I am a fan of the Netflix Sci-Fi thriller, Stranger Things. If you are not familiar with the show, imdb contributor Charles J. summarizes it this way:
In a small town where everyone knows everyone, a peculiar incident starts a chain of events that leads to the disappearance of a child, which begins to tear at the fabric of an otherwise peaceful community. Dark government agencies and seemingly malevolent supernatural forces converge on the town, while a few locals begin to understand that there’s more going on than meets the eye.
Supernatural forces create the Upside Down, a darkly shadowed alternative dimension that attempts to overthrow the natural world.
What does the Upside Down have to do with recovery?
I’m glad that you asked! The show’s characters describe the Upside Down as “the veil of shadows” and “a dark reflection of our world, a place of decay and death.” It a world without color, without sound or joy or hope. It is right next to you and you don’t even see it.
“The upside down world is like an invisible scar right there – inside of you – attacking you.”
Dustin McGinnis, cohost of the Superhero Therapy podcast series.
For some of us, our mind can turn the world dark and steal our hope, making us feel like we are trapped in our own Upside Down world. For you it may be alcohol, or drugs, or depression, or unrelenting anxiety. For others, it may be experiences with overwhelming debt, chronic pain, or isolation and loneliness.
We can feel frozen in our feelings, trapped by procrastination or by fear, with waves of thoughts and emotions that convince us that we cannot to do anything to help ourselves, or that we should just give up. When we feel frozen, trapped and weighed down, taking action can feel empty and in vain. And our fears gain traction because we can see that we are sinking deeper and deeper.
Where is the hope?
“Rebellions are built on hope.”
Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Hope is worth fighting for. One of the most challenging ways that our hope can come under attack is from the inside, from neglect. Complacency is like a Trojan virus, undermining our hope and our recovery. Keeping hope alive is not complicated, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold onto hope in our modern age. Hope is like bedrock for our well being.
The way of hope is rebellious. Comparison, jealousy, scarcity and self-judgment conspire to create an Upside Down inside of you that will convince you that there is no hope… give in… go ahead and use… you can’t do it.
Another tactic of the Upside Down is to confuse and complicate our recovery. At times, recovery can be very difficult but it is not complicated. Here are a few reminders I use to keep me on track with my own mental health recovery:
-Take care of yourself. Eat as well as you can, and sleep as well as you can… every day.
-Be respectful of others. Today.
-Work your recovery, every day. Invest effort, every day – especially when you don’t feel like it.
-Take a breath and think about what is happening, right now – inside of you. And then, be honest.
-Protect your hope through acceptance. Accept what you feel, and accept what you see. Accept how your behavior effects those you love. Accept that you can do something, today… (In other words, don’t accept that your past is the best predictor of your future.) and then do that something.
Most days I get pulled off course by thoughts, feelings or other distractions. Sometimes they are short lived but other times it takes real work to get my feet on the ground again. What I have learned is that if it’s complicated, I won’t do it (and that is probably reminder #6). Having simple reminders helps me me to check in and level out again.
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What about you? What helps you when you become pulled off track? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.
For a related post, see “Addiction: A simple path” I invite you to sign up for my blog by clicking “Follow Getting High on Recovery.” When you enter your email, you will get free access to the blog. I do not send spam or share your email with anyone.
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Keep it Real
Photo credit: Pakistan Times