I need to work on my expectations and taking things personally. I know from years of being on this planet, and hearing the words of some wise people, that making things personal is most often just punishment to yourself. Most things that happen are not personal.
I am in a writing class and on the first meeting when the teacher asked me a question, I told her I have schizophrenia. The whole class heard, and now every time someone doesn’t respond to my homework, or my comments, I think it is because they think I don’t matter because I am just the woman with schizophrenia. Thinking that people’s response, or lack of response, has anything to do with me is self-defeating and ridiculous.
People don’t respond to us because they are busy; they prefer texting, they are shy, don’t want to, don’t need to, are rude, are sick, etc. I could go on with that list for ten more pages, and every excuse for people not responding would be more likely the real reason than it having anything to do with me or my having schizophrenia.
I need to take the advice of some strong women and toughen up buttercup! It is hard to put yourself out there, though and not to receive positive feedback in return – no smiles, no kind words, no words of support – just silence, nothing, nada. It is particularly hard considering the stories/essays/pieces I wrote were deeply personal. I have to remember though, that it is my expectation that people will respond, it isn’t a requirement of them. I need to keep my expectations in check.
I know for some people, especially those of us who have trouble with isolating socially, it would be easier not to take any risks (this is true of everyone not just people with a mental illness). Not taking risks, means you have nothing to lose. But that brings the flip side of that scenario into focus – if you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to gain.
I think it is so important for people (everyone) to push past their comfort zones at least a little bit on a daily or weekly basis. Those of us who are on the road to recovery need to try to push our boundaries, or our boundaries will keep getting smaller and smaller and threatening to choke the life out of us. Most of us need to grow a little more comfortable trying new things and the more things we get comfortable with, the bigger our world gets and that helps with healing.
I know I can’t completely regain all the functioning I had five years ago (an office job, lots of travel, very social, etc.). But I can work to regain some things and maybe even add some that I didn’t have before. To do that, though I will need to keep taking risks, lower my expectations and not take things personally! It can be done; I know it can. The only thing holding me back is fear and myself. Everyone with schizophrenia has dealt with fear; we are experts at it – this should be one we can easily conquer.
Yesterday, I read this article in the New York Times . I thought the article was excellent. The title makes it seem as if it is only about New Year’s resolutions, but that isn’t the case. The article is about how willpower can cause damage to our health and compassion, pride and gratitude can create healing.
According to the article, research shows that we are willing to do many more tasks and accomplish much more if we feel proud, compassionate or grateful. I’m not going to explain the whole article here, but it is worth the read (I promise). It is one of the most interesting and possibly helpful, articles I have read on psychology in a long time.
So, as I look over the intentions I have written for 2018 and continue to add new ones over the next couple of days, I want to find far more ways to add pride, compassion, and gratefulness into my daily life. I can use all the healing and positive mental health benefits I can get, so this exercise seems like a worthy goal and a great way to start out 2018.
My husband and I sit down (without cell phones and television) to have dinner together most nights of the week. It isn’t that we have a fancy dinner, it is usually something easily prepared, leftovers, veggie burgers, fried egg sandwiches, or if we have been to Costco, we will have salmon filets. But it isn’t the food that we find important, it is the act of looking at each other and talking to one another. During dinner, we always ask the same question of each other, “What were the two best things that happened to you today?” There are times when we struggle to come up with two things, and other times when we list five or six. It is an exercise in gratitude that we have been practicing for a couple of years.
This year, I would like to add more rituals and exercises into our lives. I read on Facebook that a writer who I know keeps a jar and each week she writes down one good thing that happened and puts it into the jar. On New Year’s Day, she reads all 52 good things that happened in the last year. My husband and I are going to create such a jar, and make it our tradition to read all the highlights of the year the following New Year’s Eve or Day. Keeping and adding to the jar should help with feeling more grateful all year long as my husband and I reflect on the best thing that happened to us each week.
Adding more compassion to our lives is fairly easy. I follow some blogs where people are going through some pretty tough health journeys (like cancer), and their words can often bring me to tears. I can make sure that I keep reading heartfelt stories and the experiences of others because it keeps my empathy and compassion muscles working. Also, I will continue to help raise money for the low income and homeless in our city. In fact, my husband and I are going to volunteer for one of our favorite non-profit’s events today. There is a concert in the park, and all of the donations received go to feeding, clothing, medical treatment, etc. for the poor. We are going to stand in a booth and collect donations, talk to people, and give out flyers.
I will continue to buy coffee, or lunch for homeless people who tell me they are hungry and ask me to buy them a meal. There are endless ways to show compassion. For example, I can have compassion on a barista at a coffee shop who is swamped with demanding customers – I can be patient and let her know that she is doing a good job and that I am not in a hurry. Ways to be compassionate will present themselves to me continuously, and I just need to be aware of being kind, and considerate of those around me.
The last of the three healing ways to make us more productive is pride. The article wasn’t suggesting we feel the kind of pride that makes us seem obnoxious to others. It was referring to a sense of pride, of being proud of a job well done.
I am proud when I finish a blog post. It doesn’t have to be a perfect blog post, and it doesn’t have to get dozens of likes. I am proud of having completed something that I think of as valuable. In the New Year, I plan to do much more writing (my mentor expects five to ten pages on my memoir every week), so I will have many opportunities to feel a sense of pride. My husband and I also want to cook a recipe that is new to us at least once a week in the New Year, so this is something I can do with my husband that would bring me a sense of pride.
If the researchers are right that compassion, gratitude, and pride are healing, then 2018 should be one of my healthiest years yet. If not, at least I will have made some great choices, and I can add that to my something to be proud of column which I hope is full
bitterness, broken promises, compassion, crime, crooks, distrust, essays, feelings, heal, healing, health, heart, hope, injury, inspiration, joy, mental health, mental illness, mentally ill, paranoid schizophrenia, resentment, self care, sensitive, true, trust, wounds, writing
As we go through our day, we are often injured by the words or actions of others. Those injuries leave small (or large) wounds on our psyche.
Recently, I counted on someone to do something for me. It is something they said they would do for months, and then they didn’t follow through. As I am going about my day, I occasionally think of this broken promise. The thought brings the disappointment, confusion, and pain to the surface. I can’t make sense of what this person did to me and the wound is still open.
There was another thing that caused me an injury recently. A stranger stole from me. This situation makes me feel pain on several levels. It makes me feel worse about people in general, it makes me feel less safe and trusting of doing something I previously had no concern about, and even though I don’t know this person, it feels like a personal violation.
Every day I read positive affirmations all over social media. People love to post stuff about thinking positive, changing your attitude, because it will change your life, etc. I think positive little sayings and poems are great, but it is unrealistic to think we will always be positive when we live with and around other people, and those people may be mean, thoughtless, crooks, or just insensitive.
The things that happened to me recently are certainly not life changing situations, and they aren’t traumatic situations. I didn’t receive news that a loved one is dying, and no one I know was beat up in a robbery. I am talking about small injuries here, but even though they are small, if we don’t allow them to have their space in our lives, and we don’t allow ourselves to completely heal from them, the buildup of small injuries left unattended can lead to bitterness, resentment, distrust – they can rob us of feeling true joy.
I would like to say that in a year’s time that I won’t remember these injuries, but I know that I will. I won’t ask the person that broke their promise to me to do anything for me again, and I will never regain the trust I had for people who have small businesses online. So, although these are not huge injuries, they are significant because I lost something in both cases – trust. Trust is a critical component of life. It is particularly essential to people with paranoid schizophrenia. To me, trust is a sacred agreement between people and even some extent the larger society (we agree to follow the laws).
In a month from now, I’m not going to think about these two injuries as much as I think about them now, because they will begin to heal. I will make sure I give them proper attention, space, and time, in order to scab over.
Writing this is an important reminder to me to be kind, gentle and thoughtful when I am dealing with other people. My words and actions are important and can have more power than I know or intend. I don’t want to be the cause of injury, no matter how small those nicks and scrapes may be. So here and now, I offer you a band aid and some ointment to help recover from an injury you may have received recently. I hope your small injuries heal completely without scar tissue because that can be a layer between you and joy.