Archives for posts with tag: ACT

Eat less or exercise? Personally, I have to do both. It’s non-negotiable. If I get less exercise, still keep my caloric intake well-managed (and low) and eat healthy food, I gain weight anyway. If I get plenty of exercise, but make poor nutritional choices, I also gain weight. If I eat a poor quality diet, don’t manage my calories closely, and also don’t get sufficient exercise, I not only gain weight, I gain a lot of weight, and I pack on the pounds fast. Some medications cause me to gain weight, too; that’s something I reliably find out the hard way. So… eat less or exercise? I don’t get to choose, I’ve got to do both. 🙂

There are quite a few things in life that we sometimes get snared viewing as a choice between options, when, actually, it’s a choice to change, or not to change; all the options involving change may be required to make change occur in the direction we’d specifically like to see. Real-life doesn’t tend to negotiate with our whims.

Emotion, and the skillful management and expression of strong emotion, specifically, has some things in common here, with a twist; incremental change over time is super slow, but our emotions jump to the head of any queue, lead every moment, and arrive to every party too early. So sure, it’s reasonable, and true, for someone mid-freak out to have the recognition and understanding that their experience is based on “irresistible” internal forces beyond their immediate control; strong emotion, particularly powerful emotions like rage, frustration, and sorrow, can erupt from within us, sweeping over us, taking away our sense of control, and eventually leading to regrettable words and actions. The “I’m sorry”s begin to pile up (if you are that decent sort who regrets treating others badly). So do the rationalizations (about hormones, childhoods, provocation, circumstances…).

It’s also quite true that our behavior is a choice. Yes, all of it. Yes, pretty much all the time, every time. The first time someone lashes out with an act of violence, they might get by with “I didn’t know” or an expression of astonishment that they could be provoked to that point, but second times? Third times? Times that occur after someone – anyone – has pointed out that’s not okay? Yeah, those are choices. Yielding to strong emotion and relinquishing control over behavior is a choice (unless maybe you are profoundly mentally ill and urgently in need of inpatient treatment). Well, if that’s also true, is everyone who ever treated a loved one poorly, or punched a wall, or lashed out with horrible words deeply mentally ill and urgently in need of treatment? Some of them probably are! Most of them likely are not. That they are choosing such behaviors is still a choice, and they could choose differently, and no you can’t “make them” change, and omg – if they decide to change themselves, that is a process that can be infernally slow, fraught will failures, and varying results.

…And before we can change ourselves through our willful choices in the direction of being our best selves, we actually need to 1. be aware that we would like to be other than we are, and 2. understand that change is possible, chosen, and must be practiced. It’s a lot to hold onto. It’s a lot of work. The practice has to come ahead of the need to be changed. It’s necessary both to feel, and to practice our best behavior under the stress of an “emotional load”. We’ve got to do both. It’s work that will have to be done in the face of real-time failures, disappointed frustrated loved ones, relationships that don’t make it through the process, friendships that end because it turns out some of them were invested in what is being changed. It’s work that is continuous and ongoing. Change is a verb – and you have choices.

Another school shooting. I read about it and can’t help but wonder where so many people have gotten the idea that their anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other emotional experience, entitles them to take a life – any life. Where did that come from? How long has this toxic seed been part of our culture? Did the shooter understand this is unacceptable behavior? If he did understand that, and chose to do it anyway, where did he get the idea that this is a course of action appropriate to his emotional experience? Why do so few people understand what poison their “righteous anger” actually is? Even otherwise good-hearted people can be drawn into making the most outrageously hateful statements about the value of another life (don’t read the comments on the internet, People, I’m just saying there’s an astonishing amount of rationalized hate out there), given the opportunity to frame that other human being as a bad guy of some kind. We most commonly succumb to hate due to a lack of empathy… I don’t know how to fix that for the world, or my nation. I’m still working on it for me – one practice at a time. Changing myself is within my control; I have choices.

Time to begin again.

My mind rarely really rests. When I sleep I often dream vividly, rich in detail, color, emotion, and confusingly real-seeming. When I am awake, driving, shopping, handling some task or another, I am often also “writing” poetry or blog posts – that rarely see publication, having inconveniently become more than my limited memory buffer can store. It’s a continuous internal lecture or conversation with myself. Pause a human being in front of me, chances are I will, at some point, begin to do something rather like attempting to make conversation, but with such high risk of becoming a monologue that eventually, I am likely just chattering away without purpose or focus, or worthy content, even if I actually wanted to sit and read quietly, or work. Not talking when I don’t want to talk requires practice.

I like living alone for something besides the “solitude” (which can, I admit, occasionally become lonely); I like it for the “cognitive stillness” and emotional ease. I like it for the cognitive rest I am now able to get, at least now and then, with so much less work to reach that quiet place.

I have a pretty firm, well-established meditation practice. Meditation has helped me build emotional resilience, a calm “center” I can return to with relative ease, and a certain chill something or other which has made life considerably more pleasant, less volatile, less chaotic, and enduringly characterized by contentment. I don’t know that I would call myself “happy”; it’s not a word I’m so prone to using, at all, these days. It’s a mental magic trick that makes more people unhappy than happy to be focused on the pursuit of that elusive beast as a goal, so I stopped doing that. I don’t “pursue” contentment either; I build it. I build it sustainably on healthier choices, and healthier practices. I have been regularly surprised by how much of the forward progress has been entirely dependent on my own decision making, and my own actions.

Meditation did not “cure” my PTSD, or “fix” my injured brain. Meditation is, however, a reliably good practice for improving my day-to-day experience of my life, and that’s enough heavy lifting for one practice, surely. 🙂

It’s a busy brain, broken or not. I wrote 3, maybe 4, really fantastic blog posts in the past 24 hours – in my head. Catchy titles, engaging and amusing openers, fanciful plays on words with layered meaning… gone at the next annoying intersection, or distracting other moment. lol I woke with a completed utterly beautiful bit of poetry in my head at 3 am, got up to pee, forgot what I was thinking on my way back to bed. This morning, upon waking for the day, I have only the recollection that it ever existed at all still remaining. I play “Tribute” in tribute, and giggle over my coffee; these moments of creativity, lost, forgotten, omitted, or overwritten, litter my life experience. I can’t take them personally after so long. lol

A new day begins. So do I. Another day to write, to love, to feel, to practice – to live.

I’m awake. Showered. Dressed. Sipping coffee in the usual ordinary sort of way. My day begins relatively gently, and I am eager to return to the office this morning. (I kind of have to write that sentence down, right there, to record factually that indeed I am looking forward to going to work, because I’m not sure that’s a sentence I use very often, or a feeling that is especially common over the entire course of my life, and I want to enjoy the moment.)

I am, for most values of “feeling better”, feeling better. 😀

As with any other sort of subjective state of being, it’s an individual perspective, right? I’ve still got some sinus drainage. Still have some soreness of throat. Still have the cough (which may well linger through the holidays). None of those things are what they were. The cough is seldom, and not as bad, and the sore throat and sinus drainage are also minor. I’m not overwhelmed by fatigue. I don’t have a headache. I’m not shivering while wrapped in blankets in a warm room (very not; the heat is set to “don’t let the house freeze” over night, and I’m just wearing work clothes, not even a sweater, and quite comfortable). I’m work-ready, though, and ready to work. 😀

I’m also super glad I now commute by car, even if distracted drivers keep tapping my fucking bumper at stop lights on an almost monthly basis; I’m well for most values of well, but… I’m not up to walking a mile to catch a bus on a cold morning. Not yet.

Taking care of this fragile vessel is an interesting balancing act. Long-term care means holding down a job and preparing for future retirement… short-term care may require taking time away from work to care for my health right now.

Mental health care works similarly. There is a balance between long-term wellness and urgent care needs to find. There is a balance between addressing issues that are destroying personal perspective and quality of life, and those that degrade relationships with others. A friend struggling with a loved one’s seeming lack of “acceptable” progress, which she feels is required to feel safe in the relationship, doesn’t seem to understand that being in therapy, for the mentally ill loved one, isn’t about that. It’s about saving their own actual life, their experience of living, their quality of life and ability to live and thrive – on their own terms – and achieve mental and emotional wellness – for themselves. I mean, sure. I know when I went into treatment, and this is every time, ever, I definitely wanted to preserve and heal the relationships my condition had affected…but… not at the expense of succeeding to become well, myself. Mental health therapy is for the person seeking treatment – and it’s not about “fixing” that person according to any criteria or standard aside from that determined by the treatment seeking mentally ill person and their therapist. Period. End of stakeholder meeting. Fuck right off if you think you get to insert yourself and your pet concerns into that process to exert influence over a treatment plan intended to achieve reasonable emotional wellness because you have an outcome in mind. Fuck right off indeed – and then go get your own god-damned therapist and take care of your own god-damned needs. lol Seriously, people. “My partner is in therapy” does not equate to “my partner is rebuilding themselves per my specifications”. Just stop and hey, maybe actually support the general emotional wellness of your partner, yourself, and your relationship by being kind, compassionate, listening deeply, and accepting that you, yourself, have your own baggage – and may need your own help. Your partner can not be your therapist, and their therapy is not about you.

Sorry. That’s a bit of a rant there. I’ve just been through it in too many partnerships. The “concerned” questions that mask a hidden agenda. The probing about what is going on in therapy. The lack of willingness to actually participate or seek help, while pushing the full weight of all the issues of a relationship onto the mentally unwell partner because they are unwell, rather than be accountable for some portion of the dynamic. The clear drive to push an agenda into therapy content. The disapproval of selected therapist or treatment modality because it doesn’t meet the needs of the person not even seeking help in the first place. The indirect arguments with a therapist who’s not even in the room if those pesky probing questions are met with openness and trust, but the answers are uncomfortable. Fuck all that. Everyone has their own baggage, and very few people in relationships are “crazy alone” – the crazy becomes shared over time. If you are in therapy, yourself, it’s about you. That’s okay. It’s supposed to be. If your loved one is in therapy, be supportive without being invasive; it’s not about you. It just isn’t. Just fucking chill. (I know, I know, you feel out of control because you can’t control what your partner reveals to the therapist – maybe it is the “wrong” stuff, or not enough, or not “what matters”… and you still don’t get to call the shots, and it still isn’t about you, and you still need to go find something else to do with your time and let your partner handle their business.)

I breathe. I relax. Memories. Wow. I still carry around some pain and some anger about an ex who worked very hard to “guide” my treatment in therapy, with some degree of success, to my detriment – over time I ended up becoming progressively much worse. I’m glad I am out of that relationship. Turned out that mattered a great deal and was an important positive change. Turns out it is still enough to ruffle my feathers when watching friends go through it from an outsider’s perspective. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of damned work. People seek therapy because they are hurting. Therapy itself is sometimes a process of feeling all the hurts until the hurts are processed and in perspective – that just doesn’t even sound pleasant, and it isn’t at all. It’s a process, and the tedium and strain and quantities of change and upheaval are not eased by attempting to interfere, that’s really what I’m saying. 🙂 (And, just to keep it real, I’m still working on plenty of my own issues – remember that whole “living alone” thing? Yeah. Therapy turns out to be muuuuch easier in that context. Much.)

It’s a new day. A good one for all manner of new beginnings, and starting things. Where will you take it? Will you use your human super powers for good or evil? Will you be listening deeply, or waiting for your turn to talk? Will you make taking care of yourself well and with great skill and compassion a high priority? Will you take one step to change the world for the better, yourself? Take a look around. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I woke three times, all three times feeling well-rested, the first two also entirely able and willing to return to sleep – so I did. 😀 It is Saturday, and I have succeeded in doing the one thing I did plan to do today; I got the rest I needed. 🙂

Good self-care is critical to my wellness. (Yours, too, probably.) I used to suck at it completely, always over-compromising what it takes to be well and feel good by grabbing onto other experiences and choices, for…well… reasons. Reasons that seemed to make sense in the moment, but more often than not were excuses and rationalizations for “doing whatever I want” – or, actually, whatever someone else wanted. The cycle of exhaustion, meltdowns, and poor outcomes was so predictable that for many years I simply called the entire mess “hormones” and put that shit on my calendar without any particularly successful effort to mitigate or improve any of it (because… “hormones”… well… that shit can’t be fixed, though, right? Right??) (Actually, no. It turns out that conflating hormones, mental illness, a lack of emotional intelligence, poor self-care, and plain old-fashioned inconsiderate shitty behavior, assumption making, and personal bullshit leaves quite a lot of room for improvement… so… maybe rethinking your inconsiderate bullshit, at a minimum, is a good place to start? 😉 Just saying.)

I am watching, from a distance, as two relationships in my social network struggle with a partner’s mental illness. Both have been deeply committed loving relationships of decades of mutual affection, support, and shared family life. Both are struggling with the challenge of making love work, while also supporting a mentally ill person’s personal challenge with finding wellness, and juggling all the other elements of family life: work, kids, bills, grocery shopping, and even the assumptions of strangers and the well-meaning “help” and support of friends, sometimes less than ideally helpful, no doubt. (Been there.) It’s fucking hard to be mentally ill. It’s fucking hard to love someone who is mentally ill. The coping skills and rationalizations that allowed these relationships to succeed and perhaps even appear functional before mental illness finally prevented that from being a thing at all are reliably breaking down now that these mentally ill friends are seeking (and getting) treatment that may actually result in wellness. Their partners may not be much help at this point, and in fact, their hurts, anger, resentment, and emotional wellness concerns are reliably welling up and becoming problems that need to be managed. It’s when a mentally ill loved one begins the journey to wellness that everyone else’s rampant crazy bullshit comes to the forefront – along with the rationalizations, excuse-making, justifications, chronically incorrect and untested assumptions, and refusal to respect new boundaries and changes of behavior. It’s ugly and it’s hard. There are literally no “good guys”, and as soon as “the crazy one” begins to practice things that are more sane, the crazy on the other side of the relationship becomes apparent – often accompanied by utter refusal to acknowledge it, be accountable for it, accept it, or change it.

When people who are mentally ill seek treatment, find it, and begin their journey toward wellness, the first set back is often because within their once supportive network of friends and family (“I’m here for you!”) are people who are suddenly not so willing to “be there” if “there” turns out to include being aware of their own bullshit, and their continued commitment to a status quo that it turns out has favored them, and met certain needs that must now be met differently – in, oh, hey, some new healthy way. It’s hard. It’s hardest, frankly, on the mentally ill partner now responsible not only for staying focused on treatment, but now this mentally unwell person struggling with their situation is suddenly also forced to have to provide support to the adult in the room who turns out to be less than ideally adult (and sometimes fully unwilling to even be aware of that).

It’s a see-saw, people. When we love someone with a mental health challenge, over time, we make room for some weird and possibly damaging bullshit that changes who we are, ourselves, a little at a time. When someone we love who is mentally ill seeks help, and begins to make real changes, on purpose, with the intent of becoming well – our own crazy is going to well up and fight back, and our failure to be observant and aware, and also take the very best care of ourselves, for real, is likely to be the first step on the path to seeing that relationship simply end. It will end in screaming tantrums, outrage, defensiveness, accusations, and generally – a lot of needless yelling. The cause I most commonly see as obvious and avoidable is that instead of partnerships fighting mental illness together, partners become adversaries and basically forget all about the actual issue being someone who is sick, and not able to be at their best, who needs help, support, consideration, and compassion.

Reminder: getting a diagnosis does not suddenly make someone who is mentally ill magically able to not struggle with mental illness. They can’t just point to a page in their handy “So you’re depressed?” handbook or their “The basics of living with PTSD” guide and go down a list of steps to “make it all better” for some other person. Fuck you. That’s sort of one of the limitations of being unwell; there is a fairly commonly implied inability to do all the things.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s fucking hard. I’m saying a great many relationships that end over mental illness don’t end because a partner is mentally ill – they end when that person seeks wellness and messes with the stable status quo that has allowed the “well” person certain… sanity privileges, that they must now give up in favor of dealing with their own unaddressed bullshit. No one in a relationship recovers from mental illness alone; everyone must deal with their bullshit. Everyone has bullshit.

When I hit that wall in my own relationship(s) I was fortunate. I chose to move into my own living space, and make a significant lifestyle change for a variety of reasons that overlapped in a useful way. I live alone. Sure, there’s bullshit, and I definitely trip over it frequently – and it’s all mine. My bullshit. My issues. My limitations. It’s also my home, my rules, my way; the failures are mine, and so are the successes. I was able to let go of my attachment to “being heard” by my partner(s), and able to comfortably take time to be heard by the woman in the mirror – because I could recognize, in the silence of solitary space, that this was in fact where the issue rested, for me. I was able to begin to sort out my bullshit from the bullshit in my relationships that wasn’t mine, and let go of trying to fix other people, or a relationship dynamic that was unavoidably damaged by my issues, and work on practicing healthier practices that support my own mental wellness… and having gained a measure of wellness, emotional resilience, and stability, then I could begin to tackle the complex challenges of “making things right” with emotionally hurt partner(s). Please note: I am not recommending my choices to anyone else. I am this person here, and my needs are what they are; I thrive living alone. You are likely someone else altogether, with different needs, and other choices may be preferable for you, personally. I’m just saying – achieving wellness may very well destroy existing relationships, and not through any failure of the mentally ill person, and in no way directly caused by their illness, but totally because they attempted to get well – and wellness did not meet the needs of that relationship. It’s totally a thing.

Prepare for change. Seeking mental health changes things. It’s a thing people know about.

Are you a “bad person” if you can’t stay in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill? I mean, you wouldn’t leave if they broke their leg, right? It’s a complicated question. Just as complicated as “Am I a bad person if I can’t stay in my relationship because my partner won’t respect new boundaries and changes in behavior as I improve my mental health?”

Helpful friends don’t feel any more comfortable than anyone else in the context of watching lovers struggle with mental health concerns. Everyone has their “good advice” to offer. People take sides without ever seeing the entirety of the dynamic. Also hard.

Every bit of all the hard stuff is 100% hardest on the person who is mentally ill, who is trying their damnedest to find emotional wellness – they are the one who is sick, people. I’m just saying. Seriously? Find some fucking perspective. Be there for a friend. Listen more than you talk, and refrain from making assumptions. Be encouraging. Be considerate. Be compassionate. If a relationship is struggling with mental illness, everyone is hurting, everyone is injured, everyone is struggling – and no one is the good guy; we’ve all got our own bullshit to deal with.

Two different relationships, two different sets of circumstances. I find myself fairly certain one relationship has already failed, and wondering if the other might manage to survive this; it’s in how they treat each other. In both cases, I see the mentally ill person doing what they must do to become well.

I notice that I have finished my second coffee, and my playlist just ended. It is a lush rainy Saturday, and I’ve got some important self-care to take care of; it’s been a long week, and I find that my own emotional wellness is very much tied to skilled self-care. 🙂 It’s time to get started on the practices that keep me well. Doing so, and staying committed to them, has changed my world, and also my relationships. I swallow one last bite of oatmeal, grateful my relationship with my Traveling Partner has endured my changes. Love matters most.

The commute yesterday was ugly. I was calm. People drove badly. I drove calmly. The trip home was slow, traffic density was high, and it was a hot, muggy day. I arrived home… still calm. New. Nice. It was almost a pleasant drive in spite of the shitty traffic and terrible driving behavior of some of the other drivers. This was not a coincidence, or serendipity; I built those moments myself, with mindful awareness, non-judgmental compassion, and frequent reminders that we each see ourselves at the hero of our internal narrative, generally, and are each having our own experience. That jackass ahead of me, weaving back and forth over the yellow line? Human. Like me. Probably trying to see ahead – past the large truck ahead of him. Perspective. (I was still super glad that he finally turned off that road, and it was most definitely a bit annoying to see him stray over that yellow line again and again, but my annoyance was my own to deal with, and literally nothing to do with him.) The entire drive passed in this fashion.

I got home. I spent the evening relaxing, doing a couple things around the house – but mostly relaxing. I may have needed that more than I understood; I also went to bed a tad early, and without reading, or meditating, or any sort of dilly-dallying, was fast asleep so quickly I didn’t have time to consider the day. I woke to the alarm, rested, and feeling mildly distracted, as if torn from a pleasant dream. It’s been a lovely morning. I’ve taken good care of this fragile vessel, and the day starts well. I think I’ve finally come to a comfortable decision about the change in my transportation resources (having a car) and what kind of commuting options I have (both the driving sort, and the transit sort), and I’m finally ready to update my budget and my planning with the necessary details.

This morning, adulting feels rather comfortable and natural. It’s a nice change. I smile and sip my coffee and enjoy the moment of acknowledgement, and the feeling of ease. My smile deepens as I allow the awareness that, yes, “this too will pass” – even the pleasant bits are really fairly temporary. Always were. It’s totally okay. They come and go, and holding on ferociously can’t prolong them, it only makes the pain of their impermanence linger. So. This morning I feel light. I enjoy this carefully hand-crafted moment, as I did the moments in commuter traffic, or standing at the sink washing the dinner dishes, or standing in the shower feeling the water flow over my skin, or looking through my closet for something to wear and feeling content that anything I choose – I am still this person that I am, and I am loved. It’s nice. I highly recommend enjoying moments – and making the choices that result in more pleasant ones than unpleasant ones. There may be some verbs involved. Your results will likely vary (I know mine do). No doubt, you will have your own experience.

I look at the time. I’m eager to begin again. 🙂