Lifelong mental illness requires constant monitoring by doctors, caregivers, and by ourselves. Not a day goes by that we can afford to skip the check-ins with ourselves and the action steps necessary to keep us from going off the deep end. Making sure we take our medications; trying to balance being productive with overextending ourselves and making the symptoms worse; examining every emotion and thought and action for mistakes… it’s a full-time job. The mental effort is just as exhausting as any physical effort.
This is the life lesson I’m revisiting these days. If I forget or choose to ignore how sick I am, I will fail to maintain the illness and it will get a hold of me. After so many years of working to gain control of my illness, I definitely want to maintain a healthy life pattern so I don’t take steps backward. Unfortunately it usually requires a few steps backwards to open our eyes to the need to maintain. I slack off when things are going well. Then I pay the price. With meds, with self-care and rest… you name it, I neglect it at some point in my struggle to juggle life’s demands. That’s the reality of chronic mental illness.
My initial instinct when I realize I’ve been neglecting some aspect of my health care is self-loathing and self-hatred for being such a horrible, lazy, stupid girl. Does that get me back on track? NO. Never. It just makes me feel worse. To get back on track, I have to practice my skills, and practice them now. Practice fighting the negative self-talk and self-hatred with truth. Everything ebbs and flows; as I ebb and flow through life, so does my inner growth. I may fall behind at times, but I learn a deeper lesson every time I pick myself back up and continue. Give myself a pat on the back for not giving up. Radically accept that I am in this particular place in my life. Cease to judge it as positive or negative. And embrace it for the lessons it will teach me and the depth and wisdom it will create in me.
I’m really sick. It’s not a bad or good thing. It just is. Now what does it teach me?