Here’s a challenge for you all:
Name one person who has never been nervous or skeptical of change.
Take a few seconds, I’ll wait.
Done? Alright, that was a trick question, of course you can’t come up with an answer. It was a joke. We have fun here. We. . . . we have fun.
The point is when we go through moments of change our entire lives flash before our eyes: our current, comfortable lives, that is. It’s like a death or a near death experience. Change can be good or bad, but it is always traumatizing because one thing is for certain: you won’t be the same afterwards.
That alone is a terrifying thought: where will the old you go? You were so fond of that guy/girl, they always bought you chocolate when you were down, you don’t want them to leave you all alone in some unnamed territory with no fucking chocolate, that’s just rude.
But we’re rational beings and whether you have a religious/spiritual background, a secular background, or are just not quite sure whether your background exists at all, (it could or it couldn’t, who could really know anyway?), we all agree that humans have no other option on this planet than to adapt. Those who don’t . . . well, they don’t really live to argue against me, do they?
Because we’re rational beings, we also have the ability to make choices. You’re not forced to take a promotion at work. When you have your first newborn, you’re not forced to tend to it’s needs. When that one guy with one pair of sunglasses over his eyes and one pair of sunglasses hanging from his V-neck cuts you off in traffic, you’re not forced to stifle your anger and allow him and his worn out fashion statement to live, you could just as easily murder him. I mean, good deed of the day right?
When you realize your mental health affects your functionality, you’re not forced to put the work into gaining that functionality back.
But you can.
So what we choose is just as important to the way we change and why we change as the change itself is.
What does that mean? That means we have a lot more creative freedom in this life than we think we do. Sometimes we have chains on our mind and we tell ourselves we “can’t” do this, we “can’t” do that, but those are just ways we convince ourselves to choose comfort over change.
We don’t choose to struggle mentally, but we do choose how we react to the struggle. Either it smothers us or we adapt and maneuver and find the advantages hidden underneath all the horror.
If it weren’t for the struggles I’ve been through, I wouldn’t have the interview I do on Friday.
I’ll be an “On-Call counselor” at a local Respite house for people who have voluntarily signed themselves up for the program. There are six beds in the house run by peer staffing (the counselors), meaning everyone who works there has struggled with their own mental health, whether it be a mood disorder, a psychotic disorder, or a very, very serious or “all consuming fear” (think Severe GAD, OCD, or Agoraphobia). In the cover letter I was required to explain my mental health, as they only hire people with disorders.
The peer counselors need only a high school diploma, a disorder/mental health issue that lasted at least 3 months, and some training of which they provide. I think my degree helped me get a call back within a few hours of me applying.
This is a terrifying situation. On one hand I’ll be working one on one, or one on six depending on how hard they want to push my buttons, with the very people I want to work with once I get my degree: those with heavy psychiatric diagnosis. And I’ll be honest, I could have had the diagnoses they did had I gone to different psychologists in the past and didn’t keep to myself what I keep to myself. They could interpret a lot of things as paranoia, as mood swings, as hallucinations (well, I’ve had a few, but they are audio, far and few in between, and not harmful, so leave them alone #hallucinationlivesmatter). And it’s not as if “Cyclothymia” hasn’t been discussed. It’s not as if “Schizotypal PD” hasn’t been discussed, they all have at one point.
Maybe I am them, maybe I’m not.
The difference between me and the people who try and slap their diagnoses where I don’t want them, is that the things I describe I’ve lived with all my life.
I’ve always felt things watching me.
I’ve always felt I was put here with a power no one else has. I have plenty examples I won’t bore you with.
I’ve tried to contact aliens through meditation, in fact I spent months trying it, because I know I have a connection outside of this earth, I’ve felt it since I was a toddler. I was aware of things before people told me about them.
There are personalized messages for me in online ads (well, that’s true, Google tracks the shit out of you), in songs, in commercials, in simple street scenes. They let me know I’m heading in the right direction.
I’m anxious of people judging me as my social anxiety dictates, yet I’m paranoid that they create a coalition against me and lie to my face every day because people are untrustworthy and ruthless.
I could go on for ages. The thing is, because I’ve always thought these ways, and because I’m one of the lucky few who haven’t disconnected with reality, I can accept these parts of me. I live with them. They are my normality and whether or not anyone else considers them such is irrelevant to me.
My job as one of the peer counselors is to share my story and my experience with those who will share their stories and their experience. Through active listening the goal is to teach each other and learn from each other. And I think that’s a big thing missing from the psychiatric world: there isn’t a lot of time taken to listen anymore.
Those who live in the house have freedom in the kitchen, freedom in the outdoors, and people are thankful they’re treated like adults rather than lab mice in a jail cell.
But this position will be live changing for me. It will force me to be uncomfortable. It will force me to connect with people through the feelings of inadequacy, judgement, and distrust. I know I won’t be the same person sitting at this desk after my first day there. And that’s a good thing. I’m ready for this version of myself to, well . . . breathe it’s last breath.
I refuse to accept my lifestyle because it’s familiar. What worked five years ago isn’t going to work today. If I’m going to be successful, I need to be willing to change.
This part of my life will always be in my memory. But it’s time to move on.