We have the utmost control over one thing and only that one thing: our perception. I've lived days where I believe to be the only one on Earth and days that I don't even feel like I was present for. Addressing perception, especially proceeding the holidays is vital. The holidays are the times where we deal with family and loved ones and there can sometimes be high tensions. You can't change your family, no, but you can change how you see your family, how you interact with them, and how you feel about them. How can we use our perception to not only think that we are happy but to truly feel happiness? By reading onward friends!
Listen, if anyone knows how hard it is to shift your perception it's me. When I tried to commit suicide, I figured that if I somehow was still alive, that life would be hell each day until I died of cancer or old age. Boy, was I wrong. I was so stuck in believing that I wasn't worth having children, being healthy, or even having friends. If there was anything I thought it was that I was a piece of shit and no one could convince me otherwise. And the more you tried to love me the more I pushed back. As I was planning my second and final path to the other side, I ended up calling my dad instead...
"Yeah, Sweetheart, what's up?"
"Dad, I need help, I need to go somewhere, I think something's wrong with me."
"Come home, we'll figure it out. I love you, Nik."
Now, you'll often hear me talking about how I felt like I didn't have the best childhood, but my parents sure did do anything they could to help my sisters and me when we needed them. I came home and talked with my parents for hours about how I had been depressed, hallucinating, taking drugs, and that I needed help to stop my life from spiraling downward. We settled on sending me to an adolescent rehab that properly diagnosed, medicated, and rehabilitated me. I was gone within the week, stayed there for months, never looked back, and my life has never been the same since in the best way possible.
Other than the copious amounts of love I received from the loving staff and other kids in the program that made me believe I wasn't so shitty after all, I learned things that ultimately shifted my entire perception. Some things were entirely obvious what they were trying to accomplish like "Make a list of 100 things you love and are grateful for", and some were more subtle like having quiet conversations with the staff about how they got there themselves. In those kinds of situations you learn so much about yourself, and the more you know about yourself, the more you start to like what you learn, and you build positive self-esteem.
You also gain another understanding of other people. When I was going nuts I thought I could have been the only one feeling that way, I became paranoid and scared of the people around me and I started to feel so alone that I felt it didn't matter if lived another second. When you talk to someone, I mean really talk to someone, with no filters, no judgment, no fear, you can see that this human struggle is something we are all facing together. And it's just that, a human struggle. You learn that someone always has it worse, and someone always has it better than you, but you're not alone. You're loved, you experience happiness, excitement, and worry but that's what makes you human and being human is a magnificent blessing.
So what's the real solution? Well, it's a slow journey. Changing your perception is a skill you learn, practice, and get better at. You must first be aware, to see how you perceive things currently. Next, you discover the right way to perceive. If your roommate yells at you for not doing the dishes do you yell back, or do you apologize and make an effort to do the dishes more promptly in the future? Do you hold a grudge against your roommate, or do you forgive and understand their perspective? Once you find the right way, then you practice.
Each time a difficult situation arises, you'll get better and better at seeing negative situations positively and positive ones as incredible. Some things never get better, like stepping in sh*t on your way to a job interview, or breaking your favorite mug, but if you're in a situation where you have a problem with someone or something around you, this is a great technique to improve your outlook on the world and realize maybe things aren't as bad as you think. Stay tuned for more good skills on how to shift your perception in a positive way, and more importantly, love yourself.
A Guide to Using Art as a Coping Skill, through the lens of a former psychiatric ward patient, and current painter.