Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back on the Road to Mental Health

A few weeks ago I popped into the library and dragged my feet over to the self-help section. I figured while I'm waiting for my health insurance to kick in, I might as well do some legwork to get the ball rolling. I always feel pathetic when I'm surrounded by such smiley-face covered titles that only indicate how hopeless and broken you must be like O's Big Book of Happiness, In Control, The Power of Persistance, or better yet, Happy At Last. I just want to get in and run out fast.

So imagine my mortification when days later I'm sitting on the train trying my hardest to hide the pale green cover of The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Kit only to look up and notice a cute guy hovering over me, his eyes fixated on the page. "Hi, my name is Crazy! What's yours?" I thought.

But apart from a few eye roll-inducing and obvious tips like "first forgive," "dance in the rain," and "build a guesthouse for your feelings," (err?) coupled with some bad attempts to joke through her list of issues, I was able to glean a few helpful suggestions from the 144 tips author Therese Borchard doled out. Among the ones I took to heart:

1. Don't absorb others' troubles. Being a good listener and compassionate to others' suffering means you can be there for them and understand their hardship, but not that you need to suffer along with them. I know I scale back on the happiness when someone close is hurting and even cry and worry over the situation when I'm away from them. It's almost as if laughing and being joyful would make me an inconsiderate friend.

2. Be selective, sincere, and cut out hypocrisy. It's an incredibly hard rule to follow when you're a people pleaser who has a hard time speaking her mind, but like Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, "The most exhaustive thing in life is being insincere."

3. Choose a mantra. When I'm having an internal battle with my thoughts, I've taken to quietly telling myself, "This too shall pass...this too shall pass." If anything, it gives me a few extra minutes before I react to whatever's bugging me. Though methinks I should choose a longer phrase.

4. Presume no one will understand you so you will be surprised when someone does rather than frustrated and disappointed when people don't meet your expectation.

5. Cut your worry down by making a plan of action. And this is why I found myself at the library that day. I was tired of sitting down and letting these dysfunctions dictate my life. By listing a couple of actions I'd take during the week (like researching my insurance company's list of health providers, making an appointment for a physical, and emailing four therapists), I felt like recovery was feasible; it's no longer a foggy destination somewhere the distance.

Tomorrow I start therapy again, with someone new. I'm nervous about letting a stranger in on every ugly detail in my life and the hard work I know I'll have to put in to succeed, but I'm also anxious to start already. The closer I get to making this decision a reality, the faster I want to run towards it. If anything, it'll be nice to unload my mind in that office and then, hopefully, figure out how to wedge in new patterns.

Quotes from The Pocket Therapist

"The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upwards in the night." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Stirring oatmeal is a humble act - not exciting or thrilling… To 'stir the oatmeal' means to find the relatedness, the value, even the beauty, in simple and ordinary things, not to eternally demand a cosmic drama, an entertainment, or an extraordinary intensity in everything." -Robert A. Johnson

"When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you are drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life… Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony." -Thich Nhat Hanh

[That brings to mind one of her tips: to start unitasking. I can personally attest to my dreadful ability to focus on several things at once and produce quality work with each. My mind and body just can't handle the overload before I start stressing and making a mess of things.]

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" -Mary Anne Radmacher

Images: thefreshexchange.blogspot.com, beingalison.com, and webtoolfeed.files.wordpress.com


  1. Very good advice!

    Good luck with your therapist; I don't get on well with therapists, but I hope you do!

  2. I struggle with that first one, about not absorbing other people's feelings. But the one about assuming people do not understand you, then being shocked if they DO is good too. I am constantly shocked when I realize others didn't understand me. This would save a lot of hassle!

  3. Definitely a good reason to buy a Nook or a Kindle. :-)

    Good tips, though. I struggle with #5. I really need to make a plan of action. Whenever I do (which isn't often enough) I feel so much more prepared to face things.

  4. Love this post.

    1. I do think it's important NOT to absorb everyone's toils and hurt feelings and the like. I do think, however, it's important to be mindful of where we celebrate our joys and happiness. While we shouldn't have to hide it, it's always a better feeling to celebrate with those who can be in the moment with you, so choosing to wait and share joys with a different friend is always wise.

    2. Not only is it exhausting, it's really hard to remember how you reacted to their story initially if your mind keeps reverting you back to your true feelings on the subject at hand. Although not always well received, I think it's generally respected that even when friends get upset and vent...I'm not always going to be the one there patting them on the back and asking to rally the troops for war. I may contradict their feelings and provide another perspective on how I would see it. Just depends if I THINK they're in a mental position to be receptive, or if their anger would cloud any rational response that contradicts their feelings.

    3. Mine is usually, "He's always been an asshole...don't expect any different." :)

    4. If I'm going to disagree, as of course I'm known to do, it would be this one. I don't ever like assuming people don't understand. I do, however, believe that they couldn't see all sides if they haven't experienced it themselves. So instead of assuming they can't comprehend a subject, I tend to ask myself if they've ever encountered something similar, or not at all? This would help me gauge my audience better and determine if my woes/situation are something to share with this particular person.

    5. Plans, huh? I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl, but I'm having to make plans more because Hubs wants to "know" what my plans are. Ugh.

  5. As if my comment wasn't long enough, I forgot to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE the oatmeal quote. I might steal and use that sometime. Love. We don't need some cosmic drama or entertainment value in every single little flipping daily exchange. Our parents make mistakes, our kids make mistakes, we make mistakes...and we're all still living. I assume if you're reading this, you're still living. So stop making everything so dramatic! Yea. Loved this quote!

  6. Thanks for the kind thoughts (and laughs from some of you). The session went well, still feeling things out and whatnot.

    Yeah, I have trouble with not thinking everything is this big to-do, but sometimes it really does feel like it is beyond me. I know it sounds like I should just "get over it" and "shake it off," but it honestly is a bit harder to do that for some of us.


Say word.