The month of September, 2014, found me in a very dark place. My world had been reduced to that of my mind, and my mind was ill. My thinking was extremely irrational. I was without hope. My world was stark, it was black and it was filled with pain. In an effort to end the pain, to rid myself of this bleakness, I attempted to take my own life on September 2, 2014.
I present that brief history to you to provide context. On September 3 I was facing something completely unexpected, my survival. My mind continued to be ill, my world continued to be bleak. Yet somehow I had to gather the strength to continue, an act that my broken mind did not consider possible. I cannot convey to you how utterly lost and alone I felt then.
The truth is, I wasn’t alone. I have a family. The problem was that my thinking was so irrational that I believed myself unworthy of them, firstly because my illness had told me this, and secondly, because I had attempted to take my own life. I couldn’t conceive how anyone would be willing to help someone as loathsome as I believed myself to be.
In this turmoil, this quagmire of distorted reality, I had my first success. I somehow set aside my self-loathing, reached out to my family and asked for help.
For a long time I didn’t see this for the success that it is. For a long time, I viewed my recovery as being done to me, not by me. It was my CMHA Case Manager who kept reminding me of the importance of reaching out to my family, who kept reminding me of the successes that followed. Eventually, the message sank in. I crept out from the dark into this real world in small degrees, each degree fueled by a success, sometimes an innocuous success. Keeping an eye on accomplishments enabled me to see that there were more of those than there were failures. This helped me to see through the distorted lens of the depressive episode and furthered my recovery.
There were setbacks, of course, some more pronounced than others. Moreover, I was still beset by feelings of inadequacy, that I was lacking. When these setbacks or severe feelings arose, I would forget my successes and start to fall back into despair. It became clear that I needed to find a way to remember my progress or else the despair would overwhelm me anew.
Acting on the advice of my CMHA Case Manager, and of my counselor, on March 1, 2015 I wrote down my successes as of that date. It was an incomplete list, and was presented in no particular order. Yet, it helped me to see that the world in my mind, the world encompassing my depressive state, was unreal. I broke through the fog and rediscovered the real world.
Here is that first list of successes:
My Recovery Successes
- go online and find correct telephone number for the CMHA
- call the CMHA and arrange an appointment
- go to the appointment and apply for help
- attend OS to undergo a mental health evaluation
- arrange for individual counselling
- attend counselling appointments
- locate a family doctor and seek treatment
- disclose my hospitalization to other family members including the reason for it
- pack and move, including arranging a moving truck and locating a storage locker
- go online and update all personal banking and MTO information
- arrange for group support
- attend group support
- get a library card
- research my illness and potential treatments
- borrow and purchase books and CDs
- create and use Journals to consolidate research
- create and use a Gratitude Journal
- mindful walking
- venture into public to shop by myself
- attend sleep studies
- create and maintain blogs
- build furniture
- help with housekeeping
- regular follow-ups with medical professionals
- make my own mala for meditation
- walk the dog
I’ve added to this original list since. I still add to it, for each day brings its own series of accomplishments.
There is no difference between what might be considered large and small successes. What matters is that they represent you doing your best. What matters is that they are successes. Each one serves to remind you that you can accomplish things in the darkest of days despite what the depressive episode tells you. For this reason, revisiting my list of successes is a valuable part of my self-care protocol. Why not make it part of yours?
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.