Now if you didn’t already know, I’m a sucker for a good list (or any itemized index that allows me hold onto the fleeting notion that there’s some semblance of order or logic in my life) but I’m sitting here looking at my agenda of counselling “homework” and dreading having to sequentially confront my own shortcomings. There’s something fairly overwhelming about struggling to keep track of every aspect of your life in which I need help such that your counsellor has to write it down on paper every week… There’s an awful lot of focus on the problems and an equal amount of ambiguity about the answers.
I know I can’t address anything until I’ve identified the problem, and I am incredibly grateful that things seem to be progressing and that I have somewhere to go and things to work on, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it damnit..! The fact is, “changing your life” (or however you want to put it) is pretty freakin’ exhausting and sometimes you just need to acknowledge how damn tiring it is!
Let this be a little shout out of support to those of you reading this who are working to build yourselves better lives or who are striving to get to a better place. It’s no easy feat! I see you and I feel you, and I’m taking this moment to recognize how hard (and incredibly brave) this work is to do.
Because it’s so hard to keep up with taxing introspective work and life-value re-alignment, I find myself regularly having days where I get frustrated about the whole process altogether.
Why do I have to work extra hard to do what seem like “normal life” things?!
Why can’t I engage in reckless activities to all hours of the night like many other twenty-something year-olds without facing the negative mental health consequences?
WHY is it all just so much work?!
“Well Jill … I guess, sometimes life just isn’t fair.”
I can hear my parents saying this to me back when I was little (usually referring to the injustice of how I had to finish eating all my vegetables but nonetheless…).
However, if there’s any consolation, it seems like life is at least a little indiscriminate and is slightly unfair to everyone at some point or another. And when life does feel unfair and your to-do list seems to weigh heavily on your mind, or your therapist can’t decide which aspect of your “problems” to tackle first, remember that at the very least, you always have a choice.
Sure I could choose not to do all this DBT and CPT homework, but where would that get me? Yes, I could choose to throw in the towel and complain about how tired I am of all of it – and I have done (slash regularly do this) – but a few days later, after some rest, I get back up, dust myself off, and try my best to move forward. Because after all, I have chosen to do this to make my life better. I am invested in myself and my health. While I often need a few days (or maybe even a few weeks sometimes) to moan about the annoyance of it all, I know in the end how far I’ll get by letting this frustration take over. I can choose to bemoan the unfairness or wallow in resentment (which for a short time I think is important to help me honour these feelings) but I must also remember not to procrastinate too long and choose to re-invest this energy into fighting for myself and my life with all that I’ve got.
I guess it’s all about “the long run”. Heal at a pace that you can sustain in the long run. Take some days days slowly and regularly appreciate how tough life can be. Acknowledge that you’re doing incredibly challenging things and even though you might not be where you’d like – you’ve already come so far. It’s a delicate balance between sitting back to contemplate the size of the mountain and getting up there and clapping for yourself as you climb along regardless.
I may have a (slightly annoying) list of counselling activities to get to but I’d much rather be here – fighting for my life and my health in a conceivable way, than back where I used to be – completely lost and in the dark. With each new stop along my journey come new challenges – and no shortage of demands made of me, but with each challenge (as clichéd as it sounds) there truly does come an opportunity to learn and grow, and while I might not always appreciate them for what they are, I’m glad that this is the path I’m choosing.
Choosing recovery hasn’t magically made life easier, but it has allowed me to better navigate the hardships. It has encouraged me to choose the challenges of my healing over those of my disorder more often than not. I’m beginning to distinguish between the suffering of illness and the pain of growth – because not all discomforts were created equal.
This journey will be (and already has been) a ton of hard work, but its work I’m willing to do to get myself to a better place. Recovery from my mental illness (and climbing those everyday mountains) might be some of the hardest work I ever have to do, but I’m starting to believe it might also be some of the most valuable.