How To Succeed In Life When Your Grasp On Reality Is Tenuous

Today’s song is Anything Is Possible by Anointed, a ‘blast from the past’ (1999)–or maybe not, if you abhor late-90’s radio-friendly gospel/CCM. This song helped me, maybe it will help you too.

Disclaimer: This post talks about mental health. I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. Do not take any of this as medical advice. If you are severely depressed, have severe anxiety, or any of the other conditions I am describing, get medical help, or schedule a doctor’s appointment with a reliable local psychologist or psychiatrist. Do it today. 

Probably you know this already, but I am still recovering from a nervous breakdown I had several years ago. The ups and downs I talk about on this blog come as I am still trying to sort through what is reality and what is not. 

You’d think that an adult male in his late 30’s would have a grasp on reality–so what am I talking about? It has to do with actual reality versus what my body and emotions are telling me–and before you laugh, this is what I experience on a daily basis. Every day I have to sort through what I am hearing from myself. It’s not voices and hallucinations like A Beautiful Mind–I used to hear voices before I took medication, but that’s been under control for quite some time. What I’ve learned over time is that I’m hearing from my subconscious: my physical body and my emotions, and I have to filter that based on what I have learned, based on personal experience, casual study in abnormal psychology, and Scripture.

photo-1422651355218-53453822ebb8Below is a brief description of different ‘realities’ that I might experience, sometimes once a week, sometimes all in a day, depending on the day. Some days are good, some are bad. I’m working on having more good days than bad.

Feels vs. Reals

Feeling: I despise what I’m doing, and I wish I could find a better job I didn’t hate.
Reality: There’s nothing wrong with my job. I have high anxiety today, for some reason, and I’m slightly depressed. Maybe I forgot to take my medication, I drank too much coffee this morning, or I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

Feeling: The world is over. Completely. There is no hope whatsoever. I feel like clawing my skin off, because living inside my body is complete hell, and I wish I could escape.
Reality: I’m struggling with extreme anxiety that usually has to do with medication–I didn’t take my meds, or I need to take a little extra, as prescribed (with two of my medications, I have a little leeway from my psychiatrist in that I can take an extra pill as needed). Another disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Take your medication as prescribed. 

Feeling: Nothing I write is good enough. I want to write, but I can’t think of anything beyond a post title, or suddenly it seems meaningless and I have to drop it.
Reality: I’m depressed. If my medication is OK, then I need to try traditional remedies such as exercise, good music, and helping other people, until I feel better. If I can write, that’s good, but if I don’t feel that creative spark, it’s not the end of the world if I have to take a day or a week off until the funk is over and the spark returns.

Feeling: I wish my life were better. I wish I had done x many years ago and life would be so much better now.
Reality: Mistakes were made. Life will never seem optimal if I am thinking about it the wrong way. I just need to make sure I’m taking care of my health and medication, and if I am feeling good, I will get creative ideas on little things I can change in order to make a better future for my family and myself. If I’m not feeling good, I need to sort through it–and in the meantime, God will hold everything together while I’m sorting through things.

The dumb thing about recovering from mental health issues is that it’s like coming off a drug trip without having gotten the benefits of the drug trip. At least I assume it is–I’ve never tried any sort of illegal drugs. I have enough trouble with legal medication, getting everything balanced with the help of my psychiatrist.

Fiction vs. Reality

While you’re recovering, you have to learn what reality looks like–to sense what your body and emotions are telling you and contrast that to what is actually happening around you.

With anxiety, the world feels like a deep, dark, dangerous place, and that everything is coming to an end–when the actual reality is that you have a pretty good job and things are going OK.

With paranoia, everyone, even your loved ones, are criticizing you, or looking at you funny, or your boss thinks you have bad performance, even though nobody has said anything to confirm these feelings.

With depression, there is no hope and nothing will ever get better. You’ll never be able to write or sing or do anything creative again. Life is hopeless and there is nothing anyone can do about it–even though none of this is true. At all.

Good and Bad Days

On my best days, I’m able to use mindset tricks and positive self-talk to move forward in life. If I’m not happy, I can help myself out of it.

On the bad days, I need help. I don’t necessarily need to talk it out, because I’m in too much pain to say anything more than, ‘It hurts, pray for me.’ Above is my explanation of what’s happening. If I’ve taken my medication, then it’s time to weather the storm as best as possible–batten down the hatches and try my best, and eventually I’ll get through the day. Put on some good music, eat some chocolate, get a nap over lunch break, keep on working as best as I can, and I’ll get through the storm. Tomorrow will be better.


If you can learn how to sort reality from the lies your emotions and physical body will tell you, that’s one step towards succeeding in life. If you feel good, or feel better than you did, you can work on changing the reality around you for the better: improving your physical health or working on your budget. If you feel terrible, you can either talk yourself out of it using mindset tricks, or at least you can hold it together until things get better. They will get better.


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