By the time I hit 30, my life was utterly screwed beyond repair. It wasn’t long after the realization that I was in and out of mental hospitals because of suicidal ideation, self-harm, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
I never left my grungy one-bedroom apartment except to buy cigarettes, McDonalds, and weed. It was, in fact the weed that saved me, because it opened my mind and helped me understand that if my life was ever to change, it would be through small increments.
It took me a long time trying to deal with my mental illness to get to where I was, in the toilet, and knew it would take longer to get out. If I was smart, I would have stayed on the cannabis, stopped taking prescription medication, and allowed the medicine to heal me, but instead, took a longer and more twisting route.
I say I improved on average .01% each day, because in the beginning, there was a lot of backpedaling.
For instance, one of the first things I did was allowed myself to fall back into the clutches of a religious cult, and that set me back several years. The battle inside me was furious. One the one hand, I wanted to make my parents proud and I knew the only way to do that was by being in their religion. But, I could not suspend my disbelief, and I could not ignore the lies and untruth that shine from every crevice of the church and what it stood on.
I stopped smoking cannabis, which was a mistake, because it was one of the few things that was helping me, and I realized much later on that I was actually putting my progress back by years. I allowed the cult to control me until I couldn’t stand the lies anymore and got out. But, even with its negative influence, I had made progress.
By the time I was 43 years old, I had a second marriage, and I lived in a completely new environment on the other side of the planet.
But I made mistakes, I stared smoking cigarettes again and was back on a full regimen of prescription drugs, one of which was a benzo, for anxiety, and it would almost prove to be my undoing.
I was still sick all the time, and I was still using toxic behavior to explain it all away, much to the concern of my new wife, who had no experience with a person with a severe mental illness like me.
I hadn’t worked in ten years, and I couldn’t see myself well enough in the near future to be able to handle a job. As much as I tried to improve, I hadn’t changed the right things and was still living my life the way I had all along.
But, the days kept adding up, and even though I only improved a small bit each day, it was improvement.
Then, it got much worse before it got better, and I had to hit rock-bottom one more time before I saw the light of day.
When I say rock-bottom, I mean I almost died. I took enough pills to kill a lesser man, but my stubbornness saved me, along with the fact that my body had built up an immunity to the pills I took. Funny enough, the suicide attempt was the system shock I needed to kick my improvement into high gear.
From the day I got out of the hospital, my improvement went up to 1% each day. It wasn’t long before I quit smoking, and started paying attention to my health. The only problem I faced was the pills I took for psychosis and depression kept me fat, and I have battled my weight all this time. But I started paying attention to what I ate, my blood pressure, blood sugar, and started walking regularly.
Another problem was that I was throughly addicted to Rivotril, which I was only supposed to be on for a short term. The drug sickened be with withdrawals, but my skeez doctor saw fit to keep me addicted for years because she was getting kickbacks.
I spent another year trying to break free from the withdrawals only to find that some of the effects, like body-aches and flu-like symptoms would stay with me for good.
Still I improved.
The last few years have seen me grow by leaps and bounds. I am working again, writing, and even though I haven’t made enough money to support my family yet, I am still doing something, which was a huge improvement. I was having more good days than bad. I was finally thriving after all that time.
But, even as I write this, and am on the verge of striking out and freelancing again, and as I leave my safe-haven in the Philippines, I still have issues that need resolving.
I still jump from thing to thing, a multipotentialite in word and deed, and I still sabotage my relationships because may brain sometimes operates in “sick”mode. My wife and I struggle with the issues that come with being married for ten years, and my stupid mental issues only make it worse.
I am still building confidence, as a father, husband, writer, and human. I am still trying to figure out how to be a valuable member of society and an asset to my family.
I struggle and know it will take more days and more increments to get where I want to be. I just hope I’ll get to enjoy it once it arrives and not suddenly realize on my death bed that I am a complete person after all.
Now, I work to leave a legacy, something that people will remember me for, and try to enjoy some of the magic that happens when you start to figure out your life once and for all. Some people figure out the secret sauce early and have years of success, but I feel like it is going to be a battle for me until the very end.
So be it. At least I can say that I worked hard and improved myself, even if it was only .01% each day.
How I Did It
There really is no secret to improving your life. First, you have to set a goal, something you want to change, and then you set about figuring out how to do it.
Somewhere in my late 40s, I wanted to stop acting like a victim. I grew so tired of reacting negatively to everything and blaming others for my faults. So, each day, I set about to stop my constant complaining, daring myself to go a day at a time without one complaint. It’s not easy to do. Then I stopped blaming other people for the bad things that happened to me in life. Now I try to always lay the blame on bad chemicals and brain function, and mostly squarely on my own shoulders.
I still catch myself blaming others, and other things, like religion, circumstance, and living in poverty my whole life, but it gets better every day.
You have to analyze what you want to change and then figure out how to change it in small increments.
As easy as it sounds, it’s still a battle, but a fight that is worth undertaking.
Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like anything is changing but time shows the results. You just have to have patience. So jump on the path and pick one thing to start with and remember you have to be in it for the long haul.
I did, and glad every day that I started when I did.
Get started. Time waits for no one.