A Heart Full of Gratitude

I woke up this morning with a heart full of gratitude. Last week in my dialectic behavior therapy (DBT) group, I shared that I was feeling more and more confident with coping with crises and significant mood swings, but am really struggling with managing the “daily grind.”  I come home from work and I am tired.  I want to do something productive, enjoyable, or growth-stimulating; yet I find myself time and time again melting into the couch binge watching one show after another.  I want to make the most of my weekends, yet I feel tired and overwhelmed by housework, meal planning, grocery shopping, and a lot of free and unstructured time.  My DBT therapist said “Well that’s a really great place to be.”  My first reaction was yeah, great, I am struggling just to get through my everyday routine, but sure what a great place to be.  And that sentiment may have been accompanied by a sarcastic internal eye roll.  But I’ve been reflecting on this for a few days now.  And you know what? It is a great place to be.  I’ve been living through one crisis or mood episode after the next for so much of my life.  It’s been a little over a month since my miscarriage and I can look back and realize that I coped more effectively with this crisis than any one before that.  Wow, I really am building mastery with effective coping skills.  The fact that I can now focus on coping with everyday life is a gift.  Stability is something I am still adjusting to, but it is a challenge for which I am truly grateful.

I never take for granted how lucky I am to work for a company with great health care benefits.  I can easily obtain all of the medications I need.  I have a mental heath care team that I wholly trust—a team that supports me through the good and bad times with thoughtful, knowledgeable, and compassionate care.  I am able to attend individual and group therapy in order to gain and refine the necessary coping skills to manage my bipolar disorder and panic disorder.  For all of this, I am grateful.

Remember:

Talking about mental illness is brave and important.

Mental illness is not a personal failure.

Mental illness is a flaw in chemistry, not character.

It’s okay to not be okay.

It’s okay to need help.

I have found the courage to embrace vulnerability through starting and maintaining this blog.  I am able to express my genuine thoughts and feelings, grow through reflective writing, and show the world my most authentic self.  My family, friends, and acquaintances know me better than I’ve ever allowed them to before.  Being my authentic self is something that used to terrify me.  I suffered internally for so long in order to present my most perfect self to the world.  This was exhausting.  Embracing myself—all the good parts and the ugly parts too—has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.  I’ve built closer and more authentic relationships.  I’ve helped others to feel they are not alone and gotten the same in return.  For this, and for you, I am sincerely grateful.

If you asked me a couple years ago if I would get to the point where I’d be sharing with my therapists that I am struggling with stability, I would’ve laughed, and maybe cried.  I would have scoffed at the idea that I could ever achieve stability long enough to struggle with it.  So with that, I enter this three day weekend with my heart wide open to the possibilities that stability will bring.  I can take time to focus on how to accumulate positive experiences, build healthy routines, live by my values, and foster spirituality, compassion for others, and appreciation for the life I am building.  And it is for this that I am most grateful.

I’m not one for preaching advice.  After all, I may never know or be able to understand what you are battling today.  All I can do is share the wisdom I have discovered from those around me and within myself.  Be your authentic self; it may scare you but the reward is worth it.  Accumulate positive experiences and savor them through mindfulness.  Embrace your suffering.  It has shaped who you are and will always be an important part of your story.  Then let it go.  As the lotus flower reminds us, experiencing great suffering allows us to welcome incredible joy and happiness into our lives.  And most importantly, use this to build a life worth living. Keep fighting, friends.

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