Staying/Getting/Doing Well – Moving goalposts or fixed target?
Hi, this is my first post, though I have been reading the forums for some weeks. I’m probably expressing myself badly when I say that I have found reading about other people’s journeys reassuring. Finding a community of people who “get it” even when they have a wide variety of experiences and lives lived is not something I thought I would ever find.
Though people talk about getting well & there is a section Staying Well, I’m curious as to what this actually means to other people and how they manage their expectations. I noticed some people refer to being well as ‘being like themselves before they got ill’, whilst others don’t express an exact aim.
My idea of being well has changed over the years. I was first diagnosed as an 8 year old child back in the late sixties. The doctors told Mum that the voices in my head & the sudden crying bouts were because I suffered from ‘nerves’ & I was given meds to calm me. Of course such things were not discussed back then & I was told not to talk about it to anyone, not my school friends nor siblings, just Mum. For decades after my idea of being well simply meant being able to hide my illness from others.
A number of events in
my life caused my illness to worsen, until some years ago I became so ill I
needed to be hospitalised for my own safety. This lead to my current diagnosis
of Major Depression, Anxiety & PTSD. I’m no longer in that dark place, but each
day is still a battle (though I can now believe in a future). For now only my
siblings & one friend know about my illness, though some things they still
So, what does ‘being well’ mean to me, it is ever moving goalposts. If you had asked me 5 years ago would I be as well as I am now I would have thought it impossible as I couldn’t envision a future. If you had asked me last week (during one of my down periods) I would have said my progress was all an illusion & I was fooling myself that things can get better.
For now my idea of being well is being able to believe that things can change for the better, that I will one day be able to manage the everyday things like housework, caring for myself & caring for my dog & maybe, just maybe I will even be able to enjoy myself.
**I took the tip to give myself time to write my post by writing on a word doc & then paste it.
Dear Paw Prints~
Welcome here, and I'm glad you have been able to read what some others have said. There is nothing quite like finding others have had similar experiences. As I found one is not really alone, and the battles have been fought by others too. I'm grateful you have started helping others too, I saw your post to Jason_T abut journalling -a very useful tool.
I think it is very important to understand , intellectually at first, and a full realization maybe later on, that life can improve out of sight for so very many of us..
I was invalided out of my occupation with PTSD, anxiety and depression, and too was suicidal. Like you I've been hospitalized as well. Back them if had been told my life would be worth living, with love, occupation, accomplishment and the knowledge I was a support for my family I'd have written it off as do-good nonsense.
Now I realize the truth of it as that is exactly where I'm at. I would not say I'm cured, but live dealing with the problems, trying to avoid triggers, leading as stress-free and healthy a life as possible.
It did not happen overnight and medical support was essential, with a long period of trial and error to find therapy and medications that suited me and were effective. but I got there.
I'm glad you have siblings and a friend to understand and support. Such personal care was a big factor in my recovery too. Trying to cope in isolation is very hard.
There are ups and downs, though I've found the swings less down as time has gone on, the ups more effective and much longer lasting. The triggers much less frequent and less debilitating.
I know I'm not the same person as you, and did not face exactly the same early life, however I was a total mess, now I'm glad to be here. If I can get there I would hope you can too
Thank you for your kind words. Your comment "I think it is very important to understand , intellectually at first, and a full realization maybe later on, that life can improve out of sight for so very many of us.." describes perfectly what I am currently struggling with. I tell myself that things have got better & will keep getting better & that the bad patches are only temporary , but deep down I'm struggling to really believe it. I joined the forums as I need to see that things really have improved for others & to learn the things they did to help themselves. I need the reassurance that it is possible.
I'm so pleased you are in such a good place.
Hi Paw Prints,
I'm definitely getting somewhere. Goodness knows I've got a ways to go and it seems painfully slow sometimes as I ride the waves of positivity. But I can look back and see where I've come from.
I think my 'being well' sounds much like yours. I'll be well enough when my various issues no longer get in my way of being comfortable. And beyond that, I'd like to consider I could be happy too.
I don't have any advice though. I'm just stubborn and will keep pushing until I get there. I doubt it's the best way.
>I'm so pleased you are in such a good place.
Actually the hardest part is when one is down, which you sounded like last week. When there the mind is skewed towards hopelessness and any thoughts of improvement is ignored or felt to be unrealistic. The feelings at the time are overwhelming, and that pushes out a more balanced perspective. It also means one takes actions and behaves as if the worst case is the true one.
I'm not really sure how I've managed to negotiate those times, especially early on. Certainly I had help. Now I can look back and say "OK, I have been here, it have improved, my thoughts at the time of self-blame, no future and pain passed or greatly lessened. I overcame them before, I am the same person and can overcome them again."
Do you think you can see the seeds of recovery and victory in yourself in much the same manner?
Hard when things go on for a long time.
Alone is not good, medical help, people you are close to, being here, all contribute, as does having strategies and favored pastimes.
Thank you for sharing. It sounds like being stubborn is working for you, which is wonderful. I don't think I'm stubborn enough to use it as my sole strategy, but it is something I hadn't thought about. This is why I am reaching out, to learn what strategies others use, so I can change how I'm doing things.
Do I see the seeds of recovery, no I don't. I get that it can be a slow journey, that goes forward, back, sideways & every which way. But I've hit a plateau that hasn't changed for the last 2 - 3 years. With not making any forward progress comes the fear of sliding all the way back. What I am doing isn't working, which is why I'm reaching out to learn how others negotiated their recovery, looking for new ways to think outside the square.
Dear Paw Prints~
Perhaps I asked the question in a clumsy way, my apologies.
You mentioned "I can now believe in a future". "If you had asked me 5 years ago would I be as well as I am now I would have thought it impossible as I couldn’t envision a future ... "
When I've been in that situation I've regarded this as a great deal of encouragement. Maybe I have only small goals and I admit when down it is a set of thoughts that are hard to hang on to. Nevertheless at the other times I've known it is progress and there was no reason why it could not continue.
If you have not seen it already A Grace's thread:
Forums / Depression / SELF HELP TIPS FOR MANAGING DEPRESSION
can be useful, there is a companion thread for Anxiety too.
As for goalposts moving, so they should. When depression is at its worst small every day acts (maybe getting out of bed) seem too difficult to even contemplate, and if one does manage to do so it is a win, a victory. At that stage the goalposts were getting up. As one improves they may be showering, dressing and breakfast. Later interacting with others and not having to retreat. Finding life is a little bigger then the view the blinkers of depression set for you.
You have listed your ultimate aim, "I will one day be able to manage the everyday things like housework, caring for myself & caring for my dog & maybe, just maybe I will even be able to enjoy myself."
To get there is a series of steps, or at least it was for me. Even your use of Word indicates to me resourcefulness, an ability so to see how others go, and sense.
You talked before about emotionally not believing. That is one reason I believe in self-reward, things to try to enjoy, even if only because you have enjoyed them before. If the reason to keep going is a a chocolate later on, or a book, or a walk or grooming the dog or whatever you can think of for you, then that is a great thing. I believe the mind does respond in time.
Thank you for your thoughts & encouragement. I don't think your question was clumsy. No I haven't read A Graces thread, but will do so this arvo. I do enjoy reading & you have reminded me of something I've not read in years. To quote Lewis Carroll "The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things....." . I'm guessing your walrus is the same one. So I have ordered both Alice books as a treat for me.
I use treats to train my dog & you have given me the thought that maybe my mind can be trained the same way. Not as the sole strategy to use, but as part of a wider plan. Rewarding myself when I achieve anything may help reinforce healthy thinking. This is what I joined the forum for, to get other peoples perspectives & strategies.
Thank you so much
Desr Paw Prints
Yes it is John Tenniel's 1871 illustration from Through The Looking Glass, so you are right. You are also mostly right about training the mind, however unlike your dog your mind can gain an additional benefit beyong the enjoyment of a treat - of whatever sort.
Perhaps I might be able to explain my belief this way. Consistent abuse has a cumulative effect on a person beyond the immediate damage caused, leaving the recipient in a state where self-blame, helplessness and despair are deeply felt.
In the same way consistent kindness and enjoyment can, when offered, lead to a feeling of worthiness as well as hope. not just hope for another treat, but in life. To feel one is worthy - deserves to be well treated - of being pampered, comes about in response.
A win-win situation, the mind taken out of it's daily preoccupations by the treat, the enjoyment of the event itself - and the lookng forward too it to lighten the onerous part of the day. All that plus a slow but growing feeling one is a better and deserving person.
I hope that makes some sort of sense. It may not work for all, though I suspect it might.