Forward

9 Apr

I have a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of the binder I use for all of my mental health info. It reads:

If you can’t fly, then run.

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl.

But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Woke up from an unpleasant dream with the image of a helpless baby seal with a broken flipper (don’t ask) stuck in my head. Began my morning ritual: coffee, news, Facebook. My instincts said: you should not go on Facebook today. I ignored my own advice and am now working to gain control over the second panic attack of the day.

I have family issues and the very first post on my feed was a picture directly reminding me of them; people I dearly love but have had to remove from my life because they were detrimental to my mental equilibrium. Like a shot in the solar plexus: oof. My heart rate ramped up almost immediately. I breathed diaphragmatically to try and slow it down. Having just consumed a cup of coffee didn’t help.

Normally, my response when this sort of thing happens in the morning is to surrender and hide for the duration of the day. But today I thought of that quote. I remembered the excellent discussion in yesterday’s support group about how working towards your own recovery shows others that it can be done, and how managing your illness fights stigma.

I continued breathing diaphragmatically and turned to the mountain of laundry dominating my bedroom. I tackled the laundry, then the dishes. Doing something tactile and repetitive that doesn’t involve higher order thinking can be very soothing. Some people knit to calm down, others bead jewelry.

The panic began to recede. Encouraged, I turned to other things that needed cleaning (there are usually many) and occupied myself for several hours. My anxiety abated.

Then I logged onto Facebook again and immediately confronted a post from a friend about gun control in which he referred to the Sandy Hook shooter as a “drooling loony” and said that a few crazies make life interesting, like an ugly sweater in your wardrobe, but that there are a lot of psychos out there.

I don’t think he meant any harm by it. Many people without mental illness are unfamiliar with the issue of stigma, and disparagement and fear of the mentally ill are ingrained in our culture. The “psycho killer” trope is omnipresent in films, music, and literature. Even our vocabulary reinforces it. The word “crazy” has overlapping meanings–it can mean mental illness,  someone who is unpredictable and volatile, or someone or something that flies in the face of logic. Like everyone, I use it to describe the latter all the time. There’s no getting away from that word or separating its multiple meanings. This is a slippery issue.

But we react emotionally before we react intellectually. Once again, my heart started beating that familiar tattoo within my chest. More breathing. I already had momentum, and that made it easier to keep going.

I thought writing about it would help. It does. Later, I’ll hit the gym, and that will help more. I’m taking a week-long break from social media to better concentrate on all of the things that need doing, and there are many because I’ve always shut down when the world bitch-slaps me into an anxious depression. However incremental my progress, I must keep moving forward.

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4 Responses to “Forward”

  1. slroller94 April 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know I pledged you for Blog for Mental Health 2013
    Here’s the link to my post http://samillion.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/blog-for-mental-health-2013/

    I hope to see you join the pledge!

    • evewc18 April 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      happy to do so–thanks for pledging me.

  2. Laura K Kerr April 13, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Thank you for sharing your perseverance and commitment to staying engaged. Sometimes I like to tell myself, “A day with strong emotions, is just a day with strong emotions—neither good nor bad.” Can’t tell you why that works for me, but it does, and helps me focus on doing things that feel good and validate being alive. I figure there’s a life lesson somewhere in it all, and I just have to find it. And that’s what I really liked about this post—your continual search for the meaning of it all, how you continue to develop your worldview and empathy, even when it hurts.

    By the way, loving your blog! You are a talented writer.

    • evewc18 April 13, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      Thank you!!! Thoroughly enjoying yours as well.

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