The problem with knowing that I have bipolar disorder is that I begin to think about it all the time.
I spend a great deal of time thinking about how to manage my mental health. I think about how much sleep I get. I think about the food I eat. I think about my support network. I think about a number of things all the time to take care of myself.
Being cognizant of so many different factors is very helpful because I can take great care of myself. However, there are problems too. Working on myself, I have to begin asking questions. When is enough improvement? When do I know enough about taking care of myself? When is good enough? Do I obsess too much about my personal growth?
Working with mentees has brought to light all of the work that I have done over the last 14 years. It has brought to light the self care work, the attitude work, the identity work, and the basic day to day maintenance that I have done. The biggest thing that being a mentor had taught me is the importance of remembering progress.
Part of moving forward, is remembering that I have moved forward.
Most of the mentoring meetings I have had in the last couple weeks have not been about new theories. They have not been about self care. They have not been about identity. They have been about remembering what progress these individuals have made.
I mention all of this because progress can become an end in itself. In the process of improving, I can get so focused on the next thing I need to fix that I can forget how I have grown. I get tunnel-vision. I only see my next personal project. I only see my faults.
There is no greater way for me to get discouraged than to think exclusively of my faults. If I only think of my faults, I am never enough. There is always another fault. There is always another project. There is always a better way I can take care of myself. When I focus on these things, I feel hopeless about ever making enough progress.
Does this mean that I should not work on myself? Of course it does not. It means that sometimes I need to take a look in the mirror and ask how I have grown. It means I need to ask questions about my progress.
Some of these questions are things like:
Last month I was working on something. Did it help?
How have I grown?
Am I more stable than I was last month?
What have I learned in the last year?
How have my habits changed for the better in the last year?
How have the people around me seen me grow?
In all of my relationships, people are growing and learning. Progress is always being made. The real struggle is remembering that progress. Without remembering, it is easy to get stuck in the hopelessness of all the ways I need to grow.
By remembering what progress has been made, it is easy to look back and feel hope. Look at how far you have come. Look at how much you have grown. Look at how much you have learned. There is always further to go, but you are going to be able to do so with the tools you already have!
Hope may be a constant struggle, but by knowing how far you have come, it becomes much easier to take the next step.