Healing is damn hard work

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Have you ever had a cut or scrape, you put a band aid on it and over time it the cut or scrape heals, our cells heal themselves without any effort on our part or so it seems. Some cuts are so deep they require stitches, over time they heal as well, but usually leave a scar. This is the seeming effortless healing of our body. The question is, is it really effortless? At the microscopic and smaller level there is an army fighting to close that hole in our body.  But because this healing is seemingly effortless we think that all healing should be as effortless and we are actually shocked to find that healing our minds and our lives is a lot of really hard work.

Since the battle cry of today’s society seems to be “That is too much work.”  I have no trouble understanding why so few BP sufferers actually get on, and stay on, the path to mental wellness. To get well you have to heal your mind and your life and it is damn hard work. But the illusion of effortless healing remains and if you buy into that illusion chances of getting well are pretty slim.

Effortlessness is always an illusion. My favorite example of this is when my girlfriend saw a Journeyman sheet metal worker install soffit and facia on a house. It looked so easy. So she decided that if it was that easy she and I could install soffit and facia in her house. It turned out to not be that easy, actually it turned into one the few fights we ever had not just in getting the soffit and facia installed but between ourselves.

If it looks easy, look at the person who is doing it. Tiger Woods can sink a hundred foot put with fair consistency, if I sink one it is a fluke of nature. The guy who made installing soffit and facia look easy was a Journeyman, which means he had served a five year apprenticeship and by his age he had been doing the job for at least 20 years. Of course it looked easy.

Healing and walking on the path of mental wellness is damn hard work. If you buy into the illusion that healing is easy you will be so disappointed and disheartened by the amount of hard work you have to do and will give up. I am telling you do not think healing is easy, get that thought out of your head. Healing a cut or a scrape on our body involves thousands of cells and organisms too small for the eye to see working their asses off.  Sometimes we even have to help and get stitches and we are scarred in the healing. The healing of our minds and lives will leave scars as well.

There is only one of you to do the healing and the only thing you can heal is yourself, so get to work. You will not regret it, but give up any illusions that is healing is easy.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

How?

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Nothing is more important in dealing with our shared illness of BP, after finding medication that works, than knowing ourselves. Knowing our triggers that set off the things that manifest as addictions such as hyper sexuality. Or the things that cause our emotional turmoil and mental anguish. What places, situations, things, events and even people that cause our illness to rear its ugly head in our lives. How can these be avoided or removed from our lives if we have no idea what they are.

It is our lack of understanding of ourselves and our reactions that is the cause of most of these issues and gaining knowledge of our selves is the key to finding and keeping to the path of mental wellness. We initially have no understanding of the reasons for our thinking and our behavior. If we want to be well we have to learn what sets off our illness in our lives. Even then until we deal with the issues we have created our illness will attack us. There is a period of time in which our past will haunt us in a real sense but I want to be the first to tell you this will pass if we deal with the issues we created. It takes time but it is worth it.

James Allen’s statement, “Look within, look searchingly and show no mercy upon yourself.” Has been a catch phrase for me for some years now. The problem is, although true, this statement does not give a clear idea as to how we are to look within and what we are searching for. It’s the unexplained “How” that causes most of us to flounder about and accomplish little in this area of getting to know ourselves and what sets us off.

We are told keep a journal, that’s nice but what do I write? Do I write a blow by blow description of my day and then try and figure out what my triggers were or what I was doing or who I was with when my BP took off. You can do it that way and I did for a long time. Do not get me wrong I am far from discounting journaling actually pen and paper are the only tools that seem to work. You cannot do this successfully in your head you need to write it down but you need to know how to write it down.

Finding out the “How” is an exact science, with actual doable steps gave me great relief. I am hoping that once you know them, you will find the same relief and apply these steps to find the things that are holding you back or causing this illness to control your life.  The steps are the same and once known can be applied to every area of our lives in which we are not happy.

The first step is awareness. Unless you are aware that there is a problem no problem exists.

The second step is coming to understand why you do as you do. Without that understanding you cannot change what you do.

The third step is called a few different things by different people. Currently I like T. Harv. Ecker’s wording of “disassociation”. Previously I used forgiveness. Disassociating with a behaviour, reaction, or habit means you no longer own it. Whereas with forgiveness the element of ownership is retained and can cause further grief.

The fourth and final step is “Change”. You now are aware of the issue, you understand why you do what you do. You have disassociated the issue from yourself. Now you need to find something new to replace it. Trial and error is a large part of everything new. Do not expect you will walk through the first three steps and instantly be a newer, better you. You will have to learn what works to replace what doesn’t. In time you will be that newer, better you but in the beginning of change you will make some errors.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

 

Peace

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In having an over two hour discussion with others on the subject of peace I came home and began to write out my jumbled thoughts. The peace we were talking about is not world peace, although that would be nice. We talked of the peace that comes to us in our hearts and minds when we settle the emotional upheaval this illness wreaks on our lives. When we finally bust that over blown ego that possess us to think we could have thought rightly at any point in our illness.  If we have a mental illness it is impossible that our thinking could be right at all. A hard thing to accept, but ultimately true, if your mind is ill your thinking has to be as well.

We all agreed that in finding and accepting help and being willing to do the work is the first part. To, as James Allen wrote, look within, to look searchingly and show no mercy upon yourself. To test what you believe against reality. To root out and change what does not hold true in reality. This opens the door to peace. Inner peace is a promise of hard work on ourselves. It cannot be any other way, you cannot hire someone to do your push-ups for you and expect results, as Jim Rohn so eloquently stated. It is all on you.

That does not mean there will not be issues or setbacks, that our shared illness will never rear its ugly head in our lives. Our illness is controllable, not curable. We can control it the best we can. As we grow in that seldom talked about area of spirit, which is the area from which our emotional control and character development flows from, we are able to gain more and more control over this illness and ourselves.

Peace, inner peace, is a result of controlling ourselves in our environment, no matter what is going on around us. To me that simple statement, “you can have peace, no matter what, if you do what you are supposed to do,” gave me so much hope.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

 

Finding the Ditch

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Another tool that aids in mental wellness that is talked about a lot is working with others. Our shared illness causes us to become completely wrapped up in ourselves and focusing on someone else is said to bring us out of ourselves. However, no one bothers to add that this is also a learning experience and initially we will make a lot of mistakes that make it seem like helping others is just hurting ourselves. This causes us to think that this another highly touted idea that is just so much crap.

Bluntly, if we can barely function ourselves what makes us think we somehow magically have the skills to effectively help another person? Jesus said, “When the blind lead the blind they soon fall in the ditch.” I am the first to admit that I have hit the ditch a lot leading another person. But I have also learned only by hitting the ditch on both sides of the path can we find the road to mental wellness. In life there are no white lines to mark the edge of the road and in our closed eyed state what more can we expect than to find the ditch. The skills to effectively help others are learned skills not something we miraculously know.

What is this ditch that I speak of? It is emotional turmoil, not something we really want but that is what trying to help someone else usually creates in the beginning. There is an old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” I wonder how many hours’ cowboys spent trying to get horses to drink when the horse didn’t want to for the cowboys to figure that out. The same with people, you can show them the path to mental wellness but you can’t make them get on it. Nobody could make you get well either, you had to do it yourself. This is where the emotional turmoil comes in because we need to learn through experience that we cannot push, pull or drag someone on to the path to mental wellness. A hundred, even a thousand, people can tell you that, but for some reason most of us remain deaf to this until we experience it ourselves. Which proves this statement “Truth can only be experienced, it cannot be explained.” A Course in Miracles. It is in coming to understand that working with others is really about growing yourself. But my intent is to draw your attention to this fact – you will face distress and frustration working with others, but maybe we are to do this to learn exactly that, how to overcome distress and frustration. What we must realize is the conundrum of working with others, it may not do a thing for the other person but it will definitely do something for you.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Dancing a bad box step waltz

 

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Sometimes it feels like I am dancing a very bad box step waltz. If danced properly a waltz glides you around the room in effortless motion. In grade eight dance class all I ever managed was to go in circles in one spot, saying, 1, 2, 3. Sometimes I feel that my life has never graduated from that nightmare of grade eight dance classes and that I will forever be that awkward thirteen year old boy. I feel this way when the disease of BP grips me and takes my gratitude away. It may not be seem likely that something as simple as gratitude can be a key ingredient to mental wellness. It may not seem likely but gratitude is one of the most important ingredients, ranking as high as taking responsibility for your life, your thoughts, your words and your actions.

One of the truths of this world is, “If you do not appreciate what you have, you will not care for what you get.” I have seen this truth played out in my life far too many times. I have gotten much and lost much, only grieving these things after they were gone. As if I was living my life facing backwards. Not realizing that I simply refused to be grateful for where, what and who I was. This made it impossible to appreciate the things I received. But everything in my life, as I understand it today, was of my own creation or to teach me a lesson I desperately needed to learn. The biggest lesson was that my ingratitude towards my life triggered ingratitude in others towards me, including inanimate objects, like toasters and stoves.

BP is a mental illness and as such it is my mind that I need to battle. There is nothing outside myself that in any way contributes to this illness. The battle for mental wellness can, and does, only take place in my mind. This is a fact that we must accept if we are to overcome this illness. We grow into this illness it does not grow into us. Like a cancer it spreads throughout our minds affecting our thinking, our words, and our actions. Then this illness affects our relationships with the world around us.

James Allen wrote, “Look with, look searchingly and show no mercy upon yourself.” To do this you need to ask yourselves questions and test the answers against reality.  We all have wants and desires and in the throes of our illness those wants and desires seem to need to be forcefully taken. Yet nothing taken by force ever seems satisfactory. Thus we are unhappy, ungrateful and angry again and again.

Which, surprisingly, brings us back to gratitude, without gratitude there is no hope of happiness.

Work on your gratitude

Keep to the path, the hard one the easy one does not go anywhere.

Fear and other such things

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I spent a good hour today in my little green house willing my tomatoes to ripen because I do not want to buy any more of those want to be things from the store. I want a real peanut butter and tomato sandwich.

What does that have to do with BP and dealing with this illness? Only this, I harp a lot on the subject of self-awareness, I quote things about knowing yourself. I say that self-awareness is the key to our lives.

I say to be healthy we no longer want to be something we are not, but who we really are. And like the store bought tomato, that is only a facsimile of a tomato, we want to go from being a facsimile of ourselves, to being the real deal.

Part of being self-aware is listening to your thoughts and words and monitoring your actions, to see if they line up with who you are. That you are not lying to yourself or others. Presenting a false façade, like a forever changing movie set.  As you do that you find yourself literally confronting yourself and finding things that make you feel not so great.

I was confronted with me today in a way that I did not like.  Because of that confrontation I realized I still have some great fears lurking with in me. Yet I felt that, Yea, though I walk through the valley of death I fear no evil, cause I am the scariest person in the valley, but I found I do have fears.

I fear success, I fear being less than, I fear financial insecurity.

Things I thought I had left behind years ago, but they are still there lurking in the deepest corners of my being. Waiting for a chance to jump out and take over my life. I know because fear ran my life for many years and if I am not diligent fear can take over again.

It was fear and stressing over fears that brought me down in the past, causing those deep and really dark depressions. My history is far more depressive than manic, but I did the manic thing too.

What do I do about fears, exactly as I have done here – put them on paper and test them against reality. Is it realistic to afraid of success – every time in the past that I was successful I crashed and burned shortly after because of my arrogant nature. That was the past, I need to trust that I have the tools today to overcome my arrogant nature and pray that God will help me in that area.

I would do the same to each fear, at one time my list of fears was three neatly written pages long. Finding only three hanging on is kind of surprising, it should be more. But thankfully there isn’t.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

 

Heroes and Mentors

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There are two tools that help on the road to mental wellness that have proven indispensable to me. These are heroes and mentors. Why would having a hero and  a mentor help on the road to mental wellness? Simply put a hero gives you something to emulate and a mentor guides your steps, keeping you close to the path if you choose to listen.

My current hero is Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Why would I choose him as a hero? Because when most people are winding down their working lives he was just getting started. He sold his first franchise at the age of 65. It is not that he hadn’t worked and lived those previous 64 years, it is if he had quit then and settled for his little pension we would never have known who he was. He didn’t settle and I don’t want to settle either. He had something to offer the world, a secret recipe of herbs and spices, and I would like to think I have something to offer in my writing and my council to those that battle this illness of BP.

A hero then is that torch that you can follow. The spark that ignites the fire that says if they can, I can too. The biographies of the great men and women are waiting on the shelves of libraries and bookstores for you to find the hero that speaks to you in a way you can understand and want to follow.

A mentor is someone who has trod the path that you are on and can keep you from some of the errors that they have suffered through. The best mentors have no ulterior motives and only sincerely want the best for you. It is a relationship like non other in this day and age. A good mentor is not a bank, a taxi or your saviour. They are just a person who will never turn you away no matter what you have done.

My current mentor and I have welded a relationship over the last 6 years and even in the depths of my last episode in 2010 never once turned me away. I just refused to listen to wise words because I was so wrapped up in my illness that nothing penetrated. We can laugh about that today. My previous mentor and I had a fantastic relationship spanning 18 years, until he passed away and no I didn’t listen to him all the time either.

How do you find a mentor? First you must put yourself in a position to meet one. Attending support groups is usually a good place to start. Although many who attend support groups fall away as they reach a feeling of wellness, some stay to give back to the people who are still suffering. Those are the potential mentors. With the advent of online forums and chats finding someone you can forge a long distant relationship with has also become an option. I have a few people that I mentor through email. There is only one requirement to having a mentor and that is honesty. If you can’t be honest don’t bother. For the few that I mentor face to face the first thing I say is “I don’t care if you lie to me, just don’t lie to yourself.”

There are many tools to be found on the path to mental wellness. Two of the best are finding a hero and a mentor. They are the fire and the forge that can weld you into a person of integrity and keep you on the path to mental wellness.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

 

Self Harming Beliefs

 

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What’s in front of you?  Do you really know? This illness blinds and distracts us in a lot of ways. One of the biggest is in the area of finding peace and contentment. Finding that peace and contentment is the only route to being, “Happy, Joyous and Free.”

This illness allows us to believe a lot of crap. This has been my biggest challenge digging out all the crap that my unguarded subconscious picked up and believed was gospel truth.  I am still doing it to this day. The mixed and confusing messages and beliefs I accepted and allowed to be permanently installed in my subconscious mind still show up when I tackle new ventures, new relationships and new ways to improve myself, mentally physically, spiritually and materially.

The subconscious mind believes anything it is told. This has been well proven in recent studies and you can find many people on YouTube who will explain this a lot better than I can. What I can explain is what this illness does to us and the simple things we can do to avoid taking on more self-harming beliefs.

The first thing our shared illness does is distract “the guard at the gate”, our conscious mind from filtering out the things that should never reach our subconscious and permanently attach themselves to our belief systems. James Allen wrote, “You believe (and upon this little word belief hang all our sorrows and joys)….

We believe so much that is not true when tested against reality and yet we are not taught to test our beliefs. In fact we are encouraged not to test those beliefs by the very subconscious that holds them. When we test those beliefs that cause us repeated sorrow in our new found life our mind rebels and fights us with its weapons. Those weapons consist of many things, insomnia, nightmares and depression to name a few. Yet if we persevere and test those beliefs we find that in time we can establish true beliefs from false and replace those false beliefs with beliefs founded on fact not fiction.

Our thinking is so ingrained with this false idea, “all our ills are caused by external forces.”  We must understand it is our inner thoughts, driven by our beliefs, which creates our external wold, both the animate and inanimate. We moan and wail against the pain in our lives, the wrongness of every person, place, thing and situation we encounter. Yet we fail to see that in all of those we are the only common participant. That it is us that creates the pain and it is ourselves that are wrong. We hold wrong beliefs and wrong thoughts which lead to wrong actions and inevitably to wrong results. Yet we continually look at our results and instantly look at the people, places, things and situations around us and cast blame as far as we can expecting some external fix. In reality if we looked and blamed within we could fix everything. This is most wonderfully illustrated by the bed, or rock, we stub our toe on. The bed, or rock, in most cases has never moved and can never move. But we blame the bed, or rock, for our pain instead of understanding that it is ourselves that needs to be more careful.

It is only by understanding that it is our thoughts and beliefs that create the pain and wrongness in our lives that we can place the sentry back at the gate of our subconscious. In believing this one truth, we can begin the walk on the road to mental wellness. We must believe that our external lives are an exact match of our internal life. That contentment and peace can only be achieved by aligning the two.

 

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.