Saturday, February 15, 2014

Back Slide

The vortex snuck up on my today and sucked me in. I felt so overwhelmed by just living. An amorphous fear hung in the air around me, and I saw no way out. All I could do was nap.

There seems to be no happy medium with me between happiness and depression and anxiety. Either I am totally on or I am catastrophically off. I don't know what it is like to just be having a bad day in the regular sense of the word. 


I've also been worried about my career choice lately. As you may or may not know, I have gone back to college to study psychology and addiction counseling with the intent of helping others as I have been helped. I am worried, however, that I will fail at it. And, if I can't even get myself together, how in the world will I ever help anyone else?

I feel so inadequate - in everything. I feel like a lousy mother, wife, and friend. I feel inept and incompetent as a student, and I feel like a farce as president of my student organization. I am worried about the future and paralyzed by the present.

These feelings only came over me in the past two days. Coincidentally, I have been reckless with self-care in the past week - eating a high sugar, high caffeine diet and getting little sleep. Is it possible that this is the cause? Can I really afford no slips in my habits? Does this happen to anyone else?

So, now what am I going to do about it?












Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness: Habit 2 - Begin with the End in Mind

This is the second article in the series: The 7 Habits of Mental Health Recovery - based on the late Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. See "The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness" for the introduction to this series, as well as "Habit 1".

Habit 2 is Begin with the End in Mind. It is the habit of vision. As with Habit 1, before I go into how it relates to mental health, let me give you a little background on Habit 2 from the late Stephen R. Covey. 

HABIT OF LEADERSHIP

According to Covey, "to begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction." He adds that Habit 2 is the habit of leadership - of deliberately forging a direction rather than just mindlessly wandering along.

Covey said that "all things are created twice" first in the head, then in reality. First, we have a vision of what we want and then the vision becomes that which we act upon to attain the desired outcome.

He taught that we create our destination either deliberately, or by default. We choose our own vision and act accordingly to achieve it, or we let life happen to us even if we don't like where it's heading. Either way, we have created the outcome.

VISION

One exercise Covey suggests for beginning with the end in mind is to envision your 80th birthday. All of the important people from the various roles in your life are there: your family, friends, colleagues, associates in the community, etc. What do you want each of them to say about you? This is a starting point for your vision in each of your roles.

MISSION STATEMENT

After deep, thoughtful visioning of how we want our lives to be, how we want to be, and of determining our core values, we condense it into a map - an overarching theme that will guide our actions and goals. This road map is called a personal mission statement. 

APPLICATION

When one is suffering from mental illness, however, creating a mission and vision for oneself may seem one of the most impossible of tasks - but one that could mean the difference between life and death.  When I was at the end of my rope, my vision of the future was very limited and very dark. I saw no possibility, and my choices and chances seemed to grow more limited by the day. Finally, I reached a point were the only vision I had was that of an end to the pain of living.

Somewhere deep inside, however, a molecular-sized part of me did still cling to a faint vision that life could be different, and it was through this tiny vision that I was finally able to let go and ask for help. (Also where Habit 1 played a role.) Even though I had no hope, I had to let go of what little control I had left, and trust that even though I was in a dark, dark place with seemingly no way out, others (i.e., mental health care professionals) had a map to wellness and could help get me back on the road to a much better destination.

As I said before, to a mentally ill person, this may seem an impossible task - coming up with a vision for yourself, let alone crafting a written mission statement. But in the tiny act of letting go and trusting that there is a positive vision out there somewhere - even if we can't see it yet - we begin to act on that vision and create a better world for ourselves. 

With the help of mental health professionals, you will begin to create that vision. It will start as a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), which details the daily steps you need to take to cope with your illness and climb out of the abyss. For now, this becomes your map, your vision, your mission. Then, as you begin to recover and reach for higher ground, you can delve into the personal work of creating your 80th birthday vision of your life, and eventually craft a personal mission statement which can become your guide to long-term mental health.

RESOURCES

If you cannot see any possibilities for your future, and death seems the only way out, please contact your health care provider, mental health professional, hospital, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1.800.273.8255.

If you want to see a sample of a WRAP, email me at pink.hi.tops@gmail.com.

For guidance on crafting a mission statement, see FranklinCovey.com for a Mission Statement Builder  and other resources.