Lead Me Not Into False Expectations

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” -Semisonic

It’s another New Year, another time for new beginnings, resolutions (if you’re into that sort of thing) and a blank page in a yet unwritten book. I am wary of making resolutions due to the fact they are usually slightly unrealistic. If I were to make a resolution that I wouldn’t go all Hulk-like in traffic, but I had done nothing to change my frame of mind or manage my emotions, then I’m fairly certain my effort would be met with failure, or at the very least an inability to magically transform my commute from December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017. When you think about it, it’s really just a change from one calendar to another; from a Sunday to a Monday. If my resolution is to not drink but I have a full cupboard of alcohol that I see every time I reach for a glass, it will be more difficult to not grab that bottle and have “just one” drink. If I haven’t dug deep to find out the “why” behind the drinking then my resolution is dependent upon my mood; if my mood goes dark and dangerous and I haven’t developed any healthy coping skills, then guess what? Chug-a-lug. Another great reason for my resolutions to fail is that I make them based on what I think I should do, not what I really want to do. Making a resolution to lose weight, so that the hot guy I have a huge crush on will notice (and hopefully fall in love with) me. Making a resolution to start attending mass on a regular basis because my parents (God rest their souls) would be pleased, as they look down upon me from Heaven. Or even better, so that I can get in God’s good grace and therefore avoid the fiery alternative. These are all great resolutions, as great as resolutions can be, but they are doomed to be unsuccessful if I haven’t invested in them long before January 1st.

I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions. They are much more forgiving, loosely defined and honestly, give me an out if things don’t go according to plan.

in·ten·tion
inˈten(t)SH(ə)n/
noun
1.
a thing intended; an aim or plan.
“she was full of good intentions”
2.
MEDICINE
the healing process of a wound.

– Google Search

I love the second definition because the majority of my intentions do involve the healing and recovering from wounds, be it physical or emotional. My intention is to forgive those who have wounded me, but that may take not days, but years. My intention is to forgive myself for the wounds I have inflicted on others. My intention is to accept my faults and failures and love myself unconditionally, which will be my intention for every New Year until my Last Year.

I feel the danger in resolutions is that they lead us into false expectations; by changing my physical appearance, I will find love. By doing things for others, I will be accepted and loved. It’s not the resolution so much as it is the expected outcome. Realistically losing weight will not guarantee that the hot guy falls in love with me, especially if he’s gay, married or simply not interested. Not drinking alcohol is a great resolution, but there is much more involved than just not raising a glass to my lips. Forgiving others is a great idea, but that means letting go of old hurts and grudges. If they have been your constant companion for years and help you to feel righteous in your belief that they are in the wrong, then it will take much more effort than simply thinking you forgive them. One must take personally responsibility for their role in what happened and own up to it. My dad used to say, “It’s not the making of a mistake that should embarrass a person, so much as their failure to benefit from it.”

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Learning from mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones over and over is more helpful (in my experience) than making a resolution that is unrealistic.

So, Happy New Year to one and all! May this year bring you comfort when you’re distressed, company when you’re lonely, a hand to hold when you’re frightened and a safe harbor during Life’s many storms; the courage to face your fears, the strength to slay your dragons and the faith to believe that there is more to Life than just crossing days off the calendar and making unrealistic expectations. Peace and love to you all!

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Deja Vu/Vuja De

It was a year ago, around this time on the calendar when I finally admitted to myself and to my psychiatrist that everything was most definitely NOT fine and a change of venue was in order. My doctor, being the good doctor that he is, referred me for psych evaluation and an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) to deal with the immediate concerns and to eventually get my mood rightened and myself back to the land of brilliant Technicolor, instead of the shades of black in the world I was living in. Well, fast forward a little over a year and guess what? I’m back in the same place, with the same therapists and doctors, cafeteria style lunches and rooms with uncomfortable chairs, lots of Kleenex boxes and people with stories, like me and very much unlike me. My immediate thought upon having to tell my doctor YET AGAIN that I was losing my s**t was not one of “Atta Girl!” but more like, “Seriously? Didn’t we JUST do this?? WTF is wrong with you, loser??” because my first thoughts are always from a place of extreme judgment and an unrealistic goal of perfection, no matter the circumstance.

Now, I wouldn’t say that to my worst enemy anymore than I would say it to someone who was doing another round of chemo or radiation in an effort to destroy that which is trying to destroy them. Treatment is treatment; the disease may differ, the course of treatment may differ but the goal is the same, to provide relief of symptoms and improve the health of the individual, thus improving the quality of life. Mental health is really no different, although much less one size fits all. Mental illness and those who battle depression, mania and other disorders are as different and varied as any selection of human beings can be; one person’s burden is another’s blessing. There is no absolute 100% guaranteed course of treatment and whatever course is selected, the patient must be able and willing to follow subscribed course of treatment, which often if not always includes eliminating substance (pick a poison, alcohol included) abuse and implementing a medication program that includes a cocktail (pardon the pun) of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and perhaps a little Antabuse thrown in for the hard core alcoholics. The patient must be willing to give up those self-medicating methods and switch to the psych meds, which usually come with a hefty side of side effects, weight gain being at the top of the list and covering all manner of ailments including, but not limited to: psychosis, permanent facial and/or body tics, blindness, headaches and possibly (of course) death by suicide, because some of these drugs have induced suicidal tendencies in certain groups, such as adolescents and the elderly. Go figure. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but every rose has its thorn, as we learned from Guns ‘n Roses/Poison.

If you’re still reading and still awake, I commend you. 

Back to the present time – I am back in the land of black and bleh, trying to find my way to the light and a coherent, relatively calm mind so that I can make some decisions that will hopefully keep me from having to return again at this time next year. I have a great many decisions to make at some point in time and I want to choose wisely and make choices that are good for me and my health. It’s easy for me to say that (I’ve said it over and over again) but the execution is where I falter. I guess if I’m thinking about what I SHOULD do instead of what I NEED to do, that could lead me to an unwise choice.

For all of you who have sent happy thoughts, well wishes and in reached out to me in general, I want you to know I feel the love. Seriously. Those of you who are thinking about me but haven’t reached out, I assure you, I still feel the love. You are the difference between me giving up or carrying on; your belief in me is my sword of truth, fighting against the lies and untruths that hold my spirit hostage, trapped in a dark and dismal mind. Your love and support brings a light to the darkness, a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to come back to the land of the living and love. I have talked to many people who have no family, no friends and oftentimes it is because their mental illness/addiction issues have exhausted the supply of people willing to lend a hand or support that person. Some people have a limited time only offer of assistance and once that window is closed, there are no more. I understand the reasoning behind this; if you are trying to save a drowning person, but don’t know how to swim yourself, you will both most certainly drown. Dealing with mental illness is neither pretty, Facebook post-worthy or fun. It tests  your limits, your love and your own mental stability. It’s like a fire you can’t get too close to or you end up with some pretty serious burns. It’s a rollercoaster ride you don’t remember buying a ticket to ride, a storm that was born of sunny skies and fluffy clouds; sunny and bright one minute, dark and destructive the next. It can tear apart the closest family, take away your best friend and leave a wake of destruction miles wide and years long. Knowing this makes you and your continued support all the more precious and appreciated.

Shooting thoughts of love and gratitude to you. Wish we were there (Half Moon Bay)

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Talk to me Goose

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I remember the first time I saw the movie Top Gun. My girl friend and I giggling our little hearts out in the movie theater, so in love with our respective characters (I loved Maverick, she loved Goose) and it was pure fantasy for a couple of troubled teenage girls. Every shot was glossy, full of man candy, motorcycles, leather jackets and super fast, cool looking jet planes with good-looking guys piloting them, all patriotic and hot as hell.  Aside from all of that, something that has stuck with me after all these years about that movie is the camaraderie between the guys. Not just Maverick and Goose, but the entire squad/group/whatever. When you know people have your back, want to you to succeed and believe in you, it makes all the difference in the world, whether things are going great or at an all-time low. The perspective that others can provide for us and sometimes by doing nothing more than just showing up, listening and being a friend.

Now, this is all well and good, but the other part of this whole wonderful thing is that one often times needs to ask for the lending of the ear, the spending of the time and the shoulder for crying on. That’s where I often falter and fall; it’s my delicate ego that keeps me from making the phone call, saying the thing I detest saying the most (I can’t do it by myself, I need help) but need to say, as I am human. Sometimes I can reach out if the discomfort of white-knuckling it becomes greater than my ability to bear it, but oftentimes I just am like Rocky hitting that bag, never letting up and fighting the good fight. We all have our battles and within those battles we have our fights; my fight against depression, addiction, temptation and the voice that says I can’t be successful, I’m not deserving of happiness, no one will ever love me and (the all-time classic) I’m a failure. Even Rocky had others in his world and they provided what he needed from them; inspiration, belief in him, hard work and above all else, love. I understand these things in concept, but I am working on putting the concept into practice and will let you know how that goes.

So, if you’re struggling with something, if the weight is becoming too much to bear and you need to share it, don’t wait too long before reaching out. People do care and “a burden shared is a burden halved” (T.A. Webb) after all.

C’mon.

Talk to me, Goose.

Failure -or- The Art of Sucking Shit

It’s funny in a not so funny way how my previous post was all about what a difference my friend JJ made in my world and now this post is about life without JJ and as you can tell by the title – it’s not a happy, warm and fuzzy post.

I have said before that I am a recovering perfectionist and that’s mostly true; to say that I am recovering would imply that I have had a measure of success in being ok with failure, in one form or another or at the very least, substandard (or imperfect) results/behaviors, etc. No, I am not ok with it. Never have, never will be. I know I can’t be perfect but that hasn’t stopped me from trying my entire life and failing. Failing to be perfect. Failing to be able to anticipate everyone’s need, be at their beck and call, ready with that Eager Beaver expression that just screams – “I live to serve and will be the Best Person/Employee/Friend/Patient/Co-worker you could ever imagine!” Failing to be happy when I feel angry, failing to feel grateful for a job that pays very well and sucks only a tiny bit of my soul away each day; failure to Dumb Down enough so that the glaringly obvious wrongs don’t make me want to seek out the perpetrator and inflict physical harm upon their sorry ass. Failure to BE PART OF THE ______ (fill in the blank) EXPERIENCE. Failure to comply, failure to assimilate, failure to meet expectations I don’t even know exist, failure to act like I’m not bored to tears when I have to sit another hour, listening to assholes with egos talk nonsense and try to one-up the ones who are actually intelligent and thus, silent.

I guess JJ helped me a lot more than I realized; I can’t walk down the halls without looking for him; I can’t deal with the level of shit running through my head and I can’t be perfect. Oh – and I can’t drink. Ain’t that a bitch? Who doesn’t love a nice drink of (fill in the blank) at the end of a tough day/morning/afternoon? I love them at any time of day and the more the better.

So, there it is. The crux of this uncomfortable feeling in my head; failure is what awakens my little drinking monster (I like to refer to it as The Crackin’ as in, let’s get crackin’ and have some drinks already!!!) and then it just won’t shut up. The only things that will make it quiet down and go back to sleep are rehab and/or AA meetings (the more, the better) so that’s where I’m taking my loser ass right now (AA, not rehab).

One (fucking) day at a time, right??

The Winds of Change

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails”

William Arthur Ward

I came across this quote back in November and wanted to write a post around it but couldn’t figure out how to convey what it says to me, specifically. I’m going to try now, so bear with me.

I’ve long believed that I was powerless over circumstances, that I was like a leaf in a storm; at the mercy of the wind, with no say in where I would go. I went along with whatever the group mentality was, never questioning whether it was what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be with. By doing this, I set up myself up beautifully for great disappointment and the role of the ever-suffering victim. I gave away my choices, my voice, my power and then couldn’t figure out why I was always so unhappy; why I had no sense of self, no idea who I was. It has taken me many years and a great deal of wrong turns, heartbreaks and utter despair to realize that no one had made me a victim, except myself.

Now, that’s all fine and good, but what could I do with that great revelation? We’re talking a lifetime of identifying as a follower, how could I un-learn all those behaviors? How could I reclaim my voice, my power? I had no clue, but I did know that if I didn’t try, nothing would ever change, except to possibly worsen. There is another saying regarding a long journey and it beginning with a single step; that is exactly what I had to do. One step. One different thought. Turning left instead of right, speaking up instead of suffering silently, making one decision to change one thing. They all add up. Just as a bad habit is formed over time, the same is true of a healthy one. I had been living this way my entire life (40-something years) and I would have to have great patience and determination if I wanted to change.

Now, a little over a year free from alcohol and I have found my voice, I am slowing realizing the extent of how much power I gave away and am in the processing of getting it back and then some. I have a greater sense of self, of purpose and of value. Needless to say, every day isn’t like a scene from some ridiculously happy and upbeat musical, but it’s good. The challenges will always be there, although their form and delivery may differ, I will still have to find the strength to make good choices while allowing myself to be human. The words “failure” or “victim” can never be used again when I’m thinking about who I am, what I am. I am a fighter and I will fight the good fight until I can no more. I am looking forward to each next day, each new lesson learned and each victory celebrated. I will keep steadily on my course, my mind focused on my destination, eyes open for whatever beauty appears and gratitude in my heart for the people that have loved me through thick and thin. And if the seas get rough, I’ll adjust the sails.

Friendly Fear

I have been trying to get a handle on some serious anxiety I have around returning to work next week and in the process, I have come to realize just how powerful fear can truly be. In feeling my feelings, I have had the most difficulty with fear/anxiety; for whatever reason, it’s the one feeling that I cannot intellectualize or rationalize my way out of. It is the one emotion that has driven me most of my life. Fear of rejection led me to avoid relationships; fear of failure kept me from following my dreams and fear of judgement kept me from sharing those dreams and even most of my thoughts. Fear of feeling my feelings led me to my addictions, which led me to despair and a great deal of self-loathing.

I wish I could say that I have learned to embrace my fear, but that is not the case; at least not yet. I have come to understand that fear is not the enemy. Rather, fear is the first step on the journey to personal enlightenment and inner strength. If I can work through the fear and learn what is the driving force behind it, then I may potentially be able to develop the skills to see the lesson that it is trying to teach me. For instance, within my fear of rejection, there exists a perfectionist view of what a successful relationship consists of; if I am not perfect, then I cannot have a successful relationship (this is my flawed logic) so the lesson is that nothing is perfect, all relationships have their own challenges and the end of a relationship is not necessarily a failure. Understanding that all successful relationships have at their core the desire of both parties to hear the other out, be willing to be flexible, forgiving and most of all, honest. Not to mention being respectful of the other person, their feelings, insecurities and of course, fears. There is more than one lesson to be learned inside that particular fear. If I run away or close my mind to the possibility of having a relationship, I will never learn and as a result, not grow. But the fear will.

Hence, the title of Friendly Fear. I am learning that Life is a series of lessons and I am the eternal student. I will be a student for the whole of my life here on Earth and perhaps even beyond that. I will return to work with my friendly fear, a plan of action and a whole lot of deep breathing and centering. It will be interesting to discover what lesson is to be learned this time.

Breathe, breathe deeply, breathe out and breathe in. Fear please leave me, hope please come in. Lesson to be learned, show yourself to me; strength to learn and faith to see.