After having my breakdown in 2012 I have had hundreds of conversations with people who are going through similar struggles with burnout, breakdown or other forms of suffering. One of the themes I often hear is the idea of being “stuck” and not being able to do the things we want to be doing. I fully understand this thought. I was at home for almost a year dealing with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I get the idea of being stuck and feeling like your life is over. I recently read an article that rocked me a little as it talked about how Pope Francis said that “recovery is about making a life despite limitations.”
Stigma against people with mental disorders has been around even longer than the Catholic Church. Blame for being ill or behaving oddly has accompanied that stigma. As a young doctor, I was taught to forecast to young people with a serious mental illness (and their families), like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic conditions, that they never could achieve lasting relationships or success in a career. It was a message to those ill that they should resign themselves to a bleak life and a fate that could not be countered. It was, as well, a clinical stance that, ironically, kept good clinicians from providing what may be more important than anything else — fostering hope and helping to heal the wounds of illness.
Francis’ message is clear: as people and institutions, we need to be welcoming (not judging); not defer to the dogma of powerful, hierarchical authorities (“Excessive centralization… complicates,” he said); serve those in need (the wounded); and practice what we preach. This is more and more the lesson taking off in my field as well, where a powerful concept of recovery is spreading. Recovery means sustaining hope, inclusion, finding strengths, building resilience and valuing, most of all, the patient’s needs and wishes first — not the convenience of practitioners or organizations, nor the mandates of received teachings or hallowed theories. Recovery does not deny illness. That would not help either. Recovery is about making a life despite limitations, which seems to have far greater application than just to those with mental and addictive disorders.
This quote is one that I have said to myself daily since I heard it. For me I am still on my road to recovery. I continue to struggle with sleep issues from waking 3-6 times each night and anxiety is a daily struggle for me no matter where I am or what I am doing. The question I now ask myself is what can I do today in this moment to make a life despite my current limitations? Life is made up of small simple decisions each day and I am trying to see which things that I can do instead of worrying about what I can’t do.
Can I drive my son to baseball practice?
Can I drive my daughter to dance lessons?
Can I read through some chapters of my Bible?
Can I go out for dinner with my family?
Can I go for a run?
Can I do some grocery shopping
Can I volunteer for a committee at church?
Can I do some errands?
Can I go out to a movie with friends?
Can I cook dinner for my family?
Can I vacuum or clean up the house?
Can I cut the lawn or do some yard work?
Can I write a blog post even though my head is pounding from lack of sleep and my body is rebelling with high anxiety?
If the answer is yes to anything you need to do (or want to do) than go and do it. Just start. Just go and do that 1 thing. So here is the thought I leave with you.
How are you making a life despite the current limitations you might be facing?
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments 0n this.