It’s been a minute since I’ve posted something on this blog. I apologize for my absence, but life has been full. Well, it’s been mostly full, and partially lazy. Full in the sense that my youngest was in the hospital with RSV around the time of my last post at the same time my family was in town, then we headed down to Southern California to attend my BFF’s wedding, and then we returned home to prepare for two separate milestone birthdays for my two eldest. Lazy in the sense that I have managed to make my daily naps a priority. My two youngest will only allow this to happen for so much longer, so I feel a duty to myself to embrace any opportunity to sleep. When I haven’t been sleeping, nor tending to my kiddos, I’ve been wondering what I could do for myself to feel more fulfilled in my daily life. Continue reading
The conclusion of my Mental Illness Awareness Series is centered around thoughts and lessons I have learned in the time since the previously shared manuscript was written, which was two years ago. I wanted to touch on some feelings regarding my mental illness, my continued struggle with needing medication, the added benefits I’ve enjoyed from a changed diet and exercise, and the importance of finding the right therapist. Continue reading
Welcome back for Part 4 of my Mental Illness Awareness Series. Today I am sharing the final portion of the manuscript, which you can get background information on at the beginning of my Part 1 post. As explained in Part 2, this was originally written for women with Christian beliefs, particularly Latter-day Saint women. My hope is that you will find this post helpful regardless of your religious background.
I have not made any changes to the original manuscript, which was completed two years ago, making my battle with mental illness close to ten years now. It’s hard to believe I have struggled with this for so long, but each year I have greater insight. I look forward to sharing my current feelings next week, as a follow-up to this final portion of the manuscript. Continue reading
Today I am sharing part two of my Mental Illness Awareness Series, which is the continuation of my journey with mental illness. Background information can be found in my previous post from this series. The short story is that the following is taken from my portion of an unpublished manuscript that was designed to bring increased understanding of mental illness. Continue reading
I have become a bit of a recluse lately, which has left me with far less inspiring experiences to share and a bit of a curmudgeon attitude. I have a list of things I would like to get done, but no motivation to do them. I have a list of activities that would usually make me happy with little desire to pursue them. I feel like I have this unquenchable thirst with my life right now. There’s nothing “wrong,” except for maybe me. I’m definitely unsatisfied with me. It’s not a self-loathing kind of dissatisfied, it’s more of a stir-crazy dissatisfied. The kind of dissatisfaction that makes you want to shake yourself and say, “Snap out of it! We got a life to live!” Maybe that’s why a scripture that was referenced in church today struck me more than usual. As the scripture from the Book of Mormon was first read over the pulpit, the only words that I heard were, “press forward.”
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. – 2Nephi 31:30
You know those moments where someone says something that’s so simple you can hardly believe you didn’t piece it together before? I can think of one such moment off the top of my head, which happens to be another scriptural reference, this time from the Holy Bible.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. -Matthew 7:24-27
I remember someone once teaching from this scripture and pointing out that the storm comes upon both people. It doesn’t say that the wise man doesn’t get a storm because he built his house upon a rock, his home simply remains standing regardless of the storm. Well, duh, Sara, obviously. Not so obvious for me, back in the day. I somehow managed to skip the significance of the storm coming upon each of us regardless of our desire to follow Christ. Though, I was certainly aware that I was not living a trial-free life. It was just one of those moments where it opened up a greater understanding between the scriptures and my daily life.
Well, that was the case again today. When the speakers referenced the “press forward” scripture, they each focused on the significance of those words. They pointed out that pressing forward implies opposition. Well, duh, Sara, obviously. But I needed to hear it broken down in that way. I needed to hear that it’s not just about being steadfast in Christ, or having a perfect brightness of hope, or a love of God and of all men (though these are important). Sometimes it’s about pressing forward. It’s about pressing forward so that you can do all those other things that are asked of you. It’s about standing up against opposition in all parts of your life. Ironically, the thing that is standing in the way of me, as of late, is me.
I need to push back on myself. I need to force myself to do something that will edify me or those around me, even if I just feel bored with it all. Honestly, I have this list of things To-Do on my Task List app where I’ve started to ignore the first three items on the list. They’ve been on there so long that I don’t even acknowledge them as things that need completing. It’s pathetic. But it’s not just about items on my To-Do list, it’s about living life to the fullest. I need to press forward against all the many ways that I am holding myself back.
Coincidentally, as I was looking on my website for other posts where I mentioned the beauty of said Task List app, I found mention of it within my post Six Ways to Get Motivated. I’ve been steadily accomplishing items #5 and #6, but it’s time to amp up my game on the first four ways to improve my efforts in pressing forward.
As always, I would love feedback from your personal experiences. What motivates you to press forward against the opposition in your life, whatever it may be? I know, for me, managing to complete a post (I have several unfinished ones in my queue) has actually lifted my spirits this evening. It may be a small accomplishment, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.
Okay, so I have sat staring at a blank screen long enough. It’s time to Just Begin. I have a lot of thoughts running through my head and I’m struggling to get them from head to print. It’s an issue that’s been plaguing me for some time. It got particularly bad right after my surgery this past November. My guess is that the anesthesia had a role in the brain fog. But then I got to thinking about how there has been a piece of me missing ever since I had my Stroke of Luck. It’s nothing drastic, but there has been a barrier that I have felt when trying to have thoughts at a deeper level. I’m sure there is a word for it, but, ironically, I wouldn’t be able come up with it anyway. This realization was a secondary reason for me taking a bit of a hiatus on the blog. I stopped liking what I was putting out, because I wasn’t able to transfer my thought process into sufficient words. Honestly, I still feel at odds with my writing, but I also feel that itch I get when writing is the only outlet that can scratch it. So, here I am.
Topics that have been on my mind include: the shame I feel having a mental illness that requires prescription medication, the paradox of motherhood, life on survival mode, humbling myself, making sure I’m making the most out of this time in my life, and my struggle with distorted thinking. Seeing as how the latter is the easiest matter for me to express, let’s start there.
When I started this blog, at the encouragement of a friend, I was telling her how I wanted to talk about all the things I learned in therapy about my distorted thinking. She kept saying that the term wasn’t clear enough and therefore needed some tweaking. So, let me start by sharing what I believe to be the best analogy for distorted thinking. Imagine you have a kaleidoscope with loads of pretty gems in it. If you took the kaleidoscope outside on a beautiful day and looked at flowers, it would distort the natural beauty of the flowers. It would still have its own beauty, since the kaleidoscope was filled with pretty gems, but it’s distorted nonetheless. Now imagine you have a kaleidoscope with coal and dirt in place of gems. How do you envision those flowers looking as you gaze through the kaleidoscope of filth? Now imagine your thought process was continually looking through that same dirt-filled kaleidoscope. That is what my thought process did, for years, with several aspects of my life. I still catch myself battling it, but I was taught methods, in therapy, to recognize and squelch that way of thinking when it resurfaces.
Some people think that therapy is a place they go to for a quick fix or, worse, a place where they can figure out who to blame from their childhood for their distorted thinking or lot in life. I’m not saying that our childhoods don’t have an impact on our lives and who we become, they most certainly do. However, I find that successful therapy is achieved upon acknowledging things that have happened, moving past them, and working, truly working, on the here and now of the problem. Even if there was a source from my childhood for my acquired distorted thought process, what good would have come from placing blame? For me, the solution came in getting to the root of the problem and allowing myself to grow, not hunting down the planter and yelling at them for not planting me in optimal sunlight. I use the term “planter” loosely, not as an analogy for a parent or any one person, but as a source beyond my control. The healthiest way to make emotional progress is to be accountable for your actions, and realize there is no quick fix.
At the time when I was sincerely ready to attend therapy, I had to address the fact that some of what I felt jaded about was not really even happening. For instance, in my mind, any compliment given to me was only out of obligation or a form of manipulation. Somehow I couldn’t take a compliment as a sincere gesture of someone’s amiable feelings towards me. How could I feel good about myself when I wouldn’t even accept that there was good in me? The flip side to this is when, someone really did think less of me, and I automatically took their thoughts as truth. My worth is not dependent on another’s set of ideals, and yet somehow I still struggle to think of it as such. It’s this way of distorted thinking that has left me feeling shame for my mental illness and my use of medications for proper treatment. However, that topic is for a whole other day.
For today, I think the message I want to send out into the world is simply to become aware of distorted thoughts that you may be having, perhaps unknowingly, and try to debunk them so that they do not consume you. Also, don’t let your worth be dependent on another’s set of ideals. And, lastly, progress can be made, but First You Must Begin. This post would not have come to pass, if I hadn’t simply begun and let my thoughts land where they may.
**As a footnote, I’d like to add my advice when it comes to attending therapy. Please don’t assume that if you went once and it was horrible that it will always be that way. I have sat down in front of six separate psychologists, starting as early as 11-years-old, and only ONE proved fruitful in my healing process. Three of those six were so terrible that I couldn’t even bear to go back and sit through that kind of misery a second time. I am a huge advocate of therapy, and I believe each of us can benefit from seeing a psychologist. It is not a sign of weakness, mental illness, nor anything of the like. It is a sign of someone desiring to be a better version of themselves. Don’t be discouraged if you have had bad experiences in therapy. We meet loads of people in our lives, some become friends, some don’t. Similarly we are able to connect with people in their chosen professions and within the services they provide. Recently, I had a dreadful session with a therapist, but I will not let that experience keep me from finding the right fit. While I was previously given several tools to help me with my distorted thinking, I know that I stand in need of a refresher course. Too bad that ONE psychologist that provided me with those saving tools resides in Southern California. WAAAHHHH!!!!**
I truly enjoy reading books with my children. This should come as no surprise after my Read to Your Child post. Picture books with a good message are my weakness. One of my favorites is a Cautionary Tale of Flattery called The Spider and the Fly. On my last trip to the library, I had the pleasure of finding Elephant in the Dark. Prior to reading it, I knew nothing of this book nor the story it was based on, which is commonly called “Blind men and an elephant.” It’s truly a fascinating perspective, and ironically, once I explain the gist of the story, it has several different interpretations.
There are several variations of the story, as I’ve learned from my Google research. Seeing as how the version of Elephant in the Dark by Mina Javaherbin is the one that piqued my interest, I’ll summarize her version the best I can. The story begins with Merchant Ahmad, who brings a mysterious creature back from India. The news spreads in the village and everybody wants to see the creature, but Ahmad is too tired from his journey, and explains that it is too dark in his barn to see the animal at this time. The villagers, not taking no for an answer, decide to sneak into the barn and take a look for themselves. One by one, they go in, and each of them touches a different part of the elephant (a tail, a tusk, a trunk, etc.). Since they each only touched one part of it, they come back out reporting the creature was like something completely different from what another person had declared. Then it reads, “All day long they called each other names and fought to prove each other wrong. Into the night no one listened, but everyone shouted and shoved.” Then, the next day Ahmad awakes and takes the creature to the river, which we now see is an elephant, but the villagers are still too busy fighting to see the creature appear. The last line reads, “And no one noticed they each knew only a small piece of the truth.”
As I finished reading Elephant in the Dark, I concluded that every adult needs to read this book. My Facebook has become so cluttered with who’s right and who’s wrong, that it’s disheartening. I realize you already heard my rant on this topic in Accentuate the Positive, but this book just brought it to the forefront of my mind again. It also reminded me of this quote I read by the US Secretary of Agriculture and 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson. He said, “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.” Religious or not, the idea that being right is more important than the whole truth gets us nowhere as a society.
Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have an adamant opinion on all things. Starting this blog made that more evident in my life. I knew if I had a more extreme opinion on a matter, I could draw a larger audience. Shock factor sells, right? At first I thought I was just too ignorant to form an opinion on hot topics. Then I realized, it’s that I can see where others are coming from, for the most part. I’m not perfect in this way by any means. But I would like to believe that I don’t just go into the barn, feel one part of the mysterious creature, and assume I know all based on that single instance. I have opinions on all sorts of things, don’t get me wrong, but I also understand that it’s my opinion. Some of my opinions have facts to back them up, some don’t. The last thing I want to do though is ever express my opinion in such a way that demeans somebody else’s viewpoint. I don’t want to fight about who is right. I’m okay with learning more about the whole creature. But, I’m also okay with being considered wrong in someone else’s eyes. On that same note, I’m also okay being wrong in my own eyes. For me, it’s not about who is right, but what is right. Because of that thinking process, I’m not afraid to learn more. I want to understand the whole creature. Period.
I love one of the interpretations of this story, made into a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet,which Elephant in the Dark is based on. Rumi’s poem ends with, “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear.” I think of that line and wonder what our world would look like under those circumstances. I imagine, as it pertains to this story, we would all be unified in understanding it was an elephant, but we would still have our opinions on the creature. Perhaps one person would find the elephant ugly, and another would find it breath-taking, but both would agree it was an elephant. Neither person needs to be wrong in their feelings towards the elephant. We can respect differing interpretations of the creature, while simultaneously agreeing that there is a greater truth that there is no disputing.
Oh, how I hope I was able to express my feelings on Elephant in the Dark and it’s greater meaning. The concept was over my toddler’s head, as I read the book to him. But, I’ve found myself reading it over and over on my own. There is much to take away and ponder about this story. Take a moment and reflect on the story, if you have some time. I would love to hear other’s feelings on the matter.