As I sit back in my chair soaking in the sun as it crosses the morning horizon I contemplate the journey of life I have been on.
Since I left EMS in 2013 my life has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. It’s seen too many hospital stays during my worst, and even at my best I haven’t been able to maintain any type of meaningful steady work.
I’m not where I saw myself when I thought about my future as a youth. I saw myself as being married, with kids, and fifteen years into a career at this point.
I’m married, no kids, and my career has been flatline for 6 years although I am currently in the process of discovering a new path forward for myself. I see that as a win, a loss, and a tie, so things could definitely be worse.
I feel like I’m getting stronger everyday. I’m setting limits for myself so I don’t over do it and have a set back with my mental health. I’m also setting reasonable, realistic, achievable goals for myself to keep pushing myself so I don’t stagnate. Finding a balance is a challenge and some days are met with more success than others.
As good as I am doing with my mental health, I am not asymptomatic. I routinely get the intrusive thoughts that have caused me so much discomfort in the past. They are no more comfortable than they were before, but the perspective has changed.
Thoughts are thoughts. They are not good, nor are they bad. Thoughts are chemical impulses in your brain based on real or perceived stimuli that your brain receives.
An example of self dialogue I have had with myself recently;
Brain: Everyone would be better off if you killed yourself.
Me: I don’t see how that’s possible.
Brain: all you do is drain people. You’re a parasite.
Me: I have friends that have supported me. They chose to not run away when given ample opportunity.
Brain: they tolerate you. They don’t care about you.
me: show me evidence that things are as you say.
brain: uh, I don’t have any. but I am right.
Me: Brain, you’re an idiot…
I can say with certainty that the aspects of Dialectical Behaviorial Therapy (DBT) I have taken have been a game changer where it comes to intrusive thoughts. Through the skills that I learned in DBT, when I face an intrusive thought I am able to quickly break it down as in the example above.
When I’m well, I’m able to break the intrusive thoughts down, look for evidence that either supports or contradicts what the thought is telling me, and using that information I am able to proceed accordingly. When I am struggling mentally the process is difficult but no less important.
Having the facts around the intrusive thought allows me to sort it into one of two categories, something actionable, or something to ignore.
When I am unwell the constant sifting through the facts of thoughts can be tiring and overwhelming. This is normally when my cracks begin to show and I am not far away from a hospital admission.
In closing, I am definitely further down the road to recovery than I was just a short time ago. I have strengthened my resiliency in the face of this beast inside me. Even with the positives, I know I have a long way to go down this road of recovery.