Where is the line between illness and everything else?

Posted by Stephen / on 03/02/2011 / 0 Comments

It is human nature for a traumatic event to take center stage in our lives. Car accidents, physical injuries and the passing of loved ones all tend to become the focus of our thoughts and conversations. But what if that traumatic event continues to have negative impacts on our lives?

There are often two approaches people take when it comes to living with mental illness. One is to deny that it has a significant impact on there life and the other is to become completely absorbed by it. Each has some benefit, but overall the negative aspects can be devastating.

Knowing where to draw the line between a healthy awareness of an illness and every other aspect of life is an important tool for successfully living. It is what I like to call the universal principle of balance and it applies to every aspect of life. We find this principle in nature. Humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants provide balance by doing just the opposite; breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.

When applying this principle of balance in a mental illness setting there are numerous challenges which will be unique to each individual. Simply trying to achieve balance without taking the time to identify details of what caused imbalance in the first place will lead to the pendulum effect: A swing from one extreme to the other.

To begin, identify the known aspects of the illness that cannot be changed or which you are unwilling to change for reasons such as side effects of medication. When doing this be sure to be in a supportive environment. It is difficult for anyone to face their limitations and it is important to have support to help stave off thoughts of being worthless. Always remember that everyone has strengths as well as weaknesses. By identifying the things we struggle with we will better know what situations/aspects of life will minimize our weakness and maximize our strength.

The next step is to determine aspects of the illness which you are not sure are a part of the illness or a result of peoples reaction to it. Again it helps to have supportive people with you so can discuss this. Often times it is easy for others to blame an illness when we are in conflict with them and it is easy for us to accept that blame. But is that always the case?

Any relationship will sometimes have conflict. By looking at those situations of conflict honestly and with support two important realizations should emerge. First, everyone has bad days and becomes a challenge for others to be around, not just people with mental illness. Second, patterns of relationships, types of people, work fields or topics of conversation which you find very challenging. While doing this be careful not to get caught up in whose write or wrong. Remember this is about your balance and not about trying to win an argument.

After going through those to steps you have laid a foundation for being able to look at every other aspect of your life with new information about the illness and its effect on your life. This means less guessing on weather or not a job is the right one for you. Why you always seem to have a hard time with a certain person and how you might be able to change that. In essence, you have equipped yourself with tools to begin to live life more successfully.

So far the steps have covered:

1) Identify and accept aspects of the illness which cannot be changed or which you are unwilling to change.

Benefit: When making life decisions you have better insight as to which ones are likely to be detrimental and which are likely to be beneficial.

2) Identify which apparent aspects of the illness are actually a result of peoples reaction to the illness and not the illness itself.

Benefit: When in difficult situations you have a higher capacity to fend off self defeat, handle conflict with more poise and have a better understanding of what types of people you get along with better and why.

Some important understanding to have before you begin this process:

1) Have support of people you trust who are wanting to help you begin this process.

2) Beginning the process is difficult (though it does get easier as you realize the benefits) and it takes time... a lot of it

3) Blame, anger, regret and guilt will slow the process or defeat efforts all together. Both the sufferer and support should not be struggling with any of these things when starting the process.

4) Life in and of itself is challenging and always changing. Work with support to keep expectations appropriate.

5) Better, even if its not as good as you hoped is still better. REMEMBER TO CELEBRATE!

The overall goal is NOT to try and make life easy. The goal is to be able to face life with an understanding that despite ups and downs, progress and regrouping life is in fact a great adventure and worth putting in the effort to actually live it not just survive it.



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