I think the number one tool that has helped my recovery and healing process is practicing an attitude of gratitude. Life before I decided to change my life around was full of self loathing, a general disliking of life itself, people around me and my circumstances. I was taking for granted everything that I now view as having great value. My appreciation, for not only the amazing experiences, supportive people, my strengths and assets but also the challenges and struggles I face has proven to improve the quality of my life tremendously. For me it was a matter of reminding myself of the positive. Our brains are wired for fault finding. It’s survival thinking. Adjusting to focussing on the value and worth of situations shifted my perspective. It started with my painful break up. I had to receive the lesson in that period of time. I felt like I lost absolutely everything and it was destroying what was left of my spirit. I had to view it as an opportunity. I never have been an optimist. I was an idealist and along with that comes a never ending search for perfecting flaws and mistakes. I am working on being more accepting. Handling life on life’s terms as they say. In life these things I used to consider flaws and mistakes I now characterize and challenges, obstacles, areas of improvement or any other word that describes what I used to think of as permanent barriers to perfection….. Everything and everyone is already perfect as is because I am so extremely grateful for this life today. I have so much peace and joy mostly due to this one shift from entitled to grateful. I made gratitude lists and that was an okay tool but I found that the major benefits are when I am present and have a general understanding of how special the moment is and how precious and valuable life is in the here and now.
Explaining to someone without a mental illness what it is like to have a diagnosed mental health disorder would be like a man trying to explain to a woman what it’s like to be a man and vice versa. One can express themselves from their own perspective, but will be perceived from a different point of view. I understand men as a woman. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be a man. My point is that it’s difficult to ever really know what it’s like to be mentally ill. I fear that people who have never experienced the symptoms and episodes that I’ve gone through just can’t possibly conceive what life is like because of their lack of ability to relate. My desire would be for people to understand that just as men and women can have compassion and understanding for their differences without judging, condemning or oppressing one another, so too can people who are mentally healthy with people who are not. I can inform people what symptoms I’ve displayed and how I have felt and how my behavior has been affected. I can tell stories, but my words will never fully be able to shed full light on what having an illness like Bipolar Disorder has been like to live with. I wish I could say that I don’t judge or condemn others ever, but I have, and I believe that it’s human nature to do so at times, but as I grow as a person, it gets easier to see that no one knows what it’s like to be another, understand why people make the choices they do, or have the feelings that they do. I strive to find ways that I am similar to others and have compassion. Having lived a full life so far, meeting many different people from all walks of life, from homeless drug addicts to multi- millionaires I have found that I can connect to almost anyone on some level and that’s what I want to look for. When I don’t understand or can’t relate I try to write that off as incomprehensible and irrelevant to our relationship. When I am judged or looked down on or mistreated because someone cannot understand me or approve of me often I also cannot understand or approve of that, so it causes separation, which is the opposite of what I want. I can not control others, so I have been attempting to practice radical acceptance and unconditional approval so that when I am mistreated, disapproved of, disliked, judged, criticized, etc., I don’t react in kind, I react with kindness, compassion, sympathy and respect.
I don’t expect people to understand why people allow themselves to become addicted and to let substance abuse ruin their lives and hurt others. It is often the case that people with substance abuse disorders themselves don’t understand either. I do however expect that if one doesn’t understand then they dare not judge or blame individuals for their choices. It is obvious to me that people who are inclined to get beaten down by addiction definitely didn’t intend to cause harm but rather got caught up in a terrible affliction that happens to many many people. I hated myself for a long time for choices I made which was a choice in and of itself and a contributing factor in the perpetuation of my problems. It’s a vicious cycle that starts in early childhood and I hope one day to be able to educate others about the insanity that comes along with addiction and help to find preventive solutions. I’m still learning and working on my own recovery and I look forward to the day I am strong enough and skilled enough to be on the other side of this epidemic. I have lots of ideas and many years experience in and out of the cycles of addiction and recovery and have been exposed to various methods of treatment and I am excited to share my ideas. One problem I think that needs to be addressed is the stigma surrounding the people who use and the exclusion and often times punishment and rejection of suffering users. The treatment industry has come a long way in twenty five years as far as seeing many more youth programs and young people in recovery but I believe there is a huge problem in the way society views and treats drug users. In my opinion it’s a family and health issue not a criminal one. Getting to the root cause of addiction is key rather than trying to address the problem when a person “hits rock bottom” Twelve step programs are outdated and in my opinion possibly detrimental to a person in recovery. These types of recovery models can be misleading. I was conditioned by certain teachings in the “Big Book” at the age of eighteen when I was extremely suggestable into believing things that were questionable when perceived literally. The program has been in place for over one hundred years and I’d really like to know why it is still being practiced. Well I can guess why. People are not stepping up to find better more effective cures which in my opinion right there is a huge flaw in AA. They say there is no known cure but it can be arrested at some point. Curing addiction is my only option. It can be interpreted as a chronic progressive condition which I don’t believe it is. I won’t consider myself an addict for the rest of my life and I certainly won’t introduce myself as an addict long after I am not addicted. It’s demeaning to say that I am an addict because it’s attaching a label to my identity. I prefer to say I have a substance abuse disorder. I don’t want to sound like I am bashing a program that has helped many people to address their addiction issues. I know people who seek help there and it works for them I just believe that it’s not effective for everyone and they should stop promoting it as if it’s the only way to recover. For anyone reading this who knows someone who is struggling with an addiction you have my sympathies and please don’t give up on your loved one. Educate yourself, have compassion and offer non-enabling support. Understand that there’s probably not much you can say or do until the person themselves makes the decision to quit and that is when they will need you the most. My family was supportive when I was in early recovery and it made a huge impact on my level of motivation. I isolated when I was in my addiction and I felt like no one cares and no one is there anymore but when I started making steps to change I had the support of people around me. Please approach this subject with sympathy and gentle, loving, kindness rather than judgment and condemnation because we are mostly people dealing with trauma and pain in which we sought to cope with by escaping with drugs and alcohol. Usually exposed to at a young age, people who find relief in drugs are not derelicts, criminals and abusive partners to start off. The addiction takes over at a certain point and I admire people who make efforts to turn their lives around. Everyone I know who is in recovery is taking accountability for their actions now and redirecting their priorities and beginning a healing process that is extremely difficult. Patience, love and compassion…..please
Something common in addiction recovery is learning about forgiveness. I have been learning recovery tools since the age of eighteen so this subject has come up often for me. I think I have come a long way in learning how to forgive others who have hurt me and even been able to not condemn them for perceived wrongdoing in the first place so forgiveness was not so necessary. It is unnatural for people to not feel offended by someone who is intentionally harming you. It's a process to go through to in order to go against a natural response. The cliche: resentment is like poison to the person who feels it rather than the person that it is intended to target is meaningful, but just hearing this phrase doesn't teach anything about how or why to forgive. Once one has forgiven then the phrase can be understood. That saying never meant much more than I should forgive for my own sake. It's not words that teach, it is life experience. I don't take things too personally and do well at not harboring grudges and definitely don't feel vindictive or vengeful very often but lately since some recent experience I have been feeling extremely betrayed and hurt so I have to relearn how to forgive. My fear is that if I let go of this and forgive that I will forget and let it happen again. I'm not quite ready to release all my anger because I want to let it sink in how wrong I was wronged. A bit twisted probably but that is me. I need to move on now so inch by inch I am reminding myself that it was never about me and only the other person. This other person is the one who has to hold themselves accountable and for whatever their reasons are for hurting me intentionally and unintentionally are their problem now. I can forgive someone more easily by inching closer to feeling pity for the other and less pity for myself. More empowerment to myself and less power to them. I make all my choices, including how I behave, think, and who I let in my life. Who matters to me and who's opinion I listen to. When I move from pity to compassion I feel even better. Obviously every individual grows up under their own unique circumstances and with their own genetics and I have compassion for all people who turn out to be hurtful and malicious. They probably need it the most. I am working towards feeling indifferent because I am an extreme feeler and would love it if I didn't care so much about everything. I wish we could all just love each other and get along. At least I know that love and compassion is what I want to strive for in this new chapter in my life and hope it spreads.
December 21, 2019
Most of my life I’ve followed my instincts and heart rather than listen to other people or even my own conscience. I’ve had a sense, especially when I was introduced to the mental health care system and when I was kicked out of the education system, that people were mostly speaking nonsense and teaching nonsense. It’s sort of been a mission of mine to find out what is the truth and what are abstract ideas presented as the truth. There are so many contradictory messages being passed around and it’s hard to make sense of how to live when so much information programmed into my mind never adds up to what I know to be true for me. This is all I’ve figured out so far: People create their own reality and there’s usually an inner conflict within people not between right and wrong good and evil or love and hate it’s between truth and fiction. The truth results in love peace harmony and connection whereas lies deception misconception and what is not real results in fear pain suffering and separation. From now on I’m basing the rest of my life without the belief system I used to rely on because the narrative running through my life story doesn’t represent anything that is true anymore. I’m so hesitant to make a move knowing this because I relied so heavily on the self images of myself to know how to act think feel and make decisions. Realizing that I’m the author, director and the main character in my reality puts some pressure on me to live with integrity authenticity and a new reality. I can stop searching for the truth now and just live knowing that I’ve known all along I was just misled by all the lies I believed in. I’m not afraid of making anymore mistakes because there’s no such thing. That’s a word made up by people to teach children what their parents, teachers and authorities don’t want them to do or help them correct their behaviour to increase their competency. I encourage you not to believe anything I’ve been trying to convey because this is my reality and dream and my thoughts and words. If it resonates then maybe it’s true for you too. I like to think I’m learning a lot this year about self mastery and the art of living and I hope I can contribute to society, my community, family and friends everything I can share that might help others. This concept had helped inspire me to have a vision of my future that feels really exciting and promising. It encourages me to keep moving forward and without feeling as though there’s always a void in my life or chasing the image of perfection so when I get there I can relax and enjoy life. I am perfect and whole and have much to offer the world and my children. I believe everyone is. I have enough and always will, I can relax and enjoy every minute of my life.
I have been in treatment for seven weeks and I feel empowered spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I am loving the program and have learned the most from being able to use the coping skills by interacting with the other residents daily. It is a revolving door program so each client starts at a different time. Some women are graduating while others are just entering and it is challenging to live with 20 – 25 women all at different points in their recovery, all dealing with their own mental health and addiction issues.
I think I am navigating quite well. We learn DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), Relapse Prevention, Seeking Safety, Transition and other practical life skills along with recreation therapies such as art, music, crafts, knitting, cooking and sewing. It is a good mix of self-paced learning and instructor facilitated group discussions.
I was starting to show symptoms of mania a while ago and with early intervention and self-awareness it did not escalate into an episode. It was only 5 days or so that I felt off. I am starting to believe I have more control over my mental stability than I had previously believed.
I find that taking care of my physical health first helps to manage my spiritual health and my mental and emotional well-being. I am basically learning self-mastery by being resourceful, self-aware, open-minded and willing.
I have a lot of experience with recovery and much of what is being taught here is repetitive but with more humility and willingness within me at the moment all the tools and information feels fresh. Actually applying my knowledge in day to day activities is helping to transform me whereas in the past I retained the knowledge but resorted to auto-responses to situations.
I have about 1500 waking hours here at Heartwood and I am investing my time wisely taking advantage of the support and balancing it with having some fun with the girls as well as reconnecting to my family and old friends. I am happy most of the time and I am only half way through.
May 5, 2019
I haven’t posted in months because what happened as a result of having some self-awareness and removing myself from an unhealthy situation with my partner is that I learned I needed to address my issues and take responsibility for my life. I felt empowered and enlightened but neglected to acknowledge the powerlessness over my addiction. I admitted the problem and attended a support group but as soon as I felt a sense of relief and hope I thought I had control. I returned to old habits thinking that this time will be different. It’s overwhelming to consider letting go of everything that is not serving me including the people places and activities that I am accustomed to. I know I can’t trust my judgement and don’t feel safe to make the daily decisions that will keep me on a path of recovery so today I completely surrender and accept my powerlessness and have the willingness and courage to face myself and my addiction and mental health issues. It’s frustrating being a chronic relapaser because I can imagine from an outside perspective that it doesn’t make sense but from my internal perspective which is distorted I have rationalized and justified every decision I have made. That’s the insanity of the illness. So to all the people who know me through poker if you don’t see me it’s because I have chosen another path in life and am on my way to becoming a more involved mother, daughter, sister and friend and hopefully an inspiration for people like me who have faced similar adversities in this life. I know many people are out there suffering and I know that each individual experience is unique but the resonance and connection that exists in all people is unconditional love. The Bibles definition of love states Love is patient Love is kind it does not envy it does not boast it is not proud It does not dishonor others it is not self-seeking it is not easily angered it keeps no record of wrong And so we know and rely on the Love God has for us. I am relying on this faith right now. Thank you for taking the time to read about this phase of my journey through life.
I mentioned in my first post that I’m in the process of making some major changes. It began with the awareness that life seemed to be headed in a direction I didn’t want it to go. I was afraid the past was going to repeat itself and I wasn’t willing to let that happen. I had little hope that I’d be able to make the long lasting changes I thought I wanted.
I was able though to become curious about how to change my lifestyle and I understood how powerful thoughts and beliefs are in creating reality so I started analyzing my thoughts and feelings and patterns of behavior. I did the same thing I usually do. I focussed on why I was the way I was and how I became that way. I thought that I could figure out how to transform my life by focusing on everything about myself that wasn’t serving me. That wasn’t effective.
I turned to the internet for inspiration. I didn’t expect to hear anything that I didn’t already know or hadn’t already tried. I felt broken and lost. I was drawn to several videos that began to spark my curiosity because they shed light on new ways of thinking particularly Jordan Peterson, Alan Watts and a show called Impact Theory that portrayed various highly successful people who had overcome adversity.
While listening to Alan Watts speak about the nature of the universe I contemplated the purposelessness and meaningless of life. The concept of life as a game or a play and the idea that there’s is a lot of disillusionment in the world was reassuring. He is a philosopher and writer who studied Buddhism and listening to his lectures profoundly changed my attitude.
Jordan Peterson introduced a concept that really resonated with me and that is the importance of taking on responsibilities in order to add value to life and mitigate the inevitable suffering. It was comforting to hear him say that life is suffering and also to learn that I can add value if I choose. I heard somewhere that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. I believed this saying and thought the considerable amount of time I spent suffering was somehow a choice I was unconsciously making. This disempowering thinking led to me lose confidence in my ability to control how I felt. Once I understood that suffering is not an option, that it’s a part of life then I could easily accept and surrender to anything out of my control and take steps to balance it out with the joy and satisfaction that comes with taking on as much responsibility as I can bear.
I immediately felt empowered, energized and hopeful at the thought of setting goals and creating a new set of circumstances. A combination of willingness and hope furthered my curiosity in wanting to understand what it would require to completely transform oneself from living an unproductive unfulfilled existence into the complete opposite. I thought because I had been labeled as bipolar I was condemned to enduring depression. Changing my beliefs especially the subconscious ones has changed everything about me. Over-analyzing myself and identifying with past failures and shortcomings just reinforces false beliefs and encourages limiting narratives that kept me feeling stuck.
Another huge moment of clarity came to me when doing Jordan Peterson’s self-authoring program in which I started setting goals. I judged myself harshly for never having clear ideas about what I want. It’s been said that a woman who knows what she wants and goes after it is admirable. I was fooled into thinking I ought to know what I want. I reject the belief that I must know what I want or even that I want anything. Constantly questioning what I want causes a mindset that something is lacking. It brings attention to that which is not there and needs to be obtained. It is more important for me to be grateful for what’s here now and be living in the moment. Having something to aim at is giving myself the opportunity to experience life. Setting goals is not to work towards what I think is missing. The realization that I now already possess everything I want brings abundance. I don’t have to search for people, possessions and experiences to fulfill me. Having the belief that I am enough, I have enough and I am content knowing that if my life ended right now that would be perfectly okay. It is liberating to have this understanding. I am now able to feel gratitude instead of self pity and contentment instead of longing. I am filled with hope and determination in a way I have never experienced before.
I feel as if I have had a sort of spiritual awakening. I do not subscribe to any religion but I choose to define my recent awareness this way. Some people pray to God. I choose to call this having an inner dialogue. In making the effort to go inward and connect to my spirit as I call it has increased my ability to connect to other people and has guided my decisions. I’ve been extremely curious about enlightenment, consciousness and how the mind works. There’s a lot of conflicting information so it’s difficult to form any opinions but something I am considering is that there is a universal consciousness that anyone can connect to. For anyone who seeks a higher level of self awareness and self improvement I highly recommend this program
This week’s post is not directly related to my mood disorder but it’s something that I want to write about because it’s always on my mind and also something that most people can relate to.
I have recently ended an eight year relationship and I’m struggling a lot with my emotions and thoughts. I do not do well with intense feelings. I usually avoid unwanted emotions by distracting and using substances to alter my state.
I am determined to face this challenge in a healthier way. I am going to embrace all the pain and the unwanted thoughts. I am obsessed with learning about how to manage this discomfort. I have been constantly reading and watching videos about how to survive this.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can change my perspective from looking at this situation as “bad”, or horrible, devastating, etc. into seeing it as a learning experience, an opportunity for growth, a turning point of my life where I am able to make improvements.
I am trying to feel the pain and go through it instead of suppressing it. I let myself cry. I let myself sit and grieve and practice acceptance. It feels very unnatural to let go of hope. I’m an extremely romantic person, by that I mean I have an idealized view of reality. I hang on in hopes things will be different far past what is realistic.
I am trying to take responsibility for my part in the dysfunction of the relationship. I want to look at my weaknesses so I can work on them. I give myself credit for how much I have grown because I have grown a lot throughout the relationship.
I feel lucky that my ex partner is a wonderful person and we have no hostility toward one another but in the same respect it makes it that much harder to walk away from him.
I don’t know how long this process of letting go will take. I really don’t know what to expect. I have never felt this way before. I am taking life day by day and focussing on my goals and my children.
So for a while my heart will be broken but I am confident in time I will feel stronger and happier and possibly healthier than I was during the relationship.
I want to share about this topic because I think it is important to be able to talk openly about mental health so people that care about me can understand what I am going through. Talking with people who don’t know me about having a mental illness could help reduce the stigma surrounding the subject. At times when I didn’t know how to talk about it I experienced shame and I felt alone in my struggles.
When I was diagnosed in 1992 there was not as much discussion about mental health as it seems there is today. I was hospitalized for almost two months in the summer between grade nine and grade ten. I believe everyone who knew me at the time was informed of my circumstance.
When I returned home to my family and to school it was very awkward. No one including me seemed comfortable talking about what I had just been through. I heard various rumors that were complete exaggerations. I heard that people were saying I was having acid flashbacks. I overheard people completely making up stories involving my situation. Not many people spoke directly to me. I felt misunderstood and helpless to control what people would think. I tried not to let it bother me but it did. At the time I hadn’t fully accepted my diagnosis as well so that also made it difficult to talk about.
I don’t mind talking about it now because I have matured. I want a certain amount of privacy, so I don’t go around shouting from the rooftops that I have mental health issues, but if it is appropriate I am willing to be open about my experiences.
To get from where I was to where I am now required first accepting that I have a mental illness and then having compassion for myself and an understanding that it isn’t something to be ashamed of. It took a very long time to get to this point.
I am hopeful that I can help others who struggle with the their own mental illness and I am hopeful that I can help people who don’t understand what mental illness is gain insight and perspective. I am curious what it has been like for you. Please comment by clicking the button below the title above. How difficult has it been to be upfront about having been told you are mentally ill? How have people reacted to you?