Humble lessons learned from my jail cell

“Guilt and shame played a large part in my inability to accept my progression of illness. I was so accustomed to being capable of problem solving, setting goals and accomplishing them. When bipolar disorder held me in its’ claws I felt so responsible. I felt like a failure. I had failed myself because there must have been something I could have done differently to have had a better outcome.” ~Jail Journal-January 18, 2013

Those were the words I wrote in a journal I kept while spending three weeks in a small jail cell in Montana. I usually don’t think too much about my time being incarcerated, but I shared my story today and give a talk next week, so I was looking for perspective.

I remember having these incredible realizations about what I was going to do with my second chance at life. I wrote about how I intended to help other people. I sketched out my vision for my future–and I’m actually living it as I write these words.

My humble reflection today is really about the lesson of acceptance. While I sat there in that cell I came to appreciate who I was as a human being. Seems like a strange place to find inner wisdom. But I used the time to write. It was my coping mechanism.

I set in motion coming to terms with how my untreated mental illness got me in such a jam.

“Guilty feelings nearly destroyed all my confidence and self-worth. Of course it did not help that I had gained 80 pounds from various medication side-effects and a wicked depressive episode. I had morphed into an unrecognizable person right before my very eyes and I hated the reflection looking back at me from the mirror.” ~Jail-1/18/2013

What I have come to powerfully embrace is that mental illness is not my fault. I humbly accept all of my life experiences as my journey. And the best part about all of it is…I no longer live in shame.

I accept me. Greatest lesson ever.

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