Anniversionary

February 25th was one year, to the day, to my coming down to Houston to enter the Menninger Clinic. Before then, I had essentially left grad school, had only a few friends – none nearby – , had serious internal family issues, and had tried to kill myself. Now, a year later, I live in my own apartment. I have a community of friends around, several of whom live in the same apartment complex with me – and we’re making plans for dinner, or something similar, this weekend. I have a job – if not a long-term, lifetime job – and I’m making money and getting experience, while looking for other work. And I have become a lot closer to my family, and we’ve covered a lot of ground that we probably never would have covered otherwise. There’s even the possibility – I hope a strong possibility – of a romantic relationship, something I wouldn’t even have conceptualized a year ago.

But it didn’t just happen, sadly. To get from there to here, I had to do a lot of work, look at a lot of unpleasant truths about myself, and undergo some pretty unpleasant experiences. Being told that, even though I wanted people around me – parents, colleagues, women – to change, that I couldn’t change them, and that the only person I could change was myself, was a big hit to me. There were times that it had to be pretty much beaten into me that there was no easy fix, no magic phrase or technique I could use to change the world around me. I had to look inside myself to see what I could change there, and oddly, as an introvert, I was very unused to introspection.

As an odd segue, being an introvert is one of the things I don’t think I can change about myself. And while there are certainly problems caused by being an introvert, I think I prefer being this way than being an extrovert. While my shyness and social awkwardness haven’t always been friends to me, there are good parts to being an introvert – I find it pretty easy to focus; I tend to be pretty good at assessing other people, even if I can’t always vocalize it; and I tend to approach most situations in a calm, thoughtful manner. But there are certainly things I find often frustrating, and while I could enumerate them myself, I find it is much easier to just let someone who has already done so to say what’s on my mind – ladies and gentlemen, I give you 10 Confessions From An Introvert.

Positive Psychology

I would ordinarily be posting something about my reading into The Gits of Imperfection, but this weekend has been a big one for a number of reasons, and has left me with very little time to read on. While I did get to my Family Connections class, and there is a lot of good news (well, for me) involving Calla, me, and our relationship, I don’t know that I can really say anything about it here without something concrete from her, so instead, I will just leave you with this, a TED Talk about the brain on love (not drugs, unless you consider love a drug):

Gratitude Update

It’s been a while since I’ve done a gratitude challenge, and while I don’t really feel the need to do another at the moment, I though I might do something different. I’m just going to make a list of people and things I’m grateful for at the moment, and why; obviously it won’t be complete, because there are a number of people I am grateful to who choose to maintain anonymity here. But I will try to make a list of those who aren’t anonymous, and try to express my gratitude for those who are anonymous in my own way.

First, I am grateful to my parents. They have done so much for me; they supported my coming down to Menninger, they went along with my decision to move to Houston, they have provided valuable support, emotional, physical, and financial, and they have helped me to figure out where I am going. This is, of course, in addition to the support they gave me raising me, educating me, and supporting me even thought they might not have understood what was going on in my head. Without them, none of this is possible.

Second, I am grateful to my sister. It was her recommendation that I come to Menninger, and her education in social work has provided some valuable insights. This is in addition to the support she has given me as a family member; even though I haven’t seen her in months, she’s been a strong presence in my life. I don’t tell her how grateful I am to her enough.

Third, the rest of my family. While many of them may not be aware of the full extent of what has happened with me in the last year, they have all proven to be supportive, and I’m glad that, unlike some people I know, I haven’t been shut out of family support.

Fourth, Calla. She became a very close friend – and possibly more – in a short period of time, and I can only hope to provide the kind of joy to her that she has to me. I look forward to hearing from her, and every time I do it lifts my spirits.

Next, to Laurel. Though we may not always see things the same way, she has been a supportive friend and has helped me to shake myself out of some pretty unpleasant times. I know she’s been having a rough time, but I hope she knows that I’m always here as a support.

After that, Alicia and her husband. They are old friends – my oldest – and they were great supports to me even before I came down to Houston. Even though we don’t talk as often as we used to, I still value their friendship extremely highly; I don’t know when I’ll see them again, but I hope it will be soon.

On to AV and his wife. After Alicia and her husband, they are my next oldest friends, and have stood by me even in my darkest moments. Though we’ve moved to very different areas – both mental and physical – and our lives are very different, they’ve been a great help to me.

To my other friends, you are all very dear to me. While some of you may not be in as much contact with me as others, and many of you may never read this, I owe you more than I can say. You are all amazing people, and I’m honored to be a part of your lives.

To my therapist, you have been invaluable in helping me to realize where I am, where I’ve been, and where I want to go. You listen to all my problems, even the ones that seem trivial and stupid, but you help me to work through a lot of things – and lead me in directions – I wouldn’t go myself. I wouldn’t be where I am now without your help.

To my doctors – both psychiatric and internal – you have helped to keep me physically healthy – something which is invaluable in treating my mental health. Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean much if I can’t also keep my body going. Your work keeps me going.

To my fellow patients, peers, support group members, and class participants – your help and understanding have been invaluable in helping me to where I am. The things I have heard, and the things I have told you, and the confidence they have all been kept in, have helped to build my understanding of both myself and other people, and my knowledge of all kinds of mental illness. I only hope that I have been helpful to you.

To my co-workers, getting to know you has been a breath of fresh air; it’s one of the few areas of my life that really has little or nothing to do with mental illness. Your knowledge of books and the way bookstores work is fascinating to me, and I am glad to be able to spend time with you. My back may not appreciate standing at the cash register, but talking with you has been great.

To my followers here, and on Twitter, and other social networks – your interaction with my words may be silent, but it is nonetheless there. I don’t know if what I say here helps anyone, or provides any insight into the kind of experiences in mental health care and mental illness, but I hope it does. I’m glad you take the time to read what I write.

I’m certain I am leaving some people out, and for that I apologize. These people are all the ones that come to mind, but bear in mind that it is late and I may not cover all my bases. I just felt the need to try and do this, and it feels like a weight off my chest to have this out.

Epiphantastic

So, while this isn’t an entry about further reading into The Gifts of Imperfection – largely because I haven’t had a great deal of time to read or to dwell on the book any further – it is an entry on what I’ve been thinking about recently.

Some of it is about behavior. I’ve been reflecting on my past, thinking about ways in which I acted. For a number of years, I behaved in a manner many would call robotic. I thought about things logically, dispassionately, and I assumed that because I was that way that I was somehow different than the rest of the world. I had friends, but I didn’t feel the need for their assistance; I was…  I don’t really know how to put it. Self-sustaining, maybe? I thought that because of the ways I was, the way I thought, that I was able to handle everything that was a problem in my life alone, and that other people would just get in the way. 

This was, of course, wrong, because we all need help at times. Because of my lack of ability to process or really experience emotions fully, I ended up unable to really take part in my one failed relationship, and after that I didn’t know how, or who, to reach out to to try to help deal with what I was going through. In many ways, the way I saw and processed the world was, instead of a benefit, something fo a curse. Being cut off from my emotions cut me off from an integral part of myself, and only now, going on twenty years later, am I finally understanding what that means. A little chilling, but better late than never, right?

Also, it seems that Calla is doing quite well – something which I am overjoyed to hear. She’s called me twice this week, which is the first time this has happened since she left – in fact, it’s almost half the times she has called me at her new treatment center, period. She sounds positive and happy when I talk to her, looking towards the future, and it seems like she’s making a lot of progress. She has a pretty specific date of release, and it looks like she’s making plans for when she gets back. I wonder if now, or around now, is the time to talk to her about our relationship, such as it is, and whether it will be going anywhere or just stay as it is, but I’m never sure in this type of situation. I guess that’s part of the terror, and excitement, of a romantic relationship.

Finally, after talking things over with my therapist, I think I am leaning towards a job area. Surprisingly, I don’t want to be a bookseller at a bookstore forever – standing for 8 hours a day, several times a week, behind a cash register does not do fun things to my back. No, I think I am more interested in some kind of mental health counseling. I don’t have a degree in the area, but I do have extensive experience with mental illness – both with my own, and with talking to, and some might say counseling, friends and fellow patients who have other issues. I’ve taken a class with NAMI, I’m taking another class with NEABPD, and I’ve been to a support group with DBSA, as well as writing this blog; what I’ve come to realize is that I find talking to people about their problems, and talking about my own here and trying to explain them to people who might otherwise be unaware, is something I find fulfilling. Not always enjoyable, but often helpful and freeing. So I am looking for jobs in that area that I qualify for in Houston, as well as trying to find some new inroads into the community on Twitter via a new account set up to work with this blog. It’s @InnerLimitsBlog, if you’re interested.

So, that’s my update for now. We’ll see what the weekend brings us.

Workin’ 9 to 5

Just wanted to post an update saying that I have been, and will be busy tomorrow, working at my B&N job, which is a little crazy this week because of our upcoming inventory. Once it’s over, and I have some time to rest and gather my thoughts – probably Thursday – I will post something a little more thoughtful and in-depth. I’m still working my way towards The Gifts of Imperfection, and so it will likely be about that.

Oh, and I have heard from Calla, and she’s doing well, so that’s good news to me. Well, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Imperfection

I started reading Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection earlier today, and I have to say that even a few pages in, her topic really resonates with me. It seems to be largely about learning to feel comfortable in our own skin and not judging other people for things we have done ourselves. As someone who has been struggling with mental illness- and inferiority issues – for a long time, that really hits home with me.

One of the hardest parts about learning to manage my depression, from a therapy standpoint, was realizing that I, as a person, am worthwhile. I have to find worth in myself, because placing all that I find worthy outside of myself means that it can be easily lost – a friend I place worth in might leave, items I value might be lost or stolen. But my own worth is internal. Now, this was a problem for me, because, being depressed, I didn’t feel like I was worth anything – to myself or to anyone else. It’s why I tried to commit suicide, in part.

The Gifts of Imperfection speaks to that; it says, at least to me, that one of the bravest, most courageous things we can do is place that worth in ourselves. And not in a way that places us above other people – but in a way that lets us realize that we are worthwhile, much m=like them, and that we are capable of the same successes and failures that they are, and vice versa. And the way we find this worthiness – at least according to Dr. Brown – is threefold: courage, compassion, and connection.

Courage is important because it takes courage to express that we are afraid we might screw up. It’s hard to admit to others that we might have moments of weakness – especially if we have worked hard to give the impression that we have no weaknesses. But that courage to show others that we are capable of error – that we are human – creates the possibility of a connection between us. In a similar manner, it takes courage not to judge others; that feeling of superiority that we get from thinking we’re better than others is nice, but fleeting. 

The judgement part, for me, was actually one of the easier things to learn. I’ve screwed up a lot over the years, and I’ve hurt a lot of people and let a lot of people down. I know exactly how fallible I am, and so I don’t judge anyone else for their actions. In Menninger, there was one woman who was terrified to speak up in one of our groups because, as it turns out, she had tried to commit suicide once – and she thought that was such a horrible thing that we would ostracize her. When I heard her say that, I just looked at her, smiled, and said, “I’ve tried twice. That woman over there has tried four times. Nobody’s going to judge you here.” That makes it sound like I’m some sort of saintly character, but I’m not; I’ve lied to my friends and family before, I’ve manipulated people, and I’ve done plenty of bad stuff. 

I think that doing that, and being in a place like Menninger, really showed me the dangers of judging other people, and how much being judged hurts. And so I’ve made an effort since then to avoid laying judgement on people. It’s a process, and it’s something I have to work at; like it says at the beginning of The Gifts of Imperfection‘s first chapter: “Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. The key word is practice.” So, I practice. 

More on the book as I move through it.