Ok, I know it’s been a year or so since I last posted . Sorry for that. It’s been a tumultuous time. I’ve been through a pretty messy divorce, had some issues I can’t get into on the professional front and the PTSD has spent a fair amount of time kicking my ass. Frankly, I just haven’t had the resources to post. I don’t fully have them at the moment if I’m to be honest but I’ve decided to make writing my career and that means publishing even when all you want to do is curl up and veg all day.
That’s one of the points I want to address in this post . More on it in a minute. First, for those of you who didn’t already know, I’ve written and self-published a book . The title is “What’s Your Superpower? Living And Coping With PTSD.”. Here’s a link. http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Your-Superpower-Living-Coping-ebook/dp/B01BBDGZGW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457542738&sr=1-1&keywords=what%27s+your+superpower
It’s currently priced at $4.99 US . I had it up for more initially but realized that was a mistake . Go check it out. The reviews have been good and there’s a lot of helpful stuff in there.
That’s actually one of the things that has kept me from putting up any new material here. When you spend six to eight hours a day writing your ass off about some very intimate, very painful matters it’s hard to find anything else in the tank for other writing. It’s the psychological equivalent of running on a treadmill from breakfast to supper and then needing to take the dog to the park. You want to but you’re just wrung out.
Going forward my plan is to try and put up something once a week. Probably Tuesday because that’s the day of the working week I tend to either take off entirely for new fiction or pull a light day. I’ve got a list of topics I plan to cover and they’re all about mental illness. So keep an eye out for new material.
Getting back to what I mentioned in the first paragraph, I want to discuss the idea of pushing through even when you feel like you don’t have it in you. To begin with, this is not going to be one of those “Suck it up Buttercup” platitude-fests that people who aren’t mentally ill seem to have such a hardon for. And you’d best believe I’ve got a fair bit of sharpish language for that kind of nonsense.
No, what I want to talk about is, let’s call it emotional inertia. We all have our bad days, those times when everything is too big, too heavy and too scary. Even people who aren’t mentally ill have days like that. There’s no shame in it. You’re human. You can only handle so much and too admit that is not a sign of weakness. Mental illness is a sickness, no different from the flu or pinkeye or any other medical matter and it’s perfectly ok to take the occasional sick day as a result.
The problem is how easy it can be to let that get away from you. I mentioned inertia a second ago. Usually we tend to think of that in physical terms. A boulder sitting in a field or a train moving down the tracks say. Well, anyone who has ever had their neuroses grip them by the throat can attest that the same concept applies to one’s psychological state as well.
You get in a bad place. You don’t feel like you have what it takes to deal with work or household chores or even feeding yourself because you’re using every bit of what you’ve got to keep your demons from straight-up killing your ass. And like I already said, that’s perfectly acceptable. The problem arises when one day becomes two or five or ten. One day is self-care. Anything more than three is wallowing. And wallowing is poisonous to your soul.
At that point you’re not taking a mental health day. You’ve succumbed to emotional inertia. You’re in a place of stasis brought on by the disease and you’re effectively letting it win. Frankly, it’s just as unhealthy a behavior as cutting or substance abuse. And just like those behaviors it needs to be put in check before you suffer permanent lasting harm.
So great, it’s easy enough to say. How do you do it ? I hate to say it but you just do. Understand that I am not suggesting you put your problems in a cupboard, forget they exist and skip merrily along the daisy-lined path free of any turmoil or upset. That’s not just unrealistic , it’s fucking stupid.
What I’m actually advising is that you view your problems like a soldier’s backpack. They’re heavy. You hate dragging them around with you. But you can’t just magically snap your fingers and make them disappear. A soldier on maneuvers has no love for his backpack for exactly those same reasons. Who the hell wants to drag fifty pounds of gear all over the countryside in all weather when you could kick back and play X-Box or read a book instead?
A soldier on a twenty mile hike with a full combat load doesn’t just go-go-go until he makes it or drops dead. He takes intermittent rest intervals. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. The odd pee break. He sets his burden down, catches his breath, works the kinks out and then -admittedly probably cursing the pack all the while- gets back in harness and back on his way.
That’s what you need to do. If and when things get too heavy give yourself permission to take five. Take an afternoon or even a whole day if you need it. Allow yourself to rest and recharge. But do so with a finite period of time budgeted in advance.
Tell yourself “Ok, I’m gonna take a day for myself. But it’s only going to be the one day. I’m gonna relax. I’m gonna focus on my inner health. Maybe I’ll marathon a show on Netflix or play video games or play with the dog or color. But then, the next day I’m going to get back on my feet and I’m going to start moving forward again.” . And then -and here’s the really hard part- follow through with the plan . Resting is easier than activity, that’s axiomatic. But just like too much activity is bad for you so is too much rest. Don’t let yourself be seduced into a limbo of inactivity.
I know from experience how hard that can be to implement. One of my big problems has been with exercise. I tell myself “I don’t feel good.” Or “I slept for shit last night.” and I’ll give myself permission to skip a day. And another and another. Next thing you know, it’s a week later and I haven’t shifted myself for a God damn. Just like with keeping up a regular habit of exercise, getting yourself back in motion after a mental health day is both challenging and necessary.
If you’ve got someone in your life who has a mental illness and they take a mental health day don’t shame them for it. They aren’t being weak. They are taking care of themselves. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re out of sorts.
Be supportive and encouraging. And be just as supportive and encouraging of them getting their feet back under themselves the next day. If they need a little encouragement, provide it but don’t be a jerk about it. Don’t be insulting or dismissive of their problems. Simply remind them that as hard as it is, it’s healthier to get going than to sit and let the disease wash over you. Remember; strength is not the absence of fatigue. Strength is being fatigued picking up your burden and going ahead anyway. As mentally ill people living in a world that is scary and stressful and not very accepting of us much of the time we demonstrate every day that we have endless reserves of inner strength. This is just one more manifestation of it. So take five when you need to. Then, pick your ruck back up, call it a few nasty names and get back on the road. It’ll be hard but I know you can do it.