Feedback needed

Need some help from my tens of followers. I have not been posting as much as I feel I should or need to. This is, in part, to me battling some pretty big dragons of late. I would like to get back to some regular postings, but I have a question for you. What content do you like the most? The #gratitude writings? The mental health stuff? The spiritual? Put it in a big blender a do a bit of all? Something you don’t want to see? Please, let me know. I feel I am at my healthiest when I keep this regular.

Love ya

Rev J

Guilt

Over the last 15 years I have done a lot of work in an effort to recover from my mental illnesses and my physical limitations in order to move on with my life and be the person that I am capable of being. I feel that I have made amazing strides to that end and I continue to work to make things better.

I have learned to trust and rely on my wife for feedback and inspiration. She has done an amazing job of learning about me and letting me know when things are at the very beginning points of getting weird, in order to keep them from getting bad. If anything, I need to listen to her more.

I have an amazing toolbox of skills that help me cope with and control what is going on and maintain a relatively healthy me. I sometimes get complacent and forget my training and education but i think, by and large, I am doing a very good job of managing my illnesses.

There is one area that do need to do considerable work in and that is processing my guilt. It has come to light recently how much guilt still drives the bus. Before I was diagnosed and for quite some time after, I could say with total honesty that i was not nice person in many regards. I had monumental anger issues. I had massive problems managing moods and feelings. I was a bully and cruel to those that I cared for the most. Most of the people that know me today did not know this Jason and would not have liked him at all.

Was this my fault? Not entirely. I have several mental illness diagnosis that challenge a person’s ability to be a good person. For some time the attitude that I took was that none of it was my fault and there was no blame to be placed on me. Having a mental illness, or several, was a free pass to act without responsibility.

I sometimes think that this is a phase that many people with a mental illness go through. This is none of my fault. I am innocent of any wrongdoing. It is understandable. It is somewhat justified. I happen to believe it is also wrong. I also think that sometimes we get stuck in this mentality and it keeps us from growing. Unfortunately, as I often do, I went completely the other way.

I reached a point where I could take ownership for my actions and attempt to make amends and right the ship. Yes, I have a mental illness. Yes, that illness makes it hard to control moods and emotions. Yes, my illnesses make it hard to make good choices. I still got to make choices. I just continued to make bad choices. They were choices and I was gaining the skills, through therapy, to make them. I just wasn’t following through outside the appointment.

So I went 180 degrees from no guilt to owning everything and blaming myself for the time when i was powerless. And amassing huge amounts of guilt for the times when I should have been in control and wasn’t. I would look back and see the impact my actions and my illness had on my family and friends and the guilt would overwhelm me.

So over the course of fifteen years I spent a small fortune on therapy and meds in an effort to get better, to recover. A cure is not possible, but improvement in life skills and managing the illness is possible. I think I have done a very good job of recovery. Am I perfect? No. do i slip still? Yes. I try to own it make corrections and grow from it. I listen to my wife, who has become an expert at “me” and I do what i can to continue growing and making a better life.

It has, over the last few months, become evident that I haven’t really processed the guilt. I replay old tapes, I go back and look at the things I have done and the way things were. No matter how I paint it, the old paint bleeds through and I am brought to the floor with guilt. There is always a reminder. The way the light shines in a room, a song, a movie or show, an image or poem, the look in someone’s eye, or just a stray thought and I remember everything that hasn’t been wiped by trauma or meds. There is seldom a day when I don’t look back with vast amounts of regret and guilt.

I feel the eggshells on the floor and I hear nervous laughter, even when they aren’t there and aren’t happening. I imagine a world where everyone is waiting for me to screw up again when I live in a world full of cheerleaders that keep hoping for a turn of the page or a turn of a corner. I want to be the person that I am and the person I am capable of being but I can’t help but to think about the person that I was and that maybe I still am that guy and, oh wait, are the wheels getting loose?

In the constant work of recovering from mental illness, I am my own worst obstacle. Clearly i have more work to do and have to take the time and effort to do the work. I have made and will continue to make changes to my current world in order to have the energy, focus and time to do the work that needs to be done to process this chapter of my shadow work.

Recovery is possible. Getting better can happen. It has happened, it is happening now. It just needs to continue to happen and the only person that can make that happen is me.

 

Namaste

 

Rev J

Another Sunrise

​I guess when it really comes down to it, Its not about years, or months or even days. Its about moments. I hope right now is good, and that you are happy. I truly do. And if that isn’t the case, hold on, this moment is over in the blink of an eye and maybe, just maybe the next one might be good. If its good, stick it away to pull out to remember when it’s isn’t so good. If its not so good, learn what you can and move on. This is mostly self talk I felt worth sharing. About as close to a resolution I am getting.

My Welcome to Midnight

One of the websites, and movements that I follow and support is To Write Love on Her Arms. It is a support and advocacy campaign for those suffering with mental illness and addiction. While they do not directly provide services. They provide locator services, support through community and blogging, advocacy and education. They are primarily driven by merchandise sales. These shirts, mugs, and other item sales bring in the money that is used for their mission.

From time to time they run special campaigns and sales that are either directed at funding a specific mission or campaign, or promote a concept or idea that is aimed at self improvement and healthy thinking.

For New Years and New Years Eve they have a recurring campaign called #WelcometoMidnight. This campaign asks the question, what are you leaving behind, releasing or letting go of at Midnight of 2016? Part of the idea here is to help remove faulty self talk, stigma, and unhealthy ways of looking at the world and yourself. Stigma is such a huge part of the realm of mental illness. It has the capability of destroying a person by making them feel unworthy of the life they feel they could and should have. Stigma creates the outcast, the defective human.

When I first came across this campaign I was eager to buy my shirt and post my tweet or blog and step in to the new year in a more positive manner. Then I went to answer the question. What am I leaving behind? What am I letting go of? I didn’t have an answer. I sat in the middle of it and could not come up with a reply. The temptation was to go full New Year resolution and make a very unrealistic statement about how I was going to show up to 2017. The idea, the concept, the campaign lost all weight to me because I tried to make it hollow.

This required doing some shadow work. It was time to look in the mirror and find those undesirable things, those thoughts, ideas and notions that I don’t not like about myself. It was time to look at actions and behaviors that I have that I do not approve of, or that are hurtful to myself or to others.

As someone who tries to support and mentor others, I tried to put forth the view that I have it together. I know I am not fooling anyone and that anyone that is relative and important knows that Rev J is kind of a mess, at least some of the time. I have a mental illness. (several actually) I’m never going to be “together”. It’s not part of the plan. Now I am going to have to look at the underbelly and dig out the mess and take a look at it. Really.

So now I pull out undesirable self thoughts. What are the things that I tell myself that I shouldn’t? What are the things I say that hurt me? I am not talented. I am unworthy of love. I have been and will be a bad parent. I have been and will be a bad husband. I am a horrible friend. I am sick and incapable of doing the things that I want to do. I am going to fail so why try. I am not good enough.

These are the things I tell myself. This is the way I treat me. This is wrong. So what do I want to leave behind at midnight? I want to leave behind self destructive talk. Is this a realistic thing for me right now? Probably not. Self talk is a strong monster and the chiming of a clock won’t slay it. So what can I do. I can leave behind the notion that I have to listen to negative self talk. I can put into practice my Cognitive training and work on replacing those negative words I use to abuse myself with words of encouragement and kindness. Cognitive therapy, self talk reprogramming is a process, and it isn’t easy. It is a process that I know and need to use more frequently.

I am a talented musician. I am worthy of love, from myself and from other people. While I have made mistakes as a parent, I can look at my three fully grown and thriving children and see that I have also been a good parent. I have made mistakes as a husband. However, I can look at twenty five years of marriage to an amazing friend and I can see that I have also been a good husband. I have problems reaching out and staying connected with people. I truly love my own company. I can also look at those people that call me friend and I can look back at the the things they say to me and that they say about me publicly, and know that yes, I am also a good friend, in my own way, on my terms. While there are physical limits to what I can and should do, as well as obstacle brought on by mental illness, there are many things that I enjoy that I am capable of participating in, if I look at them realistically. Yes, I fail at attempts. We all do. There have also been amazing successes. I need to look no further than the wall that contains my photographs, medals and other memorabilia and I can see that I am also successful.

These are the things that I need to get programs into my self talk. These are the things that I need to bring into 2017, so that I can leave the negative behind, one day.

Behaviors is another place that brings about self loathing and negativity. There moments that come up that I have not handled well. There are behaviors that are inexcusable. While a person with a mental illness needs understanding when it comes to behavior issues, I have and will continue to feel that once you have achieved adulthood and you have a diagnosis, you have a responsibility to work towards recovery and betterment. Your, my illness should never be an excuse for poor behavior.

What are my weak points here? What needs to be left behind? Two things truly jump out at me here. I have anger management issues. While my anger management is much better than it was ten years ago, there is plenty of room for improvement. The other behavior that I want and need to work on is my reaction to those that I care about when they see that things may be taking a certain turn, even when that is not actually the case.

The anger I will set aside for this writing and talk more about the second. When you have a long road and struggle with mental illness patterns form. People around you, those closest to you, can see warning signs of imminent trouble. From experience they know what is coming and they react according to what you have demonstrated over time. I may have improved and that particular moment or idea may no longer trigger a negative response. I may say something that at one time may have been a forerunner to a mood or behavior that was negative, but not it is not that way any longer. It doesn’t really matter to those that have been through hell and back with and because of you. They see something that triggers, in them, a memory of past behaviors, and they react accordingly. It is not their fault. It is no one’s fault. It is simply a reaction based off experience.

This can be a truly frustrating moment for me. In fact, this action, reaction, reaction scenario can trigger the feared behavior when it wasn’t actually present at the time, fulfilling the fear and reenforcing the thought process. I need to take responsibility for training those around me to react negatively to trigger points that may no longer exists. I need to be patient and kind. I need to remind myself that I built this behavior and I need to help change it. Instead of getting frustrated and bringing forth the behavior that was feared, or worse, I need to demonstrate the mood and behavior that is actually present in a calm and encouraging manner. I need to be at peace with the world I helped create and work toward changing it to how it should be, not pushing back against an idea that my behavior manifested.

So lets ask the question again. What are you leaving behind at #WelcometoMidnight? That. See above. There isn’t a real answer here because the notion isn’t simple. It is complex. What am I leaving behind? A lesser me perhaps.

#WelcometoMidnight. What are you leaving behind?

Namaste

Rev J

Pause

Life has reminded me that there is always a need and an opportunity to pause. We live a life of constant contact, constant stimulus, and constant motion. There is always something happening and there is always something to do or attend to.

Too often we find ourselves, not in the pilot seat, by in the passenger seat, merely reacting to our environment. We are so busy in our life reacting to to “to do” list and the schedule, that we don’t take any time for ourselves. Every second of every day is accounted for and belongs to someone or something else.

We must remember to pause, in everything. On the simplest terms, we need to become comfortable with “comfortable silences”. Have you ever met up with a friend and started talking over coffee or something like that, and then you both got quiet. It wasn’t a moment of “oh, I don’t know what to say”, but rather “I am comfortable sitting here, for just a moment, and not talking. I am processing what we have said so far. I am taking in my surrounding. I am observing. That is a comfortable silence, and it is important. A conversational interaction without pause is draining. Focus must be maintained at a high level and you don’t have the time or energy to sit in the moment and appreciate what is happening.

Another important pause is the pause you should take when something is not right in your world and you are not happy. Perhaps someone has said something wrong or something did not turn out as planned. If you do not take pause and step out of that moment for a brief amount of time, you may say something or do something reactionary that is not in your or anyone’s best interest. This is how feeling get hurt. This is how friendships get damaged. This is how relationships end. It is important to step back from the issue so that you can calmly look at it and respond in a way that is productive. This can be incredibly hard to put into practice and is something that I must work on continually.

When there are too many things coming your way, your workload is too heavy, or your attention is being pulled in too many directions, that is a time for another pause. A pause when things are hectic can actually make things more along faster. If you take the time to step back and prioritize what is going on around you, you can manage the situation better. You can chop all of the big things that are flying around you into smaller, manageable blocks and organize the flow of work and or energy.

The last type of pause puts into place a spiritual practice. I firmly believe I am at my best when I take time out of my day to meditate. I am calmer. I am more aware. I am more relax. I am healthier, when I meditate. I try to make this a 30 minute practice at least once per day, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Before you start your day, look out your front window, take in your surroundings, relax your breathing and simply, slowly, count to 20. Then look at what your day holds, and in that same calm frame of mind, put things in order. After you finish your mid-day meal, take 20 or 30 seconds to do it again. Take some calm breaths and count. Do this before and after a meeting or conference. Do this before bed. A 30 minute or longer meditation can be wonderful but sometimes all you have is a minute. Take that minute and recenter yourself.

Our lives are so busy and often Chaotic. Remember to take your pause to keep your day manageable.

Namaste

Rev J

Glass

We arrived at the church around midday. It is an older church built in the 1880s. It is a Victorian Gothic style building, brick and stained glass. It is like stepping through a time warp.

He had come by in the morning to help me with my tire. After that, we had breakfast and he asked me to come with him to clean up from installing the window last night.

As we walk through the main sanctuary, we are greeted by a minister who is sitting in the front row on pews, talking with someone. It is rather dark in the sanctuary, lit mostly by natural light filtered through more stained glass windows than I thought to count. Wrought iron accents the brick and colored glass. The room we are working in is just off the main sanctuary, even darker than the main room, if that is possible. Dark stained wood and brick.

We make short work of the mess, take some pictures, and head out into the sanctuary again. He wants to show me the windows he has already repaired or replaced, and the ones that are to follow. As we begin our tour of the space, a mid day service begins in the smaller worship space. The tour concludes and we are now in the kitchens. He volunteers here as well, helping to feed the homeless in the area on Saturdays. I look out into the fellowship space, there are two men waiting for lunch, or escaping the cold. One is the gentleman from the sanctuary earlier. Homeless. The two ladies that are preparing the lunch are talking to him. Asking if he needs anything. Like most of us, he is struggling a bit as well.

It isn’t Sunday. Church service for the masses isn’t happening, but this is church. This is a spiritual experience. People are serving and being served. Community is being built and reached. Outreach is happening. This is sacred service.

As we leave, one of the ladies preparing lunch stops him. They talk briefly about a personal problem. It is something he can relate to and he promises to keep in contact to support her journey.

As we drive back to my home, I can’t help but to compare this brief experience to what my experience has been for the last few years. I feel like, from a spiritual community standpoint, I have been living in a vacuum. The movement I have been associating with feels that way sometimes. A community of positive minded people expressing how wonderful everything is, focusing on the positive. That is well and good, nothing wrong with this. Except it can feel sterile, impersonal.

We arrive at home and he leaves to work on his current glass project. I go inside and just sit with this feeling. This wasn’t a “God thing” or a “holy ceremony”, just an afternoon spent picking up scraps from a stained glass installation. It wasn’t about some ethereal deity on high casting out love, or judgment. This was people walking through the muck, helping other people down there with them.

This isn’t going to be about me trying to explain my very abstract view of spirit, just an experience in spirituality, in kindness, compassion, and service.

This felt more real and more in line with the master teachers of old than where I have been sitting for some time. This felt like the first time I had been to church in some time. This mattered.

Namaste

Rev J

Day 30: Art

Day 30 at long last. It’s been considerably longer than 30 days since this challenge began but it is finally at it’s conclusion. Short and to the point.

I have had several conversations in the last couple of weeks that have reminded me how important art is to me. Whether it is creating it or consuming it, whether it is visual art, music, or the written word, art has always played a very important part in my life. Through the recovery process art has been essential to my well being.

Art therapy helped me to tune in to what was going on inside and how to express those emotions and feeling in a constructive manner. Poetry helped me verbalize the thoughts in my head when I couldn’t speak about them. Music, both creating and consuming, has been a core player in mood stabilization.

When I have shared my art, through music mostly, I have always received the feedback that what I have done has had a positive impact on the listener. When I have had interactive music shows, teaching people how to express themselves through music has been a wonderful blessing.

I have been blessed to have at least marginal talent in more than one discipline in art expression. The conversations that I have had lately have reminded me that I have something to share. I need to share this. A relative of our minister said this about her creative gifts, “this gift is not yours to not share”, meaning that you have a gift that requires an audience or interactive participation. I am starting to believe this about the talents that I have. They are not mine to not share.

The question does remain as to what this looks like and how this will unfold, but today I am grateful for art in my life.

Today I am grateful for art.

Namaste

Rev J