I accomplished something yesterday, and my husband remarked that I should write an article on overcoming. I said, "Why overcoming?". He said, "You have accomplished something unexpected and unlike your condition." My condition is schizo-affective, and last spring I ventured back into full-time engineering work not knowing if it would stick. I was able to obtain flexible working hours and work-from-home conditions; I am still expected to respond to deadlines and even travel out-of-state from time-to-time.
This summer I took on a 7-week project in which I was the sole engineer working the project, and the technical acumen to get the job done right was high; expectations were high also and the schedule squeezed. I ventured into an assignment I had only mid-level experience with, worked more than 50 hours per week some weeks, and traveled twice from Tennessee to New Mexico to meet with the client of the project. I just yesterday turned in a finished product on-time that everyone was extremely happy with, that also promises more business to the company I work for. I straddled a few sleepless nights, additional medication and the associated side-affects, stress-stimulated voices and paranoia, and a constant fluctuating stress level. I gave up all my weekends this summer and dove right into a complex, interesting, and confidence-boosting endeavor. I also carried a nagging in the back of my mind that something extreme might happen with my mental health, and took great care of myself so I would finish and finish well.
The accomplishment of finishing and finishing well is a mark of overcoming - I worked beyond the normal abilities for someone with a condition like mine. It's unexpected. The doctors who try to call all the shots have long told me not to expect much, and they tell my husband that too - in terms of working, in terms of becoming a mother, in terms of being an adequate spouse. But I think my husband and I have both favored high-standards; it's a constant battle for us. That other nagging feeling - the one that says we should succeed and hush the naysayers - I think that is the one everyone should more often listen to in making daily decisions.
You don't have to have a condition like mine to have naysayers in your life about issues you are facing, and it doesn't take much to give in with an excuse of your own either. You don't have to give in, you don't have to settle, you don't have to live an underwhelming life, you don't have to lay down and live out your weaknesses instead of your strengths. That last point, to live out your weaknesses is important. It's easy to choose to be lazy instead of accomplishing a goal - to sit back and watch others work hard for a promotion instead of taking on the challenge yourself. Life is full of missed opportunities. Excuses can be a worst enemy. So cheers to those who succeed in work and relationships, and in spiritual matters or overcoming addiction or health issues. I've truly made a statement about myself each time I've recovered from mental health bouts, and this recent accomplishment goes a long way with others and myself in the demonstration of recovery. I still have a long way to go in terms of any road to goodness or perfection, but hey, I've come a long way baby. You should too, and congrats to all your accomplishments past, present and future!
p.s. The rad thing I enjoyed doing was developing the operational and protective philosophies and settings for computers that operate a high-voltage new substation (transmission utility power system equipment). This is my mountaintop. Climb your mountaintop.
Do the Unexpected, a poem by Michelle Murphy
Live out your weaknesses, or your strengths.
Which is tempting you?
There’s the naysayers who never expect the unexpected.
The calculators. The pill-givers.
But the gamblers bet on me.
They love me.
And I aim to show them love back.
I’m better off for it.
To do the unexpected.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.