Patience: Recovery Skill #7

  • Patience, the last recovery skill, is at times hard to come by. I know that when I was in my twenties, I was impatient to find a job and move out of supported living. I am not a naturally patient person. I want to solve problems quickly and take action to make things happen. The waiting is the hardest part. You have to live through what you're going through. Wherever you are now is exactly where you need to be.

    I recommend the Eckhart Tolle book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, as an adjunct to therapy and medication. He posits that to live in the Now is the only way to live, neither pining for or regretting what happened in the past nor basing your happiness on a condition that will occur in the future. It's a 300-page book that offers one prescription: be aware, be conscious of what's going on instead of reacting on autopilot.

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    He tells us we are not our thoughts [I think] and not our feelings [I feel]. We are consciousness. Awakening to your life's purpose involves responding to your trials in one of three ways: with acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm. If a situation is unlivable, like domestic violence or a soul-sucking job or something otherwise unhealthy, you of course should get out. Tolle, however, is talking about the ordinary events of life and how we attach meaning to them.

    He suggests, "Your entire life journey ultimately consists of the step you are taking at this moment. There is always only this one step, and so you give it your fullest attention." Sounds like a recipe for a successful recovery, right? As I said, I'm not the most patient person. I asked myself last night, "If it hasn't gotten better by now, how can I know it will be better in the future?" Well, I can't know, and neither can you, yet holding out the hope can give you the strength to soldier on.

    Another great spiritual guide, Viktor Frankl, who wrote Man's Search for Meaning [a holocaust memoir], tells us, "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." In that vein, I realized my struggle is here to teach me compassion and that by going outside of myself to help others, I can deflect from my own pain. My therapist, Max, suggested I not beat on myself: that I could do everything right and still not have everything under control. Over time, I am learning that I have no control over the SZ so that I have to be gentle with myself. To be kind to yourself is the corollary of patience: to give yourself room to grow, to cut yourself some slack for not having a well mind, to treat yourself lovingly.

    These SharePosts I write as much for myself as I do for you-to give ideas about how to cope and manage the SZ. I created a technique I want to give you for when you're out in public with an MI friend or a good friend you trust: use a code word to let him or her know you're dealing with a symptom. Tell them beforehand what goes on, and let them know you'd like to use a code word in the future when you're going through a hard time. I tell my friend Ana, "I'm having a migraine." She can ask, "Do you want to leave? Is there anything I can do?" The world is not ready for those of us with SZ to talk casually about what we go through, so with most people you wouldn't use this technique, only the people you're comfortable with. As I've said before, I would like to be able to talk to others about the SZ, yet I'm aware I have to selectively disclose.

  • In the end, patience is one of the best coping skills. Let's face it-we could tend to internalize the stigma. So accepting that we have SZ and being patient with ourselves when we experience a hard time or have symptoms is the healthiest protective measure.

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    As always, I'd love to hear your comments on this SharePost. Do write in, and I will respond.

Published On: March 18, 2009