Browsing O: the Oprah magazine at work, I read with interest an article by Julie Morgenstern, who previewed her new book, When Organizing Isn't Enough: Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life. Now, I'm a neat freak, yet was intrigued by this concept and bought the book right away. I recommend you read it if you're about to make a change, or are transitioning into a new era in your life. It will benefit you even if you're not organizationally challenged.
As I read through, I was inspired to drum up a treatment plan in my head, and wrote it out longhand and typed it up on the computer and printed it out, to give to Dr. Altman to place in my chart. If you've read my personal blog, Joyful Music: A Journal of Hope, you know I claim to be a "strange girl" because who else would do this: bring her psychiatrist a treatment plan and ask him to place it in the folder.
Before I even continue, as I'm typing this now, I've decided that's a great thing to do for anyone who has trouble articulating things to his doctor: write it down to bring it up. "If you name it, you can claim it" and so your recovery is within reach.
I had this conversation with Robin [the other expert blogger] tonight before signing off with him to write this blog entry. You get to the point in your recovery where you don't care how it looks, or what other people think of you. To get your needs met, you push things. If you doubt your ability to do so, I suggest printing up some of my blog entries that relate to this topic, and sharing them with your therapist or psychiatrist to show that someone is on your side, saying something you couldn't quite put in words.
Back to the Julie Morgenstern book. I read it straight through in two weeks, and though it didn't solve everything, I used it as the springboard to develop my three-year treatment plan. This organizational guru inspired me to come up with a theme for the era I'm transitioning into. I played around with it until I decided on, "meditation in movement." That is the theme.
To get from here to there, I wrote down the "Starting Point": I'm 43 years old. I want to develop a three-year treatment plan specific to my mental health issues. The goals I set in the treatment plan aren't to be the endpoint, but the means to an end. This true endpoint is to retire from the library at 55 and enter Hunter College's Masters program in rehabilitation counseling, so that I can obtain work assisting people with mental illnesses to achieve their own employment and life goals.
Try this on for size when you brainstorm your own treatment plan: Write down the starting point, the goal, steps to achieve the goal, and the ending point. My ending point: "At 46 years old, I will be comfortable in my skin. My memoir, Left of the Dial, will have been published, and I will have published or be working on my second book, Life Will Tell You: on Living Well in Recovery."
In between the now and then, I listed eight habits I want to develop, including:
Better nightly routine to promote healthier sleep patterns: a) write blog entries longhand between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., b) draw and paint between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., c) read fiction between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., d) shut lights at 11:30 p.m., e) asleep by 12:30 a.m., and f) type up blog entries in morning before work and submit electronically during the day.
The other habits I want to develop: exercise four times per week; socialize with friends two times per month on weekends; talk through with therapist how I feel; be aware of the triggers that set off my thoughts; develop better coping skills; travel for pleasure at least once a year.
The last goal is this: Do one new thing every three months to test my competencies meeting new people: a) outside the mental health field, b) something I ordinarily wouldn't do, c) where I can meet as wide a variety of people as possible, d) not job-related, and e) purely for fun.
This level of detail could seem mind-boggling to you. All the books I've read, all the experts agree that when you set a goal, it should be as specific as possible, down to the last vivid detail. I kid you not that when I was 35 years old, I had the goal of becoming an expert on recovery from schizophrenia, among a number of other things. I wrote down one complete paragraph that painted a picture of where I saw myself at 40 years old. Everything happened except for "being married or having a significant other."
So I want to tell you that "the magic of thinking big" works like magic.
Years ago, I felt sad that some people would settle for less in their recoveries, so as not to be disappointed if they failed. In my book, it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. Having schizophrenia, it's like you're in a horserace, and the gun goes off, but your horse doesn't move. We have extra hurdles to clear that are unique to each one of us. By giving yourself permission to dream big, you win the race just by being in it.
I'm not absolutely certain I'll go back to school for a Masters in rehab counseling. I could stay at the library, and then work for a mental health non-profit when I retire. The point of writing this down is to create options to choose from. Some are going to remain strong possibilities; others will fall by the wayside. That's why it's important to be flexible; and adaptable to change. One goal I took off the list when I revised my plans was the idea I had about getting a diploma in image consulting when I was in my forties.
To misquote an expression [though I'm sure I've got it right], "If you don't know where you're going, that's where you'll wind up."
Again, I recommend the Julie Morgenstern book. And I urge you to be vocal with your psychiatrist about setting treatment goals.
A long life to you, and May you have what you desire.
Published On: July 21, 2008