Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blog A Book Chapter 1 90 Days to a Healthy Balanced Recovery

Making My Own Yardstick this is a rough draft (c) 2013 Thanks for the input. Tenth round of editing, close to final.

Making My Own Yardstick
How I can find a healthy, balanced recovery in 90 Days

This journey to somehow find a healthy, balanced recovery

isn't new to me. My dream of finding a healthy, balanced recovery started out as a hope 12 years ago when my therapist asked me what I wanted out of life. I had no idea what I wanted. I wandered around the subject talking about how I didn't really know who I was and that I wasn't sure what I wanted, but I did know that I wanted to be happy. All I wanted out of life was to be happy.
I wanted to measure myself with my own yardstick, but I didn't have one. Chameleon-like, all I knew and had done for 45 years was measure myself according to other people’s thoughts and expectations. So I wanted to be happy and live according to what I wanted in life. I just had no idea what that meant to me.

It's easy to let life get in one's way. I was an advocate. “I surely couldn't just stop that, could I?” when I told people I was tired and wanted out. What would the people I was advocating for do? And the NAMI Consumer Council needs someone, would you please run? We need you. I said I'd give it a year. Seven years later I was still there.

The clubhouse could use your computer skills. The State of Michigan really needs to hear what you have to say, can you attend this meeting? Can you present here? Have you thought about attending church again? You could do so much. We need a speaker. We need a trainer. Why don’t you do this or that? You’re good at it. You should write this. You should write that.

  • You need to…
  • We need you to…
  • We want you to..
  • We don’t want you to….
For almost my entire life, I felt like I was walking down the street of life in clothes that didn't fit. Socially clueless and internally inept, I had nothing in my internal wardrobe or external life that I felt fit me as a person. I felt as if there was nothing I could ever do that would help things fit better. Sometimes the clothes were just the wrong clothes. I would be dressed in a pair of jeans and work boots when the situation called for an evening gown. Or I would be in an evening gown and I needed another type of outfit entirely.

I felt that way everywhere:

  • At my parent’s house
  • At my house
  • At school
  • At my daughter’s house
  • When relaxing
  • When driving my car
  • When working
  • While camping
  • In meetings I was asked to attend
  • In meetings I crashed my way into
Nowhere did I feel I fit the situation.

Living that way made my insides like cheap ground hamburger-the pink slime kind of ground hamburger, not anything close to ground chuck and certainly not anything close to ground sirloin.  The pink slime stayed in me, packed so tight there was little room for something else to slip in. So not only did the clothes not fit, but inside of those clothes I felt like I was pink slime.

Changing people's lives? 

I still felt like pink slime in a costume. I was afraid my pink slime would be discovered. During Community Mental Health Board meetings? Pink slime strikes again. While at a meeting or sitting on the NAMI Board? More times of feeling like pink slime in an ill-fitting costume while in an ill-fitting situation.

Be, Do Have?

When I didn't have a sense of belonging anywhere; it seemed I could never get comfortable. I simply didn't know how to BE, or I couldn't know how to be because I had no identity within me. My therapist would talk about how society was centered around the philosophy of Have, Do, Be not Be, Do Have. In many ways it went right over my head. I had a choice?

Essential Lifestyle Planning (ELP)

In 2001, while in mental health treatment: I had the opportunity to have a really great type of person-centered plan (PCP) written up for me. It was called an Essential Lifestyle Plan (ELP). When I went to see my therapist we were discussing what I wanted to have as the primary goal for my ELP.

She talked to me for an hour and then said, “It sounds like you want to construct an identity as a happy healthy and independent person. What the hell, it sounded like a good primary goal. I mumbled something like sure, was brutally booted out of Community Mental Health when I exercised my rights to not submit to a particular treatment. I remember thinking, "how could they think I was OK enough let roam free on the streets when I felt like pink slime all the time?  Why that did they want me in that one treatment when it had failed 4 or 5 times before?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

I didn't know how to tell them what I needed so they told me repeatedly to go ask a store clerk for change that I didn't need, so I could get a better sense of self. Or to half smile at the pink slime. Ignore the pink slime and it will go away? I tried but the pink slime never fit right into the outer garments I was trying to wear. DBT to me meant Diabolical Behavior Therapy and was truly a diabolical experience. My pink slime never fit in DBT either. Skills Training Manual; Dialectical Behavior Therapy  

I felt like I was caught in a revolving door where on one side was what was real to me and on the other side was what was real to other people. When we were doing the Essential Lifestyle Plan other people had written what they thought were great things about me on huge pieces of Flip Charts paper (the link is to the Listen to me Workbook.

They said I was:

  • A great grandmother
  • Good mother
  • A good daughter
  • Fun
  • Strong
  • Good advocate
  • Good sense of humor
  • Good writer
Every time I started to hope that the words might be true so I would try to go through the door, the exit was blocked. I would go around and see the words but they did me no good. I couldn't find a way to get what had been written on the Flip Charts into me. I couldn't grasp the words nor stand anywhere close to them. I sat empty and totally alone in a room full of people who were talking to me, about me, trying to help me find answers for my life.

My Person Centered Plan did get done (great book about person-centered planning, my personal story isn't in it). And it helped me look at my life in a way that I never had before. We looked at

  • What were my favorite things?
  • What were my second favorite things?
  • What were my third favorite things?
  • How did I like to be treated?
I didn't really have any idea how I would like to or would want to be treated.

There was a gaping scar where the answer should have been. It didn't matter how many times I tried to find something to fit, I couldn't.  It was more than the square peg in a round hole thing. Way more. The scars were filled with pink gooey glue. Like rubber cement that never fully dried and never really came loose no matter how one picked at it.

But progress was made; I was able to figure out what some of my favorite things were.

Still, empty was empty, the pink goo didn't fill the void. The not being able to be in mental health treatment that would have been a good fit was painful, but looking back now, I am no longer sure there is such a thing. Not knowing how to even think about beginning (was the pink slime supposed to stay or go?) and not being able to afford to see someone to help as much as I needed to was mentally daunting. I just kept adjusting whatever clothes I could find to fit over the sucking chest wound that was filled with toxic nasty slime and trudging on whatever path was in front of my feet. The path that didn't fit me well before, didn't fit me any better now.

I trudged on.

I continued to change other people’s lives as I trudged along while feeling that I was a fraud. Was I a wool in sheep's clothing?

The years have trudged on as I trudged on. I lost them. They went by without me being what or who I wanted to be. Twelve to thirteen years later I still have no idea what I think is great about me. 
It’s 2013 and I am still wandering.

  • I’m not sure who I am.
  • I’m not sure who I want to be.
  • I don’t know where I want to end up.
I do know that I've given myself 90 days to find out I’m just not sure how I am going to figure it all out. I do know that if one doesn't have some rough end point one gets lost and ends up on the wrong path. I've been on one my whole life. So I guess the first thing is a plan.

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