Eyes Off the Goal
The time spent living with my mother was impactful two-fold: (1) it seriously reset my physical settings. I was sleeping so much and often times inactive which really changed the way I was wired. (2) I was able to undo the high stress, high anxiety baseline I had maintained for years. So, it was a double-edged sword: probably ultimately good for my mental health, not so great for my physical health.
After three years, I decided to move out on my own again. I got an apartment and a volunteer job and in a few short weeks I met a young woman from Ann Arbor, MI, about 40 minutes north of where I lived. Our romance rejuvenated my life, and in a matter of a few short months, I moved to Ann Arbor to live with her. At the same time, I began getting more involved in the new recovery movement for mentally ill veterans at the Ann Arbor VA hospital. I had been spending time writing my recovery story, so I pitched an expressive writing group for veterans. The group was highly successful and we were featured on NPR, in the University of Michigan Annual Investing in Ability Week, and on WebMD the website and in their magazine.
I parlayed my success into vocational rehabilitation training, starting in a master's program in the teaching of written communication but ultimately switching to master's study of technology studies. I finished the master's program and was accepted to their Ph.D. program as a graduate assistant, but the faster pace and high stress aggravated my illness and I spent time on the inpatient ward again. In the interest of my family, I decided to withdraw from the Ph.D. program before completion.
That was 2012. In the decade that followed, I tried many things to get rolling again -- entrepreneurship, grant writing, etc. before in 2015 I discovered philosophy meetup groups. I had always thought there was something I was trying to say but didn't have the tools to say it, but philosophy helped me begin to answer those questions.
I studied philosophy extensively over the next seven years. I found the harder I struggled to define a clear answer, the more my mental health struggled. I began to feel stressed and anxious every day just sitting in the chair drinking my morning coffee. But through extreme effort I began to unravel the questions that were pressuring me. I began to understand meditation in a way I hadn't before, as a way of being and feeling rather than just a practice in which I was supposed to experience some concrete result. I began to understand better how to take the edge off. And I began to better understand how to press forward without causing that extreme distress that experienced before.
The Mission Daybreak presents an opportunity to test this method to see if it can help other people. I'm still rather limited in my overall stamina and bandwidth, but I think that's probably true of a lot of disabled veterans and I think we can help each other with those challenge to accomplish many of the cool things that we have the gifts to give to our world.