Tolerating the Discomfort

Years ago, a counselor at Mercy Hospital’s outpatient program in Des Moines suggested that we learn to stretch our ability to tolerate the discomfort of our mental illnesses. Such a benign term—discomfort. It hardly does justice to what really goes on inside a crazy person’s mind. But, it does keep us from catastrophizing the experience. Suffering, agony, or hysteria would be torture to tolerate. Discomfort seems more reasonable.

When I woke up at 2am again this morning, I knew I needed to follow this wise counselor’s advise. My mental and physical discomfort had been overwhelming me, and I needed to find a way to help myself.

So as soon as Starbucks opened at 6:00, I took this small journal and a few pens with the intention of just writing about the discomfort. My Round Robin art journal friends had used this size journal in our last project to send pages to each other. It contained their art, but I didn’t have to make anything. This felt important.

I had started this journal as a book of lists to send around to friends, hoping they would jot down their thoughts. That never happened, but the headings were still there. Some could be useful, Some not so much. I decided to use what might be helpful and leave the rest.

After I ranted a brain-dump on one of the blank pages, I felt a little calmer. I also thought a list of possible ways to stretch my tolerance for this discomfort might be the next step. I brainstormed (Ha! Such an apt term!) for a while and felt a little better still.

I had taken a clonazepam before I went to Starbucks, hoping to beat back the itchy, prickly panic. That little darling started to kick in, and I thought it best to go home and have a lie down. But before doing that, I tried a few things on my list: a nice hot soak with lavender bath salts, a fragrant candle, and a pair of comfy chenille footies. I turned on my new Audibles book (read by Pretend Boyfriend, Richard Armitage), and promptly fell asleep.

When I woke up, I took my little journal outside to sit in the sun and see what else might help me get through the day. As things came to me, I added them to my list, then checked them off as I practiced—like singing the Sia song “I’m Alive” loud enough to make all the neighbor dogs howl. I get so tired of their constant yapping that it felt powerfully naughty to sing so loud that they all shut up.

I took a little stroll around the garden in my bare feet (though my comfy footies waited on the patio for me). This helped my wobbly knee and gave me a sense of grounding. As my sissy bedecks the halls with her tubs of decorations, I needed a sense of myself (the non-Christmas atheist), my feet firmly on the ground, in the midst of the discomfort of my mind fighting its war with psych meds.

I have a new tool. A little journal to write about my discomfort and list ways to tolerate it a bit better. I need to add “Write a blog post” to the list, because this helped as well. It always does.

Sitting in Martha’s Garden

When I can’t hold any more tension, when the Vyvanse can’t kick me into a better mindset, when I can’t see through the wet in my eyes and nothing seems worth doing, I come to Martha’s Garden.

I sit under the old tree, rock in the mint green iron chair, and let the breeze and the birdsong waft over me. The neighbors’ rooster and dogs talk to each other. A garbage truck grumbles by on the road.

I give all the distorted thoughts and twisted feelings the room they need with my bare feet flat in the mulch and my eyes soft on all the green.

I take a deep breath and start to journal.

I will let the Garden soothe me, bleed the ichor, untangle the thoughts, and send me on my way.

To the special order waiting for me to finish (a set of cards for The Wheel of the Year), a set of my own Divination cards, a new journal to play in from my art journal Round Robin group, and the little art journals I made out of cup sleeves from my favorite coffee shop.

I will set up Emmett’s new litter box after finally realizing he can’t squat low enough to keep his stream from flowing over the side. Oh, the stories I created about being negligent and asleep! The guilt, and shame, and memories of other cats neglected!

All of that seeps into the Garden’s waiting dirt. There is only Now and what needs doing in this moment. There is only the clouded blue sky framed by leaves and branches.

I sip my iced coffee and return to my journal. The Garden will dismiss me when she’s done.

30 Days of Sandy Sue Altered: 6


⊂ ⊃

Tears are the Telescope

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Night Will Pass-Soldier

⊂ ⊃

Hold on to Yourself

⊂ ⊃

Friends for Life

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