As many of you know, I struggle with a lack of motivation, and I’m not a big fan of self-help or pop psychology to deal with this issue. I have found a morning and bedtime routine that helps me so much, though, and the whole thing would probably fall under the categories of self-care or pop psychology. I find this amazing because I normally stick to psychiatry as a way of dealing with my symptoms.
I bought seven books ( I will list them at the end of this post) all designed either to increase productivity, increase happiness, or to increase creativity. Each of them is available on Amazon.
Every morning, I work through one exercise in each of the six books, and then I do one book before bed. I recently added a color meditation to my morning routine where I sketch a color picture for 15-30 minutes a day as well.
The progress I have made in productivity and generating ideas for writing is significant. It used to be on a bad day, or low productivity day I wouldn’t get anything done. I would spend the whole day watching news and scrolling through social media with a little reading of essays and blogs thrown in. Now, even if I have a low productivity day, I can tell myself at least I did a sketch, a writing exercise, and six happiness/productivity exercises.
It isn’t much to brag about regarding accomplishing something, but the exercises do make me happier. So many of the exercises are about generating gratitude lists, thinking about things you enjoy, listing your favorite foods, or scents, etc. All these things get me to think about things that are positive. I rarely think about schizophrenia while I am doing my exercises. And each night I go to bed on a happy note having filled out the page about how my day was epic (it is an epic journal).
I am trying so hard to get my life on track and be a productive and contributing member of society as well as experience as few symptoms as possible. The only other thing I have added to my day is taking two to three short walks outside. I read a study that people who left their technology at home and took a walk every day making an effort to notice the trees, the houses, the birds, the flowers, etc. showed a significant and verifiable increase in their well being. So far, I use the time to call family members, so I am getting the exercise and the fresh air but not the benefit of noticing my surroundings (I’m working on it!)
Below is a list of the books I am using in this experiment. My new routine takes commitment to try to overcome symptoms and live a more productive life. For someone like me who lacks motivation, this seems like an impossible task, but honestly, after doing it for a month, I wouldn’t give it up. It makes a huge difference in my attitude, my wellness, and my days. I’m not giving up my medication or my doctors, but I might need less help managing my anxiety and other symptoms.
642 Things to Write About
Life by Design: 52 Lists, Questions, and Inspirations for Finding Your Happiness
How to be Happy (or at Least Less Sad)
52 Lists for Happiness
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration
Every Day is Epic
Well, 2018 has started as a mixed bag. I have a pinched nerve in my back, and my husband has had a nasty cough since before Christmas. On the positive side of things, we have already volunteered for an event that benefited our favorite non-profit, and today we were able to buy a homeless man a Venti Frappuccino (his choice) at Starbucks. Other than our ailments, the year is starting off great – generosity and service are two things I want more of this year, and we got an early start on them.
When I was volunteering at the event on Monday, I worked next to a woman I had never met before. During the concert, the two of us talked. She said she was fired from her job of fifteen years because of an “arrogant” pastor. When I complimented a woman on her outfit, the woman I was working side by side with said, “I don’t care about clothes. I gave away all my dresses and good clothes. I just don’t care.” And when I told her that the non-profit I was representing serves two meals a week to low income and homeless people she said all she could afford is two meals a day and, “Today I chose gas. I filled up the car instead.”
When a man came up who was enthusiastic about talking to us, she said, “Well, he sure likes to talk,” as he walked away. After spending an hour with her, it occurred to me that she is a bitter person. I am sure it is horrible only to be able to afford two meals a day and to have to choose gas over food. Those things are admittedly difficult and sad. But her negative attitude went beyond a scarcity of money. For example, it seemed to bother her when I complimented that other woman on her clothes. What harm does it do to compliment someone else? Why feel negative about someone else receiving something good?
Then it occurred to me, there are times when I feel sorry for myself (oh poor me), but I rarely, if ever, feel bitter. Have I had an easy life? Compared to some people, yes, even though I have experienced domestic violence, addiction, and schizophrenia, I still have an easy life compared to some people. We can all compare our lives to others, and we will find many who have had it easier than us and many who have had it far worse. That is not unusual, that is life. But how we handle the problems we face is what matters.
Even though I have a severe mental illness, I try to make the best out of my situation. Some days are extremely tough, some weeks are difficult, and I have had terrible years. But even with all of that, I was so happy to wake up this morning, and I am thrilled that I can type this blog. I have always been a person that finds pleasure in the little things, and that has kept me from becoming old before my time and from being seen as someone who is bitter.
Let’s try to leave bitter as a reference to the cold weather (there is currently a bitter cold sweeping the East), rather than have it refer to our attitude. I know it is cliché – the attitude of gratitude, but it can make all the difference in how we feel when the tough stuff comes our way.
I read an article two weeks or so ago about self-care and how it isn’t about a manicure or pedicure or a bubble bath. How real self-care is about getting yourself to the doctor, dentist, making a budget and sticking to it, and all manner of adult things that make our lives run smoothly.
I feel like much of my life is self-care (not overlooking my husband’s role in my care). I have to eat at a certain time for my medication to work. I have to watch my food intake, so I don’t gain too much more weight. I have to watch my sugar, so I don’t develop diabetes. I have to get my blood pressure checked regularly. I have to keep my weight down because of high cholesterol. All of these things are side effects of my medication, and there is more – checking my liver for damage, etc.
There are things about being an adult that brings me a sense of comfort, stability, and pleasure. The same type of feeling that is used most commonly when people talk about self-care, but with what I am referring to it fits more under the way the author of that article meant self-care. One of those things is grocery shopping. I love grocery shopping. My husband and I usually go to the store once per week, sometimes we make a list and sometimes we just wing it.
I love picking out my food for the week and stocking up on things we use regularly. I also like to buy myself treats. This time of year, tea is a big thing for me. During the spring and summer I don’t drink tea after dinner, but during the fall and winter, I drink it almost every night.
When we get home, and we have 24 rolls of toilet paper, twelve rolls of paper towels, a pound of coffee, a few boxes of my favorite cereal, and all the fruits and veggies and cheese we will eat for a week, I feel secure. I feel comfortable. I feel safe. Yes, I even feel happy. (We don’t use that much toilet paper or paper towels in a week, but when we buy them we get enough for a long time.)
Finding the little things in life that contribute to my well-being is important. Knowing that I feel the best with a full refrigerator, full pantry and full cupboards mean I will make an effort to go grocery shopping once a week. The same is true of my medications. When I have one to two weeks left of medication, I order it from the pharmacy. I never want to create a feeling of panic or an emergency over a lack of medication.
I know these things are simple, but not all of our treatment or those things that keep us well have to be super complicated.
I’m into the little things. I am. Those little things add up to mountains (and little things can be both positive or negative), and I for one want to be prepared for the terrain.
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.
At times I feel sorry for myself, because not only do I have a mental illness, but I have to deal with the health risks of medications, as well as, weight gain and lack of motivation. Everyone with a mental illness who is on medication can relate to what I am talking about. You probably have to get your liver, kidneys, sugar, cholesterol, and for some of us, our hearts, checked on a regular basis. These things add to an already stressful life and situation.
But the health risks don’t damage self-esteem like the weight gain does.
When I had my last medication change my weight went up to 178 pounds. I was at that weight for a while before I couldn’t take the way I looked or the impact the extra weight was having on my body like sore knees and chaffing when I walked.
I went on a diet for a year and lost 53 pounds. At 125, I was so thin, and so happy. I stayed at 125 for a couple of years, and then gradually I started to put the weight back on. I gained 25 pounds.
I know I am not fat, but I have a roll of skin around my waist, and everything about me is bigger. I don’t like it at all. So, I started back on a diet again. Losing weight on medication is not for the weak willed. It is difficult, it is slow, and it takes a great deal of discipline. Also, I noticed I am in a better mood when I put more food into my body. When I eat less, I am cranky far more often. I notice that I snap at my husband for things that shouldn’t bother me. I think blood sugar is something I am extremely sensitive to.
So, hopefully, if I can stay disciplined over the next 25 weeks (approximately six months), then I will lose the weight I have gained back after my original diet.
Everything I just wrote is factual, but there is something else happening in my life in regard to beauty. I see physically beautiful women and men all the time, but I am not taken in by their looks. What I am taken in by in my life are people who can write or create something beautiful. I am taken in by the ability of people to reveal a part of their depth or soul. If someone can write words that help me travel their inner landscape, I find myself thinking that person is beautiful in a way appearances don’t touch.
I have never fell in love with someone based on their appearance, and I have never befriend someone for their looks either. I think I have always been able to see more than what someone has displayed on the outside, but what I am experiencing now is a whole new definition of beauty and I do desire to be close to it, to experience it, to know it in a way that physical beauty has never drawn me in.
So while I am trying to get my weight back down to where I am comfortable, I am not preoccupied with it, or shaming or hating myself for the body I live in. I know what kind of food will make me truly beautiful and it has nothing to do with eating. It is the kind of nourishment I give to my soul and to my art. It is the time I spend alone trying to discover what lives inside of me and how to bring those jewels out into the light.
I know it is hard to gain weight, especially as a consequence of taking care of yourself by taking your medications, but try not to be hard on yourself. I see your beauty every time I get a glimpse of what lives in the inner most regions of you.
Those dark spaces that you shed light on are beautiful. I love seeing you.
I hate to admit it, but sometimes I feel sorry for myself.
On a day that I have a panic attack, or an episode of the mysterious fatigue that occasionally overwhelms me, along with a breast cancer scare (I have had two), or if we have to deal with termites, or a leak in the roof, I can start to feel down.
I ask the question out loud, “Isn’t schizophrenia enough? Do I have to deal with health issues and other stressors too?”
Then something happens like a gentle reminder from heaven, that actually, I’ve got it quite good. In fact, I have it better than good, I’ve got it great.
Yesterday, I went to the lab to have my blood checked. A side effect of the antipsychotics I am on is high cholesterol, high sugar, and damage to the liver and kidneys, so I need to get my blood checked at least every six months.
I arrived at the hospital early (the lab opens at 7:30 AM on Sundays). There were already two people in front of me. The woman at the desk was having difficulty with her computer so people continued to come and a line of six or seven of us formed.
At first I just thought everyone was talkative, but then my husband and I quickly figured out that all of the people waiting in line knew each other. It turns out they get their blood drawn every Sunday, because all of them had kidney transplants. One man had a kidney and pancreas transplant and was positive for HIV.
As we moved from the check-in line to the waiting room, we listened to these people talk. All of them were on thirty or more medications. They had to take some of their pills three hours before eating, some an hour after eating, some twelve hours apart.
They all talked about the person who donated their kidney so they could live. One man’s brother had donated his kidney, but everyone else had received a kidney from someone who had died. They talked about how that bothered them, and how they all wanted to have some form of communication with the families of the donor.
By the time my husband and I left that lab we were thanking God for our lives, our troubles, our ailments, our difficulties and struggles.
When we got home, I opened an inspirational book that my husband wrote for me and gave me for Christmas. It said, “Your worst situation is still better than someone else’s best situation.”
Today, I am grateful. I am thankful. Even though all of the people at the lab had to go to the doctor regularly, take dozens of pills, watch their diets, etc. they were all happy to be alive. I am happy to be alive. Life is beautiful, and I’m going to live it!