Learning not to Fear Failure

“When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves” — Katherine Mansfield

In any given day, we will succeed at some things and fail at others. Failure happens to some degree every day. Over time, If we lose our sense of humor, we can begin to feel badly about our failures, letting those feelings compound into a statement about our self-worth. After all, who wants to fail?

There are times when a failure seems too big to make us laugh, and indeed some mistakes aren’t that funny. In those cases, does it make sense to continue to wallow in self-loathing, or to earnestly move forward in a new direction. Every moment offers us a chance for a new direction, and if we are mired in self loathing about our failures, we lose the chance to see the new opportunities that are available to us in the present moment.

I am resisting the temptation to see my move into a job that didn’t suit me as a failure. It was a learning experience, and I do not regret making the decision to change directions after several attempts to make it work. Resilience is one of my strengths. Having gone through much harder times, bigger failures in my life, I remain an eternal optimist, with a healthy dose of sardonic cynicism to keep me from being too naive.

Early in my recovery from an eating disorder, I had a sponsor who gave me a stuffed, quilted pig she had lovingly made for me. It seemed rather ironic, given my condition, but the words she said when she presented it to me have always stayed with me, even 35 years later. Her words were simple “Don’t wallow in it!”

I don’t expect everything in life to work out, and I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I know I will make mistakes, fail, fall down, and do dumb things. Sometimes I will be able to laugh at these things, and sometimes I will need to take a moment to cry.

Life itself fails us at times, and all we can do is decide, and decide, and decide again. Where to next?

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A Day in the Life: Wrap up of Summer Series

1 rose

These flowers are for my mom

This post will conclude the first part of my series called A Day in the Life which I started at the beginning of the summer. Writing these stories about life growing up with a mom who had paranoid schizophrenia has been an enlightening experience for me and I will occasionally write additional posts throughout the upcoming year.  Next summer when I have more free time, I hope to go back to writing regular posts in the series.

As I’ve embarked on this expedition, unraveling my memories, trying to connect the parts that make sense with the parts that have become fuzzy and obscure over the past few decades, I have gained a profusion of insight into myself, our family dynamics, and most importantly, a better understanding of the woman who inspired these stories, my mother.

Despite my tumultuous relationship with my mom, I have never been able to hang onto any bit of anger towards her. How could I be angry at someone who dealt with such an intrusive illness; one that impacted every aspect of her life even as she tried to manage a household and raise four children? How could I be angry at someone who had to spend months of her life in an institution that was little more than a glorified prison, when what she really deserved was good medical care?

I am angry though. I am very angry at the way people who have serious mental illnesses have been treated over the years and continue to be treated even now.  Although people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of crime than they are to commit violent crimes, still the media latches onto stereotypes that paint them as dangerous individuals, and  as one of my earlier posts illustrates, fear of individuals with mental illness abounds. Still, there are large numbers of people with mental illnesses who are homeless or  in prisons for committing minor crimes. Many have been harmed by law enforcement officials who lack the knowledge or skills to deal with a crisis.

Here are two great posts by Rebecca at A Journey With You that illustrate these points quite well:

Unwanted in the Neighborhood

Gun Violence, Stigma, and Mental Health

Public policies about mental health care are negatively impacted by false perceptions, and are still greatly lacking.  Rather than getting the treatment they deserve, mentally ill individuals are often left isolated, ostracized, and too ashamed to seek help. When they do find the courage to seek help, they may be turned away or forced to wait for much-needed treatment. Can you imagine having to wait that long for treatment for diabetes or congestive heart failure? A mental health crisis is just as serious and can just as easily lead to the unnecessary loss of life.

On a more basic level, there is still a huge stigma that goes along with admitting one’s mental illness. I was too afraid to even tell anyone about my mom, for fear that I too would be stigmatized. Indeed, on those occasions when I did tell people, I often wished I hadn’t because of insensitive remarks.

I was fortunate to grow up in a middle class home with a father who was able to provide for his family and take care of my mom despite the many obstacles that were thrown our way. Many others are much less fortunate and forced to live on the fringes of society, all because they have an illness. This has to change.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know many  wonderful bloggers who are sharing their personal experiences with mental illness. Their voices inspire me to keep the conversation going, even when it gets uncomfortable and change seems impossible.

I know we can make a difference.

One Train May Hide Another

IMG_1307This poem is very special to me:

One Train May Hide Another
BY KENNETH KOCH
(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya)

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line—
Then it is safe to go on reading.
In a family one sister may conceal another,
So, when you are courting, it’s best to have them all in view
Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.
One father or one brother may hide the man,
If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.
So always standing in front of something the other
As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.
One wish may hide another. And one person’s reputation may hide
The reputation of another. One dog may conceal another
On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you’re not necessarily safe;
One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia Antica
one tomb
May hide a number of other tombs. In love, one reproach may hide
another,
One small complaint may hide a great one.
One injustice may hide another—one colonial may hide another,
One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath
may hide another bath
As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple
Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein
One sentence hides another and is another as well. And in the laboratory
One invention may hide another invention,
One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.
One dark red, or one blue, or one purple—this is a painting
By someone after Matisse. One waits at the tracks until they pass,
These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses. One identical twin
May hide the other. And there may be even more in there! The
obstetrician
Gazes at the Valley of the Var. We used to live there, my wife and I, but
One life hid another life. And now she is gone and I am here.
A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter. The daughter hides
Her own vivacious daughter in turn. They are in
A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag
Bigger than her mother’s bag and successfully hides it.
In offering to pick up the daughter’s bag one finds oneself confronted by
the mother’s
And has to carry that one, too. So one hitchhiker
May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee
Another, too, until one is over-excited. One love may hide another love or
the same love
As when “I love you” suddenly rings false and one discovers
The better love fingering behind, as when “I’m full of doubts”
Hides “I’m certain about something and it is that”
And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too. In the
Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass
So you can see what else is there. At home, no matter where,
Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory
Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about,
The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities. Reading A
Sentimental Journey look around
When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see
If it is standing there, it should be, stronger
And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore
May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome. One sidewalk
May hide another, as when you’re asleep there, and
One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs
Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the
foot of a tree
With one and when you get up to leave there is another
Whom you’d have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be
important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

 

How do I know that I am blessed?

How do I know that I am blessed?

Do I need to live in a villa overlooking the ocean

to know that I am blessed?

Kamabesu Villa St. Johns

Kamabesu Villa St. Johns

Do I need to be in perfect health, with buns of steel

to know that I am blessed?

Buns-of-steel-VHS-200x300

Do I need to spend my days surrounded by adoring fans

to know that I am blessed?

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Do I need to have an abundance of food and clothing

to know that I am blessed?

be_model3

Do I need to have a prestigious career that pays well

to know that I am blessed?

Steve_Jobs_and_Bill_Gates_(522695099)

How long do I have to wait

to know that I am blessed?

calendar

I say the time is now and the blessings

are here in front of me.

These blessings are not contingent

upon my circumstances.

They are contingent upon

my ability to look within

to see not what I am without,

but in my ability to recognize

the one tiny blessing in front

of me, waiting to be noticed.

IMG_0226by Amy Jones

 

A Day in the Life: In sickness and in health

FB041282Well, I have officially been sick for six days now. I have missed the last three days of work, and I woke up feeling as bad as ever today. I feel like someone placed hot coals in my throat. Being the impatient, slightly neurotic person I am, I have been to the doctor twice. It’s not strep according to my employee clinic. According to the NP at my doctor’s office the next day,  it’s a sinus infection. Considering my nursing background, I know better, but I took the Z-Pac any way and have now contributed to the overuse of antibiotics that will ultimately lead to the emergence of more resistant strains. Ok, so I was desperate.

As my friend noted in her text this morning, I really don’t like being sick.

sick

So, all this brings me to my next A Day in the Life Series and what it was like to be sick when I was growing up.

There was always a reason that I brought sickness on myself, according to my mother. The end result was that I tried to conceal my illnesses from her until my fever reached about 104.9 degrees fahrenheit, at which point there was no hiding it any more. I remember once not telling my mom I had a sore throat because I didn’t want to miss the field trip to White Castles. To this day I regret that my throat and head hurt so bad that I didn’t even get to eat one of their freshly baked buns at the end of the tour. In fact, I couldn’t even stand to smell them.  By the time I made it off the bus and safely home that day, my mom need only look at me to tell I was ill.

White-Castle-buns-in-bakery-room

The same pattern usually took place when I was ill, and came in phases:

Phase I – Rebuke (according to my mom, there was always a reason I caused myself to become sick)

  • “You shouldn’t have stayed up past 9:00”
  • “I told you not to go outside without a coat”
  • “You are never going to a sleepover again”
  • “You shouldn’t have gone swimming in that dirty pool”
  • “You just want attention because your father and I argued last night”

Phase II – Quarantine

After putting me in an ice-cold bath to bring down the fever, my mom whisked me off to my room and put me right to bed, where I remained until the illness passed. After placing a pitcher of water on my bedside table, rubbing me down with Vics VapoRub, and placing a red bandana around my neck, my mom’s work was done and the door was closed tightly behind me.

Phase III – Call the doctor

This is where my dad came in. He was the one who always took me to the doctor, where I usually ended up getting a giant shot of penicillin in my behind. He became the gatekeeper, bringing up trays of food and little prizes to help me feel better. For some reason, whenever I was sick I liked to Listen to Julie Andrews, and he made sure to set up the record player for me.

Phase IV – Disinfection

When I started feeling better, my mom came back into the picture to disinfect the scene. My room was cleaned from top to bottom, and everything was sprayed down with Lysol. I was lectured about what a messy child I was and no wonder I was sick, living in all that filth. Its true, I wasn’t the neatest kid, especially in contrast to my mom’s obsessive need to clean and organize.

Phase V – Father/Daughter talk

This was the best part of the whole ordeal. My dad would come into my room, sit on my bed, and talk to me about the importance of keeping my room clean and how that might improve things not only with my mom but in my life in general. He was good at giving pep talks, and I always felt better after he left.

I am hoping I will hit the disinfection Phase of my illness today so that I can start anew, appreciating all of the little things I missed out on while under quarantine.

To read the last post in my series, click here.

Getting what you want

“If you need something from somebody always give that person a way to hand it to you.”
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

How simple those words and how easy to forget. I wonder how many times I have created unnecessary stress for myself (and others) because rather than asking for something, I expected people to read my mind or to instinctively know what I wanted. It has taken me quite awhile to get comfortable with using my voice to express my wants, desires, needs, and feelings. Sometimes giving a person a way to hand you what you want is as simple as letting them know what it is that you want.

Hollywood Wax Museum

Hollywood Wax Museum

Unfounded Fear of Mental Health Facilities

holly hamilton

“I’m not going to feel as safe,” Hamilton said, referring to her concern over the pending presence of psychiatric patients in the neighborhood.   (Photo: The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy)

I came across an article in the Enquirer this morning about a woman and other members of her community who are concerned about the dangers a new mental health facility will pose to their community. It will mainly be an outpatient facility but will also have an inpatient facility for people who are having a psychotic episode.

Wow, I don’t even know what to say about this! I wish I had the chance to sit down with her and talk to her about these misguided fears that are based on nothing more than old stereotypes. Chances are she is already living in close vicinity to a person or persons with mental illness, and she doesn’t even realize it. Why? Because people with mental illness carry no greater risk than any other person in her neighborhood.

I would also like to tell her that having a mental health facility nearby may actually be a welcomed addition for the people in her neighborhood who could benefit from their services.

Her other concerns about increased traffic, noise, decreased property value, and construction delays seem to me to be a smoke screen to justify her own personal fears. Would she complain that much if it were a family medicine practice being built? I seriously doubt it. Did she complain that much when it was a nursing home?

I live across the fence from a huge retirement home and dementia facility, and the associated sounds of the parking lot, garbage trucks, ambulances coming and going, and employees laughing as they walk out to their cars are merely background noise that pose no threat to me. Neither would a mental health facility.

I wonder how she would feel if people said she needed to get rid of her dogs, because they might pose a risk to the community……

Whenever I grow weary of blogging about mental illness, I see something like this and remember the reason I must continue to get the message out  there. Stop fearing what you don’t understand and have some compassion. People with psychotic episodes, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and other types of mood and brain disorders are not criminals. They, like anyone else, deserve to have adequate access to healthcare in their community. They deserve the same freedoms as everyone else.