Tuesday, January 2, 2018

No new horizons



Horizons are for what is just out of reach, what I am living for is right here, right now. To quote NF:
"I look at the future that's in front of me with both eyes"

My future is right in front of me, not some distant point that I can never touch. It is real, it is here and it is clear.

I realize I have neglected my part in the "peer-support" aspect of this website. This past couple of years has been a strange and bewildering experience, to be honest. I peruse the blog and the many posts I have offered over the last 8 1/2 years and I can see the broken, disoriented person that was consuming skills faster than could be applied. I see the growth and understanding taking shape and the freedom that followed. 

When I started this, I would take in the skill, "book" learn it and then regurgitate it back out to the world wide web while I learned how to apply it in my life. Then I would share the experience of it all. It truly was a beautiful process. I can, in my mind's eye imagine all these happenings and thoughts in my world being repeated in the lives of everyone who has been here along the way. Each person that reached out and touched this experience, I can see that what I have posted here is not centered on me, even though it is my personal experience. In reality, the names could easily be changed to any one person that has been a part of My DBT Life's journey. Granted, certain experiencing would alter a tiny bit, but the human experience of it all - that is what is clearly not isolated to just me. 

I am full of gratitude for everyone I have met along the way and I feel quite insignificant (in a good way) by the scope of the mental health journey.

Allow me to explain: Understanding a mental illness and how much impact it has on your life can be quite mind-blowing. Just by the nature of mental illnesses and the process by which one gets well - the whole thing puts such a focus on one's self, that "selfishness" or "self-centered" begins to take over many thoughts. Then to add the sharing of these experiencing to the internet for the world of mental health to consume can feel very exposing.

There is a fundamental truth there though, I did have to become self-aware in order to change my paradigms and change the course in which my life was headed. I had to become selfish in a way. The sad reality though is that it is easy to get lost in self-awareness. Without balancing that self-awareness with mindfulness, one's character can develop selfish tendencies. That balance is where my lack of contribution to the "peer-support" effort came from. I pulled back, not wanting to develop a need or dependence on the focus being on "me" - by putting everything out there for the world to see. I had to spend time reflecting on why I was working on this blog, why I wanted to share my experience.

The way the world works today, social media and the "self" is a huge part of how people interact. I was reflecting on pre-Facebook days, or the years I spent not being able to stream Netflix on my phone or play card games at my fingertips while sitting at the mall waiting for my children. The methods we used to entertain ourselves or cope with an upsetting situation - it is so different now. The vast majority of humans are being fed information, quite literally, every waking moment. That is not at all what it was like when I was growing up. Or even when I was a young adult. Here is a shocking revelation, it wasn't even this way when I started this blog! Sure, we had the smartphones (just coming out) - we had Facebook, we had solitaire on our tablets, phones etc. But it hadn't taken hold yet because it was all so new. In just 9 short years, look where it has taken us!

No, I am not speaking against it all. I am not building a case of primitive, unplugged living. I am merely pointing out where my reflections have taken me. And it has taken me to here:

Mindfulness.

As with anything, moderation and knowing yourself and what is happening to yourself in any given moment is the key. Our advancements in technology is a grand and wonderful thing. I cannot express how grateful I am for the ability to share mental health skills with people via the internet. Or to be able to meet in groups with people all over the world who need a hand on their back to encourage them and help one another to feel less alone, even if that hand is a virtual one. Because without it, in some cases, they would have no one. Even a virtual hand is better than no hand.

I love and adore that I have coping mechanisms on my smartphone for when I am in public and a panic attack begins to creep. I have had a life that perhaps someone else with my conditions, 20 years ago would not have had - simply because I do have an electronic device to help me out of the moment. But... without consciously keeping a proverbial foot on the ground while using this technology, I could easily be swallowed up by it and lose sight of mindfulness and then all the rest of the skills begin to unravel.

What came next was amazing. Realizing that I needed to be more mindful that I was not at the center of all of this, and to establish a more humble approach to my journey, I backed off a bit. True to form with the skills, I then reassessed and I am emerging with a sense of balance and gratefulness that is quite pleasing. I am very impressed with the journey and I simply adore living a life worth living! I realized I am not building it anymore. It is built. I am living it.

Now the effort is put into maintaining that life. Maintaining those skills and the world looks amazing to me. That is what led me to the lyrics quoted at the outset of this post. I truly am looking clearly at my future in front of me with both eyes... and I have the skills learned in DBT to thank for that. I have the friendships and peer-support gathered in groups that helped keep those skills sharp to thank for it. I have the continued support of my family and friends, group, skills - all of it - to know that I will keep going and face the future with gratitude and excitement! Not losing sight of the power of mindfulness.

~Mj