First of all I want to say THANK YOU to everyone that has donated or helped spread the message so far to help us help our neighborhood stray Stormy Cat. He’s dealing with what we think is a broken leg that’s beyond our capabilities to care for, but since he pretty much calls our balcony home (he even follows us partway around the complex on our evening walks when he’s feeling 100%) we feel like he’s adopted us as much as we want to adopt him, and we’re of the opinion that if we don’t help him, no one else will. Thank you all for everything you’ve done. If you haven’t seen the GoGetFunding page yet, it’s here. We’d love it if you could donate, but getting the word out to others is just as helpful. As of this writing we’re already just over halfway there, so thank you again!
Now onto today’s blog post.
I’ve been reading two books lately: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW; and The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, Sixth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD. Both have been helpful in their own unique ways. It’s the latter that I’m going to talk about today.
At the end of the third chapter, “Recovery: A Comprehensive Approach,” after it covers introductions to “interventions addressing seven different levels of contributing causes” and gives four examples of a comprehensive recovery program from case studies, it goes into detail about developing one’s own recovery program. There are five aspects to a recovery program, according to the book: taking responsibility in a context of support; motivation (overcoming what Freud called “secondary gains,” or unconscious payoffs); making a commitment to one’s self to follow through; willingness to take risks; and defining and visualizing one’s goals for recovery. Today’s post will focus on that last part, visualizing my goals for recovery.
In order to give me something that I can visualize during times of meditation, it recommends I write out a script, as it were, of my ideal scenario for my life after I’ve recovered. This task involves answering a few questions. What are the most important positive changes I want to make in my life? What would a complete recovery from my present condition(s) look like? Specifically, how will I think, feel, and act in my work, my relationships with others, and my relationship with myself once I’ve fully recovered? What new opportunities will I take advantage of once I’ve fully recovered?
It’s important to note two things as I go into detail about this writing exercise. This is based on my own feelings and opinions as they exist today, and as such is a fluid statement, subject to change or improvement as time goes on. I’ve arrived at multiple decisions about what I want to do with my life professionally, for instance, and I’m currently not doing any of them, nor am I able to do anything that I’m specifically trained to do thanks to my back problems. Life tends to toss you obstacles to overcome. My anxiety is one of them. Also, due to the nature of my anxiety, it is very possible that the best I’ll ever be able to do is diminish it to the point that I can once more be mostly fully functional, with only rare panic or anxiety attacks. That’s okay. It’s a far cry from where I am now and it’s a level of recovery that I will happily accept over my state today when I get anxious any time anyone suggests I leave my home or the balcony outside it.
So what does that ideal scenario for my life after I’ve recovered look like?
Well, the most important positive changes that I want to make in my life are pretty simple. I want to get back to work, and I want to be able to handle the work environment better, with less anxiety, than I was able to do previously. I want to get back to the point that I can freely socialize with my friends in my chosen hobbies, without fear or concern of repercussions or shame. I want to be able to go out in public, whether to a quiet dinner for two or a crowded concert venue or anything in between, without any sort of worry or fear of what might happen. And I want to feel free to be able to try new things without the overpowering feeling that I’m going to make an idiot of myself in trying. I want it to be okay that I fail.
What would a complete recovery from my present conditions look like? Well, simply put, it would be a life lived without fear of commonplace activities, such as driving or going to the store or hanging out with friends, without fear of making a mistake, without fear of embarrassing myself any time I open my mouth, without fear of hurting someone else through my words or actions. That last part isn’t to say that I want to be able to go out and say what I want and do what I want without caring if it causes harm to another person or persons – but right now there are so many things I don’t do because of what might happen or who might get hurt or offended by what I say and what I do. Despite my illnesses and my anxieties, I am a passionate person and I hardly ever scratch the surface of talking about what I’m passionate about for fear of it coming back to bite me. I want to be able to pursue my passions completely but respectfully.
Specifically, how will I think, feel, and act in my work, my relationships with others, and my relationship with myself once I’ve fully recovered? At the workplace, I will be a conscientious worker, as I’ve always been, but without the crippling fear that any mistake will forever be an indelible demerit where only a handful of demerits will result in termination. I’ll understand and accept that people – including me – make mistakes on the job, especially when they’re learning, and that mistakes are oftentimes how we learn the best. I won’t let an error become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ll feel confident in my ability to do my work and will seek out pointers on how I can improve when I don’t feel quite so confident. In my relationships with others, I’ll act as I used to, happy-go-lucky and confident that my company is accepted and appreciated, and that people aren’t just putting up with me because they feel they have no choice. I’ll also not be waiting on me to be in a happy-go-lucky mood to socialize – as much as I enjoy my own company, I enjoy the company of others as well, and I won’t shy away from opportunities to be social just because I don’t feel like it at the time. I’ll be more proactive in arranging social activities with others, and because I’ll be working there will be more spare cash to pursue social activities outside of movies or games at someone’s house or the occasional cuppa at a coffee house. And as far as my relationship with myself is concerned, I’ll be much more accepting of my limitations and my needs, as well as my desires. I’ll fight for the things that matter to me, and allow myself both the time and the space to re-energize. (Even at my most egregious, I’m an ambivert at best, leaning strongly toward introversion.) I’ll be more confident in my own skin and with the person that I am and will be becoming, since life is a journey and one must keep moving forward or stagnate.
What new opportunities will I take advantage of once I’ve fully recovered? I’m not sure that “new” opportunities are really what I’m concentrating on, although there is one – it’s my desire to return to school for a degree, not just a vocational certificate. Most of what I want to do when I’m recovered is return to the things that I used to do – performing bardic at SCA events (hell, going to SCA events with regularity again), doing karaoke, maybe even trying my hand at the theater again. I’d like to get into thrown pottery, since I tried my hand at it several years ago and loved it. I’d like to become a better and more varied cook. I would like to finally feel confident enough in myself to try tabletop roleplaying games. And as regular readers of this blog will know, I’d really like to unlock the writer within. But the most important thing is that I want to be receptive to new opportunities when they arise, and embrace the ones that interest me, something that I’m not very receptive to now.
So there’s a very personal look into what I want my life to look like once I’ve fully recovered, at least, there’s today’s version of it. Most of the things on that list are things that I’ve wanted for some time, so I’m pretty confident in saying that if there’s going to be any changes to this scenario, they’ll be additions, not subtractions. The name of the blog is Married White Male, In Search Of Self-Esteem, Living Fearlessly for a reason. Hopefully this workbook, and the therapy that I’ll receive alongside it and in tandem with it, will help me realize that goal.
EDIT: The two passages in bold were added at the request of my therapist and were not part of what was originally posted – but she considered them to be important enough for me to go back and make the changes, so I felt they were important enough for me to single them out in bold.