I have successes, many of them, large and small. They help me get through each day, propelling my recovery. Yet, for a long time, I didn’t see these successes. Instead, I blindly accepted the lies of my illness, lies like:
- I’m worthless
- I never succeed
- I accomplish nothing
- I’ve let people down
- I’m a disappointment
and so many others. I accepted these lies, these thoughts, as truth despite the evidence of the many successes I’d have within each day.
It took two very different events to open my eyes to the truth. The first was my near death at my own hands. It revealed, in the harshest way possible, that there was something terribly wrong with my thinking. I didn’t yet know what that something was, but I knew I didn’t want it to continue.
The second event was a sobering observation made by my CMHA (Durham) care team. I was told that I was still caught up in the web of lies. I was overlooking the successes that peppered each day, not the least of which was participating in our weekly meetings. This observation made me pause and review the past. I was shocked to see that the observation was correct.
The solution we came up with was a simple one. I would create and maintain a list of my successes.
That same day I sat down and wrote my first list (itself a success). It’s a catalogue of successes I’d had since my release from the hospital. Here’s what I wrote (in no particular order):
My Recovery Successes (Partial List)
- Googled to find telephone number for CMHA (Durham)
- call CMHA (Durham)
- beg for help
- go to CMHA (Durham) and apply for help
- disclose hospitalization to my son, my ex-wife and my brother
- disclose why I was hospitalized
- attend Ontario Shores for a mental health evaluation
- share with my parents and son
- meet with parents’ family doctor
- research depression
- go for a walk
- play with Tuffy on the floor
- create Gratitude Journal
- create Recovery Journal
- make my mala
- get library membership
- get dressed
- follow through on advice from CMHA (Durham)
- arrange one-on-one counselling
- arrange group support
- regular follow-ups with all medical supports
- help parents
- help my son
A few weeks after that first list I realized an update was needed. So I created a new list:
Another List of Successes (Partial List)
- create my first blog
- join Twitter
- increase openness
- increase social interaction
- get up
- make coffee
- experience gratitude
- do dishes
- do laundry
- listen to music
- create My Self-Care Plan
- take medications regularly
For a time, I added to my list reminding myself of how I made it through each day. And with these reminders, the lies of my illness faded into the background.
I wish I could say that they stayed there. Truth is, they didn’t. I became complacent, falling out of the habit of keeping my list of successes. I fell out of the habit of meditating, didn’t listen to music, didn’t experience gratitude. When I fell out of these habits, stopped doing the things that propelled recovery, the worst possible self-talk renewed itself. Life turned bleak.
To some extent, things have since bounced back and forth between the bleakness and the light. There’s often a disquiet to my life, a sense of things lost or undone. But there are times of joy, moments when the day elates.
So today I resolve to make changes. First, I resolve to return to my journals, to again write a list of successes and again explore gratitude. Second, I’ll renew my meditations, finding a way to ground and still. Third, I’ll take action to enhance my healing, turning to support groups or platforms. It’s time for complacency to end, and for my recovery to grow!
I find myself smiling as I make these resolutions. I know what helped me and, to my detriment, I let go of it. Successes keep me afloat. They remind me of where I was and of what it took to move on from there. They document my growth. And they guide me forward.
Image by Greg Montani from Pixabay