Routine: Interrupted

I love routine.

In the morning:

At work:

  • 10AM - Tea break

  • 1PM - Lunch

  • 3PM - Simple stretches

Before bed:

It thinks it’s so superior because it uses “electricity”…

It thinks it’s so superior because it uses “electricity”…

Due to my love affair for routine; travel has generally been a disruptive force for my mental well being. Not only am I in an unfamiliar environment, I am also unable to follow my routine exactly. Up until a year ago or so, I struggled when traveling. Building up anxiety until I had an inevitable panic attack during my trip, or not long after returning home.

One of my areas of personal growth has been becoming more mentally flexible. I do not follow the routines I listed to the letter, every day. I tried that, and anytime I missed something I felt like a failure.

Now, I try to hit for five hundred instead of one thousand. That has helped me tremendously when traveling.

I am writing this from my Dad’s office, overlooking the back porch, while listening to a bunch of dogs bark. I woke up this morning, stretched, meditated, cleaned myself up, took my meds, used by sister’s old Keurig to brew a latte. The big change is the manner in which I create my cup of coffee, and in the past I would have allowed that change to bother me.

In other words, I thought I was not performing my routine “right”. Which, when you step back from that observation, you realize it is absurd. I cannot tell you to stop judging yourself; that is part of our nature.

I advise you, as I try to remind myself, that you can judge yourself in a healthier manner. I term this

the cultivation of discipline

Discipline - “Train to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.”

Cultivate - “Prepare and use (land) for crops or gardening.”

Dad’s jersey (7) on the left. Mine (13) on the right.

Dad’s jersey (7) on the left. Mine (13) on the right.

The hard skill is discipline, and the soft skill is cultivation. For too many years I focused exclusively on discipline. Punishing myself for failing to attain the goals I set for myself.

I learned that you cannot have the hard skill without the soft skill. You cannot plant a hard seed in unyielding soil, and expect to find purchase for new roots.

Traveling has become a way for me to practice the soft skill of cultivation. An opportunity to become more flexible. Even the chance to find something new to incorporate into my self-care routines.

So on this day of gratitude. I am grateful for my family, the six dogs at the house, a healthy body, a stable mind, and another day to cultivate discipline in a healthy manner.

This is written at the top of my whiteboard wall in my apartment as a daily reminder.

This is written at the top of my whiteboard wall in my apartment as a daily reminder.

Life in a Psychiatric Hospital - Part 2

Routine.

Visit any psychiatric ward, anywhere in the country, and you will find a daily routine that the caretakers follow. Why is routine important? Why are vitals taken each morning? Why are meals served at the exact same times? Why are groups part of every day?

Because in the throes of withdrawal or with someone not long after a suicide attempt - the mind is shattered.

USS Constellation  - I run by it most mornings.

USS Constellation - I run by it most mornings.

Imagine your mind as a ship. You are the captain of the ship, but you are also every officer, every deckhand, and even every piece of wood and rope that make up the ship. Then a storm comes, the ship/you runs aground, and splinters into pieces. You reach out and grab hold of a floating plank, where you desperately try to keep your head above water in the heaving seas.

You become the captain of a wood plank, floating alone in the chaotic abyss.

Routine is the starting process for rebuilding a ship. You don’t throw wood and nails into a dry dock and expect a ship to come together without a plan. Nor should you expect that to happen with your mind.

Most hospitals follow a routine:

Vitals are taken every day so the nursing staff and doctors can notice any significant changes in a person’s physical health.

Vitals are taken every day so the nursing staff and doctors can notice any significant changes in a person’s physical health.

  • Morning

    • Wake up, vitals, meds

    • Breakfast

    • Group session

  • Afternoon

    • Lunch

    • Group session

    • Break

  • Evening

    • Group session

    • Dinner

    • Meds

The routine is dull, uninteresting, and unexciting - by design!

Imagine you’re desperately gripping your wooden plank, and, by some miracle, a party cruise liner breaks over the horizon. You are rescued and immediately thrown into a world of bright lights, loud noises, curious food, and you haven’t a clue what the destination is. You’re grateful to be out of the water, certainly, but you have a whole new host of issues to navigate.

Now imagine you are saved by the Coast Guard. Everyone is wearing the same uniform, everyone fits into a particular role, everyone is calm in the face of danger. A medic checks you out, you’re given a blanket and a cup of coco, and told where you will be taken to next. You’re just as grateful to be out of the water as you were in the first scenario, but all of your issues are taken care of for you.

That is the magic of routine. It gives a mind in chaos something to hold onto. Something that makes sense. Something that can be counted on.

That is where recovery can begin.


A GIGANTIC thank you to the following people for breaking my $1,000 goal for the Baltimore Out of the Darkness Walk!

  • Collette Dixon

  • Roger and Margo Coleman

  • Lou and Mary Jo Corsetti

  • Caitlin Corsetti

  • James Hunt

  • Samantha Perrine

  • The Smith Family

  • Natalie Wills

  • Kate and Mark Bernal

  • Andi O’Connor

  • The Assaf Family

  • Kevin Greene

  • The Arney Family

  • Jim Fiora

  • Cara Morris