Rethinking Mindset

It’s Monday again, so we’ve closed the book in another nice weekend. Despite the relentless, bone-chillingly cold and dreary rain yesterday, I enjoyed the weekend. It felt gratifying because I got a lot of work done for my job and productivity always bestows happiness upon me. Ben and I also had several meaningful conversations that drew us yet closer and a good dose of laughs and lighthearted silliness as well. I think a relationship between two people is special if, after sixteen years and so much togetherness, both individuals can still get a riotous rise out of the other, sending them into a fit of giggles. We keep one another on our toes and manage to surprise the other with our active senses of humor and love for fun. One thing that endears me to Ben is the entertainment he provides and the novelty of many of his jokes; free laughs have such value in a difficult life or one if chronic illness. Though I’m not sure laughter is necessarily the “best” medicine in all cases, there is certainly merit to the sentiment.

I feel ready for it to be Monday, which isn’t to say I wouldn’t have loved more weekend time. However, my brain feels sharp today and ready to focus and delve into my cognitively-demanding work assignments. My attitude feels upbeat and invested in having a good day. My first self-guided “therapy” appointment is today at 10am, but I feel prepared to take the first step in that regard. In fact, I believe one of the causes for my extra-peppy can-do spirit today is that I’m excited to start this self-directed venture (and I’m relieved to not have to go to my session this Wednesday). I’m proud of my ability to embody a good mood this morning despite my severe ankle and stomach pain, an indication that I am making headway on my goal to compartmentalize physical illness and pain so that it doesn’t always sour my attitude and make me irritable and more depressed. When I’m registering about an 8:10 on a subjective pain scale but can still manage to be smiling and in a pleasant mood, I consider myself tough and successful in my aims.

I’m not yet in a place where I can automatically separate my physical discomfort from my emotions as if the two were completely disparate domains. Rather, it requires a significant amount of concerted effort to shift my mood out of the dark place that physical pain invariably naturally inflicts. Some days, I’m still lacking the fortitude to mollify my bad mood and find a way to feel calm and neutral, if not happy (though genuine happiness is sometimes an unrealistic goal when you’re that sick). So far, I’m finding the most effective bad-mood-because-of-pain antidotes to be acknowledging things I’m grateful for, identifying things to look forward to, and allowing myself the grace to indulge in a distraction (a good book, time outside, baking, etc.) even if I feel I “should” be productive in another way.

I am forever wondering why I developed this unhealthy mindset that my worthiness overall and my “success” in a day is contingent upon how much I accomplish (work, exercise, etc.) instead of how I feel and behave as a person, and the value I bring to others in my life. It’s something I’m working on shifting, though entrenched ways of thinking take time to change. As I plan for the start of my independent therapy sessions, I am increasingly observant of potentially counterproductive antics and ideas I’ve ascribed to for one reason or another that still remain today. By defining the problematic behaviors and ways of thinking, I’m hoping to increase my awareness of them and implement more ideal substitutions (that better align with my goals) instead. I’m not na├»ve enough to envision replacing all of these undesirable engrams to be easy, but the work will be worth it as I believe I’ll be a happier, more self-assured, and more satisfied person on the other side. Today is a great day to start.

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