How Busy Should I Be?

Things are very busy in my life right now. Between my job and an online course I’m taking, I feel like I haven’t had time to myself in quite awhile. I know I should be more annoyed by that fact, but I’m not…and it has a lot to do with my mental illness.

When my mind is occupied, when my life is busy, things are good for me mentally. I go from one task to another focused and in control and, though it is exhausting, it keeps my mind at ease. When I am not as busy, however, is when things can take a turn. My mind wanders, and not in the fun, daydreaming type of thinking that can happen when you don’t have much to focus on. I don’t like going there, but when I am not busy it’s almost a force of habit to have negative thoughts.

So, where does this leave us? Should I stay busy forever? That could be a possibility. Keep my days full with activities and things to do, and then I never have to confront my anxiety and depression again. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But I don’t think it’s possible for me. As an introvert by nature, I need time to recharge after doing things with people, so I can’t feasibly be as active as I would want to be – it’s simply not possible.

I wrote about this a few months ago about having alone time, and why I was afraid of that. I’m less afraid now, but there’s something that’s still stopping me from being alone, something that I’ve been conditioned to think after years of being crippled by depression. When I am alone, I am unable to do things. I don’t go out alone, I don’t go on walks alone, I don’t just hang out alone.

For the longest time, when I was not busy that meant I was depressed, and so I could not do anything by myself. While that can still be the case, it is not the norm for me as it once was. It sounds weird for me to say, but sometimes I don’t have anything to do and I’m not thinking about how much I hate myself. And that is when I truly do not know what to do.

So what do I do now? How do you pass the time when you don’t have anything to do. I want to hear from you!

I Need a Morning Routine

Getting out of bed in the morning is one of the hardest things I have to do every day. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it’s true. When the morning comes and I’m in my bed, the only I urge I have is to stay there. Sometimes this is for a normal reason (I’m tired, comfortable, etc.) but sometimes the reason is…not so normal. Next to bedtime, the morning is when I have my worst self-talk, self-hate, and the most likely time that I think about how pointless my life is. What a way to start the day!

Early to bed Early to Rise...I wish!

I think one of the reasons it’s so difficult to get out of bed in the morning is my lack of a morning routine, or ritual that I go through when I wake up. There are so many things that a person can do when they wake up to give them a jump start on the day, but the simple act of getting out of bed can be so difficult and tortuous for a mentally ill person that they are not mentally prepared to do anything but the requisite of dressing and leaving their home. Some days, even doing that is a victory.

But I would like to start doing a morning routine. I think that every attempt to improve mental health does not go to waste. Even if I do not meet my goal of doing my morning routine every day, it gives me something to strive for, which is what I’m currently lacking. Any attempt to better myself, whether it’s a success or not, is good for my mental health (and might be good for yours too!)

As I try to piece together what I hope to be my morning routine, I want to hear what you do in the morning to help you get ready for the day ahead. I could definitely use the ideas!

Just Do It

I’m really happy that I’m writing these words. Sometimes when I get too busy with life, certain things fall by the way side. Sometimes it’s my hobbies, or maybe my friends. Once in a while this blog can take a hit because all of the things I’ve got going on. And this week would have been an easy week to do so. I’ve been traveling for work so it’s understandable if I maybe didn’t put out a blog post this week.

_The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing._ (1)

But for some reason, that wasn’t good enough for me. I realized how much joy has been brought to me by working on this blog, and even though I don’t know what it’s going to be or where it’s going to go, it makes me excited to share my words, and my experience, with you – all of you.

So I knew I needed to write a post this week. Even though I’m working 14-hour days this week and am exhausted at the end of the day, I knew that writing this post would make me feel good, so I did. Maybe I don’t have more to say this week than that, but I feel like I needed to say it anyway.

It’s important to do what makes you happy even when you don’t necessarily feel like it. If you can power through and make it to the other side, it will be worth it. I’m not promising that you’ll always power through, but I will tell you that when you can, when you’re able, it’s beautiful and wonderful and one of the things that makes life great. And writing that down, to me, was worth sharing.

The 5 Second Rule

I spend a lot of time listening to different motivational videos and speeches, often when they’re compiled together in an inspirational YouTube video that makes me want to tackle a bear. It was in one of these videos that I heard about something called the “5 Second Rule” (and no, I’m not talking about food that falls on the floor).

As it turns out, the 5 Second Rule comes from someone named Mel Robbins. You can find the entire post here, but what it boils down to is this, according to Mel:

“If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.”

That sentence resonated with me for a few reasons when I realized how much that could impact my life – and my mental health.

Like most people, it’s hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. There are many reasons for this. We’re tired, we’re comfortable, we just want to stay in bed all day. More often than not, my reason is a bit darker, which leads to me not wanting to get out of bed and exist that day. Some days it takes every bit of strength I have to get out of bed and get dressed be ready for the day. So these five seconds that Mel is talking about, these five seconds that can make or break me getting out of bed, are HUGE. Monumentally huge.

These five seconds she’s talking about? They could change my day. And if I change my day? One day at a time, I could change the way I do things. The way I think. The way I live. Yes, this is quite a leap and a bound I’m taking, but it is possible. And that type of hope, that hope of what is possible, is what drives me to be the best I can be – even when I think that the best I can be isn’t all that great.

So I’m going to try this 5 Second Challenge for the few weeks. Apparently, it helps if you count down backwards from five, kind of like you’re on a rocket ship set for outer space. I think I’m going to try that. I have a feeling that to make this work, you have to treat every day with equal importance – that it’s going to be the best day you’ve ever had. I hope that at the very least it will challenge me. To be my best and to strive for being my best self. And even if this doesn’t work out, to be resilient in the process.

Keep On Telling Your Story

I’m a huge NBA fan, so of course I was interested when I first heard about DeMar DeRozan’s interview with The Toronto Star. I’ve written in the past about how masculinity plays a role in the mental health conversation, so while reading the interview made me feel for DeMar (as it always does when I read about someone opening up about their struggles), it made me feel some hope that the mental health conversation can make its way into professional sports, an area where it has always been considered pretty taboo.

It’s no secret that when someone shares their thoughts on mental health, especially a celebrity or public figure, I want to let people know so that we can continue the conversation. Sometimes when someone speaks out it can be a drop in the bucket. But then Kevin Love wrote something for The Players Tribune (you can check it out here) about a panic attack he had earlier this season. His experience, though different from DeRozan’s, hit on the same notes, writing, “You learn what it takes to “be a man.” It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own.” These men are opening up about their mental health in a way that hasn’t really happened in the NBA before.

Love saying that he was partially inspired to share his experience because of DeMar DeRozan’s interview spoke volumes about stigmas can fade away once you realize you aren’t alone. Because of these two, another NBA player, Kelly Oubre of the Washington Wizards, opened up about his mental health as well, in part because of what Love and DeRozan had to say. This is important because it shows not only how powerful stigmas can be, but the chain reaction that can occur when someone speaks out about their own experience.

More power to these men, and I truly hope this is the beginning of the mental health conversation in the NBA.

 

Things Get Better…Right?

Whether I’m in a funk or not, I ask this question fairly often: are things ever going to get better? Whether it’s something good or bad, I tend to ask this question after big events or moments in my life. To me, things can always be better because – whether or not good things happen to me – I’m usually too sad, tired or anxious to see the good things happening around me, so by that logic they can always be improved.

It took me a long time, but I finally stopped asking that question when it occurred to me that it didn’t matter how things were, or how life was going. What mattered was how I felt about those things, and how I felt about life. And there’s where I realized there was a problem. I wasn’t asking are things ever going to get better; I was asking, am ever going to get better? And that’s the real question that scared me.

One of the first times I was in a psychiatrist’s office they told me I might not ever get better. That it was a possibility that I would have to live with this for a long time. That some people deal with their depression better than others. Granted, this was because I pressed them on these subjects and wanted their opinion, but the reality of the situation was heavy. I might not ever be 100 percent healthy again.

Don't Ask.png

Five years after that conversation, I’m still not sure. But I am able to discern the stark difference between my mental health and the external things in my life. I’m able to stop asking if things are ever going to get better because I recognize that I have some power over those things – maybe not the power to overcome them all the time, but the power to fight back.

No, you can’t win every battle with mental illnesses that you have. But you can live to fight another day, and sometimes that’s as good as winning; on occasion it’s even better than winning. Because you know things will get better, because they can start and end with you. And let me tell you something friends, that’s a feeling unlike any other.

I’m Alive (This is What is Looks Like)

Given my personality and life experiences, one of the most important things in my life is the need to feel truly alive. Depression can sometimes take me out of my own body and make me feel like I’m not a real human being. It can make me desperately crave those moments, those experiences that make me feel truly alive, more than most (at least that’s what I tell myself). I’ve spent my whole life chasing these moments, trying my best to recognize them and appreciate them when they occur. So that means on top of envisioning a future where I am not depressed, I see a future where I feel alive. That’s a problem for me.

Does that mean I feel truly alive when my brain isn’t racked with depression and anxiety? In a way, yes. At least in my experience it’s been that way. I know this because I’ve done some things and seen some places that are absolutely memorable, but if I am lost in a cloud of depression, the experience means less to me.

According to Psych Central this could be what is known as “existential depression” and honestly, that sounds about right. I do know that I’m at an age and a point in my life where existential crises happen nearly every day and – mentally ill or not – I know plenty of people my age are going through the same thing. How do we get out of this corner in which we’ve trapped ourselves? Sometimes it seems that there’s no way out. And oftentimes, that’s true. There isn’t one magical, cure-all that is going to change our life and make us ecstatic with the first few years of the real world. It’s taking the little things in your life and tying them all together that make up the fabric of your life, and it’s important now more than ever.

Luckily for me, I know what makes me feel alive. I know what makes me feel more human than anything else, and I am working toward that goal. However, it also took me 20 years of living my life before I experienced this freedom. My point? It takes time. And in my willingness to chase it again, I know what I am after. And while it doesn’t make me necessarily feel alive, it helps me deal with my mental health issues, which for me is saying a lot.

Note: I stole the title of this post from a song I like. Give it a listen to brighten your day!

Enjoying the Good

When I am feeling particularly depressed, sometimes I’ll think about the future. Nothing specific really, just general futuristic vibes as I try to envision myself being happy. I try to use it to cheer me up, to think to myself that somehow, some way, I can be happy one day. But it always revolves around me being somewhere or doing something. Oh if I lived there I’d definitely be happy I’d think. If I had that job there’s no way I wouldn’t be happy all the time. It’s a dangerous game that I play to try and cheer myself up, but the flawed logic has started to take a toll on me.

The truth is, I don’t know if I’d be happy then. I’ve done that many times in my life. I think that if I do a certain thing or am in a certain place, then that will lead to my happiness. And when I get to that place, as if on cue, I am met with a familiar pestilent feeling: I’m not happy. Not even close. And then I get depressed.

This cycle has continued and on in every stage of my life. Graduating high school, going to college, graduating from college, getting a job, even starting this blog. This will bring me happiness I think to myself. And when it doesn’t, honest to God I still get a little surprised.

Wait, you must be thinking. Maybe inner happiness is what you’re after. And yes, that is true. I have read hundreds of passages and quotes that justify that thought. I know that happiness can come from inside me and the little things I do. That’s when I realized that sometimes, it’s not really happiness I’m searching for; I just want to feel good about things. I want to feel good about graduating from college. I want to feel good about securing a full-time job. When I look to the future I’m not worried about not being happy; I’m worried that I won’t feel good.

The inability to enjoy things (which is called anhedonia) can be a symptom of depression, so I’m not shocked that I don’t feel good most of the time. But I also want to change that.

I want to know what makes people feel good about life. Not what brings you eternal happiness or joy, but things or moments that you can look back on and say hey, that was nice. I think part of what depression does is make your view cloudy, making it hard to see the good in your life. So I’m going to begin to look for the good, and I’d like you to help! Comment below with some things that make you feel good. I’m hoping to take this week to try and come up with a few of my own, and hopefully together we can create a list of what makes life good and beautiful. I hope you can help!

 

Lost In My Mind

Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind…

Those are lyrics from a song by The Head and The Heart, and they’ve been stuck in my head all week because (if you can guess) I tend to get lost in my mind well…a lot. I used to think that it was a bad thing to get lost inside your head, but now I don’t see it that way.

and those... (1).png

There’s a phrase people use often when they get engrossed in their thoughts, that you’re “living inside your head.” For some people this can happen every so often when they’re nervous or anxious about life events. For me, it happens all the time – I feel like some days I take up a permanent residence inside my head, which isn’t usually a fun place to be.

I used be to afraid of living inside my own head. If you had the choice between being somewhere that brought out the best in you and somewhere that brought out the worst, you’d pick the first one, right? For a long time, it seemed that I only picked the latter – with disastrous results.

It was only recently that I got more comfortable with my thoughts – at least, some of the time. Once I began to realize that I had power over them, rather than my thoughts wielding power over me, my attitude changed. I’m not saying that I’m not afraid of my thoughts now, but I’ve taken a step in the right direction and am hoping that one day, I won’t be afraid to get lost in my head.

On this journey I’ve learned that every win, regardless of magnitude, is important. If this is the first step to being completely comfortable with my thoughts, that would be wonderful. If it’s not? That’s okay too. I spent way too much time trying to change the way I am instead of accepting certain things about me, and getting lost in my thoughts is one of those things. I think about all the negative aspects of living inside my head and forget about all the self-awareness and thoughtfulness that I’ve gained as a result.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all the time spent lost in my thoughts and though it isn’t easy, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know if I like the way I am, but I’m getting to be okay with it. And for me, that’s saying a lot.

 

Life Update!

Life Update

When I get into a rhythm, I tend not to keep track of what I’ve got going on. I ebb and flow from one day to the next, going through the motions of my day. While its nice to be in this rhythm because my mental health is in a decent place, it sometimes feels like I’m not really enjoying any aspect of who I am or what I’m doing. By providing a little life update I’m hoping for two things: 1) that my readers get to know me a little bit better, and 2) that I am able to take stock of some of what I’m doing in hopes of improving my long-term mental health.

So what’s new? My job is still going well; I’ve been at it for eight months, and it’s produced a ton of new challenges that make me have to think creatively about the messaging of what we do. Since I like to keep work life separate from my personal life I don’t elaborate much on here what I do, but it’s safe to say that I enjoy it very much.

I’m also back in school! Kind of. I recently started an online certification course to teach English as a foreign language, otherwise known as TEFL. After this 11-week course (and a practicum I have to fulfill) I will be TEFL-certified and can teach English anywhere in the world! I discovered my love for travel when I lived in Prague in college, and since I graduated it’s been my goal to figure out a way to explore the world – this is a great way to do that! While I’m not in any rush to go somewhere immediately, I’m glad that I will have the certification in hand so that when I decide to go abroad I won’t have to wait.

While these two things are taking up much of my time these days, I’m doing my best to continue doing the little things that keep my mental health strong. For me, that means exercising and working my mind by reading and playing brain games on my phone. I also like to cook for myself, and I go on walks when I can’t stop my anxious mind from working. I’m staying busy, which sounds good in theory, but I don’t know if it’s what’s best for me or my mental health (could that be the next post? Stay tuned!).

Overall, I am in a much better position than I was a year ago, when I was having panic attacks every single day and was unable to leave my bed. I hope as this blog continues that you will get to know me better, not only as a person with depression or GAD but as someone who is just like you. Isn’t that all people want, anyway?