Symptoms, coping, meds, side effects, appointments, self-monitoring, web searches: the trees are tall. So tall, in fact, that it’s easy to lose sight of the forest. And how are we supposed to get better if we don’t know where we are?

‘Are my decision-making and actions in line with my goals?’

The year was 1546. English writer John Heywood published a collection of proverbs entitled A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the englishe tongue compacte in a matter concernyng two maner of mariages, made and set foorth by Iohn̄ Heywood.

One of his epigrams is “You cannot see the wood for the trees.” He also coined “This hittith the nail on the head.”

The trees

The trees can be tall, thick, and overwhelming in our neck of the woods……

  • “Dang, I feel so flat today. What am I supposed to do with that?”
  • “I thought meds made you feel better. All I get are side effects.”
  • ”How am I going to pull myself together to make my therapy appointment tomorrow?”
  • ”I have a conference with Emma’s teacher tonight. What if derealization decides to make an appearance – again?”
  • “I spend most of the day self-monitoring and running my findings by Dr. Google. It’s become a vicious cycle.”
  • “Just how am I supposed to put a day together when I haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in a week?”
  • “Okay, that’s it. I can’t take this crap anymore. Either it goes or…”

If you’ve dealt with a mood or anxiety disorder for any length of time, you’re all too familiar with trees. You’re also aware of how they can quickly become life as you don’t want to know it.

The big picture? What’s that?

And through it all, others just don’t know or understand what you’re experiencing.

The forest

depression and anxiety relief

“So that’s where I am – pretty. Hmm, go figure.”

Consistently keeping an eye on the forest is crucial. Say you were doing some planting in your most prominent garden. There you were digging and cramming bushes and flowers into holes. I mean, breathing hard and sweating, you were an animal.

But you know what? You never lifted your head. And when you finally did, you saw crooked rows and an asymmetrical disaster.

We can’t allow that to happen. And the only way I know to prevent it is with discipline, lists, and repetition.

8 points of focus

To get you started, here are eight points of focus, add or delete as you’d like. Really, I could have said points of redirection.

As you review them, keep in mind that a list won’t do you any good if it isn’t easily accessible. Yes, some of them assume you have goals (nudge).

When it’s time to check in, ask yourself…

  1. “What are my recovery goals?”
  2. “Where am I regarding my goals right now?”
  3. “Are my decision-making and actions in line with my goals?”
  4. “Am I taking good emotional, mental, and physical care of myself?”
  5. “How are my relationships with family members and friends?”
  6. ”How am I doing at work or school?”
  7. “Am I able to look in a mirror? What are my feelings when I do?”
  8. “Why am I alive?”

Now that you have a list, it’s on to discipline and repetition. To that end, you need to ensure easy access and determine how often you’ll commit to reviewing it.

Hittith the nail on the head

We know managing a mood or anxiety disorder is a herculean task. Hey, I’m all for nose to the grindstone – as long as we regularly lift our heads to take in the view.

In our world, we’re well-acquainted with trees. But the forest is often alien. And that can’t go on.

As John Heywood said, “This hitteth the nail on the head.”

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