Pinpointing the Problems

Note: This blog post, and the ones following, are Elizabeth’s personal story of living with schizoaffective disorder. She hopes that by sharing her story, she can help others who are also facing a mental health challenge.

Getting in a little cardio before my tightening and toning class gets the heart rate going, and I can break a sweat.  The first thought that popped into my head as I stepped on the treadmill was the phrase “tough as nails.”  If you know me, I really thought and dissected that phrase.  Am I?  Do I need to be?  What size nails are we talking about?  You get the picture.

Sometimes in this ultra-fast-paced 2017 world we take on this hard exterior to get through the day.  Is this the best way to get through the day?  Is this the best way of coping?  Is this what we need?

Perhaps softening our grip on life will open our mind to a lighter outlook on life, and tighten our connection to our self and others.  We shall see if we can work with pinpoint precision.

Nails come to a point much like a pin.  Of course we know they are used for building and need to be tough, or the roof over my head wouldn’t stay on the apartment I currently live in.

If we think of what makes up or builds up our life, we have:  family, friends, jobs, obligations to the community, and last but not least “me time.”

Day after day we go through the motions, and know we are tough by virtue of getting through our daily life, but are we thinking any deeper than that.  Should we?  Perhaps.

What about me?

As I was driving home from the gym, I heard the song “Stressed Out” by Twenty-One Pilots.  It was actually number one on the yearend countdown on Hits 1 channel of Sirius XM radio.  It got me thinking about how we really feel, and stressed out was number one on my list along with unhappy, no energy, unhealthy, and unsatisfied.  The song even states, “I wish we could turn back time to the good old days.”  Maybe instead of looking backwards for “old” hope we can look forward, and deal with today in a different, possibly better way.

Part of looking into how we feel is carving out the “me time.”  Something we all desperately need:  a time to think and discover.

Now that you know how you feel, you may be asking why do I feel this way.  There are numerous reasons we toughen up or tighten our grip on the world around us.  Some of those reasons maybe:  obligations not met by others, expectations not met, loss of sleep worrying, nothing to look forward to or feeling of being stuck, or not taking care of your whole body (mind included).

How can we get out of this state or situation?  What will soften our approach to the world around us?

Pinpointing has much to do with getting to truly know yourself.  What is it that makes you tic?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  What are your likes and dislikes?

Now after we scratch the surface we can begin to dig deeper.  What is my purpose?  What am I devoted to?  Who am I devoted to?  How do I react when I am acted upon or my life is acted upon?  Do I experience a full range of emotions or moods in any given week?  Do I ignore how I feel or try to address it?

By searching for a deeper connection to yourself, you can better understand you, and see how you can work to improve your life.  What is important to you?  What do you care about?  What is it that is going to make you stop and think about your life more in order to deal with things better?  We have so many stressors in our life that we deal with each day, but what are the most important stressors to give weight to?  Learning to deal with what we have been given takes a conscious effort of thought and planning.

Since I have a mental illness, I spent a great deal of time trying to isolate or focus on the problem.  Each issue had to be linked to a starting point that eventually led to the end result of feeling poorly.  Each major thought I saw not only as negative, depressed, upset, in between , happy, or positive, but why?  What was the origin?  How was it made or produced?  Finding ways of cultivating more positive thoughts or less negative thoughts was my objective, depending on whether the thoughts were good or bad.

In order to focus on the problem, we need to allot time to slowly step outside our accepted way of thinking, away from medicine taking care of it all or going on autopilot, but rather we have the power and control.  Slowly start to see our major thoughts or patterns that overtake our mind, and color our thinking.  See it for what it is: good, bad, or indifferent.

Now translate a why statement.  Understand the issue by looking at the smallest of points or measures, and how that leads to bigger issues or continuous thought patterns.  How does one notion start changing our day, dampening or brightening our week, or softening or toughening our exterior?

This may seem too gentle or small, but perhaps we all are very fragile.  We need to treat our mind and body with the utmost level of care if we want to feel the best we can.  If we were gentler to ourselves how would we feel?  If we were gentler to others how would we feel?

Next we look at the origin.  Did I do it to myself?  Was someone acting upon me or in my life?  Was it “just my mental illness”?  How had my situation changed before these thoughts?

These are important questions to ask not to find someone to blame, but to better understand how I am affected by myself and my surroundings.

Finally, we must cultivate more or less of these thoughts.  How do we eliminate or reduce these thoughts or thought patterns?  Why is this the typical reaction I experience in these types of situations?  How can I change that?  What can I do to help?  How do I help others to change their behavior toward me?

All of these are very good questions that get us thinking, but what do we really need to do to cultivate more or less?  First, we need to work on building our self confidence and self esteem.  When we value ourselves we value others more.  When we treat ourselves better, we treat others better.  We can be gentler because we act in love, not in defensiveness or hate.

Second, we need to take ownership of one’s life or responsibility for one’s life.  This is it.  This is your life.  Make it what you will, and hopefully your will is of good intentions.

Third, we need to know there is hope.  Believing in something more than just us creates community in our beliefs and gives us a cause.  We see hope each day as we have those good moments.  We can share in the hope that is available to us.  How do we extend moments to minutes?  We believe we can.

Finally, knowing life can be better for all of us tells us it is possible.  We are human, and we want to know and strive for something possible.  Each small change in everybody can make big impacts for all of us now and over time.

All of the pinpointing is a type of “me time.”  It is helping us think and process our lives, so we can approach each day with a better attitude and understanding.  You may say this isn’t “fun” me time, but with time we train ourselves to do this with not much time taken or extra effort exhausted.  Doing this makes our fun time better because we are not dragged down by negative thoughts.  We cannot eliminate all our stressors, but we can deal with each one better so that we feel more accomplished and satisfied in our daily life.

Throughout the process of pinpointing our problems, you may have realized toughness is not always what wins.  What about quick wit or intelligence?


Lightening our grip from “tough as nails” to something a bit more fashion forward, or might I say gentler, will pay dividends to our future together.  Our need is to contemplate or really think, and not gloss over our problems the way we speedily swipe through our social media.  Diving in and dissecting our thoughts gives us a deeper connection to ourselves, and helps us understand the connection to the world around us.  If we want to feel better, it is helpful to think with pinpoint precision to target what ails us.

About Elizabeth:

My name is Elizabeth Schmalzried. I am from Wabash, Indiana. I graduated from Indiana University in 2004. I was a member of the Women’s Golf Team at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) during my four years in college. I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder in March 2008. I have been through a great deal with my mental illness, and continue to manage my mental illness in recovery. I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in October 2016, and hope that my contributions to this blog will be relatable and help others who have similar struggles. I enjoy working out, reading, listening to, and watching the news, golfing, cooking, volunteering, watching sports, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

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