Finding Balance is All in the Cards

I’m sorry for the length of time since the last post. I had hit a rough patch for a few weeks. Following it, I took some time to… Well, I just needed some sort of downtime. Well, what constitutes downtime for me.

In taking this downtime and simply living did me a world of good. I had therapy two weeks ago. We discussed how things were going with NAMI, at the barn, with my nieces and nephews, and with a speaking event I did at the beginning of the month. My therapist was extremely happy and all she kept saying was how far I’ve come since I started seeing her 4 years ago. Even just in the past few months. Her words, that inspired this post, were, “You have a balance in your life that I don’t think I’ve ever seen you have.”

And I completely agree with her.

If you’ve been following my blog at all you will know that words are extremely close to my heart. I am a nerd and I will proudly admit that. I love words. So… lets start with the word: balance. The definition:

Noun: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

Verb: offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another

I have NEVER been good at finding balance for myself. As a noun or verb. I would throw myself into things full force. Whether it was school, work, or whatever project I was working on. It became all consuming. The only thing that mattered. Fear of disappointing or letting down those that were depending on me was a massive part of that. My therapist pointed out once that I put expectations on myself that NO ONE could ever meet. When I would fail to meet those expectations I would literally get angry at myself. I took on more and more in order to make up for the falling short.

One of the biggest changes in my life over the past year has been having to give up work. My therapist and psychiatrist felt it the best thing for me last July. I was devastated. I had no idea what to do. I had to do an art therapy assignment on what my schedule consisted of. It said everything without explanation: Monday through Friday was work, Saturday volunteering (at the gift shop where I worked), every other Tuesday was therapy, and when I could I’d make it to the barn and the bookstore.

That was NOT life. NOT balance. Not even close to either. And I was struggling with losing what I considered to be a stable, complete life.

I found purpose in being at he NAMI office twice a week, but other than that I had nothing. I didn’t know who I was; and. With no true purpose I had no… anything. I lived and breathed for work, goals, and purpose in everything. What was I suppose to do?

My Ann passed away on February 12th. Ann was a senior where I worked; and we had been together almost 11 years. I sat with her for a short time the day before she passed. I attended her funeral. I THOUGHT I was okay with it. A few weeks later I started sliding- a mixed episode combined with anxiety is where I landed. I spent my days trying to figure out what was worse- the depression symptoms or the manic ones. I did a therapy assignment on the loss (including seniors I have lost in the past). When my mind returned to normal I realized something- Ann and I have played Kings in the Corner for years (with a few ladies joining in throughout that time); and she ALWAYS beat me. I mean always. I would get so upset because I don’t mind losing sometimes, but all the time? I used to joke that playing with her was bad for your self-esteem. Ann knew I’d get “upset” and would always tell me, “It’s all in the cards, honey. It’s all in the cards.” I would get so irritated.

After some time passed from her death and the episode that followed, I began to come back to her response over and over. It was a lesson that stretched far beyond the card table. I slowly began to actually apply that knowledge she passed on to me.

The “Kings in the Corner of Life” cards I was dealt include some Aces- Bipolar, OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety. Aces were always Ann’s favorite (can you hear the sarcasm?). I got a few great cards as well! My Kings include a great support system, amazing mental health team, and places of safety. I also have some cards that go between those. I needed to figure out my plays.

And I did.

I put my kings in the corners (hence the age of the game) and went from there. when I looked at the cards in my hand and laid out on the table I realized something. I had balance in what was there. The Aces are hard to play and no one wants them, but I had Kings as well. Those are the foundation for plays on the table. In my case that table was life. As I started to move my cards around I felt more at ease, more at peace, and more confident in the decisions I was making.

The Queens and Jacks followed the Kings- the barn falls under a king as a safe place. The Queen following is the people there and the Jack is the riding that I have been doing more of. That’s just one example.

In finding balance, I have found such a sense of self. I’m genuinely happy. I smile a real smile far more than I have in longer than I care to remember. I enjoy reading again. I’ve renewed entering my own pages in my art journal. I’ve made amazing strides in riding Zoe over just the past few weeks.

In finding balance, I feel healthier. Physically I’ve lost weight. I have more energy. Mentally I don’t know where to start. The anxiety is down. I’m not looking over my shoulder for triggers 24/7. As a whole I just feel better.

In finding balance, I found a new measurement of successes. Success today may be making it off the fairgrounds with Zoe. Tomorrow it could be getting out of the house. Both of those are amazing successes! And I should be proud of them.

In Kings in the Corner, each turn you have to draw a card. I got a fourth King. Public speaking of all things. I did NOT see that play coming. Speaking on my lived experience with mental illness has been the final leveling that I needed to find balance. It gives me purpose. Ending the stigma around mental health by bringing it into the light has always been something close to my heart. A passion. Speaking in front of rooms of people isn’t where I saw myself doing it, but I found that standing in front of the room full of faces is not nearly as anxiety provoking as sitting in that room full of faces. And I’m good at it! I get to share my story including the coping skills I’ve learned. I found a purpose again.

In life everyone has a different set of cards. My nieces and nephews are in my deck. NAMI is in there. Zoe, Bennett, my writing and art… You get the picture.

My final card draw for this game was one that allowed movement on the board- It gave me the play of finally allowing myself to be content with where my life is at the moment. To allow myself to accept where I’m at and be happy with what my balance is right now. The play allowed me to go out and win this hand! Ann would be SO proud!!

The cards get reshuffled every time the game starts again. My games start over when my illness(es) decide to rear an ugly head. I know that I will have to reevaluate my strategy each time. I’m finally okay with that. “It’s all in the cards, honey. It’s all in the cards.”

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