Where are your feet? It’s another way of saying, “what are you feeling in this moment?”
I had to ask myself this question this morning. When I last wrote for this blog, my teenage daughter had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was consumed with just getting her whatever help she needed and I was angry that she would suffer from the illness that has shaped so much of my life.
Since I last wrote, I have come to think of mental illness as one would think of an addiction. It doesn’t go away, but you can be in recovery from it. Life can and does get better if you are vigilant about treating the illness. But before recovery comes acceptance. I needed to accept that I was mentally ill.
My daughter needs to accept her illness. She’s railing against it. She does not want this. She cooperates. She takes her medicine and she goes to therapy. She is trying. It’s just too much for her to take in. She continues to struggle with symptoms that disrupt her life and medications that cloud her thinking. The stigma of mental illness weighs heavily on her.
So where are my feet? I have not fully accepted her illness, either. I want to fix it. I want to fix everything for her. I want her to have friends again. I want her to excel at academics again. I want her to stop hiding in her room and find the courage to leave the house more often. I want the voices to really be gone and her thoughts to stop racing. I want her to be able to complete a simple science assignment and be able to sit through an English class without pacing the room. I want her to make it through a full day at school. I want her to go back to the karate she loved.
My feet are somewhere between hope and heartache. Most days the heartache is a physical sensation. It’s a raw sore in the center of my chest that just doesn’t go away. I hold onto hope as my lifeline, as I know recovery is possible. I know she will learn to do all kinds of things again. Mental illness is not a death sentence: It is a challenge.
Acceptance brings peace. If I can accept her illness and this recovery process, I’ll find some peace. Then I can plant my feet in the present moment, acknowledge my feelings, and respond to her with love and wisdom.