Thursday, November 5, 2009

Taking Baby Steps Towards Pursuing Your Dreams

Susan wrote a heartfelt piece about feeling like she's lost her dreams. If I were her doctor, I'd say, "It's your depression talking. And, I know you'll feel differently when you're not depressed."

The advice I gave to her--and some I didn't--is worth repeating here. I believe that dreams represent hope. In the same way I assumed I'd ultimately be well--even during my darkest days--I also assumed I'd be able to contribute once again.
The mantra that I whispered to myself over and over again was, "You're not a quitter. You're not a quitter. This, too, will pass. You're not a quitter." (It's seems silly to me now, but for some reason, it always made me smile inside.)
Once I was well most of the time, I suddenly realized I was lost...for awhile. I'd spent so much time focusing on illness and then wellness that I didn't know what I wanted to do once I actually became well.

I knew I wanted to write, but I couldn't decide what to write about. I started this blog, which has been very satisfying in many ways, but it wasn't enough. I knew I didn't want to return to grant writing, which is how I made my living for many years. I finally decided I was stuck, and I didn't know how to get unstuck. And it was a very painful and frightening feeling.

Ultimately, I returned to therapy, and one of its many values was to talk about my strengths and the ways in which I feel I can contribute. Luckily enough, I was able to take the time I needed to explore things without feeling like I had to make an immediate decision.

These days I'm quite clear that my path will be to combine my love for the outdoors and gardening with my love of writing. I'm still not sure how this will play out...but I know I'm headed in the right direction.

If I were to give advice to folks who are feeling lost and worried that their illness has destroyed their dreams...it's this: "From experience I know that wellness is possible. I don't know of anyone who's experienced more depressive episodes than I have, but I truly am well...most of the time now. And, if I can do it, so can you."

"And, if you've been ill for a long time, but you're feeling well now, recognize that it's okay to take baby steps towards finding your way again. For me, the first baby step two years ago was to sign up for a six-week photography class at a community college. For years, I wasn't able to commit to anything in advance, and before I took the class, I didn't know if I could remain well for six weeks. So, just completing the class was a huge step forward."

"Then I signed up for a second photography class, which I had to quit because my mother was dying. But, what I learned from that experience was that photography is an interest rather than a passion. And, that was a good realization because it paved the way for me to begin taking my gardening and horticulture classes.

"Now I don't think twice about signing up for ten-week classes, and I know I'll complete them. And, it was a natural progression to commit to a nine-course certificated program, and I know I'll complete it if it continues to interest me."

"Most of all I know that once again, I can pursue my dreams--big and small. Without dreams, there is no hope. But, with dreams, the sky's the limit."

To my friend Susan, I want to add that I know how awful it feels to wonder what you'll do for the rest of your life in order to find meaning. For me, the answer was getting help, and having the courage to move ahead...one baby step at a time.

10 comments:

More Than Conquerors said...

Dear Susan,

Just stopping by to say "hello". I am thinking of you and praying for you.

Glad that you have been able to take baby steps to pursue your dreams. Like you, I too think it is important to know our strengths and the ways in which we feel we can contribute. It gives me a sense of usefulness, knowing that I can lead a meaningful and useful life despite my condition. For me it is visiting the sick and elderly people that come to my church, and share God's love and kindness with me. This has been very therapeutic for me and brings me much joy each time.

Hope you continue to enjoy and do well in your classes and all other dreams that you may pursue from time to time. Take care and have a great week!

Warm regards,
Nancie

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
As always, so glad to hear from you. I think it's wonderful that your dreams are visiting the sick and elderly at your church, and sharing your love of God with them.

Sometimes we find ourselves by helping others.

Last year, when I was so depressed, a friend who had volunteered at a hospice was one of the few people with whom I felt comfortable.

Because she had spent time with people who were dying (and that's how I felt and looked), I could be myself.

I felt she was a gift from God.

Love,
Susan

Wendy Love said...

Susan,
This is just what I needed to hear today. It is not one of my good days. Your post made me realize that my energy goes into survival and maintenance. Dreaming is a luxury that has been absent for a long time. Thanks for the post. Your story gives me hope to keep on trying....

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
So sorry to hear that you're not feeling well. But, I'm glad this post helped.

Sometimes, I think that when we have a really bad day--what's important to remember is that there have been far better days, and whether they're just around the corner or down a long block, they will return!

Sending good thoughts and hugs your way from Los Angeles!

With love,

Susan

Mikee said...

This helped me alot, thank you alot. Im not feeling so great in my mind and slowly declining futher it seems, though now I know about it and seek things to help. Sometimes things find me aswell to help, and as I said this helped alot. Thanks

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mikee,
Glad it helped you. I've always found that being outdoors helps. For me, so does exercise (even if it's just walking around the block), and playing a musical instrument. And, I just remember to take one day at a time.

Best of luck!

Susan

susan said...

Susan,

Thank you so much  This really touched my heart.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Susan,
You're welcome!

Susan

Julia said...

What if you never had any dreams? Actually, the only dream I remember having is that I wouldn't die a virgin.

It it strange to have no dreams?

Wellness Writer said...

Julia,
I'm not sure if you mean dreams that you have when you're asleep. Everyone dreams, although I've read that some people don't remember their dreams.

The dreams I'm talking about are aspirations...or life goals. And, I imagine that everyone has those.

Susan