A Lesson in Success (Stepping Up)

self forgivenessI wanted to share this message that was shared with me earlier this week.

Imagine yourself at the bottom of a flight of stairs. There are a dozen steps to the first landing. Now consider how much progress you would make toward the first landing if you would only be satisfied getting there in one step. Even if you stretch your stride and make it to step five with one giant step, you don’t recognize the progress, so you step back to the beginning to try again. Even with a running start, you make it only to step seven. Back to the bottom step you go, defining yourself as a failure. Eventually you give up, accepting that you are not capable of making it to the first landing.

This scenario sounds ridiculous, but it accurately describes how far too many of us sabotage our own efforts by defining success in all or none terms.

By imagining the flight of a dozen steps, you can easily see how to get to the first landing, and it is obvious that you could just as easily make it to the next landing using the same amazing technique: one step at a time.

This very same amazing technique is how you can successfully recover from your mental illness. The idea is to build your whole recovery from smaller ~~ sometimes even tiny ~~ steps to progress. Your challenge (and your responsibility) is to become supportive of your own efforts, to learn to recognize progress as it is happening. For instance, if you have a problem with engaged in your behavior 3 to 4 times a week and this week you only engaged once, that is progress. Give yourself credit, and then get ready to take the next step.

What if you are half way to the first landing and you fall, tumbling back down to the bottom? The principle remains the same. Taking one step at a time is still your best bet. Feel your frustration, express it ~~ scream, holler, stomp your feet. Rest a little while, then start again.

Ultimately, it is persistence that will pay off

Forget about perfection

It is doubtful that there is such a thing as a person with a mental illness who is not, to one degree or another, a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist does not mean that you do things perfectly; it means that you are never satisfied with your efforts, you can never do anything good enough. Very advanced perfectionism manifests as a person who has stopped trying to succeed at anything that is important to them. This person doesn’t even make the effort because they paralyzed by the fear of failure. And remember, this person’s definition of failure is expansive, while her definition of success is very narrow, no to mention beyond human capacity.

In recovery from a mental illness of any kind, one very important way that you must be on your own side is in reminding yourself that perfection is not one of your options. Perfection is not possible for us imperfect human beings, and striving for the impossible does not make us better; it tears us down. 



Questioning my Identity

For most of my life, I’ve always been identified by my body. I silently struggled with eating disorders, but never said a word to anyone. As the years have gone on, the intensity has only heightened.

Everything about who I am has been measured by food scales, tape measures, weight loss meetings, extensive exercising and journalling. When that didn’t work, I resorted to ephedra, hydroxicut and other means of fast weight loss. I’ve worked out for many hours, for many days beyond 5 days a week. When I trained for karate, my heart soared with the spirit, a true passion for something deeper than myself. 

Yesterday in SAFE, we talked about the Pathological Critic, during my group session one of the members had commented about her own observation surrounding being overweight. She said she recognizes that she is a good person, is smart, but does need to lose some weight. I realized upon hearing this, that after a few seconds, this resonated with me, but not in the way that it did for her. 

You see, for me, the Pathological Critic has run my life, my entire life. I remember being 12 years old and having an exercise magazine under my bed and every night doing the exercises in the magazine. I remember using the tape measure regularly. I also remember my mom having a scale to measure her food when she was wanting to lose weight. I don’t know any other way of life

I feel very defeated and lost today. My core rocked, and even though it is dysfunctional and not healthy, it is what I know.  I don’t have an identity. I know that during our group we talked about finding other things we are good at, and focusing on those. As much as I know how loving I am to animals and true to my friends, the Pathological Critic takes over all thoughts, all emotions and feelings. 

People have complimented me, have shared how they admire me, all positive words and thoughts. I shy away, I have worked on saying “Thank You” for years now and although I am genuine to give support to those in need, to give support to myself, seems wrong. 

So…. where does a person go from here? What does a person do when their core belief of who they “think they are”  and you have no idea what is underneath. You have no idea WHO the person is, or her Identity? While it is true that life hasn’t been great, and at times down right miserable, that there has to be something better than what I’ve experienced so far? 

The feelings I feel today are heavy, my entire life feels as though it has been a lie. I wish I could go back to birth and minus the behaviors I have developed, exchange those for the true person I am. 

Fear has damaged a lot of my life. Abandonment sends me into complete chaos. I don’t want this  running my life anymore. 

What do these new steps look like? What will I look like?