"I could care less if you love or hate me. I'm way past that. I'm asking that you respect me as a human being, anyway."
About a year and a half ago when I began treatment for my illness, my therapist at the time told me something. He explained that for me to get well we needed to fill my "recovery toolbox" and separate positives and negatives in my thinking so that when I returned to real life, I would be able to handle whatever life (or certain people in it) threw at me.
"A 'recovery toolbox?' this guy has to be cracked," I thought to myself. "He is the one who needs therapy, not me."
Now, when you look back on incidents in life, hindsight is always 20/20. I realize now (through a lot of hard work) that he was absolutely dead-on.
Recovery is not just about learning to eat in a healthy way, nor is it about certain numbers or tangible factors. Somewhere along the journey to recovery everyone will need to fill their "toolbox" with equipment that isn't just from a prescription bottle or from some dietitian's menu.
Is it possible to recover all on your own? Not even close. Is it essential to have supportive people around you? Absolutely. That's why when it comes to getting healthy, separating the "vultures" from the "sparrows" in your life is crucial in the battle of getting your life back on track.
Over the past several months, I have encountered both "vultures" and "sparrows" sporadically. Interestingly enough, at times it has been extremely difficult to distinguish one from the other. That is why it is so crucial to be in-tune with your emotions during the fight for your health and well-being. Fortunately, I think I have figured out how to use different negative experiences to my advantage and utilize the positive pieces I've encountered with the help of several support systems in my life.
I've been told hundreds of times over the course of my recovery, "Troy, you are a great person. Don't try so hard to please everyone. You are worth it." Well, it doesn't matter how many times you hear the same phrase. Until you internalize what is being said, it will never "stick" and you will find it difficult to move forward. Picture yourself in a foreign country trying to get directions. No matter how loudly you scream your request to a local citizen, if you aren't speaking their language, the message isn't going to get through.
I am fortunate enough to say that I have found several "sparrows" in recent weeks that have really helped me make progress. I am so thankful that those people and circumstances were put into my life. After all, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. They told me, "Troy, I sense your insecurity. Don't put yourself down in an attempt to be someone you're not. You're intelligent, intuitive and great just the way you are."
Now, I don't know if it had to do with how the message was delivered, if it was the individual or just a random "ah-ha" moment. But for some reason, that phrase, that encouragement and that "sparrow" in my life really helped things stick.
Does this mean that I am 100 percent all-better? Or that I am "cured" of all my struggles? Not quite. But it is very encouraging to know that some matters are moving in the right direction. After all, I'm not writing because I don't struggle or because I'm 'perfect' in recovery. The little things in life are sometimes the biggest motivational tools we have.
Too many of us have what I'd like to call "vultures," circling us in our daily lives. Not necessarily the flying selection, but the emotional, spiritual and sometimes human selection that keep meddling and disrupting how we feel about ourselves. They may come as doubts that keep re-surfacing, memories and pain of your past, confrontation, old sins or old hurts. Maybe some of the 'vultures' of your life have repeatedly spread a shadow, making you feel depressed, stuck and discouraged.
I hope these next few statements I've picked up from a few "sparrows" can enable you to ward off the enemy. It's true that "vultures" disappear when you remove the stuff they like to (no pun intended) feed on. When you get to the point where you can move to eliminate what they are circling for, perhaps freedom is only a few steps away? When you can undertake what's at root of your old fears, failures and hurts, know that those past struggles won't paralyze, surface or consume you any longer.
You may be asking, "But, Troy, how do I finally overcome negative internal dialogue or change what has happened to me?" I'm glad you asked.
Stop running from the hurts; instead, turn and face them. You draft 'sparrows' to be your support and help you beat whatever you are facing. Be determined to throw everything in your 'recovery toolbox' at the enemy and do whatever it takes to remove it. You bite the bullet, take the risk and seek help from your support team. Not only will they walk you through the difficult period, perhaps sometimes, they surprisingly understand where you are coming from. Ask anyone you trust to listen and don't be afraid to ask them for what you need. Vocalizing what you are feeling is pivotal in moving forward.
It is important to surround yourself with people who will encourage you in whatever situation you may be facing. Look for those who will offer you responsibility while you're learning to find balance. Find someone who will listen to what you are going through. A therapist, a dietitian, a friend, a spouse/partner, a family member or even your journal can be constructive in your fight for self discovery and recovery.
Everyone has the ability within themselves to recover, despite self-doubt and regardless of the circumstances. Everyone can improve their lives by eliminating the 'vultures' that lead them to think "I'm not enough."
Always keep your sights high and your worries low. Activate those awesome qualities you have been given and strengthen the tools you'll gain along the way. Remember, this is YOUR time to fill that "recovery toolbox" and build that supreme support structure that no one, no irrational thought nor any adversary, will ever be able to tear down.
This Emotional Life is a two-year campaign to foster awareness, connections and solutions around emotional wellness. Join our community at www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife.