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Baby Steps

Being sick is miserable. Being in pain, being lonely, being sad – we wouldn’t choose these states. We want to be happy and healthy but that isn’t always easy, if even possible, for some of us. Moving from sick and tired to healthy and happy can be a long journey. Yet, society tells us over and over to “be happy”, to “be positive”. To tell someone who is sick and in pain to “be happy” is to deny their reality and expect a herculean task. Is there any hope? Can we get what we want instead of being stuck in the misery we already have? I think there is but I want to be clear, this is HARD! This is not a one stop decision; this is a day by day, dare I say it? BATTLE. This is a grit your teeth and bare it decision. This is a fall on your knees and beg for strength decision. And this is a do what you need to do to get prepared decision.

I could not make these choices in the grip of the psychotic hallucinations. It was only once I was stabilized on medication that any of this was possible. When in the grip, I could no more logically make these choices than I could win an argument with the hallucinations. I know this is hard for you, too, but if you WANT to change, I believe you can change. I’m not saying everyone has to be on medication but people do need to be in a place where they have the capacity to make better choices. That is, in fact, the first step in making baby steps, choosing to get healthy in the first place.

Once you’ve made the choice to change, you can figure out how to make that happen. That choice may be to use medication, diet, exercise or another form of alternative medicine. How you get healthy is a personal matter and all methods have their benefits and drawbacks. You may not want or need medication but if you’re struggling, it’s important to do something to get yourself to a place of health. There are other options to medications. Diet is an excellent way to combat any number of health ailments. Frequently we negligently put food into our bodies that are counter-productive if not downright toxic. Our biological chemistry can be altered through the careful use and removal of foods. Exercise has tremendous benefits when used appropriately. Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen but moderate, regular exercise, has consistently shown to be beneficial in any number of ways. Alternative medicine, such as acupuncture or the use of herbal supplements, can also be a reasonable alternative. Investigate what your options are. It is your body. Be conscientious with the choices you make concerning it.

Some people believe in natural, spiritual healing. If that is in your belief system, use that. Use ANYTHING that WORKS. If something doesn’t work to make you better, try something else. I’ve known people with mental health issues who have doctors that won’t work with them. They keep people on the same medication because it’s the most common instead of because it works. This is YOUR life, YOUR body. If the first step is to choose to change, the second step is to take charge. Be smart. Investigate your options but DO SOMETHING! Anything. Even if it seems like the wrong thing, it’s a step and that’s a good thing! Just keep trying to find something to help you get to the point where you can take those steps!

So, you know what you have and you’ve figured out it’s not enough. You want more – more time, more energy, more love, more money, more growth – but something is holding you back: a depression that robs you of the energy you need to make a change, a lack of confidence that makes you doubt if you are capable of making a change or if you’re worthy of something different, a schedule – be it kids/family, work or school – that leaves you with little time to read a book, let alone the time to make a major life change. The answer is: there is no easy answer, only steps – some simple, some hard, but by putting one foot in front of the other, you can get from point A to point B.

This post is about starting the journey. It’s about taking small steps – baby steps – and then CELEBRATING them. It’s about focusing on what you CAN do rather than all the things you can’t. It’s not magical. You won’t, all of a sudden, get out of your depression – although I hope it helps. You will, however, learn to see the good in yourself rather than listen to all the people who look at your finish line and think you’ve failed.

Have you ever watched a baby walk? They don’t take long strides. They don’t walk confidently. They toddle, they wobble, but they don’t stop. As any mother of a toddler knows, once they learn to walk they’re excited! They may not know exactly what they’re doing but they love doing it. They love the exploration. I remember when my daughter was a toddler. I held out my arms to her and asked her to come to me and she turned around, looked at me, and said “Uh-uh” and toddled away. There was no stopping her. She moved. We can learn a lot from those little people. We can change our perspective. We can move forward, maybe unsure of ourselves, maybe not seeming to get anywhere but moving.

We may not realize it, but we all take steps to be happy and healthy every day. Maybe it’s going for a walk, maybe it’s calling a friend, maybe it’s taking a shower, or maybe it’s sitting on the edge of the bed and choosing to stand up instead of lie back down. It doesn’t matter how big or little that step is, it’s a step and that step should be celebrated. Instead of a chorus of “Why didn’t you. . . (do the dishes, do the laundry, fill in blank here ____________)” we need a celebration of “I got out of bed today! Woohoo!” Why should that be celebrated? Because you didn’t get out of bed for the last three days but today you did! Good job! You took a step. And since you took that step, isn’t there a good chance you can take another step? Maybe not right away but you showed the world – and yourself – you can take a step.

So, what do you do after you’ve taken that step. Do you give up? No! Try another step. When you’re ready, set a goal: Today, I’m going to ________. Every day this week I’m going to __________. Then your goal gets bigger. It can move from getting out of bed, to exercising, to going back to school, to successfully performing a job but this is on YOUR time table. You are dictating how you’re going to get your life back. It may not happen quickly but it can happen. The storms are going to want to hold you back but you don’t have to pay attention. You can just keep focusing on the steps you’ve taken and the progress you’ve already made. You can feel good about what you’ve accomplished rather than beaten down by the list of things you haven’t.

I started out lying in bed, unable to function. Now I have my life back. It took work, it took medication and it took an awful lot of prayer but I did it. I still battle today. I fight the voices that tear me down. I fight the depression that feels like I’m mired in mud. I fight the messages from others about what I SHOULD be doing. I get sucked into the negativity sometimes but I know I can keep trying. I can keep taking a step. I can celebrate how far I’ve come rather than how far I have to go.

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