Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This Is Why

I know it can sometimes seem like I spend too much time talking about the negative. Though my daily perspective is all about looking for the positive, I do spend a considerable amount of time here discussing issues and topics that are far from positive, even going into detail on my own problems and complaints. It’s not for entertainment, I assure you. Discussing my problems is not something I have ever learned to enjoy doing, and I don’t expect that will change. I’m learning to talk about things I’ve had a bad habit of bottling up in the past, but I doubt I will ever be comfortable doing that. If there were nothing else involved and it was entirely my own choice, there are plenty of subjects I would never mention in anything resembling a public setting.

Why do it then? Why do I spend time on subjects that clearly make me uncomfortable, or that spend more time than I would prefer on negative subjects? To put it simply, I do it because I believe that doing so helps. I believe that it helps me, for one thing, and that is why I started this blog, but I also believe that talking about uncomfortable things can help other people.

Writing about subjects that cause me pain or discomfort has a therapeutic value. It lets me get things out rather than bottling them up, and that helps to prevent the much larger negative impacts that inevitably come along with bottling. There is a reason that one of the most common forms of therapy is to just talk. It can be like lancing a wound, letting out the infection and letting in clean, healing air.

When we keep things bottled up, they tend to grow and become bigger than they really are. When we put things out into a space that is not bound purely by a single skull, it often becomes easier to see things in perspective. We can place one thing beside another and see it’s true shape and size more clearly. We can see handles, obstacles, and even solutions. Shadows grow within shadows, but the light can reveal that those scary shapes are just sticks caught in a bush. The monster becomes a rabbit, and things are just all around less scary when we can see them.

Whenever I have coached anyone who was struggling, I have always suggested keeping a journal. Write things down and get them out in the open. Be honest, be brutal, but don’t forget to look for what you’re missing. You are missing something. So much of our struggles are caused by misunderstanding, missing something is virtually guaranteed. The more we struggle, the more we misunderstand. The more we misunderstand, the more we struggle. It’s a vicious circle, but writing it down freezes the movement and lets you see where the missing pieces might be. It gives you something to focus on, and shows you angles you were not even aware of as you were writing them down. This is my journal, or part of it, anyway. This is where I write things down so that I can take a closer look.

There is, of course, nothing compelling me to share my journal with the world at large. In fact, when I advise people to keep a journal, I usually suggest that it be completely private. It can be easier to be perfectly honest if you’re not worried about being judged, and the kind of honesty needed for good therapy can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Beginning therapy, any therapy, is not a time that can be described as “the best of circumstances” for anyone. Almost anything that makes that a little bit easier is probably a good thing.

This is not a beginning for me, though. This is decades into a form of therapy that has already had many positive impacts on my life. The person I am today is in so much better a place than where I was all those years ago. Emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally, and just about any other -lly you care to name, have all shown marked improvements. Nothing is ever perfect, though, and I do have to revisit various things along the way. Life’s journey is more a dance than a race, and you will often repeat the same steps across the same stage. After you’ve done those steps a few times, consider teaching them. You might be amazed at what new things you can learn when you set out to teach what you thought you already knew.

If people can learn from what I have done then maybe they don’t have to make all of the same mistakes. We can make the world a happier place, and that makes it easier on everyone. Life as we know it has many self-perpetuating functions, so why not use that to our advantage when we have the opportunity?

Aside from the possibilities for teaching and learning, one of the biggest reasons I discuss my hardships is because I know that doing so will flip a lightswitch in someone else’s mind. Someone else, someone who might be reading my words, is struggling with the same thing I’m writing about. More than that, someone is facing this struggle and believes it to be a solo struggle. One of the greatest hardships in dealing with mental health issues is the isolation factor. We, as a culture, do not talk about these things and, as a result, people believe they are suffering alone. They don’t know that the burden can be shared.

My struggles are not unique. There is nothing I have gone through that many other people have not also faced. In fact, there is nothing I am going through that many other people are not facing right now. I have learned this over and over again, yet I still forget. One of the most devastating weapons in the arsenal of mental illness is the feeling of being alone, the belief that your illness has robbed you of value in a way that no one else could possibly understand, but that weapon is an illusion. Someone understands. Odds are amazingly good that many people understand. We just don’t talk about it. I know this, I’ve learned this, I preach this, and yet I still forget this. Imagine how much harder it must be for someone who hasn’t learned these lessons.

I don’t tell you about things that I am facing so that you will think my life is hard. My life is rarely hard, and it’s a piece of cake compared to many I have seen. I tell you about the things I am facing so that someone out there can see that someone else is facing the same thing. I tell you this so that you know you are not alone. That reminder can save a life.

What I can do, someone else can do. What two can do, many can do. This is a fact of life. We are each unique, and yet there are so many points of overlap. No two people will combine all of the pieces in all of the same ways, but no one person will ever have wholly unique pieces combined in a wholly unique way. I may not know every facet of your life, but, if you put enough of us together, you will see many of the same facets over and over again. We are unique in our combinations, but we are all drawing from the same source.

I have invited you into my therapy so that you can help me, and I can help you, and we can help each other. We can learn from each other, we can build each other up, and sometimes we can even hold each other up. In the end, we are all just walking each other home, so let’s make the journey one of companionship and jovial encouragement. We’ll make each other better, and we’ll make a better world along the way.

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