Mental illness makes it very easy to focus our attention on what we can’t do rather than what we can do. I also tend to disqualify (at least in relative terms) what I can do and place greater importance on what I can’t.
Many of my cans revolve around blogging and writing. Blogging and other writing activities take up a huge chunk of my life, and I’m quite content with that. Sure, I have the odd insecurities now and then, but it’s always an area that falls firmly in the can do category.
Another thing I can do is be a guinea pig mom. I’ve got five of these little monsters right now, and they have a very happy existence. They love that I don’t work very much, because it means that food could be forthcoming at almost any time of day. I would prefer it if they didn’t think 1 a.m. was an appropriate time to get food, but if the alternative was not having them, I’d continue taking the 1 a.m. wake-up call.
In general, adulting is something I can do, although there are certainly some more specific functional deficits. I’ve been totally self-sufficient since I was 23, and I’ve been a homeowner for 15 years. Of the two long-term boyfriends that I’ve had, one was a student with no income (and more importantly, just an ass) and the other was on disability assistance because of his mental illness, so I was always the most responsible adult.
A lot of my can’ts revolve around work. It’s something I’ve struggled with quite a bit, but I’ve started coming to terms with the idea that it just is what it is, and trying to push myself isn’t helpful.
Another big area of can’ts is interpersonal relationships. With a single exception, I can’t do friendships (I’m referring to in-person, not online), not that I have the slightest bit of desire anymore to do so. I can’t have the kind of relationships with my family that I used to have. I have a hard time dealing with even basic interactions with people. If the grocery store did away with self-checkout that would be a major disruption in my life.
It seems I can’t go back to the interests I used to have. Eating out at a restaurant? It’s the equivalent of going through the cashier checkout at the grocery store.
I definitely appreciate my cans, but somehow the can’ts just don’t seem to want to fade entirely into the background. I guess with that kind of thing that acceptance is the way to go. It seems unlikely to change substantially any time soon, so best to let it be what it will be, and just keep on doing my cans.
How do you find balance between your cans and your can’ts?
For more on variability in functioning in chronic mental illness, check out the rainbow model.