Recently, I bought a book, which I haven’t read yet, so I’m not going to give it free advertising (until I get a chance to read it and see if it is any good). It caught my attention because it challenges readers to get out of the comfort zone of a mental illness. I was struck by this suggestion (on the back cover) that we could get comfortable in our mental illness, but I’m starting to wonder whether there is some truth in it for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying mental illness is easy, nor am I saying it’s comfortable and the only observations I make are about myself. This is not a judgement of anyone else. I just hope that I can explain my thoughts in such a way that this is understood.
For a long time I would say that I was anything but comfortable in my mental illness. Actually it was anguish, day by day… but things have got a little easier lately, and if you read my recent posts you will see that. Actually it’s been a complete surprise to find myself not having to struggle daily whether to live or die. I haven’t been as tortured by my thoughts, or my feelings. I started to understand that the two are quite different, and that the problems come for me when I choose to act inappropriately on those thoughts and feelings.
I’ve realised though that I could just keep existing, as I have done. I effectively separated myself from people some years ago because I was tired of being hurt. I drew the conclusion that I was better off just sticking to me. I refused to even consider the idea of any intimacy because my experience was of feeling completely swallowed up by the other person, leaving me unable to breathe. Eventually I ended up either destroying, or running from every relationship I had. Again I concluded that I was better on my own.
It would be possible to continue that way. To continue to be shut off from the world. There on my comfy couch, I could continue to exist. The thing is that I’ve realised that I don’t want to.
I want to get off that couch, actually I am already getting off. There is life and love to be had, and while it was safe from hurt on the couch, I want to risk that ‘safety’ for the joy that is on offer. Yes, it is possible that I will get hurt again. I guess it is possible that I might feel suffocated again, yet I know I have learnt enough about myself to understand where this comes from, and to hold on tight to who I am. And to wisely choose who I let close.
When we jump into the unknown there is always a risk, but I can trust myself enough to know that I will only jump where it is likely to be safe, or where someone I trust will catch me. I don’t have to doubt my ability to be me, or my ability to take precautions. I don’t have to hide in what was becoming for me comfort in my mental illness. I can still guard my heart and soul to some degree, but have some fun. And that is what I intend to do. I am prepared to take a few risks.
I have spent a long, long time stuck in mental illnesses which arose for very good reasons. I was very sick for a long time, and my family will tell you that even when I didn’t doubt my ability to survive, they did. There seemed no hope, but through a whole lot of hard work I have this chance to fly again, and I’m taking it.
“I swear, with Chloe Bear once again as my witness…
That my problems and failures will not stop me, nor will they dictate who I am.
That I will continue to be my own person.
That life is too short, and I will live every day as the best person I can be.
That I will grow and that I will change.
That I will smile and hold my head high.
That this is a new start and a new day.
That I will allow myself to cry or sit by myself when I need to.
That I will find things to really smile about.”
― Stephen Emond, Happyface