In Smart Recovery, the 4-Point Program includes #4, Living a balanced life.
As I recover from and learn how to live with depression, I am seeing what a balanced life looks like for me. And I know there is work to do to achieve it. I have written many blog posts about understanding that it is not the event, but my view of it that causes much of my anxiety.
Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher, wrote, “People are disturbed not by the things but by their view of things.” [footnote *page 2, SMART Recovery® Participant’s Handbook]
Learning to focus on and make decisions about my attitude towards things is a skill I am only now beginning to master. For so many years, I thought I had this licked. The truth is, I was often overcompensating for my fears about things by exuding confidence and positivity from every cell in my body, oblivious to the effects it was having on me and my decisions.
Now I am faced with understanding what living a balanced life is for someone I love.
Then there is the question of what it means to be alive?
This definition comes from Merriam Websters online dictionary
Definition of alive
1: having life: not dead or inanimate
2a: still in existence, force, or operation : ACTIVE kept hope alive
b: still active in competition with a chance of victory must win to stay alive in the playoffs
3: knowing or realizing the existence of something : SENSITIVE alive to the danger
4: marked by alertness, energy, or briskness his face came alive at the mention of food
5: marked by much life, animation, or activity : SWARMING streets alive with traffic
6—used as an intensive following the noun the proudest boy alive
Having life is a start, yet moss and lichen have life but are these organism’s truly alive as we define it?
“Marked by alertness, energy, or briskness.” This is what I am struggling with. I wish this for all of my fellow human beings, the feeling of being alive. When memory starts to go, and daily functions are hard to remember, alertness, energy and briskness seem to be hard to attain.
A life where one’s days are consumed by repetitive questions, cloudy thinking and forgetfulness must be frightening.
No longer being in control of your basic functions, the things we use to define ourselves, must be hard to face, if facing that is even possible when your mind begins to forget recent events.
When depression had me “up against the wall,” I could not see a way forward.
There was nothing but emptiness. I had no sense of alertness, zero energy, and brisk was no longer in my vocabulary. Fast forward six months, and all of that has returned, and so much more.
But how does one face this loss when it is only going to get worse?
That must be terrifying, yet at the same time, maybe you don’t know you are losing it. After all, I was not aware of much depression had created a bubble for me separating me from reality.
After 43+ years, it took walking into a hospital emergency room and saying “I need professional help with a mental health problem” to finally face it.
Again, I was scared to death, but I did not want death, and I did not want to keep doing what I was doing and expect a different result. This decision, though painful, has finally given me the tools to grow up, to actually “be alive.” READ: My life with depression
Facing a family member’s struggle with defining what being alive means, I keep reminding myself I cannot control the aging process and what it is doing to her mind.
What I can control, is my attitude towards it.
Reaching back into the SMART Recovery® Handbook, I read, “Somehow, we have adopted the unrealistic belief that life should be free from discomfort and pain and that we shouldn’t have to tolerate it.”
While I am keeping hope alive, I am keeping my focus on helping define the best possible balanced life based on current conditions. Doctors have a protocol they follow and are clinical in their explanations of possible outcomes. Yet, perhaps as a coping mechanism, I am back to keeping hope alive.
How do you define being alive?