A blog for those suffering from mental illness, those who are well and want to maintain wellness, and for those who want to understand.
Monday, 30 July 2012
"Have fun storming the castle!" ~ Miracle Max in The Princess Bride
Three unlikely heroes, one princess, and all that stood between them was an evil king and his army of brutes. How do you like those odds? Is the glass half full or half empty - or, should I say, what's the water level in the moat?
Last night I did a very cool thing. My niece and our friend and I went to the Fresh Air Cinema in the park and watched The Princess Bride. We spread our blankets on the grass to save our spot and then wandered around the park, visiting the booths of a number of great local organizations. My niece planted a seedling that, along with the hundreds of others planted that evening by other kids, will be replanted in gardens at local elementary schools. We tasted delicious gluten free coconut and chocolate chip cookies and learnt how to make organic fertiliser for the garden. We also chatted with friends that we ran into and even talked with strangers sitting on their blankets next to us. It was a real sense of fun and community.
Oh, but did I mention the cranky, rude people in line for popcorn?
Yes, the line was long. Yes, there was only one small popcorn machine. However, the event itself was free, the popcorn was by donation, and the people working there were amazingly friendly volunteers. And yet people still complained amongst themselves in line, muttering under their breath but still loud enough to be heard.
Guess what, people? You have a choice. We all have choices in life. The biggest and most important choice, in my estimation, is whether your want to be unhappy or happy. Simple as that. But is it really simple?
In my well days, days when the darkness of mental illness isn't overwhelming to me, I am a very optimistic person. I generally see the best in people first and only change my mind if they do something to prove me wrong. I try to cut people some slack in life. I do this for a few reasons. First, I know all too well that often people are fighting their own private battles. It could be depression, my own personal dragon, or it could be something else: addiction, family problems, abuse, health issues. So I like to smile at the cashier in the grocery store or say good morning to someone in the elevator. Life is easier for me that way. My days are more pleasant and it creates a feeling of positivity in me. And that's important to bank for the times that I need to make a withdrawal, the times when the happiness and optimism don't always come so easily.
It's also habit forming. I have many days when, although not officially depressed, I do feel down. On those days it is a struggle for me to remain up. I had a day recently at work when I felt like crying. The feeling lasted about half an hour and then it was gone. It was gone because I recognized the bad feeling and chose to change my mind. I knew that the rest of the day would, to put it simply, suck if I stayed overwhelmed and sad. By telling a friend how I felt, getting a pep talk from her, and realizing that the choice was all mine, I was able to turn it around. The end result is that I had a better day and I was able to contribute to a positive environment at work. The more that I catch myself and change my mind about things, the easier it gets. Although, let's be honest, there is no turning around some days!
I think we forget a lot of the time the impact that we have on those around us. It's something that I am very conscious of as a result of my own battles with mood disorders. It's OK to not feel yourself (one in five Canadians is actually suffering from mental illness). But let's just try as a society to show some understanding, patience, and love to one another.
Come to think of it, even in my toughest days and hardest fought battles against my illness, I must have held onto a shred of optimisim. If it hadn't been there, deep down, maybe I wouldn't be here. Maybe I wouldn't be having fabulous summer evenings with loved ones.
So if you have to storm a castle or fight whatever daily battles you are up against, maybe take Miracle Max's advice and try to have fun. I promise, it makes it easier.