Thursday, April 2, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: I Want It NOW!!

I’m overwhelmed. I’m running so fast I can barely breathe – and not for the same reasons I used to feel this way.

Years ago I ran and ran and ran trying to escape the past – I was miserable, depressed, and struggling with the mother of all PTSD experiences.

Then I ran and ran and ran trying to catch up with the present – I was hopeful, determined and obsessed with healing.

Now I’m running to try to warp-speed myself into the future – I’m excited, healthy and inspired to live the way I would have been if trauma hadn’t gotten in the way.

I’m not exactly a model of the Zen mindset. When I get an idea about something, I want it to happen immediately. But life – and healing – are not like this. Developing the world we want, creating the circumstances, recovering from experience, and redefining ourselves all take time.

It’s become clear I need to develop some patience and a new approach to achieving my desires. This past weekend at the end of an extremely hectic week (while I try to juggle my day job, launch Heal My PTSD, LLC, visit with family, catch up with friends, play with my puppy, dance and spend time with John) I came to the conclusion things cannot go on at the speed they are. I had to reassess my goals, reprioritize their importance, and restrategize how to accomplish what I want in a sane, practical and healthy way.

You could say I’ve been practicing a little Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Yes, that trusty technique PTSDers learn to manage and cope with PTSD symptoms and effects has lifelong benefits. Look at that, something positive I learned from PTSD.

And so here I am now, into a new week with a new attitude. I took one of my goals for this year – and pushed it into next year. There’s time for everything I want to do. After my trauma I felt the need to do everything all at once because I lived with that survivor anxiety that you never know when another trauma will strike. You have to make the most and get the most out of every day because tomorrow... No wonder I could barely breathe! This is a crazy way to live.

I accepted the fact that the more I stress myself to do everything NOW the less I’ll be able to do anything well. After my PTSD diagnosis my obsessed desire to be well – and the inevitable twists and turns in the healing process – brought me to my knees more than once when I did not heal right away. And then I decided to stop trying so hard to heal and just get on with moving toward healing and also living and what do you know? Healing slowly crept up on me while I was off doggedly pursuing joy.

I recognized there’s only so much I can effect myself and some things that can only evolve with time. I pledged myself to the idea that it’s only important I’m on the path to my future; it’s not so important I control everything about how the path winds and curves. So much of healing comes as we learn to re-engage with the present, look toward the future, and participate in creating our post-trauma selves. So much healing can come as the by-product of refocusing our attention and letting that new focus seep into our subconscious and encourage it to settle down by replacing anxiety with positive experience.

If we become militant or obsessive about healing we only increase our stress and in doing so decrease our ability to heal. There’s only so much we can do or expect to change at once. We can only heal so much at any given time. Part of healing is developing an awareness of ourselves and believing in our potential to achieve what we want in a healthy, methodical, forward-moving but not stress-inducing way.

Today, I’m thinking about how important it is to give ourselves realistic healing goals. To know it’s significant we’re dedicated to the healing journey – that we’re researching it, committing to it, walking the walk while we talk about wanting to be well.

Healing will not come overnight. It took me 3 long years after my diagnosis to completely turn things around. We can’t let our expectations overshadow the progress we’re making.

What’s meandering through my mind this morning is the idea that when we focus too much on the details of what we want to achieve we lose sight of the big picture. It’s in the big picture that our inspiration lies. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of healing - they're necessary to be sure, but they're not everything.

Sometimes, it’s good to take a break. Sit back. Reassess your current healing strategy, how it’s working for you, what could be better, what’s seems worse, and what could be changed about it, and also what can be changed about your perception of what you’re doing and how you’re progressing.

When we become slaves and prisoners to the bad thoughts, behaviors and attitudes that grow in our minds we impede our ability to live well, healthy, balanced, successful, happy and joyful lives. You’re in control of your healing experience. Commit to the big picture. Visualize the end goal. Reach out your hand and move (slowly) toward healing. Then, let it come to you.

(Photo: I’d still)


Alicia said...

Michele! This was such a wonderful post and something I think everyone can benefit from. So many people get in such big hurries when it comes to daily things (like work or checking off the to-do list), and that mentality carries over into long-term goals and healing. And taking on everything - trying to do it all at once - lessens the chance that we can do any of it well and the likelihood that we're actually going to be living in the process, just like you said.

Awesome post - insightful and well written, as usual!

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Alicia -- Sometimes it's slowing down and letting go that (ironically) gets us where we want to be faster.

Healing is such a conundrum!