Maintaining a positive attitude in life Yvette Hess blog

Maintaining a positive attitude in life sober and off psychiatric medication

You’d think that having a general ‘positive attitude in life’ would be easy. Especially now that you’re sober, right?

Well, not entirely.

Why life, why?

My first solo exhibition at the AVA Gallery is done and dusted. The official review was very well-received by my peers. I sold several works during the exhibition.

I got clarity and focus and even got a break from the family and life when I went to Cape Town for the week.

And then life happened.

positive attitude in life sad
Me. Not really. It’s a free image. I have red sheets and I don’t have shorts that fit at the moment. Let’s pretend.

Ag come on, life is always happening

Yes, I agree. Life is always happening. So?

How we react is always changing. It is influenced by the opinions of others, our mood (yes medically speaking too), society’s expectations of how we should be reacting and much more.

Then how do you know what would be the right reaction? How do you know what is normal or allowed?

I think over the years people have liked to place limitations on when it is appropriate to be angry or hurt or sad. They even went on further to say how angry/hurt/sad we are allowed to feel.

Things like, “Ah shame, that must be so sad, but at least he is providing for you and your family. Many people don’t have that.”

In an instant you:

  • you question whether your feelings are valid
  • you feel guilty for wanting better/ comfort/ happiness

Look, this can quickly become a different topic altogether but I wanted to give you something to think about before I move onto maintaining a positive attitude in life. Think about if you are genuinely after a positive, authentic attitude. Or are you making excuses for someone else’s behaviour or actions and not creating the life you really want to live.

Having a positive attitude in life despite the crap

When I say, ‘life happened’, I am referring to my personal life and relationships. Once you let go of all your coping mechanisms, like leaving alcohol and drugs, you really see things as they are.

There’s no sugar coating bullshit (whether this bullshit belongs to you or someone else).

And that’s real talk right there.

I promise you, once you see what has been going on, you will be disappointed. I’ll be honest and let you in on a secret. The longer I am sober, the more I see the crap I allowed in my life. And the longer I am sober, the less of the crap I allow and the louder I become about it.

In the same breath, I was intensely saddened by being let down by people I treasured. I was also so let down by allowing it. The disappoint really got to me, and it floored me at one stage.

There were many moments when I tried to tell myself, “Come on, you shouldn’t be this sad. At least this person didn’t physically hurt you.” or “Everyone gets hurt, get over it.” or “You’re overreacting.”

How the hell do you stay positive or life yourself up when you feed yourself bull like that?

It’s impossible.

I have an amazing group of friends and one thing that keeps coming up in our chats is “do what is best for you”.

And if that means be “befok” (Afrikaans slang for very, very angry), then do it.


Only once you really feel the feelings and work through each and every one of them, will you be able to move on or rather move through the tunnel.

Sometimes the tunnel is really long. It is scary because it’s dark and there are so many unknowns in the tunnel and even beyond. But you need to so the work (the walk) to get through it.

Because there is an end. There is an end to the excruciating of being let down by people we love. And guess what’s on the other side of that tunnel?

  • A deeper understanding of you and your needs that are non-negotiables
  • A much deeper appreciation for your resilience
  • Possibly broken relationships (but quality ones that remain)

Being positive in life, doesn’t mean “I’m going to smile through the nonsense”.

No, it means I’m going to cry because he/she hurt me. This after you acknowledge the full extent of your hurt.

It means I’m going to scream or whisper that I feel wronged.

Maybe it means you’ll own up on some of your wrongs too and apologize because it’s the right thing to do, FOR YOU.

Being positive and having a positive attitude in life means you are going to do everything you need to do towards the goal of feeling control. With that control, confidence will come. And we all know what will come from being empowered: FREEDOM and INNER PEACE.

Does it make a difference being sober when taking on something like this?

Yes! a 100 times YES!


I would have never been able to come to these realizations under the influence.

And by under the influence, I don’t mean drunk.

I mean, while using something (anything), to cope with the intense emotions when it comes to the major realizations and change processes I mentioned above. Anyone who has been through this process knows, it’s helluva draining.

We all use different coping mechanisms to get through it. To find strength and breathe before the next push.

But sometimes, these coping mechanisms can cloud our thinking or feeling. And this can most definitely take away from the learning experience.

My team of medical professionals has helped me get off my psychiatric medication over the past year. And we can celebrate that (whoop whoop) but as someone who does suffer from Bipolar Disorder.  Throw in some alcoholism, and we have the ingredients to ensure that going through traumatic times can be a nightmare.


I have violent intrusive thoughts. I suppose this would be manageable for most people because it is extremely common. But this does not help at all in making my life easier.

I suppose it shouldn’t be easier but sometimes I just want a break.

The point is this:

Taking responsibility for my learning and becoming the person I want to be, and live the type of life I want to live is part of having a positive attitude in life.

By being self-aware, I am taking responsibility for my pain and creating my own happiness.

Yes, it’s painful and uncomfortable. Yes, the images that manifest in mind created by overwhelming emotional pain disturb me.

Only you can decide what is best for you

But every day, I find the strength to not act on any impulses. I find the strength to try to make sense of the “why”. Every day I tell myself that my feelings and experiences are valid. I learned that I need to stay true to who I am for me. And if that means losing people or opportunities along the way, then so be it. That is best for me.

Feel your feelings and take on emotional challenges with a brave heart.

You don’t need to roar to be loud.

But you do need meow or something. You owe it to yourself. A positive life is an empowered one.

Have a look at the artworks I created on my 6 day break (from life and stuff) in my shop. The ones listed are available for sale. Some have been sold already.

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