Taking Care of Ourselves

Taking care of yourself isn’t always the easiest path to take. You’d think it would be, right? Well, it isn’t. You have doctors and therapists with appointments you need to go to, pills you have to swallow, triggers you have to avoid until you can hopefully find a way for them to no longer be one… yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Those are just the tip of a huge iceberg.

There are a couple of things we, with and without mental illness, need to do:

1. Make the hard choices.
Honestly? I am not always best at making the choices I need to make. I will be honest and say that my therapist and I are working right now on this. She said that I hold MYSELF to a standard that no one can live up to. When I can’t maintain the standard, I am literally cruel to myself. I never paid attention to that until she said something. I honestly don’t know how to fix it.

I have recently made the decision not to return to the job that I’ve spent the past fourteen years at. Beginning as a volunteer at 19 before being hired on six years ago. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but one that had to be done. I was lucky and the choice was made a little easier for me due to the FMLA leave I have been on running out. If I would have returned, I would never have left. No matter what. I would have allowed… I don’t want to think about it. I do know that I wouldn’t have quit. It would have destroyed me having to walk in and turn in my resignation. I will stay on as a volunteer- go in to the gift shop, play cards with my ladies, hang out on the front porch enjoying the weather with my favorite seniors (all of them)…

Applying for SSDI was another decision I have had to make. That may turn into another post, but let me say this… It was not my idea despite being what’s best in the long run.

2. Do what’s best for us.
This doesn’t always feel great. Both decisions being made that a I have found myself in the midst of feel like failures. The first, [work] being something I thought I would never find myself doing. The second, is something I have fought against. Five years ago my last psychiatrist broached the subject with me and I refused to even hear it. We didn’t discuss it, but she said it would be something we would need to talk about. She left before it could go further.

Not working makes me feel useless; and yet, deep down, I know that right now needs to be a time of healing after this last episode. SSDI… I don’t feel disabled, but I know that there are times that my Illness can be debilitating.

3. We have to find a purpose.
I’ve had nothing but listless days for over a month now. At first, when I wasn’t feeling well, they blended together. I couldn’t handle much else other than the days of no ending point. No purpose. My only striving goal was to make it to my next therapy appointment (without any horrible consequences in between).

That is no life. Can I tell you that? We have to find a purpose for our days. Let me say that it has not been easy.

I am just getting my beloved reading back (something I think my doctor may have been even more excited about than me, ha ha), my art is still on the elusive side, and barn time, for some reason, is all but impossible. The latter is my ultimate therapy when it’s the anxiety causing my life to be turned upside down. With that being said…

We can reinvent. I may not be an employee anymore, but I can still go into the place I have called my working home for so long, now, once again as a volunteer. I can go into my beloved gift shop, gab with the seniors when they come in, decorate my window and shelves, and then get beat at Kings in the Corner before going home.

We can find new purposes. New things to get us through. This blog has been one of them, for example. I have been doing research (and then more research) on how to grow it. Pinterest and I are great friends now. Yesterday, I met with NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness). Advocacy and education have always been important to me. I am going to be joining them as a volunteer. I will be working in their Speakers Bureau and End the Silence programs. I will also, possibly, be talking to my pastor about doing a FaithNet program at church.

4. Trust your team.
This may be geared more for someone with a mental illness. Maybe not. We all need to trust our doctors, right?

Our psychiatrists and therapists care about us. They want what’s best for us. They want us to be healthy. We may not always like what they have to say, want to hear what they have to tell us, or tell them what we need to tell them.

For a long time I held back telling my therapist everything. She tells me that “so often getting you to open up completely is like pulling teeth.” I’m getting better. With her and my psychiatrist…

Let’s face it- visits when we’re healthy are easy. It’s the appointments when we aren’t well when you really don’t want to answer questions (and that’s when we need to the most). Those are the questions like: “Are you suicidal?” “You’ve self harmed. Does it bring relief when you do it?” Seriously, who wants to answer those? Then, you have to go through all your symptoms so they can assess the situation. Fun times.

Your Mental Health Team is not the full team. Remember that. Your support system are key players as well. Your support system is something beyond words. Those are the people watching to make sure you are safe, taking care of yourself, and helping you through the bad of your illness as well as one times in between when you’re at your best.

5. (I promise this is my last one) Find a calming place.
Finding a place where you can go for your mind to rest makes a huge difference.

The place doesn’t always have to be the same. As I said before, when the anxiety is in full drive the barn is my calming place. I can sit out there all day everyday; and you can watch the anxiety wash away. Other times, it has been our local art museum. Gallery 226 to be exact. I go to visit with my favorite painting in the whole world (Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Morning a Glory and Black”). Neither of those were it during this episode just passing. Church was. It still is as the dwindling symptoms make up their mind as to what to do. I knew how a I felt when I left on Sundays, but discovered it as my place of solace out of shear hope that something would shut my mind off four Wednesdays ago.

Okay… so… Let’s recap. Five things we need to TRY and do (Reminder: I am still working on some of these even though I know the importance of them.):
1. Make the hard choices.
2. Do what’s best for us.
3. We have to find a purpose.
4. Trust your team.
5. Find a calming place.

We won’t always succeed in winning battles with a mental illness. It’s our own whole war that counts. Strategy. Strategy. Strategy.

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