I’m a Type A personality, workaholic, obsessive-compulsive, overachiever with ADD, ADHD thrown in. I’ve bought in to the myth that ‘success is measured in personal output.’ After several health setbacks, I’m using Al-Anon slogans as mantras for recovery. Recovery is takes its own sweet time; I’m accustomed to a hurried pace. Recovery is one bite at a time; I live in gulps. I’m being forced to take baby steps when I’m more comfortable striding. I’m learning how to live a green tea lifestyle with a caffiene addict’s coping mechanisms.
Don’t let me fool you. I’ve not achieved great success. I’m not coming from big money and fast cars to a slow rural existence. But that’s not for lack of effort. In college, if a 2,000 word paper was required, I wrote 8,000 words. If 10 hours of volunteer work were assigned, I did 20. As a teacher, I would arrive at work at 7 am and work until 5:30 p.m. I’d eat while grading papers and then spend the next four hours preparing lessons. Long before Franklin Planners and Palm Pilots were invented, I was making organizers out of notebooks, scrupulous accounting for every moment. When I homeschooled our children, I would task myself mercilessly for my perceived failures. My compulsiveness had a little to do with competitiveness, but far more to do with a constant craving and failure to find a sense of self. I have always defined myself by the amount of work I put out (or don’t). The success I sought was ever ellusive, in my mind at least.
What was the result of all this ‘hurry up and go’? Well, I mentioned one nervous breakdown (that’s what we used to call them. Now I think ‘panic attack’ is the blanket terms, but I can tell you they stop you dead in your tracks). If my emotions were polygraphed, I suspect that more like several hundred to thousand panic attacks have shaken my emotional Richter Scale. Physically, my back has given out, I’ve lost two stillborn infants, I’ve had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for years, I entered menopause about very early, my circadian rhythms are shot, my sleep constantly disturbed. I attribute a good portion of this to the emotionally driven frenetic pace I set for myself, an abject lack of self-care and abysmally low self-esteem. At 46, I’m collecting the pieces of my shattered nervous system and reconfiguring them in a healthier way.
What does ‘healthier’ look like? I take for my mantras, the Al-Anon slogans: Easy Does It, Does it Best. One Day at a Time. Keep It Simple. And when I say mantra, I don’t use the term facetiously. I repeat these slogans many times daily; they are my OM. And like the OM, my mantra are therapeutic. My Al-Anon slogans keep me focused on recovery. They help me regain balance. They keep me grounded in mental health, when without them, I would surely drown in that morass of self-destructive behavior.
For more emotional health meditations and Al-Anon reflections, visit me at the blogs linked.