Recently I read a post written by someone with living with bipolar. As she shared her story, she develop a premise that too often, when we attempt to shed light on the struggles of individuals with a mental illness, we celebrate those who have done extraordinary things instead of celebrating the “insignificant victories” or what, in comparison, some might consider insignificant.
I remember days when I was so depressed. The only reason I got up was because I had young children to care for. Did I celebrate the fact that I got up and cared appropriately for my children? No. I berated myself for being a less than perfect mother. Later, when untreated, depression led to increased anxiety, I often had a drink or two to calm down. What kept me from drinking myself into oblivion? Knowing I had children to care for. Did I celebrate this? No, I berated myself for being so anxious, depressed, and again being a less than perfect mother. How often do we do this to ourselves?
Reading further into the post, it was clear; she was so right. Too often we look for the “complete recovery” of someone suffering from any chronic disease, be it physical or mental, without recognizing the daily struggles involved in dealing with chronic illness. We wait for them to cross the finish line. Never acknowledging, change is a process. It’s hard. It’s often slow. These hard, slow days, too, contain victories to celebrate. Last year I wrote a post advocating for each of us to give ourselves grace as we work through fresh challenges: coping with chronic illness, being a caregiver to an aging parent or chronically ill spouse, learning a new skill or adjusting to a new phase of life. My own journey may have been easier if I had been kinder to myself.
I Think I Missed Something Important
After reading the article, I feel perhaps I stopped a little short on this matter of reaching goals, of living life and giving grace. We should talk to ourselves as we talk to others. Rather than being upset at not reaching a goal, we should acknowledge our efforts positively.
I need to push myself to realize the difference between saying, Now that I’m older, I cannot physically clean my entire house in a day, but I can get parts of it done and complete the work over several days and saying Alright! Good job! I mopped the floors today. I’m tired; I can wash windows tomorrow. And then learn to change the way I talk to myself.
There’s a subtle, but important difference between the two sentences, at least in my mind. On the surface, they may seem to say the same thing. I no longer have the stamina to work as hard and for as long as I did when I was younger. The first sentence hits with a negative (focusing on what I can no longer do) while the second sentence focuses on the positive and reminds me I can still “do stuff: (In a quick aside, I don’t believe in toxic positivity. Sometimes things are bad and there’s no actual silver lining). But I believe in many situations, if we look for the positives and frame our “self-talk” positively, we are better off mentally and physically. Also, our mind soaks up what it hears, so tell yourself good things about you.
I’m encouraging all of us to celebrate the seemingly insignificant victories. If you’re living with a chronic illness but you got out of bed, hurray for you. If you’re a writer and struggling to complete a work, but you added something to the piece or tackled a revision, hurray for you. Our time on this earth is too short to bog ourselves down with negativity. No matter how insignificant they might seem, celebrate all the things you do.