In the decade since Ben Behind His Voices was published, I’ve had the opportunity to tell our family story to a lot of people – sometimes more than once, for it is ever-evolving.
If you love someone with schizophrenia, you know this all too well. It is a life lived like a never-ending game of Chutes and Ladders, with moments of rest here and there.
The question I am most often asked, after sharing, is this:
“How do you stay so positive?”
It isn’t always easy, as you may well know. But – here’s the thing that continuously reveals itself to me, no matter what the challenge:
Yes, living happier is a function of what happens to you – no one gets through life unscathed, after all – but it is, eventually, even more a function of what you tell yourself about what happens to you.
And so, I finally wrote a book about it, and it launches officially in a couple of weeks.
In it, I talk about the “Seven Core Phrases” of self-talk that get me through most situations, and keep me hopeful, though realistic – and, yes, happier.
Yes, living happier is a function of what happens to you – but it is, eventually, even more a function of what you tell yourself about what happens to you.
It’s how I “stay so positive.”
Let me be clear (and I state it up front in the book) – I cry too. Life isn’t about constant happiness. That isn’t even a goal. But neither is it about dwelling on the negative when the time for action has passed, nor about stressing about things that may never happen.
So here are the Seven Core Phrases (meant to be said to oneself, not as advice to others, please) and how they help me when our family deals with challenge or disappointment:
These phrases can set your mind down a different path of association and action. In case of severe trauma, you need to process the shock and emotions first.
Be Here Now: I use this when my son is in a good place (enjoy this conversation; savor the moment; enjoy his company) – and when he is not (this is where we are right now – what action do I need to take?)
It Is What It Is: This gets me past the moments of regret (why didn’t I see the signs earlier?). disappointment (why was my son robbed of a chance to go to college?), and doubt (why me? why him? why us?). There may be no reason for Ben’s illness. It simply is. Now what?
We’re All Connected: Other families are going through this too. Other people have the illness. Let’s talk about it. Let’s help each other. Let’s reach out. Let’s thank the people who have chosen professions that help us (lawyers, social workers, advocates, psychiatrists, etc.)
This Is Good: Savor the moments when the stars align, and your loved one can communicate, eat dinner with the family, etc. Yes, even during Ben’s ten hospitalizations, when the phrase simply meant “enjoy the vacation from caregiving for now.” We remember what we savor, and learn from what we regret.
All Will Be Well: Depends on how you define “well.” Will Ben ever attain his childhood dreams? Doubtful, at least right now. We learn to adjust our dreams. And I have no idea if the Universe has a “Plan” – but sometimes it helps to believe that it does. Whatever gets you through. As I say in my book: All will be well, just maybe not the way your expected it to be.
Isn’t That Interesting?: Curiosity, and even humor, can lurk underneath the trauma and crises. There have been times (especially when in the company of others who get it) where humor has saved me from crashing; when curiosity instead of complaining led me to learn more, do more, find another way.
Whatever Happens, I’ll Handle It Somehow: This gets me through more times than I could ever list. Loving someone with schizophrenia means a lot of second-guessing, a lot of waiting to see if the meds work, if they’ll come home, if they will be Jekyll or Hyde at the family dinner. So we do what we can to prepare, and hope for the best after that. This phrase gets me through the times where worry is unproductive.
Want the book? You’ll find it now on Amazon, in paperback or kindle – but pssst! On launch day Feb 23 the kindle will be only 99 cents for a limited time! – and I am now working on the audiobook.
I hope it helps. Even a little.