Early this morning I watched a video blog by Bill MacPhee (http://youtu.be/zgi9N8XMNec) a man with schizophrenia who now is the editor of SZ Magazine and the CEO operating several online newsletters for differing forms of mental illness under the heading of Magpie Mags, Inc.
He defines recovery as being able to say, "I wouldn't want to be anyone else but who I am today." This definition really struck me between the eyes...I have fallen prey to an attitude very prevalent among people who suffer from mental illness, particularly Schizophrenia. This is a sense of deep sadness and regret -- hatred for who we are, and longing for who we once were. We mourn our lost abilities both cognitive and physical....
So despite my generally high degree of functioning (mentally), I fail this definition of recovery quite miserably. My largest regrets lie in two areas: the intellectual (which includes a former acuity of memory that allowed me to recall everything I read or heard instantly) and also my physical appearance; my slim figure (now ruined by my medications and my sedentary lifestyle forced by physical illness and lack of motivation due to SZ., and my youth-my strength , flexibility, freedom from pain etc. And that is not to mention my dislike of the positive and negative symptoms I struggle with daily
Today as I was reading Gitzengirl (Sara Frankl's blog) I read of her early struggle with this same topic. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that she was much quicker in her ability to deal with these regrets than I have been...although maybe not really. This was written in 2008 and she'd had the illness even before 1997. These are her words:
She was so right here. I definitely have new crosses...and these are really gifts from God, evidences of his trust in my ability to carry them and honor him in them...or evidence of my need for growth of strength,endurance and wisdom in these areas. And I have new gifts as well...newly developed strength, endurance and wisdom! Note that these gifts are directly related to the crosses. Another thing that falls into this category is a trust in the goodness, omniscience and love God holds for me....one that was so tried that it failed me in the onset of my illness and major depression. That failure led me to reject God entirely for fifteen miserable years while I searched for a meaning to life which simply wasn't there in the "absence" of God. I have endured levels of physical pain heretofore unimaginable to me in past years and learned to appreciate every single ability that still remains. this does (or should ) lead me to an "attitude of gratitude" that was noticeably absent in my earlier years....when I felt that God "owed me" more than what gifts I''d been given.
I needed to remind myself that my old gifts were gone, and they didn't serve me in living my best life anymore. I had new gifts and crosses given to me, and I had to rethink how to live my life with them. It took awhile to find my new normal, and that continues to change on a daily basis. But when my focus is on living the best life I can with what I have in that moment, I always find my silver lining. I'm not expecting the gold I used to have. I'm not looking for the gold that I think I should have. I'm looking at the silver right in front of me and saying thank you every day
However this gratitude is not yet a habit...it is not yet my "home base" --and I still bear some traces of unhappiness with who and what it is that I've become as a result of these illnesses with which God has seen fit to entrust me. I still think back with some sadness at that 17-19 year old who had her pick of careers and potential to burn. I think it is the "waste" of these abilities which bothers me the most. But who am I to complain about or question God's purposes? I now have a sensitvity to the pain of others that I never couldn't claim 30 years ago. I have the ability to tolerate almost any physical discomfort--without even shedding a tear. (I save all my whining for here. lol).
Right now I'm grateful to Bill MacPhee's insight and to the fact that he put his finger right on the pulse of my problem in dealing with my life right now...and to Sara Frankl's wisdom in her personal solution to the very same potential bitterness that springs up as daily, abilities and strengths are being removed and new pain and dependance takes their place. These bitternesses need to t be nipped in the bud and replaced with gratitude for all that God has given me and for his plans for me...plans to prosper me and not to harm me (Jer. 29:11) And the only way to make this exchange is through intentionality and awareness of the state of my heart and of my many blessings.