Now I have a thinking problem.” I definitely needed to re-learn how to think.

You can’t think your way to sober living…

While I was in treatment, IOP and residential, I began to learn about the different styles of “Unhealthy thinking” (ie Stinkin Thinkin). The list is fairly long, so I’m just going to touch on a few, here, followed by an example or explanation of my understanding of what it means. 

1.    Personalisation – also known as hypersensitivity – This involves blaming yourself for any and everything that goes wrong, even when logic tells you that you’re only partially responsible, or even not responsible at all. This kind of thinking has you feeling guilty WAY too often, and apologising when you have nothing to apologise for. One common example of this is when you blame yourself for someone else’s poor choices. 

I am responsible for everything inside of my skin. I can’t control anything outside my skin, with the possible exception of my kids, and, really I’m pretty powerless over them most of the time. 

2.    Catastrophising – this is when a person makes mountains out of molehills.  Another way of saying it is “pole-vaulting over mouse turds.” Teenagers are great for this sort of thing, and since we tend to stop growing emotionally when we begin our addiction, that can cover we in addiction recovery as well. This reminds me of a boyfriend who always told me I was too dramatic. I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I do. The best way I have come up with to stop this kind of thinking is to take my emotions out of it, and look at the situation with only my mind/logic/intellect.  (I do this at times with sarcasm, I think. Probably not the best approach, but it helps ME.) After that, I usually will go to the EXTREME possible outcome, which is just ridiculous. For example, I work with a woman who does this. Last week she had a hangnail that she’d picked, and although it wasn’t bleeding, it was (a hangnail, remember, so pretty tiny) raw-looking. She showed it to me and did her hyperventilating act, and asked me  in her trembling voice if it was going to be alright. I told her we’d probably have to take the finger off.  Sarcasm might not have been the best response, but I think you get the point. I put a bandaid on it and she is still alive as far as I know, and still has all of her digits. 

3.    Black & White thinking – Also known as All-or-Nothing thinking. This style of thinking is where you see everything as good or bad,  wrong or right, with no in-between. The word “moderation” just doesn’t exist in an alkie/druggie’s vocabulary. When me Dad got sober he would talk about how he used to say “Moderation is for wimps!” The example that comes to mind is the way an alcoholic drinks. If you’re going to offer them one, you’d better be ready to share the rest with them. The sad and funny thing about that is, many of us relapse because we convince ourselves that we can have “just one.” How crazy is that? I never wanted one of ANYTHING, before, and now all of a sudden I was going to calmly moderate? One of anything just irritated me. The thing that helps me to avoid this kind of faulty thinking is that I force myself to imagine the thing in a gray area. My instinctual thought was “he’ll either be dead or he’ll recover” (in the case of my Dad’s surgery to cut out the cancer), well, guess what. I forgot to consider that maybe he wouldn’t die right away and he wouldn’t be healed. I hadn’t ever imagined for a second that what would happen was actually in the middle of those two things. So now I force myself to remember that gray is a perfectly possible outcome, most of the time. (Just not where addiction is concerned. Period.)  

4.     Magnifying and Minimisation – This often is a go-to for a person not actually ready to quit. You’ll hear things like “I had X, Y, & Z, but I didn’t have my favorite drug!” or “I relapsed part of Monday, part of Tuesday, and part of Wednesday.” or “He gave it to me.”From the tone of their voice, I am pretty sure this seemed like a perfectly good comprehension of the events. The reality of the situations was A), you relapsed, and it doesn’t matter on what, because any of those things could kill you or send you to prison and B), You only relapsed for “part of” those days because you didn’t have money to buy more? Or because when you were coming down you don’t consider that to be the same as being high? and C), He didn’t hold you down and force you to do it.  

As far as addiction goes, regardless of what the focus of the addiction may be- with the possible exception of food addiction, there is no middle ground. You’re either clean or you’re not. You’re either living in an addict’s brain or you’re living in a recovering person’s brain.  

OK, that’s probably enough to chew on for now. If this has been helpful to you in any way, or if you think it could help someone else struggling with an addict or an addiction, please share.  
     

A Beautiful Mind

I just finished watching the movie (again), with my younger son, this time. Interesting how we watched the same flick but came away with different feelings as a result.

He said it was a sad movie. My takeon it is that there are seriously sad parts, but that this movie gives me great hope, that a person with mental illness can have a rewarding life AND have someone amazing stand with them, through the good times and the bad.

A Beautiful Mind won awards when it came out, and it deserved it!. It is difficult to watch at times, but so is life. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking way to spend a couple of hours, this is a good one. 

I’m going to turn in for the night. Thank you so much for coming by, especially when you drop me a note. I love hearing from you!

Mental Illness and Stigma

There’s a lot of talk these days about the “Stigma” surrounding addiction, and mental illness. Just the other day I saw a story on social media telling of some heinous crime that was committed by a “mentally ill” person. Again. No wonder the world thinks of us as entirely dangerous. I suppose the fact that the Stigma is being discussed is encouraging, but perpetuating the untruth that folks living with mental illness are dangerous certainly isn’t helping anyone. Consider for a moment, a definition of “mental illness”:

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The Mayo Clinic:

Mental Illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions- disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior…many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

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So, many people have concerns from time to time. Personally, I have had concerns about others, many times, but they tell me that mentally ill people don’t usually see themselves as the crazy ones.  And don’t get me started on the “Nature vs Nurture” theories. In my own experience, while living with a seriously disturbed individual, it became necessary for me to think like the person in order to (safely) communicate with them. I had to speak the language, which in turn caused residual mental issues that I had to overcome once I was away from them.

I’m sure most of the Stigma comes from just not knowing any better. When the world gives you the same (informational) menu every day for years, it’s difficult to consider that it’s been wrong all this time. I’m not a Mental Health Professional, but I have studied it for as long as I can remember. Initially my interest came from wondering why my perceptions appeared to be so different from everyone around me (because they were), but then the curiosity turned to trying to understand the folks that I interacted with on a regular basis.

For example, I was told that many years ago that my Dad was diagnosed as a Sociopath. I’m positive that’s why in my memory he never had anything good to say about Mental Health workers in general. As it turned out, Dad was the product of an abusive home, and he struggled with several issues, depression and addiction being a couple. I know that he had the Ism’s of alcoholism/addiction for as long as I knew him, and those may have, in fact, been the behaviors that caused people to think he was a Sociopath.

Another thing that causes me to ponder the Mental Health diagnoses is the multiple official diagnoses which have been changed or even removed altogether from being considered to be a “disorder”.  So, does that mean that being crazy or not just depends on the time period in which you are seen by a diagnosing physician?  Consider this:   

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM” is considered to be the reference for characterization and diagnosis of mental disorders. It’s had numerous adjustments since it’s inception in 1952.  In the first edition of the DSM, there were 102 “broadly-construed diagnostic categories” , and by the time the third publication of the DMS came out in 1980, there were 265. When the DSM-IV was released, there were 297 diagnosable disorders…. (from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Someone said that the bottom line definitions of a mental disorder was behavior outside the realm of socially accepted behaviors.  That, in a general sense, sounds about right.

Depending on whose information you believe, one-in-four or -five American adults experiences a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.  So, if I work in an office with, say 20 other individuals, and I consider myself to be mentally healthy (Duh. I’m not ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!), then that means I’m working beside a pretty good amount of crazy -and potentially  lethal, according to society- people! Wow! How do people find the courage to leave their houses?!

My suspicion, and, remember, I’m not a Professional, is that the larger part of adults today, in our country, are living with a whole lot of unnecessary duress and discomfort between their ears. Most will never see a Dr. about it, and do you know why that is?  Because it would mean that they were, I don’t know, flawed? Less than perfect? Oh, that’s right, anyone who has a mental disorder must be a danger to themselves and others. I almost forgot.

What if the disorder is Depression, which seems to be the most prevalent? Those folks aren’t nearly as likely to hurt you as they are to hurt themselves. Like 99% more likely to hurt themselves.

What about Anxiety? Look up the stats on Veterans and suicide. PTSD is in the Anxiety family.

Ok, how about Bipolar (once known as manic-depression)? Or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Or Borderline Personality Disorder?  Or Schizophrenia? Oh, I know, what about people like “Sybil” from that old Psych 101 film? Unless all that I’ve read or heard is wrong, these people are much more likely to IMplode than to EXplode.

While I will grant you that many of the people acting out violently in society may have some kind of mental imbalance or disorder, most of the individuals with a diagnosed mental illness will never be a danger to anyone but themselves. If you don’t believe me, ask the 4 or 5 people in your office.