Although I’ve faced some pretty tough obstacles in my treatment to date the biggest one was brought to my attention recently by my husband. I spoke with my driver rehab therapist about it and he agreed that this was an area which would be helpful in managing my recovery.
What is it you ask? Managing Expectations…
This journey has opened my eyes to whom I am able to rely upon when things in my life aren’t going well. So here comes the guilt…I realize I have a great job, great husband, daughter and in general life (minus my current mental health issues). Yes, I want to celebrate all that is good however it is a battle to remain positive day after day as the world violently comes at my mind from all angles. When I can’t cope I lash out in frustration if you’re on the receiving end I expect you to understand it isn’t me it is the illness. For those who I’ve supported in their time of need yes I 100% expect you to be there for me. Not to walk me through but to stand beside and listen. If I appeal for your advice, please provide it if I don’t keep it to yourself.
It definitely isn’t helpful to hear “things will go back to normal” this is my new normal. My favourite lately has been “you seem so much more like yourself” nice to hear since most of the time I have no idea who I am. But it is comforting to know my high school drama training is paying off in the role I happen to be playing out. I get that some people don’t know what to say or how to help so I post content for them to understand what I am dealing with. Don’t tell me “You’re too pretty to have those problems” REALLY?!? In today’s day and age, I do expect everyone to understand or at least try to understand the daily challenges of living with a mental health issue. Even I myself have tried to make light of these challenges for others in my past and for this I apologize. I don’t think you can truly understand mental illness until you’ve travelled this path.
So I’ve been working really hard to heal with limited professional support over the past two months due to bureaucratic red tape. I started the remembered wellness practice of beading mentioned in my previous post. I decided to challenge my anxiety and attend a small pop up show to engage with others. Did I have expectations definitely, I expected to bail and not show up. I expected to vomit or flip the table and run out when I got anxious. My driver rehab therapist said I can’t bring my husband with me as he has become my social crutch. I made the mistake of telling my husband this and once I was set up he was out the door. As I write this I literally want to vomit reliving the panic of that moment.
You see as I prepared that morning I was overcome by fear while meditating in the yard. All the what if’s came to mind and I almost let my broken mind win. Until I realized that if I keep running away from the fears of these unrealistic expectations then I will never overcome this battle or at least learn how to outsmart it. As I reread this I sound so self-realized and put together but living it is so much more difficult and confusing. I made it there no table flip, no meltdown, nothing to be feared “but fear itself”. The people who showed up where friends, family and those who have stood by me from day one. Some I was extremely surprised to see not because they don’t care but because I know the entire situation makes them uncomfortable. The fact that each of these individuals took time out of their weekend to support me meant the world to me.
So far I had managed my expectations quite well 4 hours and it was over my husband showed up and I began to pack up. I was somewhat frantic, my heart was pounding, my stomach turning and palms sweating like a sinner in church. What the heck it’s over why is URSULA (my anxiety) coming in “like a wrecking ball” now. Well I need to analyze the day’s events of course where I went wrong, why certain people didn’t show, how I could be better at this.
The biggest question I was left with was how different this would have been before the accident. There’s nothing realistic about that expectation unless I can create a time machine it really is irrelevant but of course my mind would like to focus on the “should’s”.
I would have commanded the room, spoken with every vendor, introduced myself, been the center of attention and loved every moment. I’ve realized through this situation that I am not that person anymore. Even though in my past I’ve thrived on the go, go, go lifestyle of hustle bustle that isn’t me any longer. The fast paced life of always being busy, too busy to appreciate the small things isn’t going to work for my new lifestyle. Was I disappointed definitely I had already been looking into larger shows for better exposure until I realized attendance was between 1,500-2,000 people. Damnit I could hardly handle the 15 friends who showed up and I knew them all. So I didn’t manage that expectation of myself very well, I can’t just expect to brush this diagnosis under the rug and push forward. There are some times when I have to respect the power of my illness and let it drive me so I don’t end up damaging my inner self with the “should haves”.
So it took me a few days of isolation and a mini meltdown with a girlfriend on a nature walk to realize I need to expect less of myself. I cannot continue to force myself into situations that will put my mental health at risk to return to a “normal” that no longer exists. Mostly though I realized I had to look on the bright side, my last approved Occupational Therapy session was in late July and I was now left alone using tools she taught me to manage. Yes, there were areas I was failing in like not overbooking my time, not taking enough time for myself but I was still pushing to get better at dealing with the day to day stresses. I was able to finally post something on social media to thank those who were there for me admitting it was a challenge and not quite what I had expected. A friend reached out to me and told me they were proud of me. For some reason this was exactly what I needed at that moment and I now know how to move forward.
Expect Nothing, because you can’t guarantee how things will go but you can look for the silver lining in all situations. Am I upset specific people haven’t reached out yes but I don’t know where they are at in their minds. So really it doesn’t matter because I can’t rely on others to fix this for me. My solution; I will continue to do this small show each month until I master it, I will offer my creations online since that is minimal interaction and I will go with consignment shops within my city to spread the word. I’ve already lined up two which will be carrying my therapeutic creations for sale.
I can’t thank those who’ve helped enough but I can say that in your time of need I hope to be there for you as well. Going forward I plan to expect less of myself when it comes to setting expectations on how much time my recovery “should” take and focus more on taking care of myself when I’m not 100%. For those who haven’t been supportive I am grateful to have you in my life and I will forever support you without any expectations because that is WHO I AM.
If your interested in purchasing one of my creations you can go to my online ETSY shop or visit either of the retailers listed below:
Vagabond Saints-461 King Street East, Hamilton, ON