Notes on a Life Improved

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This post is mostly for me, but I’m sharing it, mostly to keep me accountable to my commitments.

In therapy the other day, I identified three major objectives that I would like to achieve:

  1. Get my comfort/boredom eating under control.
  2. Learn coping skills that will counter my PTSD.
  3. Learn coping skills that will counter my bipolar/BPD.

The first of these is relevant to one of my physical health goals, which is to begin eating on the DASH diet to counter my hypertension and diabetes. I can’t be successful trying to establish new eating habits if I’m constantly being derailed on my way to the goal. That’s how I got to the point that I weigh 300 pounds.

The second is necessary to help me get back into the workplace.

The third is necessary for me to stay there longer.

Professionally, I’ve identified that I want to start a scholarship fund for kids and adults who suffer from mental illnesses. I’ve taken the first step on that journey, that being to purchase and start reading “Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide” by Peri Pakroo, J.D. This book is part of the NOLO legal series of books and so far is very informative.

In my hobby life, I’m still establishing the office of Event Support Services for my region of my historical re-enactment organization, and I’m doing two radio shows a week.

Next time I try to say I’m not doing anything with my life, remind me that I’m lying to myself and despite being on disability, I’m actually quite busy.

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A Spark of Inspiration

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Today is my 46th birthday.

I spent last night in somewhat anguished contemplation and spirited debate with my wife about my role in society and whether I’m actually done, effectively retired.

After we kissed and made up (the spirited debate took the form of a shouting match, like it usually does whenever my symptoms are getting the better of me) I sat and thought some more about what I would want to do if education and money were no object.

I’d want to write, sure, but that’s more of a hobby right now. I mean something that will make a difference in the world.

For many years, I’ve had the idea of starting a non-profit organization that would help others with what became a growing list of causes – last-chance financial assistance to keep the lights on, the roof over their heads, food on the table, etc.; granting wishes to deserving people (i.e. getting someone who’s overcome a disability to rejoin the workforce a car to get them back and forth to work); and so on. The list at one point was five long and I knew that while I may want to help other people with a non-profit, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.

Then I read this blog post about the lack of scholarships that are available to people who suffer from mental illnesses. This was always something that was on the list of things that I wanted my charity to do, but never was the primary objective.

I read that blog post and realized that I need to start my charity, and it needs to be a scholarship fund for those with mental health issues.

To sum up one of the points the blog post makes, people with mental illnesses oftentimes find the linear progression of education a difficult thing. There are often interruptions due to what we often call a “bad day” but what it actually a flare-up of our symptoms. It’s hard to focus on that midterm when you can barely drag yourself out of bed to feed yourself. And a lot of times, scholarships and grants aren’t so accommodating when the results that perpetuate the funding are sidetracked by a mental health issue.

My charity would take that into consideration when granting scholarships. It would understand if there were struggles and really celebrate a student overcoming them and achieving academically.

I also found an article from Forbes about the basics of starting a charity. It’s obviously not in depth, but it gives me hope that I can start something despite not having the funding for it in my own pocket. That’s what’s kept me from starting this all this time (okay, that and the wandering mission statement).

So happy birthday to me. I think I might have discovered that my purpose in life is attainable.

And that’s the best birthday gift I could hope for.

What Do I Want To Be When I “Grow Up?”

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Time recently presented an article on how to figure out what you should do with your life. It’s a short read, but a good one, and while I link the original article above, it can be summed up in one phrase.

G+P+V=C

It means “gifts plus passions plus values equals calling,” and having that spelled out so simply is both eloquent and maddening. Why couldn’t I have figured this out when I was in my early 20s when I had time to build a career, I ask myself in that pissed off voice that I get when I’m mad at myself for some perceived self-slight. And then I stop and remember a few facts that give me pause.

First off, figuring out my gifts is something I’m still doing to this day. My biggest gifts lately seem to be inspiring people and writing, but they haven’t always been that way. When I was working, my mental health wouldn’t always let me hold a permanent job, so I’d make do with temporary assignments as best as I could. My talent for a long time seemed to be working myself out of an assignment, sometimes weeks earlier than anticipated. (Just because I had trouble holding a job due to my illnesses didn’t mean I was a bad worker. It meant that there were days that my illnesses wouldn’t let me crawl out of bed, and most employers have a limit to how many times they can afford to hear that before they decide it’s time to move on.)

My passions are fairly simple. Help people in need, advocate for mental health awareness, make people laugh, cook awesome food, recreate history, play music that makes people happy, build really cool buildings with LEGO bricks, read, write, sing, dance, travel … hmm, maybe this isn’t so simple after all. I think before I find my true calling I should pare this list down from “DO ALL THE THINGS!” (Thanks for that phrase, Allie!) to “this is a passion, and that is a guilty pleasure.”

And my values? Again, this is a work in progress. But that leads me to what I suppose is the point.

In all honesty, all three of these things are fluid. Your gifts change over time, your passions ebb and flow, and your values, while usually fairly solid and based around your core beliefs, might take some time to truly establish.

So the questions now become: Which gifts, passions, and values are most important to you? Which of these would you like to make your life’s work about?

I established what I thought would be my dream job some time ago. I want to start a foundation that would provide last-resort financial assistance to the less fortunate (inspiration: Rev. Dan Larsen): make dreams come true for those who wish to better themselves, their families, and their communities through the fulfillment of their dream (inspiration: Percy Ross);  advocate for those suffering from invisible disabilities and orphan diseases and raise funds for research into their treatment and potential cure (inspirations: too many to name). But while I have the values for it, and the passions to fuel it, my gifts are sorely lacking. However, that might be the easiest thing to resolve. I may just need to find backers willing to help with such a thing, and learn how to administer a non-profit. (I think that’s more realistic than “win a big Powerball payout.”)

When I’m ready healthwise, I think working toward making that dream job a reality is going to be my goal, because at its core, helping others better themselves is what I truly believe my calling is.