I was writing in my journal this morning having my coffee when it occurred to me that I have everything that I have ever wanted out of life. Life is not perfect. I don’t have the fancy car, but I have a car that gets me from point A to point B and I can afford the gas to put into it. I have an apartment where I receive housing assistance where I get free cable. I have a computer that works that I can take different places. I can afford yarn to make prayer shawls and Afghans. I have money for food and basic necessities of life. I feel I am truly blessed.
I don’t have a lot of things that people have, but I have decided to focus on the things that I do have and be grateful that I have them. I find by doing that I am a lot happier than if I focused on the things that I don’t have. I have seen people who focus just on things and having the material things of life and how miserable they are because no amount of money or things will fill up that hole in their soul.
I have learned since I have been in Abilene that it is more important to be of service to those less fortunate than I am. There is always someone worse off than I am and even if I cannot help them monetarily, I can be there cheering them on. Sometimes that is what they need the most.
There is a spiritual side of recovery that includes things like gratitude, being of service to others, and giving of oneself. For so many years I wanted to be the top dog and the center of attention. I had to learn to allow others to shine and be supportive of others’ gifts and talents and not focused just on me and what I was going to get out of it.
Life is not perfect. All this talk about spirituality does not mean that there will not be problems, but that I will be able to deal with them in calm and sensible manner. I don’t have as many melt-downs like I use to. That doesn’t mean that I won’t have one when I go out to start my car and it doesn’t start. It just means that I have tools now to use when faced with a crisis and I have people I can call that will help me out. I just need to keep a cool head and try to think my way through a situation instead of reacting emotionally.
It has taken me many years to develop this manner of dealing with life. I know that this too shall pass. This gets me through many overwhelming problems. Life will not be like this all the time. Each episode that I overcome I get stronger and stronger. Life is all about choices and how I choose to react to them.
One more time I am congested from all the dust and pollen in the air. Hot coffee and hot tea seem to help some, but fortunately it goes away sometime during the day. Being an asthmatic in the Dust Bowl is not easy and watching the documentary about it makes me glad that I live now instead of back then. If it gets that bad, I will have to move. I will have to move to save my life. I don’t know where I will go, but I think I will have to move back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area which I don’t want to do unless it is absolutely necessary. I am kind of attached to the area and the people here and they have seen me during my worst times and my good times.
We are slowly running out of water here because most of the underground water is gone and with the drought makes for scarce water. Efforts are being made to reuse waste water which I think is a good idea. It is cheaper than having water shipped in and much more readily available. I like the area I live in and its people and I don’t want to have to go somewhere else. I have finally found a church where I fit in and am accepted by it. I will have to wait and see what the Good Lord does and hope for more rainfall soon.
Events this week made me think how lucky and blessed I am that I have the recovery that I do from bipolar/depression. I was told by two different people that they were hearing voices that told them to kill themselves which I reported as soon as I could and I told them to get the help that they needed. I then started thinking about my own recovery and that odds are I shouldn’t be where I am right now and doing the things that I am doing right now.
Exactly five years ago, I was making the rounds of the psychiatric hospitals when it occurred to me to do something different than what I had done before. I entered a psych hospital for what was going to be for the last time where my medication was adjusted and I learned about gratitude lists. I had heard from 12-step programs about gratitude lists before, but I became willing to do whatever was suggested to me and wrote one daily in my journal. I did not realize how powerful that tool was until my depression started to lift and I felt better and was more positive.
After getting out of the hospital, I entered an after-care program where I learned a lot about my illness and how to take care of myself. I learned that I was more than my diagnosis and began to go back to church but a different church than I had been going to. I started going to counseling with a woman who decided to use the spiritual approach with me which I decided I would do anything that she told me to do. Life was still rough and I was unable to work. Then one day my mental obsession left me when it occurred to me that not all men would be like the priest that was sexually harassing me. I woke up one day and all the obsession was gone and I could think clearly for the first time in years.
That fall, I became a student at FaithWorks of Abilene and developed a resume and got on a regular daily schedule. From there I became an employee and worked there for one year until the contract with AmeriCorps VISTA ran out. I was unemployed for a year where I volunteered at the church and various places until I have the job I have now which is the direct result of my recovery work.
Now I get to help others recover from their illness and talk about my own recovery to anyone that will listen. I am truly grateful.
I am without a car right now because it is being repaired. It sucks to have to take the bus, but I am grateful that I have a bus to take. I am also grateful that I have housing and food to eat. There are many other things for which I am grateful.
I find that when I list the things for which I am grateful, my whole perception of what is going on changes in a positive way. I am no longer whining and complaining about how bad things are, but focus on all the good things that are. I am grateful for a sister who is willing to take a chance on me and put the expense on her credit card with the promise that I will pay her back. It will take almost everything I now have to do so, but I am grateful that I have a job that will help with this expense. I am grateful that I have disability money coming in each week to pay for basic expenses that I have each week to pay for food and gas.
I just hope things do not get much worse and I lose my job. That would make it very hard to get back on my feet. I hate to ask the church for more money than I have right now. They have so many other people who are in worse shape that I am in to take care of. All I know to do is take it one day at a time and hope for the best.
I am going to start graduate school soon and this will be a new adventure for me. It will be in creative writing which I needed to have been doing years ago, but did not because of mental state and other people’s approval. I am doing this for me and no one else and I want so much to succeed at this and not fail like I have many times before. I have tried engineering, architecture, art, music, web design and have failed miserably. I hope that this is different. I love to write and try to do it whenever I can and where ever I can. I pray that I don’t fail this time.
I am nervous about how many classes I take so that I don’t overload myself just starting out. I hope that I can get financial aid to pay for it and not force me into taking more than one class right now until I know more of how I will perform in school. I am hoping I can get a disability accommodation which will allow me to take my time with classes. I hope things will work out because I feel like this is one of my last chances to get it right.
I also ran into someone from FaithWorks at a 12 step meeting that I haven’t seen in 2 years. I don’t know if anything will come of it or if it is just a friendship and nothing more. I have learned to let things happen the way they are suppose to happen and not try to get in there and try to control it. I have spent my entire life running away from relationships or running after them. I am kind of like Peppy Le Pew from the old Warner Brothers’ cartoons. I guess that is why I like them so much. They let me see myself as I really am.
Well, for now I need to focus on getting my car fixed and getting my finances in better shape.
I remember a few years ago when I was newly recovering from my bipolar/depression, how I felt when the obsessive/compulsive thinking was gone. I was relieved and excited that somehow the spell had been broken and I was restored to sanity. I think about that every year because I began therapy on Ash Wednesday and that first Easter was especially meaningful to me. With God’s help I had conquered an illness I was not supposed to recover from and the joy I felt when the obsessive thoughts were gone.
To me, that is what Easter is all about. It is about recovering from something hopeless and incurable and being given a new lease on life. Ever since then I have counted the years that I have been out of the hospital and each year I give a silent “Thank You” for all the hurdles I have been jumping since then. In the work that I do, I help others try to recover from their illness as well. It usually is a tedious and long process, but I like to think that I am making a difference by just being there and giving them an example of what recovery looks like.
This year I also celebrate 15 years in recovery from alcohol and drugs which I never thought possible either. I did it one day at a time the same way I recovered from my mental illness. Now if I can recover from this, I hope to recover from compulsive overeating as well. There are still many mountains to climb and many valleys to cross before I get to my destination.
For me, recovery is doing the next right thing that is in front of me to do. I am working on being as truthful, honest, and the best person I can be so that I can keep the recovery that I have so far. I stumble a lot and make a lot of bad choices, but I learn from them and go on. There are many times that I feel like a failure. I still trudge on with hope that everything will turn out all right in the end. Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not. I try not to focus on failures but on successes and the good things that are happening to me. I did learn that from my mother in a backhanded kind of way. She preached positive thinking yet did not practice it in everyday life. Some kernel of that wisdom stuck and finally blossomed when I started to make gratitude lists.
I said good-bye to the woman that hired me at work. She left because of burn out because the job was made so complicated and difficult when it did not have to be. I wish her well and all the happiness she can get from her other job. I hope that I do not burn out in this job and can keep working as long as humanly possible. I pray that when my time to leave comes that I accept it with all the grace and goodwill that I can muster.
I watched the movie “The Book Thief” recently and I was drawn into how important words are to me. To me, words give life. It also says the same thing in John 1: In the beginning was the word…. I have been thinking about what I want to do next in this life and I have decided to see if I can go back to school and get my masters in English Creative Writing. I may not be able to do so because of financial reasons, but at least I will try. Either way I want to write and am keeping a journal faithfully as possible.
To me, to write is to express how I feel or think about the things that happen to me on a daily basis. It allows me to examine my life and see what I need to work on or if I need to work on anything at all. It also shows me when I am thinking too much and need to get out and help another person. It allows me to thank my creator for all the good things that are happening to me daily. I learn to be grateful. Words are very powerful because they can either build you up or they can tear you down. Words can either depress you or express pure joy. Words are neither good nor bad – they just express the feelings and thoughts of the person who writes them.
The very act of writing can heal or it can destroy depending on how it is used. I write to affect change or transformation. I want more for myself than what I am getting right now. I want so much to be creative and want to work at doing just that. I want to find a way to integrate creativity and everyday life in some sort of fashion. I have been told that I cannot do things most of my life and I have proved everyone wrong. I was told that I was not college material by a high school English teacher and I went and got bachelors in Journalism. I was told that I would not be able to make it into the Texas Girls’ Choir and I did. I was told that I would never be able to work or live on my own and I am doing just that. I wish others would stop telling me what I can or cannot do and encourage me to be the best that I can be without the B.S. that usually goes along with it.
I also need to remember to be encouraging of others myself and never discourage others from pursuing their dreams and goals. That is where I can start the healing process of myself and others.