Tonight at group I shared that I was having intense levels of anxiety–basically the bread of butter of a mental illness support group. The “consumers” as we are called in the group, immediately jumped over each other to provide advice and suggestions to me on how to cure it. You could see my already overactive brain spin into full cycle as I tried to take in all the suggestions. On the way home I was talking through it with Sidney (well I was talking–he was looking for the nearest location to return a red box movie) I was reminded of an entry I wrote a while ago and never posted…….I’ve posted it below
I’m addicted to slushies. It’s sad really. I’m 24 years old and nothing makes me happier than a large plastic cup filled with frozen ice and artificial flavoring. My husband jokingly calls me a ‘connoisseur of slushies’ because I know where all the “good” places are to get them. What does this have to do with my mental health journey? Quite a lot actually…so stay with me.
The obsession started my freshman year of high school when my sister and I would get them at the gas station after youth group on the way home. I always liked those bus rides home, because we’d talk about nothing and laugh, or I’d vent about the current frustrations in my life. As I grew older, it was something all my siblings would bond over—we’d buy a large 64 oz mug to save money (its only like 20 cents more than the small one!) and split it between the four of us. Boyfriends have brought me slushies instead of flowers, and friends have bought me them instead of chocolate or ice cream.
So now I have strong association of family, love, bonding, and affection attached to slushies. They can make me feel relaxed, calm, and remind me of the many people in my life who love me. I’m sure everyone has something like that; but hopefully it’s something healthier like a song, pillow, smell, etc.
However, everything I read about my illness harps on the negative effects of caffeine on the brain—which means I should give up my slushies. Sad face…actually devastated face is more like it.
But everything I read also has a lot of other advice I need to follow. Get eight hours of sleep a night. Establish a regular routine. Go to yoga. Exercise. Practice visualization. Eat less processed foods. Practice mindfulness meditation. Laugh. Spend time alone. Spend time with family. Take your medication. See your therapist. Write down what works. And it goes on….
At first I tried to do everything at once. I was so desperate to get better if someone said jump, I said how high? But after a few weeks I was exhausted, my body was out of balance from all the changes, and I realized that not everything works for everyone. Healing is a slow process…actually I’ve finally accepted that for me it will be a lifelong process. So I’ve learned to prioritize, find the advice that seems to be the most urgent, and make that change first. When I felt comfortable with that change I could slowly move to another one. In the same way that a couch potato cannot turn into a marathon runner in a few weeks—I cannot learn to manage my illness in a few weeks. So I accept that some things are “the least of the evils” and show myself compassion in those areas while I focus my energy on the larger more important changes I need to make.
So someday—when I’m 30 and wearing dentures from my teeth rotting, I might be at the point where I decide to focus my energy on slushies (and caffeine in general)…but until then, I think I’ll still get a large amount of pleasure from counting out those 95 cents on the counter.