Well, I am really fond of quoting a study done on a bunch of Harvard graduates a while back. They took a graduating class and asked them how many of them had clear, written goals as to where they saw themselves going and what they saw themselves doing and only 3% of them actually had them (please don’t quote me, I am only estimating, it is a while since I read the actual study). They went back to these students a number of years later, and they found that regardless of whether or not the people had stuck to their plan, the 3% group had made more money than the entire rest of their graduating class. Lesson? Know where you are going, be a planner!
But how does that apply to mental health? In some key ways it applies, especially if you have become part of the growing movement in the WRAP or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course. I took the course and tried to get everything out of it I could. I attended every session, which was my main goal at the start of the course and as a result I now have a written plan as to what to do if I get sick, what some of the things are that could make me sick again, and warning signs and much more. For those that are interested, there is actually a ‘wrap app’ for most smartphones where you can plug in all of these things and come up with a plan to improve your life that applies across many situations.
There is still another thing though, what does planning have to do with someone who suffers, who can’t work. Well, you could write down a goal as something like I did which was to find a decent part-time job. As a note here, I strongly recommend that anyone who does get a job that has a mental health issue should be as honest as possible to their employer about it and also try and get a union job. I am in a union that does so much for me. I can turn down work if I don’t feel up to it, I have the option of cancelling shifts if I am sick or for no reason if it is 24 hours before, and I am paid well and treated well. This isn’t the end of the story though, there are many jobs out there that are non-union that can be just as good as mine. I think the important thing is to try and move towards some kind of employment, staying at home and doing little than posting to forums and chatting on Facebook can be very detrimental to one’s mental health, especially if you are not maintaining a proper sleep schedule.
So, basically, the first goal is to try and get yourself ready to be employed. There are a number of things that can get you started, but I think the first thing you need is a reason to be employed. Myself I wanted the extra money and when I had saved enough I bought a laptop and I also took a trip to visit my sister on the other side of the country. I did this in two stages, one stage was where I simply tried to sleep while the sun was down and stay awake while the sun was up, and then the second stage was that I needed to get physically fit for a job. I happen to live in a city where bus passes and gym memberships to city facilities are greatly subsidized though I used neither of these things at first, I simply rode my bike as much as I could, and this was something that did me a world of good. If I hadn’t gotten into good shape I would have never been able to hold down the job I have had for 7 years which has put a lot of money in my pocket.
So baby steps, goals, plans. They all have their place. I can’t even begin to describe the mess my life was in when I was back in my 20’s, but a strong commitment to taking my medications, listening to my Doctors, honoring the wishes of my parents to get well and a number of other things came together and a miracle happened. I have a life now when there was a time when I felt my life had ended. Try this. Try sitting down and writing out all the things you want in life. Do you want a motorcycle? Write it down. Do you want a violin and lessons to get back up to snuff? It might be a great investment if you are good enough to busk in the streets or play for parties or even fancy restaurants. Write it down! There really is no limits, this is your mind having fun. Then, when you have written it down, make a plan. It may take ten years, it may take two months, but until you figure it out you will be a lot less likely to follow through. And I want to mention something for the younger people who may read this blog. A wonderful fact about life is that as you get older, even if you get the same money you will get more money. How? Maybe you will be able to quit smoking and put $5 to $10 more in your pocket each and every day. Maybe you will strengthen your legs and learn the joy of walking and save on taxi fares or learn how to discipline yourself not to eat in restaurants but to prepare your own food. And another factor that comes into play is that as you get older more jobs will come your way, especially if you are able to overcome depression (perhaps through newer meds, or trying different ones) or other illnesses that can often make you feel like you don’t care about being a good worker. Anyhow, I hope this leaves my readers with a sense that they have learned something. Please don’t be afraid to comment and as usual, don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem which is meant to be themed to this post. All the best Dear Readers, and if you like my blog posts, please support my efforts to bring them to you and purchase a paperback or eBook of my writing from the ‘purchase books’ link above.
A Beautiful Soul, Loving and True
Does your soul long for things grander than the sky
You know, you can have those things if you really try
I have had many hopes and dreams that I held close
Wonderful things, only those I wanted the most
When I think of these things I see my perfect wife
A spacious home, beautiful car, all that’s good in life
I may never have all that I so deeply desire
But these goals keep my heart on fire
I never understood why some aim low
Never let their dreaming mind thrive and glow
Our time here is so short and it is a beautiful place
So why not run as though to win the race
Just ask your inner mind how you can earn it all
Give yourself a reason to get up each time you fall
Write down on paper all you want to have and be
You can have it all, this land is strong and free
I just want to ask if you do end up with more
Look back behind and hold open the door
There will be someone wanting to get through
Please remember someone held the door for you
We all must share the gifts that life lays at our feet
And when you do this people will say you are kind and sweet
Then who knows perhaps your future mate will see in you
Your beautiful soul, loving and true
August 10, 2015