When the good day arrives!

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One of the things I learned in a recovery workshop is to create new dreams after having your life interrupted with a psychiatric illness. I created a dream to become a mental health advocate, but I soon learned that creating a dream is one thing and living it is another.

I think my impatience is a result of having too much time on my hands. Not all days but some days a few hours of free time can feel like sitting in the dentist chair having my teeth pulled. When I am feeling good and overall having a good day I feel like I can accomplish so much more.  But on those bad days, like yesterday, I have no desire to do anything.

I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell me when the good days would bless me with their presence. I could be so productive if I had something of value to do. But what kind of job out there rewards people for having outstanding days periodically? There are so few that I have found I need to get creative and figure out a way to utilize my time more wisely.

Yesterday I read an article about a research project that NAMI conducted. It said that people with mental illness had an 80% unemployment rate in the United States. From everything I have read it seems that most other countries fall about in the same statistical ratio. So what does this say about mental illness and employment? The article does not address those of us who may be underemployed, which is an entirely different issue too.

What are we supposed to do when we have those good days?  I guess reading and writing is one way to spend time in a valuable manner. I just have to keep from getting too frustrated with myself because I recognize having too much time on my hands is not the best thing for my mental health. I am a goal directed individual and the more goals I can have for myself the better I feel.

The problem comes when I start wishing there was an immediate “feel good” solution for me on those days when I am far more capable of doing complex tasks.  These are the times when I focus hard on positive self-talk. It’s really easy to go down the path of “let’s beat up Amy today,” even though I know it is not a healthy thing to do. I may say something like, “If I tried harder I could accomplish more.” “I need to be more organized with my time.” Then I get all excited about having a new plan of action and I wake up the next day and getting out of bed may be the best I can accomplish.

This up and down road makes it a harder to check off the “to-do” list. It also makes it more difficult to have consistent approaches to various goals ultimately making it harder to have achievements. Certainly it is not impossible, just more difficult.

If I had one wish I would hope for more resources to be placed in helping those of us living with a mental illness to have working projects where we could utilize our skill sets. Maybe a collaborative writing project where we contributed to a group writing project. I don’t know the answer. I just know I need something I can feel good about.

Lifestyle Changes After a Mental Illness Diagnosis

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder the last thing I wanted was to change my life.  I wanted to continue with my fast pace lifestyle and highly stressful career.  But over the next several years after that initial diagnosis I had to learn about what kinds of limitations I had and how those limits were going to change my life.  What I did not realize was that everyone has limitations no matter who they are or what circumstances they have and realizing this fact helped me to adjust to the limitations I had to incur.

Some of the biggest changes were the following:

1) Give up business travel = Change my career

I could no longer travel 3-4 days per week to different cities because traveling was far too intense and interfered with my sleep schedule.  It took me years to realize sleep was and is my biggest indicator for wellness.  If I wanted to function well I was going to have to protect my sleep patterns and monitor how much sleep I was getting per night.  Traveling for business had to stop and that meant a career change.

2) Understand the Disease = Monitor my moods

I had to learn how to monitor my moods.  One of the keys to wellness and recovery is to know when you feel well and know when the illness symptoms are breaking through.  It seems like it should be obvious to monitor symptoms, but for me it took years to learn the difference between mania, depression and normal moods.  The truth is I strive for the most wellness I can have and one step in doing that is stringing lots of good days together by focusing on the things I can control that makes me feel well and eliminating the things that don’t.

3) Discovering Acceptance = Living in the present

Acceptance is about being okay with exactly how things have worked out.  I continually strive for acceptance on a daily basis.  Sometimes I find myself resisting “what is” and I may get stuck thinking about what life was like before I had to make changes, so I constantly work at acceptance.  I have learned acceptance is not a destination it is a state of being.

Slide1Life after a mental illness diagnosis meant I had to make some changes in my career, I had to learn about the illness and understand how it affects me and finally I had to experience the stages of acceptance in order to live peacefully with my own destiny.  Now I am ready to take on new challenges in my life.  What stage are you in with acceptance?