It is my hope, sharing my journey will provide some insight into your own journey. Before trying anything, I mentioned, as always, check with medical professionals. Please check out my medical disclaimer link.
Awareness at the Start
At the beginning of my mental health journey, I thought being aware was the entire battle. My Virgo mind assumed knowing my behavior was unacceptable, toxic, and wrong would be enough to counteract it. Sadly, it was not. It was like watching the same movie over and over but still being frustrated at the ending. Being aware of my feelings of rage, hopelessness, despair, and more did not change my reactions or actions. In fact, at the start, I felt being aware was doing more harm than good. Seeing myself fall into the same patterns with full awareness was frustrating. At the time, I questioned myself as a human being since I continued being so awful. These were some of the darkest times in my journey.
Soon it was clear, I could no longer trust my emotions and feelings. They were coming from a place I did not know much about or understand. I needed to decipher what was genuine and what was not. For this post, please note the word genuine is different than real (actual) or valid (legitimate). Genuine in this context is closer to the meaning of true when considered against the triggering event. For example, I find myself upset at a friend who sits in my regular spot at Starbucks. Is that feeling genuine? In truth, taking the seat triggered an emotion because of past experiences. Therefore, the feelings are not genuinely linked to the action of my friend sitting in my seat.
Turning to Logic
Consequently, I turned to using logic to pick through my mental state to help control my emotional wellbeing. This is a skill I picked up at several programs. To perform putting logic over emotion, the use of a thought record was employed. Over several months, I completed at least one every day. It got to the point where I could run through the process in my head; yet, doing one on paper still has its benefits.
Thought records basically force a person to evaluate their thoughts surrounding a particular feeling or emotion via a series of questions. The goal is to help someone to realign their thinking about a particular emotion or feeling. This process was key to helping me sharpen my awareness.
Moving Deeper into Being Aware
I discovered there was another component to awareness that I had overlooked. In my case, I needed to be conscious of the root of these feelings. Where did these feelings originate? What are the triggers? Desperately, I would search for answers and understanding. There were times I was able to find what I was seeking. While other times, I could not, and I became fixated on trying to find the missing pieces. Sadly, this obsession pulled me away from recovery and refocused my attention on something which was not obtainable. In other words, I was spinning my wheels.
Making Peace Without Answers
After a time, I realized I would not get some of the answers I wanted. Honestly, this was a tough pill to swallow. Of all the concepts I have practiced, making peace without answers was the hardest to put into action. I felt I could not move forward without those remedies. I was angry and hurt that someone did these things to me and would not give me what I needed to fix myself.
Often, I wanted to know why I was chosen for abuse. How could a parent do those things to their child? Why didn’t my abuser seek help for her own mental health issues? However, my abuser died before I started asking these questions during my journey. When they were alive, they did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, often blaming me for their actions.
So how do you move forward without answers? The answer for me was making peace with not understanding. Furthermore, I had to come to the realization that even if I knew the answers, it would not change anything. There are no magic words that could have been uttered to excuse anything which happened to me. At this point, I had to ask myself, why do I continue to let myself stand still in my recovery?
At some point, I had an epiphany. My recovery involved me and me alone. I could not hang my progress over the neck of someone else. Everything was in my own hands. It is about my relationship with my thoughts, feelings, actions, and emotions. While understanding the reason for their genesis could be helpful, it was not required in the least. Being aware that another’s actions triggered reactions (aimed at helping me cope) is all I need to understand. The desire to understand what caused the other party to act in such a way was a burden, and I needed to put it down.
The Other Side of Being Aware
The downside of sharpening my awareness is noticing my mood changes when I am heading into an episode. Of course, this sounds fantastic, but the phenomenon is duel sided. On the one hand, it is fantastic to have what amounts to an early detection system. If my mood starts to tank, I can get in there earlier to help head off a full episode. In opposition, when a problem is outside the realm of control with coping skills (needing my medication adjusted), it can be frustrating to notice changes and feel unable to make any significant moves to reverse the emotional and mental collapse.
That being said, I would not give up being aware. This is another item that I need to learn to manage better. As I cover more ground on this journey, I come to realize recovery is like building blocks. As skills and knowledge are added, they interlink, stack, or combine with information I already own. However, this process is not automatic, and it can take some time to completely fold in a new skill.