I love metaphors. Especially when I’m trying to sort something out that doesn’t feel so good. Living and speaking about mental health doesn’t always feel so good to me. The constant background conversation in my head says over and over again that ”they are going to judge you and think less of you if you let them know you have Bipolar Disorder” over and over again.
Frustrating, so back to my metaphors. Today I was completing my patio garden and I began to think about how this year it’s has been very different for the deck and flowers, even my attitude.
We live in Toronto and our condo faces south so in the spring, summer and fall we get up to 12 hours of sun on our deck – needless to say over the past 6 years we have not been able to grow and take care of any flowers or plants. When we did buy a few hanging plants they have either died, dried up or blown away.
This year is different, I decided that no matter what, I wanted another living space on the deck with lots of beautiful flowers and plants. A place I could relax, write this blog and generally not be stressed. I felt like if I could create an oasis, I’d have more opportunity to be creative and diminish some of my new found anxiety. I was committed that our flowers and plants would grow, bloom, re-bloom and add to our outdoor space like we have never experienced before.
So I needed to make it easy to water the plants and make sure they are being taken care of. I created a schedule; part of what I do in the morning includes watering and caring for my plants. If it looks like it going to get windy and stormy I bring the plants under the overhang. If I can’t take care of them, I ask for support and do so as soon as I know I need it. No messing around with this – all in service of gorgeous, living blooming flowers and plants. We have had the flowers and plants since May and they are all still alive and looking really good. The space is fabulous and I enjoy it almost every day.
I realized my patio garden is a great metaphor for my mental illness. Once I decided to be responsible for my flowers, it was easy to care for them. Similarly, once I got responsible for my mental illness, took responsibility for it 100%, it became easy to take the actions that would support my mental wellness and stability and accomplish the things I desired for my life.
It seems like a simple thing and I know it’s not, I know this because, for my first 10 years of living with Bipolar Disorder, I wasn’t taking 100% responsibility for the illness.
- I’d mess with my sleep
- I’d mess with my eating
- I’d mess with how and when I took my medication
- I was even messing with alcohol and drugs
I couldn’t see and I didn’t know that I needed to be responsible for my life and myself. I thought I was being responsible. But if I got really honest, I felt like someone else would take care of it for me. The thing is – there was and is nobody else but me.
From the outside, I did look like I was doing really good, but my actions and the impact they had on my mental illness were not sustainable. I was lucky, I got responsible when I was working on another issue – it was a by-product of some self-development work I was doing. You might say I became responsible when I needed to.
Getting responsible for our mental illness is a process; it takes a lot of courage resistance and will power. It’s not easy until it is. There are lots of tools out there to support you. At the very core, my thinking was changed, how I thought about the illness and how I related to it changed. I’m not emotionally charged anymore when I speak to anyone about my illness, I feel very little anxiety about the possible of people finding out about the illness and if they do, I’m happy to talk about any part of my journey with the illness. I’m certain that being 100% responsible for the choices I make about taking care of myself gives me stability and structure just like taking care of the flowers allows them to grow and stay healthy and beautiful.
The first step in getting responsible is identifying the perspective you have about your illness – try this Perspective Exercise. Your comments are welcome.