I have been facing a lot of setbacks and disappointments lately. One of the more recent ones that really stuck a knife in my gut was missing out on getting a $15,000.00 writer’s Grant. The truth of that disappointment though runs deeper than me just not crossing the t’s or dotting the i’s on the application. Where things probably hit a wall was the fact that I have yet to publish a book with a recognized publisher.
Thinking about this sets off thoughts of a half a million more disappointments, which is all the times I have tried to get work published and simply had no luck. But the truth is, compared to what a lot of writers go through, I hadn’t done all that much to get published. I had tried, I had at one time a literary agent and a fancy editor. But I gave up trying way too soon and put a lot of money into self-publishing. I did well with that too, finding places to sell books and selling quite a few of them. What amazes me is that there are now likely more than 1,000 copies of my books out there and all of them have been marketed just in my home city of Edmonton.
My big thing right now is to try and publish a collection of short stories. A couple of years back, I was sent a rejection letter from a publisher that told me my work showed promise and gave suggestions. I showed it to a professional writer and he literally said, “They don’t ever do this, you need to keep trying.”
Anyhow, what I really wanted to talk about today was setbacks as far as mental health goes. Those of us who deal with mental illness all may have a list of a dozen such occurrences. In early 2019, I succumbed to the side effects of antipsychotic medication. Though I had been well for about 18 years, it didn’t matter to the demon that was in my head. Slowly, gradually, I became extremely ill after having my medications switched. I had a lot of false ideas and paranoia in my head, and I was hearing things and imagining things for example I thought I smelled really bad when I didn’t, I thought people were on the ward I was on with a gun come to kill me. One of the incidents that really was disturbing was when I was outside walking and I swore there was someone behind me, I could hear their steps just as clearly as I could hear mine. But I looked back and I was completely alone.
Though there were some very tough times in the hospital that month, when I left I felt a sense of renewal, of recharging. There were many positive things about my stay. The food was good, the staff was very nice and helpful, and I had an excellent doctor who really helped me. At the end of that month-long stay, (despite embarrassments from when I was ill that people reminded me of), I feel I left a better person.
I joked with a friend recently that whenever something bad happens, I always seem to find something positive about it. I told him if someone said I was to die tomorrow, I would think, ‘Great! Now I don’t have to do my laundry this Sunday’. What it all comes down to is where your focus is, and I believe we can all train ourselves to think this way not just about things that happen, but also with regard to how we feel about people around us.
The most important first step is to realize when you think negatively about something. It might be good to write down when you find yourself getting upset or overstressed by someone or something. Do you get mad in parking lots? (This makes me think of how easy it is to drop off anyone with limited mobility near an entrance, then drive to a far-off space and walk the small extra distance without struggling to find the best spot and wasting gas and effort). When you get home, make a note of it and note down how angry you felt.
Once you start to notice when you get very upset, start to find ways to either calm yourself (meditation here can work miracles). First, if it is a person that made you angry, step out of your comfort zone and try and think of why they did it, if they really had the intention of making you angry, and what extenuating circumstances may have led them to take your parking spot or advance out of turn on a 4-way stop. Maybe they needed a quick parking spot because their child was about to be sick or they desperately needed to make it to the bathroom. You really don’t know why they may have done it, and 99.9% of the time, their reasons had nothing to do with you.
Try and do this with your whole list, and then start to try and train yourself to look not only for ways to avoid getting upset, but also to try and get something positive out of what happened.
Of course, all of this is just a small way of dealing with toxic situations. If you find your negative emotions are controlling you, consider finding a therapist. If you are broke, look for one that works on a sliding scale and tell them to keep sliding until you can afford it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is known to help people with Schizophrenia just as much as psychiatric medication does. It can give you or your loved one with the illness a second chance at life, but like anything you have to work at it.
My last statement I wanted to cover is physical health. So many of us who read this blog worry about getting medications right, about not sleeping too much or hearing voices. I really feel some of us could benefit from a long walk, a jog, a round of lifting weights, or a game of tennis, racquetball, squash or other sports. Keep yourself toned, trim that gut, and build your ability to face stress as much as you can, your body will thank you and you will be in much better shape to deal with any mental health issues. In the meantime, take care!