Updated: Jun 9, 2020
By Joe | @you.look.fine.to.me | September 1st, 2018
My Illnesses Are Invisible, My Mindset Is Not
Whether I like it or not; whether I choose to believe it or not, I am not the only one affected by my mindset. I can speak from experience when I tell you that ten years ago, five years ago, even one year ago, my life was seemingly unbearable and very unmanageable. The kicker is: It was entirely my own making. People consciously or unconsciously react accordingly in direct response to your ‘vibe.’ See, here’s the funny thing about accountability and responsibility: It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about taking responsibility for how I operate, respond, and react to the circumstances in my life, and doing my best to remain accountable for those actions.
My name is Joe, I am living a life of recovery from addiction, Crohn’s Disease, and fluctuating mental health issues. There is a magnitude of things in my life I have very little, to no control over, such as: Other people, places or things outside of myself, and the fact that I have multiple incurable Illnesses. I can certainly have an adverse, or positive influence on how those things interact with me in my daily life. A significant contributor to the way my outside world interacts with me is, you guessed it: My mindset.
The fact that I am sitting at my desk writing, with quiet music playing, in my relatively well kept bachelor suite apartment, speaks volumes to the changes in my mindset over the last couple years. Most of which took place particularly in the last ten months. When I diligently attend meetings, accept guidance (despite myself,) treat my body with compassion, meditate, recite affirmations, and do my best to be of service to others, I find making the right decisions easier. An inevitable by-product of doing the next right thing is: A boost in my self-esteem, confidence, and emotional/spiritual well-being. Who wouldn’t want that? Seemingly, I didn’t. What a relief it was to find out I was not terminally unique, and many others struggle with the same issues to varying degrees. The missing links for me in the past, preventing me from living a content life were a multitude of things, but a very predominant one was faith. Faith that if I stuck with it long enough, I’d eventually feel better. It didn’t help much that I didn’t even know what ‘It’ was.
I used to be very identified in the victim role. To sum it up for anyone who is unknowing of what that means: Everything was someone else’s fault, and if you went through what I went through, you’d be like this too. Old habits die hard, and to varying degrees, I still struggle with deeply ingrained self defeating thoughts and behaviours.
I did not realize I had the freedom to choose. Endless freedom to grow, shift, change and adapt. In a moment, without notice or permission, I can take drastic accountability for my life and adopt a healthier mindset, and set of beliefs. The difficult part is nurturing these shifts. I need lots of help and guidance. I must be willing to accept and practice ideas outside of my own. It is tremendously exhausting to expect everyone to see the world through my eyes; to do, act, think and say in a manner that suites my comfort, especially when I am unwilling to give others the same courtesy I unrealistically expect. I have a few helpful practices I’d like to share, that have produced positive results in my life:
100% Accountability: “I attract ALL that which occurs.” A little gem I picked up at the Pursuit of Excellence seminar in 2017. Now, this doesn’t mean my particularly shit behavior or ineffective decisions in the past brings on traumatic events I have no control over. It means I am 100% accountable for my reactions, my emotions, and my success in dealing with such events. If I need help, I must find and accept it. If I expect my boundaries to be respected, I must make them known. If I wish to grow, I must be willing to listen. I must own who I am, and be willing to accept the gifts and the consequences of the way I drive this vehicle, through which I experience my life.
Honesty: I do not recommend expressing inappropriate full disclosure of all your inner demons to everyone you pass in the street. I do recommend having at least one person in your life, whether it be a priest, a sponsor, a trustworthy friend, or a therapist, who you can dump your raw inner workings upon. I only know what I know, and without a second opinion, I can not adequately look at myself. The common phrase “We are only as sick as our secrets,” is disturbingly true. Also, there is proven therapeutic benefits to the ‘release’ of pent up emotion, turmoil, guilt and shame. Whether you speak or write, get it out. You’ll thank yourself later.
Don’t Judge: If you do, because we all do, at least keep it quiet. I attempt to catch myself, when I can, and then think a positive thought about the person instead. I have not even the foggiest idea what it is like to walk in another human being’s shoes, despite their outward presentation. Therefore, who the hell am I to think I am better or worse off? The most attractive person can hate their appearance, the seemingly happiest can suffer extreme pain, and there are two sides to every coin.
Forgiveness: For both myself, and for others. I honestly believe we all make mistakes, constantly. I remember listening with tears in my eyes to someone share a gut-wrenching story involving being sexually abused, and their journey to forgiveness. They said: “I forgave him, because for someone to do something so horrific to another, imagine the pain they must have suffered to be conditioned that way.”
We’ve all done or said things we shouldn’t have to varying degrees, and have had the same done to us. The ability to forgive yourself and others releases resentment, and the ability to release resentment and move on, is true freedom.
Affirmation: I’ve said it before, and I'll say it again: “My mind, my body, my heart and my soul, are healed. I live in a world of abundance. Extraordinary opportunities and relationships pursue me daily. Every day, I am getting better, in every way. I can accept my flaws, and my fortes, with unconditional love. I will treat others the way I wish to be treated, to the best of my ability.” Whether you have, or have not, can, or can not makes little difference. Affirm it anyway.
Joe is an aspiring writer, Crohn's Disease warrior, and an advocate for addiction, mental health and chronic illness. He believes by practicing love, compassion, and understanding for not only others, but also ourselves, we can all find a path to a better way of living, and being.