The thing is, outside of my emotion fogged vision of 'how life should be', it's actually not easy for anyone. That little realisation has taken me so long to get to, it's not funny. We're all guilty of it; that conviction that 'everyone else' somehow is living a gilded, perfect life. The belief that 'if only...', my life would be problem free and perfect. As I have learned to deal with the nuclear emotional fallout from the combination of my biological predisposition and impact of social environments, I have learned to be less focused on my own storms and able to see more clearly the world and people around me. The grass is always greener...? Only if I am entirely focused on my internal struggles.
The impact of mindfulness is often described as suddenly feeling 'awake' to life in the here and now. For me, practising mindfulness and DBT skills is not about distancing myself from my experience of 'real' life. Rather, it is to replace coping mechanisms which cushioned me and separated me from both the environments and relationships I was living through. In a sense those skills which helped me survive trauma and the symptoms of mental illness, actually built a wall of 'bubble wrap' around me which became so deep that my emotional experience eventually became total 'numbness'. Recovery has meant that I am able to feel and experience life as it is. I do feel more aware and more awake to life more clearly. It is not distorted by either emotional responses which cause me to be terrified of my life experience, or those emotional responses which are so maniacally 'happy' that they deny the impact of real day to day difficulties which are part of life.
As I have moved from clinging on by my fingertips in the most terrible emotional storms, to a mix of calm and 'choppy' emotional experiences (ie 'normal' life), I have the energy to recognise more clearly life as it is in the here and now and, more importantly the emotional energy to cope with everyday ups and downs.
The picture I have in mind is the difference between the scenes from 'The Perfect Storm' where a small vessel is tossed about mercilessly and hopelessly on huge waves, beyond which it is impossible to see, to the kind of 'swell' which is more common, where waves can be felt and seen, but where the ultimate destination can be seen beyond. That is the difference between, 'before' and 'after' skills and learning how to use them to manage my emotions.
So, here I am at a time of year that is not the most uplifting, recognising that I am having a few 'bad' days. The difference for me now is that I can see beyond these days, that I am certain, 'this too will pass'. The other thing is that any fears I have that 'bad' days mean I am relapsing back to the previous 'Perfect Storm' days are unfounded. I have moved from merely surviving and existing, to a life which is meaningful and worthwhile. As long as I continue to build on the skills I have learned and use the helpful techniques that help me manage aspects of life that other people may take for granted, then my internal as well as external life will more closely reflect the life experience of most people.