Did you ever notice that in antidepressant commercials, when they show the inspirational shots of the person feeling better, it’s usually footage of them engaging in very simple, ordinary activities? A family dinner, working in a garden, taking a walk. That used to depress me, because I wanted to believe that following my doctor’s instructions would mean being able to hold a great job or write a best seller. I still had the idea that a good life was indistinguishable from an extraordinary life.
Recovery, and the events that led to me being committed to it, have brought some changes in my attitude. I experience both pleasure and gratitude when I partake of ordinary events. You hear about this often in twelve-step meetings. People express gratitude for waking up with a full memory of the night before, for a fixed address, for being able to spend time with their children. They celebrate things that many people accept as normal.
Add in mental health issues and physical pain, and the truth is that there’s almost no part of “ordinary” life I can take for granted. Some days that’s more okay with me than others, but I’m learning to adjust my expectations and savor small victories. For example, this weekend I’m celebrating three out of three successes.
Success #1: Friday, I got through an assessment conference about my daughter. I did an extremely imperfect job of describing her issues to a stranger, but my brain worked and I was articulate during the appointment. They got enough data to order the tests, and I managed not to get defensive, panicky or discouraged by the time it was over.
Success #2: Friday night, I went to a baseball game with my husband. The San Francisco Giants were playing, and we got tickets a month ago. Any ticketed-in-advance occasion is tricky for me because I can’t know what condition I will be in when the date arrives. A baseball game has other challenges as well, leading to a list of mini-victories in this case. I got through the two stages of public transportation well. Thanks to the weight loss I had no difficulty climbing the ramp that previously made me gasp. Although my head whirled in the stadium crowds, I settled down once I was in my seat. The journey and the game caused me a minimum of physical pain, whereas in the past I would have been counting the minutes until we got home, so I could take a handful of painkillers and lie down.
I really felt like the person in one of those commercials as I sat there in my orange Giants shirt; just one of the fans for a couple of hours. I clapped and yelled and swore and I had a moment of normalcy. Even the vendors constantly hawking food I couldn’t touch didn’t bother me too much, until the woman in front of me came back with a tub of hot caramel corn and inspired another mini-victory: successfully resisting the impulse to grab it from her and shovel handfuls of it into my mouth.
Success #3: Saturday morning, I got together with an old friend and went for a walk. I conquered my agoraphobia enough to drive there, and we walked and talked for a long time just like two regular people! Again, it was like one of the commercials. I’m trying to reach out more after years of isolation, so a successful social interaction is very precious to me.
Speaking of the mundane, I’m feeling as if today’s post has a lot of that quality! I am very aware of my ego and inner critic trying to tell me that I need to write about something more dramatic today; that I should use one of the colorful entries on my future titles list. But this site is supposed to tell the truth, and this is my truth today.
Comment and tell me a victory you’ve had lately! Also, if you wish, tell me which of these three titles you want to see first: The Night’s Watch, The Wristband, or Antigone Speaks. Thanks again for reading!