A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Self Help


I shot this digital photograph a few years ago when I visited Ireland with my mother, but I see it here symbolically, like coming up from the dungeon (though, in fact, I think it was a monastery). So here I am climbing the stone stairs to get to the light, to look out at freedom.

We all come from different places, have different patterns and dreams, but essentially, we are the same. We've laughed and cried, felt fear and love and anger. There's more that unites us, than divides us. I forget this.

Today I went to the school library and picked up a book that Christina had recommended called FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. When I got home I read through the first 5 chapters. The author is promoting the power of positive thinking, especially during adverse circumstances. She encourages the belief that we can handle whatever comes our way. We can't erase the fear, especially when learning something new, but we can face the fear and "do it anyway". It's doing the scary part that helps to create confidence.

I realize that I am a fearful person. Living with an abusive alcoholic for over five years trained me in the fear response, trained me so well, that I was afraid even when there was nothing to be afraid of. The psychosis also trained me with fear, trained me to be my own worst enemy. Now, when I go through my down times, I become anxious, though my present moment holds only peace and quiet. I play the russian roulette game of "What if...?" instead of relaxing into the moment of peace I do have. I make the mistake of slipping into negative thoughts and sitting with them.

Why do I sit with the negative? I guess I want to see the whole picture, but the truth is I can only see part of the big picture. I am not God, not all seeing and powerful. There's another truth, that negative thinking turns in on itself and paints the world black when it is full of color. I want to believe in the power of positive thinking. In fact, I relied on this philosophy during hard times in my life. Al-Anon taught me to keep the focus on myself, accept what I couldn't change and change what I could, not in others, but in myself. I have no control over others and no control over the voices, but I do have control over myself and my attitude.

I need to mull over this idea that I suffer from an addict's disease. I'm still looking for completion outside myself as if I don't have enough within myself to be happy. I do have enough, more than enough. Ms. Jefferds and others promote the self-help philosophy of retraining yourself. Instead of listening to negative self talk (which is persistent and sometimes subtle), you actively create as positive an atmosphere as you can. LIsten to inspirational audiobooks, read inspirational books, say to yourself affirmations morning, noon and night, write inspirational quotes on index cards and post them around your living space.

My question to myself was is this a form of brainwashing? But then I think of all the negative thoughts that filter into my consciousness from myself or from the voices and I think that it's only common sense to replace the negative with the positive. And it's not easy. There's resistance to me saying to myself "I am a good woman and I deserve to be happy", but if I don't believe it and fight for it, the happiness part won't just someday show up.
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