So now what?
As with everything else in life, balance and moderation seem to be the ticket. It’s becoming comfortable with the fact that sooner or later life is going to throw you a curveball or two.. Not because you are more prone to them than anyone else. Not because you’ve earned them more than anyone else. Absolutely and in no way because you deserve them more than anyone else. But because life is hard. It can be and is beautiful. It can be (and often is) filled with the mundane. But the trap of this all-or-nothing delusion (at either end of the “momentum” bell curve) is what’s going to cause the most hardship.
It’s about finding people who are going to speak truth into your life, to gently encourage you when things aren’t going so well (and to gently correct the negative delusion), and to temper the delusion that you’ve got this monster licked, beaten down, and controlled – because let’s face it, mental illnesses are complex enough that even the professionals don’t always treat the same diagnosis with an identical treatment. These illnesses have far too many variables, symptoms and treatment strategies to have that unflinching certainty that this thing is not and no longer will be a part of your life.
It’s about fighting daily for the life you want – and celebrating the victories, no matter how small or silly they’d seem to the average person – yes, that means celebrating the shower you just took, because you managed to do it, even if that’s all you managed for the day. It’s embracing the ride, knowing that when the good times come, to enjoy them and savor them, because they’re not going to last forever – no matter how much you want them to. It’s about gritting your teeth through the bad times, hanging on because you’ve fought through this crap before and survived – and, as hard as it is, you can do it again. To quote an article that I love:
You are not a monster. You are a valuable, unique, wonderful human being who deserves everything grand that this life has to offer. Come out of the shadows and stand proud. The world needs you and your story. You have been to hell and back and you are here to say, “It gets better.” When a person is struggling, many people look away. They change the subject or suddenly need a drink refill. You reach your hand out into the darkness to find theirs. You share your lantern. You’re not afraid of darkness, because you know it… You had coffee with darkness yesterday. He brought donuts. He doesn’t scare you like before. You know how to work with him.
It’s about perspective – and if your own is starting to feel very skewed (or maybe even before you recognize that it is) you need people who care about you to speak some objective truth into your life. Sometimes it’s hard to hear – when you’re at the bottom, the crazy dichotomy is you’re craving hope and yet push it away at the same time. When you’ve managed to string together several “good days” (however that looks for you) in a row, you need people who care about you to keep your reality in check – not to crash your party and be a downer, but to speak that hard truth that it’s not going to last, you need to be prepared when the tide comes back. Yet it’s at that point that you’re sucking up all the positivity you can and (rightfully) have cut as much negativity from your life as possible – it’s a risk these friends take because they care about you so much they don’t want to see you crash like last time. And the time before that. And the time before that…
A great example from my personal life would be my good friend L. I won’t state his name here although if you know me in real life, you probably have a good idea who he is. He’s been a very loyal friend and stuck by my side through some very trying times to put it very mildly. He’s stated his opinion when asked, he’s often given solid advice and then bravely and quietly and calmly picked up the pieces when I did what I thought was best (and it didn’t exactly go according to plan…) I won’t say he has physically saved my life – you know, saved me from drowning, or performed CPR, that sort of thing – but time and time again he’s proven by words and actions what true friendship is all about. I am extremely lucky to have him in my life – and I’m saddened that there are far too many people who don’t have a close friend like that in their life.
Another example is the wonderful people at SickNotWeak, which for me has been an amazingly supportive group of people around the planet. While it seems the most interaction between community members happens on Twitter, the website has blog posts written by members of the community and daily video posts by Michael Landsberg. Yes that Michael Landsberg. I’ve joined and left several online communities for various reasons – but SickNotWeak was one I came across fairly early in my search for an online community, and it’s the one that I’ve always felt the most at home in. People there are very genuine in their struggles but also in their compassion. I often say that I’ve never seen such strength from people who admit they’re very weak and struggling daily. I find it’s that united ‘weakness’ and transparency that gives SickNotWeak it’s vibrancy, unity and strength – that and there’s very little drama that unfortunately seems common in many online communities, especially ones that focus on mental illnesses.
I’d also be very remiss not to mention my incredible family – they may not always understand, and I know it can be hard unless you’ve been there but damn they sure try! I’m also extremely lucky to have a supportive workplace – from employees to fellow team leaders, up to the GM and the business owner as well. All of them have been amazingly good to me – and again, I am incredibly blessed to have that in my life. Unfortunately acceptance of mental illness in the workplace has a very long way to go for most people.