I really don’t like to think about patience. To be honest, it kind of annoys me. The number of times I’ve been told to just be patient is far too many to count. Part of that is probably my mental illness, but the bigger part of it is just me being a person. As a concept, “practicing patience” has always confused me. Maybe I don’t understand it as a concept – there are a ton of things I don’t understand as concepts, to be honest – but I have no idea of how to put it into practice. Nevertheless, I continue to try and be patient in my day-to-day life. Short-term, it’s frustrating and can sometimes trigger my anxiety. But long-term, it’s helped me find peace where I can find it and build a more sustainable plan for mental wellness.
That being said, it’s probably no surprise that the phrase patience is a virtue doesn’t always sit well with me. It’s not that I don’t believe in it, but I haven’t done a great job of creating a patient attitude, and that attitude has persisted despite my attempts to shift it over time. That’s pretty common for me, and mostly because of my many failed approaches to get rid of mental illness.
When I was living to get rid of my mental illness, patience only existed in one way. I told myself that I needed to be patient, because one day the depression would go away. As I’ve said many times before, not only did this misguided approach not get me anywhere, but it also created unrealistic goals for how to live with my anxiety and depression.
Now, patience means something different for me. The way I approached patience used to be as a last resort, as something to preach on when I didn’t know how else to manage my depression. Be patient, I’d tell myself, this will all be over soon. For so long, my approach to patience was all about being patient with what was happening to me. When it came to patience, I rarely looked inward. Now that I have, things look different than they used to.
For what that’s worth, it doesn’t mean things are better or worse – but my approach is healthier than it used to be. Patience is still a virtue, and I don’t like how much I have to practice it. But I also know that working on building this healthier habit will improve my mental health. Whether or not I admit it, I know it’s true. And practicing patience with a healthier goal in mind can make a massive difference.
When I practice patience now, I try to focus on myself. I look inward. I’m not being patient to rid myself of mental health struggles – I’m being patient to have enough energy to go another round with anxiety and depression. It takes the time, the when the goal is to find enough energy and strength to fight mental illness, it’s interesting how much more value I see in being patient. I still don’t like it – but then again, there are a lot of things people don’t like that help better their lives. Might as well see where it goes, right?
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