Turn on the TV anytime and you can find amateurs and professionals with varying degrees of emotional snake oil sales gimmicks for helping you deal with the pressures in your life. Oprah has made billions pretending to be a psychologist and has launched the careers of myriads of self-help gurus. Arguably she has been an excellent proponent of self-care and has called attention to the plight of those struggling with mental health issues. I owe her a debt, I suppose. She and her bald friend, among others, have made going to a counselor fashionable. It is no longer taboo to see someone about your failing marriage or your personal problems. I fear, however, that the pendulum may swing too far now that obesity and anxiety, as well as depression and addictions, are now reasons to go on disability. While this may help some, many others will undoubtedly line up to exploit the opportunity to get ‘something for nothing’. Even more problematic is the reality that going on disability is often the worst thing some of these people can do. Every day at the addictions center where I work part-time I have to bite my tongue when another addict goes on disability in spite of the fact that their ailment is self-induced and some are looking, yet again, for a feel good solution to a difficult problem. Not working can be the absolute worst thing you can do in addiction recovery. We have known for generations that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.
Recently I read a great article on Cracked.com called, “You hate yourself because you don’t do anything”. It’s one thing to take time to address your problems. It’s another thing altogether when a recovering addict hasn’t worked in years and blanches when I suggest one of their problems may, just maybe, be that they have way too much time on their hands.
In counseling I often come across unemployed people who tell me they are too busy to do what I am suggesting they need to do to get better. I know this is politically incorrect but I often look them straight in the eye, screw up my most professional looking expression, and ask, “Are you unemployed busy or really busy?” Granted some people are doing many good things, but often those I run across will admit that they had to come to see me at ten and have to go to the Walk-In Clinic at three – they’re swamped. They have succumbed to a lifestyle that lacks productive routine and are not working towards re-engaging in society. We only have one life, one precious and finite life, to experience and contribute. Spending that life in poverty and boredom, when we had other options, is a tragedy that affects the generations to come. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a huge proponent for the plight of the poor and hurting. That is why I am so passionate when such a lifestyle is avoidable. Some people need to get off their ass and help themselves. No one cares about your problems as much as you do and this isn’t television – there is no knight in shining armor, no billionaire talk show host that is going to swoop down to rescue any of us.
I work in a Fibromyalgia/Pain Clinic and see hundreds of people every year who have been dealt the worst hands imaginable. I have patients who can barely move, let alone work. Every week I speak with the most amazing people who feel they have “lost their life” to terrible illnesses. Their courage to move forward, in spite of chronic pain, fatigue, and illness, is inspiring. Many have been abused by the medical system and offered horrible medical and psychological care. They would love to work again, run again, contribute again, but cannot. It is maddening how few of them are accepted for disability, and they are often subjected to the cruelest interrogation by insurance companies who belittle them and subject them to emotional and financial hardship. There is something wrong with a system that gives money to able-bodied twenty year-olds who are too lazy to work yet rejects someone who has legitimate and life-altering illness.
Personal growth is about movement. I am writing a book right now called, “How to Improve Your Life 52%”. Real change is about doing the little things. As I have said on many occasions, drastic change is rarely lasting. It is all about momentum, moving forward inch by inch, a little bit day-to-day. Maybe that means getting up at the same time every day. Perhaps that means listening to an audiobook on psychology or self-help. Some of us need to start down the road to reconciliation by making a phone call. You might need to put down that doughnut or only smoke ten cigarettes a day. The key is to get started – do something. Doing something little is always better than planning to do something big. Sometimes change starts by getting off the couch. You may not be able to do a hundred pushups but you can do one. Baby steps.
I think I will take my own advice and get up and stop writing…