Hi! I’m back and very happy that I’ve been able to write more often. I have a new exercise to share that might be helpful for us. I’m going to call it betterment visualization. When we’re trying to get better I think it can be difficult to picture what that would look and feel like. We’ve been in the darkness for so long that any different reality probably feels quite foreign. Maybe we even have trouble recognizing it when things are better. If this is the case, how do we measure our progress? How do we fully appreciate our progress and how can we tell as soon as possible if we’re losing ground? My answer to these questions is an exercise I did for myself that I’d now like to share.
I came up with some questions / prompts to help us along our journey of recovery. What brought this to my attention was realizing that I don’t really know what I want. I know that I want to feel better but what does that mean? I’ll share the questions along with my personal answers.
What things would be absent if I were better?
• My impulsivity would be much lower.
• I would have less frequent and less intense mood swings.
• The sense of hopelessness would be gone.
• I wouldn’t be preoccupied with death and the belief that I deserve suffering and punishment.
• My credit card debts would be paid off.
• My anxiety would be lower or at least manageable.
What things would be present if I were better?
• I would have greater motivation.
• I would feel purposeful and useful.
• I would wake up excited about what a new day can offer.
• I would have higher energy.
• I would be working and maybe in school too. I’d be able to handle it though without burning out.
Now let’s take our answers to the previous two questions and find the midway point between where we are now and where we’d like to be. I’ll show you what I mean:
1. My impulsivity would be much lower.
= I could recognize when I’m being impulsive and apply stall tactics to wait out the urge.
2. Less frequent and less intense mood swings.
= Catch on to my ‘waves’ early as they start to rise and use positive distractions to lessen the severity of the swings.
3. The sense of hopelessness would be gone.
= Have a list of reasons to be hopeful so when those thoughts come, I have arguments to combat them.
4. I wouldn’t be preoccupied with death and the idea that I deserve punishment and pain.
= I have no idea yet, sorry!
5. My credit card debts would be paid off.
= To be on track with payments so that my debts are at least decreasing. Stick with a budget so my debts aren’t coming right back up again!
6. Lower/more manageable anxiety.
= Become well-practiced at de-escalating things in my mind. Have strategies in place that make riding the anxiety curve more bearable.
7. I would feel purposeful and useful.
= Create a routine that helps me stay productive for at least a portion of each day. Pick some goals/priorities and do my best to hold them close as motivators. (This involves making sure the end result is something I want and not just what others want for me.)
8. I would wake up excited about what a new day has to offer.
= At least incorporate one thing into each day that I actually look forward to.
9. I would be back at work and maybe in school too but in a sustainable way.
= Pick one of the two and start slowly to build confidence and stability.
Doing this exercise gave me ideas on how to go about reaching my end goals. I found more realistic ways to make progress. It’s a good way to step back and evaluate what we want from our recovery.
Along with these points I was thinking that it might be helpful to rate our progress every week with each goal. On a scale of 0 to 10, how close are we to the goal? If the number drops between two weeks, it’s an early indicator that things are getting more difficult.
Getting Into Specifics
The first written exercise I was given here at the psych ward was a life evaluation. I’d like to share it with you as well because I found it to be clarifying and helpful.
Daily life – Current:
Where do I live?
Am I autonomous or do I need support?
Daily life – Goals:
Where would I like to live?
Do I want more support?
Who would I like to live with?
Am I satisfied with my life circumstances?
Daily life – Previously:
Did I have follow-ups in the past?
Have I been autonomous in the past?
What worked for me?
Finance – Current:
Do I have a revenue?
Do I have debts?
Do I have any finance-related projects?
Finance – Goals:
Do I need support to find revenue and/or pay off my debts?
Am I satisfied with my current financial standing?
Finance – Previously:
Have I had a budget in the past?
Was I able to respect it?
What were my past sources of revenue?
Work/Education – Current
Do I have a job?
Am I in training/school?
Am I enrolled in school/training?
Work/Education – Goals:
Do I need help finding employment?
What would I like to do with my days?
Do I need help going back to school?
Work/Education – Previously:
Was I able to maintain a job?
Was I able to complete education?
Do I have a CV?
Did I have good relations with my boss and coworkers?
Social Networks – Current:
Am I in a romantic relationship / have kids?
How are my closest relationships?
Am I in conflict with family, friends, neighbours, collegues, etc?
Has there been any recent passing, sickness or break?
Do I have concerns about anyone in my entourage?
Social Networks – Goals:
Who would I like to reconnect with?
Who would I like to distance myself from?
Social Networks – Previously:
Have I been able to maintain relationships in the past?
Health – Current:
Am I on a new medication? Do I have a diagnosis?
What concerns do I have about my mental and/or physical health?
How do I currently feel?
Am I consuming alcohol or drugs?
Health – Goals:
What area of my health would I want more control over?
Would I like to change any habits?
Health – Previous:
Was I taking my medication?
Was I being followed?
Have I tried various therapies?
Was I stable?
Hobbies/Sports – Current:
Do I have hobbies?
What are they?
Do I have the means (time, energy, money, etc.) to fulfil them?
What am I interested in?
Hobbies/Sports – Goals:
Do I need help finding or getting back into any activities?
What’s missing for me to be back in action?
Hobbies/Sports – Previous:
Was I in any group or solo activities?
What was I doing with my time?
Spirituality/sexuality – Current:
Is my sexual behaviour socially acceptable?
Do I believe in someone/something?
Can I use my faith to help me recover?
Do I have any concerns regarding my sexuality?
Spirituality/sexuality – Goals:
Am I satisfied with my current faith and sexuality?
Spirituality/sexuality – Previous:
Has my faith helped me during past hardships?
Personal Update Day 9
(This post was written before my last blog ‘Psych Ward Art’.)
Things are kind of looking up for me I think. I feel a little more positive which is great. Even though I didn’t want to be here and I miss Mia so so much, I have to admit that this is necessary and good for me. The rules are actually helping and it seems like the freedom I had at the crisis centres didn’t help me. I could’ve gotten better there and it’s my responsibility that I didn’t. At least I’m gaining ground now though.
Yesterday Aaron came and spent many hours with me which was nice. He works a lot and I missed him. He’s coming again today. Right now I’m writing outside alone like a big girl. My psychiatrist yesterday allowed me to have outings alone. We also both decided it was best for me to stay longer. I don’t want to rush things and end up back where I started. Whats sad though is that I had my last session yesterday with the therapist at school who I’ve seen on and off for five years. I’m going to seriously miss her… she wasn’t just one of the good ones, she was one of the very best. Full of care, compassion, empathy and extra-mile help. I’ll never forget her and how much she helped me along my journey. I’m going to make something special for her as a thank you. It makes me quite sad. It’s life though, right?
Well, that’s all for now friends! I hope you’re doing well. I’ll be back soon.
Teaser: My next blog will be about the difference between psych wards and crisis centres.