In the room

Just enduring is hard. It is living, but not being alive. It wears us out. The more we endure, the more we get closer to the edge.

You don’t have to be suicidal to get help.  You don’t have to be standing on the ledge. Just being in the room with the open window is enough.

It might help to call and talk to someone who knows how to hear what you are going through in a way that can help. You can’t lose anything by calling – and you might gain a lot – like a new perspective. The person on the other end of the line might know of something that you could do or some resource that will open things up.

Here is the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-8255.  There is someone available to listen all the time. It is free and confidential. Please call.  You are important.

Play

I like to play the piano. And when I say “play”, I don’t mean perform. I like to do something I call “noodle doodle”. I don’t have a particular place to go or a particular song I’m trying to re-create. I just enjoy moving my fingers around on the keys and listening to what happens.
How do songs get created? Just like this. Not by trying to perform other people’s compositions. Instead of re-creating Beethoven’s music, I’m creating Betsy’s music.
There is something interesting about how music is taught these days. We are taught how to play other people’s music rather than discovering our own. We are taught the basics of how to operate the instrument and then given sheet music (another skill to be learned) in order to perform someone else’s music. There are several skills that have to be learned before you can even begin to make music. Then there are the dreaded recitals, where you must perform in front of others.
Writing isn’t like this. We don’t expect writers to learn how to hold a pen and then have them copy out the text from “Dick and Jane” as a warm-up. We don’t have recitals where they handwrite or type some famous author’s work in front of an audience. With writing, you write what is in your head and heart. Playing a musical instrument should be the same.
For many people, a musical instrument inspires “blank page fear”. They see it and don’t know what to do. Where to start? Then what happens next? How will it sound? One way around that fear is to play when other people aren’t in the house so they can’t hear what you are doing. Another is to use headphones with an electric keyboard. You can delight in your discoveries all you want without worrying that other people are hearing everything, including the parts that don’t sound too great.
Playing music is like driving on a road without a map. You are guaranteed to find new places that you like. But you are also guaranteed to find a few dead-ends too, and you’ll have to back-track to get out. This isn’t a mistake – it is part of the process. Give yourself the permission to play and discover your own song.

Poem – It isn’t them

Don’t blame other people
for your problems.
Don’t expect other people
to rescue you
either.

They are not
the cause
or the cure.

Your choices
determine your reality.
Things happen
that are beyond your control
but your reaction
is within it.

What you do or don’t do
is your choice.
How you respond
in thought, word, and deed
is your choice.

Take ownership
of your life
and take
your own life
back.
It was yours
all along
after all.

Begin again

When we are raised with abusive or neglectful parents, we learn maladaptive coping mechanisms. When we grow up, we often unconsciously continue those habits, reflexively acting, mindlessly being. With the new life that is offered to us through Jesus, we can begin again, with a new Parent in God, who loves us unconditionally and without measure. We can learn how to act in new healthy ways, rather than being stuck in our old mindless habits. Jesus calls us to a new life of being awake and fully alive and present in every moment. This is the promise of new life in Jesus – a slate wiped clean, a chance to start again. No longer are we slaves to our past. No longer are we consigned to repeat our actions, over and over, flinching from blows that no longer come.

Be fierce (poem)

Owning your life
without fear
is a lot of work
for anybody.

It requires
a lot of energy
to get past
the immense gravity of
inertia.

But – the downside
of not living
an authentic life
(meaning the life You
were called to live,
not the one others
think you
should live)

is to slowly sink
into the morass
of an empty and
meaningless
existence.

There is hope after diagnosis

A guy came into my workplace yesterday, obviously experiencing the mania that comes with unmanaged mental dis-ease. He was raving about conspiracy theories and the Temple Mount – said he was even frisked by the police in the Holy Land just 50 days ago.

Little does he realize but I speak Crazy fluently, being a citizen of that country. I’ve also taken classes and read books on how to safely interact with people who are on the edge of “dealing with it”. I enjoyed the challenge of the conversation, but was also reminded of how far I’ve come.

Today is marks the 17 year anniversary of the last time I was in a mental hospital. There is hope after a diagnosis. Since I started taking care of myself, I’ve had the same job for 16 years, I’ve been married for 12, I’ve published four books and I have excellent credit. You can have a mental disorder and be fine – with proper care (a lot of it is self-care).

Like many people, I went through the trap of thinking it was a temporary thing and got off the meds (which weren’t good for anyone anyway – they no longer prescribe the one I took) and went off the deep end again. I went to the hospital again (both times self-initiated) and got on different meds that gave me clarity so I could start taking care of myself. It is hard to be “normal” when the high is so vivid and interesting. Everything is connected. Life is 31 flavors when high with mania – but only vanilla when “normal”. I’ve learned how to be in the middle.

A lot has to do with getting enough exercise, eating right, and enough sleep. Writing helps me a lot. But Americans aren’t into self-care for anything – do whatever you want and damn the consequences – and blame them on someone else. This is true with every disease we have.

The only way out is to –

admit that there is a problem,

that it won’t fix itself,

that it is chronic (think heart disease, not the flu),

and that you have a lot you can do to help yourself get better. It isn’t all about the meds – but they are important.  Look through my “Survival” book list for books that will help you help yourself.

 

Most of all – remember that a diagnosis is not a definition.  You are a person who has a mental health diagnosis.  You aren’t the disease.

 

 

Poem – healing in darkness

Consider Noah and Jonah and Jesus.
At one point, each was separated
from the rest of the world.
Through their time away
hidden they were able
to heal and bring salvation.

Also Joseph,
he was in prison for many years
but that put him in the right place
to be able to rescue the entire Jewish people
from certain extinction.

There is something for us
about these stories of people
retreating from the world
in order to save the world.
They are enclosed
in quiet dark places
they are like seeds
waiting for the right time
for bringing new life.

Remember when you are in
those dark times.
You are not being buried.
You’re being planted.

Everything starts in darkness.
It is not an end.
It is a transition
time to change
a time of stilling yourself
for something new to come.
Go into those times mindfully
and with rejoicing.