I’ve written some lately about how my perspective about my treatment for depression and anxiety has changed lately. Especially after we took our trip to North Carolina after my boneheaded decision to stop one of my anti-depressants. Once I went back on it, I began to feel better within a couple of days. I talked about how my perspective has changed and how it relates to my acceptance of my treatment. I feel acceptance and perspective go hand and hand. Another is perseverance and perspective. I feel these two words, as far as they relate to mental health, basically orbit around each other in an ever changing manner, yet help to form balance.
This ever changing manner is a very good thing. Or it can be a good thing. I feel we have a lot of control with how perseverance and perspective affect our lives and our mental health. I know they have for me.
We all have a perspective about our lives. We have perspective on how we want to live them and a perspective on how we want to enjoy them. With perspective, we let things into our lives. We also try and keep things out of our lives. What is the perfect recipe? That is a great question I don’t think can easily be answered. But it is OK for it to not be easily answered.
I say it cannot be easily answered, as we are always molding and forming our perspective using our internal information, as well as external information. Internally, some examples can be: how I think about myself…how I treat myself…what is my brain telling me and how can I either stay right there, or how can I change what my brain is telling me to fit what I am striving for, as it goes for living the life I want to live. It also can be how we perceive how people react to us or even accept us. Granted what our brain is telling us may not be really what people are telling us or treating us like, but we know how much our brains influence our perception no matter what people’s real intentions are or not for us.
External things that help to mold our perspective can be: how do we take what someone has said to us…does it register as good or bad…how does a public interaction go with someone at the grocery store…what are we watching on TV or other ways of stimulating our brains through technology…did a neighbor see us walk outside our house and strike up a conversation when we really didn’t want to talk to anyone. These may not be the greatest examples, but they are some examples out of so many.
My point is we constantly have internal and external forces at work on us. They are working on us even when we don’t know it. What do we do with the information? Do we use it as a tool to try out something different or strengthen how we interact with the world? Do we allow the experiences to push us back into our hole where we don’t want to be active in our care anymore? Every bit of this helps us to form our perspective. Whether “it” is good or bad.
Here is an example from this past weekend that I experienced. I have just passed two years without having a drop of alcohol. I’ve had some good and bad days with this, but I’ve never wavered from the commitment I made to myself. I find myself being able to hang out with people when they are drinking more and more. I don’t mind it as much. There does come a point where I do sometimes get tired of being around the “different level” people will get to when drinking. This is by no means judgment as I know how I was when I drank. I’m not spouting goody goody garbage all over like I never drank a day in my life and I’m better than you are. I am talking about something that just happens. Maybe I pay more attention to this than others as I have gone from a heavy drinker to not being a drinker at all.
We had planned a camping trip with some friends of ours. Another couple. We planned on making the trip a long weekend type of trip. Cool! I really enjoy getting away and setting up our camper and just relaxing outside. So many of my trips are with my family and no one really drinks much at all, so this may have been my first trip with just friends. The activities with my friends are definitely different than with my family. A camping weekend with my friends involves a lot of alcohol.
In no way do I expect anyone to do or be any different than how they have always been. When I notice people being different around me, it is way more awkward for me to be around than if they would just act like themselves with me. I’m a big boy and I made a decision that I am determined to stick too.
I was having some serious anxiety though. Are we going to be the loudest people in the campground? Will there be little kids staying in a tent right by us? Is our music disturbing our neighbors? Am I going to get sick and tired of watching people do the same thing everyday?
I found myself worrying more not about us in particular. I was OK with everyone being themselves. I was worried about how everyone around us perceived not one of our actions, but every single one of our actions. My level of worry was at the level of anxiety when we went to North Carolina.
It made me feel terrible. It made me feel like I had no control or I was loosing control. Not that I was loosing control over them, but it was me loosing control of…me. I knew my worries were irrational. We were OK. Try telling that to my brain. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop worrying. All I wanted to do was to stop worrying and relax and enjoy my time with my friends.
Then it escalated. Some neighbors across the road came over. Campgrounds are notorious for attracting pretty cool people and you tend to be friendly with your neighbors. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with another as we were setting up our campers or whatever.
Well, when the neighbors came over…I tried to visit the best I could. I quickly realized I didn’t want to be in a group of people I know, mixed with people I didn’t know. Too much stimulation. So, I decided to try some of my new stuff out. I forced myself to leave the group. Telling myself it was OK to leave the group and I walked over by the fire away from the group. The neighbor guy saw me and walked over and we began to chit-chat. My goal of walking away was to hopefully have not more than one stranger walk over to me and I could then handle it.
It worked for about maybe five minutes. My brain was still not calm. I wasn’t depressed, but my anxiety was high from a day and a half of camping. That’s a day and a half of constant worrying. Any mechanism I had to keep my anxiety in check was gone.
I went into basically a fight-or-flight type of response. I basically just left and went into the camper to lay down. I thought maybe pulling myself out of the situation for a while would allow myself to calm down and maybe I could rejoin the foray. Nope. I could hear everyone talking and that meant our neighbors were still there.
Eventually they left. It had started to rain and the rest of my group decided to come in so the neighbors left after they came in. When I asked my wife if they were gone and she replied that they had…a feeling of relief came over me.
In a sense, my perspective changed. Or at least I molded an edge of it a different shape than what that edge looked like before. I realized that all of my worry about how we were being perceived was really my worry of having to deal with people I don’t know. I didn’t want to do it. I was in no mood to make new friends this weekend. After I knew they had left, I became more comfortable.
I realized no matter what these people around me do. My wife and my friends, I was happy to be with them. Why? I felt safe around them. I felt they could be a buffer for me to the outside world I didn’t want to interact with. Now did I ignore everyone as they walked by? No I didn’t. It is not who I am, but I wasn’t up for inviting all kinds of nice people over to enjoy our fire and our company.
I was good just being with my group. I could care less what they did. I was happy. I interacted more. I loosened up. I started to enjoy myself. When our neighbors didn’t come over the next night…I was good to go. I was feeling much better. I was still worried about the music volume, but even that worry had lessened.
We were having so much fun together that we added on another night to our trip. I’m so glad we did.
My perspective changed. What these three people mean to me changed. Nothing was bad before, but more good feelings about them were there. There is something to be said about being with people who make you feel SAFE. Not make you feel good…yes maybe they do that as well, but I’m talking about SAFE. I could be me no matter what. These are great people in my life and my level of respect for them went up for sure.
The perspective of how I want my life to look and feel changed this past weekend. I feel I was able to better form how I want myself to look and be like.
I have begun to like the perspective my life has taken and how I want to live it moving forward. It has taken a long time to get to this point. This is not the finishing line, but I like this check point I am at. My perspective will change again, but it does look a lot different than it did at first.
When I got out of the hospital, my perspective was more focused on survival and what I needed to do to achieve moving away from a bad place. It is more now on being who I want to be. It is more about living the life I want to live. It really is more about how I want my life to look.
This is where perseverance comes in. In order for me to get from being in a very dark hole, to asking for help, to learning how to survive, to learning my life and learning what it looks like has taken a bunch of time and effort. I’m not done yet either. I’ve not only had to learn to constantly mold my perspective into what I want it to be, but I’ve had to learn perseverance.
I’ve tried a lot of stuff. Some has worked and some has not worked. The times everything seems to be working is a lot easier than the opposite. No aspect of any of this is simple, but better times seem to make for a bit smoother sail. To maintain the good times it takes perseverance.
You don’t learn how to be overnight. At least you can’t put it into action and make it a part of your life overnight. It takes time. It takes focus. It takes drive. You can’t say you want help and you want to change and then do nothing and still expect everything to just become better. This plan will not work. You have to figure stuff out. Figure out how it works. Figure out how it fits into your life. You have to tweak aspects sometimes. You are working on figuring it all out all of the time. It takes a lot of effort. It takes perseverance.
Sometimes you will fall backwards. It is OK to fall backwards. It will happen along your journey. Perseverance gets a big challenge during these moments. When we are working through all of this, some ideas and methods will not work. You can change them completely or alter them to something which works for you. But you must persevere. You can’t stop. You can take a break and catch your breath again, but you have to start moving forward again. You have to persevere.
Another huge challenge is when something you are doing seems to be working and then it seems like it comes crashing to a halt and either doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense anymore. This to me is the time I most want to quit. This is where I begin thinking…what did I do? Why do I try so hard when nothing seems to work? What is the point of all this? My desire to quit can become strong. But we must persevere. This is a key moment when we must persevere. You may want to quit, but a lot of times we have come a long way and then boom…something in life changes, or whatever the cause may be, and we feel helpless. We feel frustrated. We feel like quitting. We have to pick ourselves back up. It hurts, but we have put so much work into ourselves. We have so many things that are working for us that we can’t quit. We pick ourselves back up and we persevere.
I wear a bracelet on my right wrist. I wear it on purpose or at least for a purpose. The stones are round and the three brownish stones represent perseverance. This bracelet helps to remind me that I must persevere through the good and especially through the bad. The bracelet has a cross on it as well. The cross helps me to remember I am not persevering alone. We all need help. Our perseverance needs just as much help as anything else does. This bracelet provides me with some grounding and is a great reminder of what I need to do.
Perspective will come. A general perspective forms quickly. Your perspective will change. You perspective can change for the better. You can do it! Our perspectives don’t have to stay in the bad…or stay feeling hopeless. We have control over our perspective. We really can mold it to look how we want it to look. The process will involve perseverance. With perseverance comes an acceptable perspective. With an acceptable perspective comes a life we can be happy living again.
You got this! I got this! We got this! Let’s keep walking this journey together.
Have a great day!
Please stop over and visit Jason Kehl’s Basement Of Jams: Rocking Mental Health. This blog lives over there along with a podcast I have been doing. I also have some music I’ve created along with some short videos I’ve made to help further my mission for mental health awareness.