I know that headline might make you pause, but I’m trying to be as honest as I can. I believe in self-care and I would really like to implement it more into my life. But after doing some scouring of the Internet to get to the root of what this buzzword means, I was left feeling a little empty.
On this blog, I feel like I’ve done a good job of telling a bit of my story and my experience living with mental illness. It is something I will continue to do, and I’m excited about some of the upcoming content I’m prepping, but I come to you today with a different question in mind. Continue reading
Since making the decision not to move, I’ve done some thinking about my life. It’s been some time since I’ve made a decision this big, and I feel the same pressure now that I’ve felt when I’ve made a big decision in the past. It’s a feeling of okay, I did this…now what? While making the decision is important, it brings with it all this brand-new, self-imposed pressure. Basically, since I’m not doing the specific thing, what can I do now?
I am not the type of person to only change one aspect of my life at a time. I often feel that when I make a change, it has to touch every facet of who I am and what I do. I don’t like this about myself, but I also know that it’s true. And I want to change.
I’ve hopped, skipped and jumped through my adult life in the three years since graduating college. Every move I’ve made has been done with an eye on making a different move in the future. I’ve never actually been settled in one place and felt at home there because I was always focused on where I’m going next. Instead of letting my life happen, I was trying to pigeonhole everything.
For the first time, I’m in a position where I don’t have a ‘next place’ that I want to go live. I’m just in the place I am now until something changes. But honestly, that part is key. I’ve never had that before. I’m in a spot where I just need to take my life day by day and figure it out. That might sound like a common thing for most people (I feel like a lot of you are reading this and thinking well duh…), but it’s never really hit me like that before.
I thought I would know where I was going in life before I got there – that’s how I’ve viewed things in the past. But maybe that’s not how it is. Either way, I’m learning to take things as they come and improve myself where I can. I’m going to work on making the pressure I put on myself dissipate. One way or another, my life is going to happen. Maybe I’ll understand it before it happens, maybe I won’t. But now, more than ever, I’m along for the ride.
Yesterday I missed an appointment with my psychiatrist. I got stuck in a meeting at work and by the time I reached the doctor’s office, I was too late. It’s easy (and obvious) to see why something like that would cause me stress. Heck, it would cause anyone stress. But while I was waiting to reschedule my appointment (to today, thankfully not too long!), I got rid of the stress. Or rather, the stress got rid of me.
It’s safe to say that life is pretty stressful. Every day brings its own challenges and decisions to make, and every single one of them can affect how the rest of your day goes. It’s enough to make anyone a little overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis. But what if those decisions weren’t such a big deal? What if everything wasn’t some huge decision. What if a choice was just a choice?
I’m sure a lot of you already know where I’m going with this – long story short, s*&% happens – but you might not know why, and why it’s so much easier said than done. I have a difficult time accepting when things don’t go according to plan. It’s not because I’m a perfectionist, though; rather, it has to do with how I view myself.
As I’ve said before, I don’t like myself very much. And so when I mess up, I assume people don’t like me because of it. Why? Because I don’t like me because of it, so I assume people must not like me either.
But that’s ridiculous, right? In my experience, few people get that upset when mistakes are made every once in a while. It gets more frustrating when it happens on a more common basis but for the most part, people forgive an innocent mistake. But I don’t see it as a mistake – I see it as a character flaw in myself.
Now we could talk all day long about why I view myself that way, but I think the more productive path would be to discuss the things I remembered that reminded me that it’s going to be okay:
- It’s going to be okay
- It’s not the end of the world
- Your life will go on
- These things happen
- It will work itself out
Now I hope in a future blog post I will be able to elaborate on these but for now, I’ll just say this: it’s one thing to say these things to yourself to make yourself feel better; it’s another thing to believe, really believe them.
I’m not saying I fully believe in any of those things in the long term. But I believed them today, and at that moment, and that was enough. That method of thinking got me through that moment and on to the next and got me to continue on with my day and my life. When you’re feeling stressed out I would take that phrase – s*&% happens – and add two more words to it. Stuff happens to everyone. We all go through it, and that’s one of the common experiences we have as humans. So maybe you made a mistake today. Maybe something went wrong. Do you need any more proof of your humanity than that?
I am currently plodding through work, wading through the vast amount of things I need to catch up on, and I’m fighting the post-vacation blues. I visited family in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend holiday and had a great time! As is typical with short vacations like this, I didn’t feel like I had enough time, but I really enjoyed seeing everyone being able to soak up the beginning of summer. Continue reading
This weekend, my laptop broke for the third time in three years. Since the reason I bought it was that I thought it’d be a reliable piece of equipment that wouldn’t break easily, I was pretty angry. First at the computer and at the company that manufactures it, which is understandable. But then I quickly turned that anger on myself.
I thought it must be my fault somehow. I must have done something, or forgotten to do something, and my carelessness is what led to my laptop breaking. I went to get it fixed yesterday (I should get it back this weekend) and the whole time I was at the store, all I could think of what how could you be so stupid? I could not get out of my head, and it really bothered me.
Now in the grand scheme of things, the situation isn’t all that bad. The fix will cost me some money (more than it should, but that’s a whole other issue), but in the end, I will be okay and my life will go on. But to me, it’s minor setbacks like these that are some of the most dangerous to my mental health.
Why are they such a big deal? Because they make me reexamine my actions, which is one of the last things an anxious person wants to do. I spend all day thinking about the choices I make, the words I say and the things I do. I don’t need another replay of a mistake I made; nothing good will come from it. I’ll only dig myself into a deeper hole and chalk everything up to how stupid I am. In this scenario, I suffer mentally and not only does the situation not improve, but I do not either.
Getting Past a Minor Setback
How do I get past a setback like this? Repetition, repetition, repetition. It’s worth telling yourself that it’s not the end of the world, that it will be okay. But only saying those things once means that they don’t have any staying power. Repeating these positive thoughts is a good way to have them take up more space in your head than negative thoughts. I’m not guaranteeing success (I know from experience), but I would say it’s worth trying. Like any other skill, you get better at it over time. While I’m not where I want to be with this repetition, I’m in a better space than I was, and it’s been super helpful.
I also view setbacks as an opportunity to spend more time doing something else. Instead of focusing on the closing door, I look around to see what door is now open. In this specific case, I don’t know what the open door is, but I do know from experience that it exists. It might not always be what we expect, but it can be better than we ever imagined.
Again, this is my advice for minor setbacks – the things that happen in our everyday life that can get under our skin. There are major things that happen that can really set us back, which are much more difficult to process and deal with. But in most cases – like with my laptop – things aren’t as bad as they seem. The sun will rise. Life will go on.
A setback doesn’t make you a bad person, and I hope you don’t let yourself believe that it does. You have so much more going for you than a broken laptop, a flat tire or bad day at work. It might not always feel that way, but it’s true. It’s not how we fall, but how we get back up that defines us (that’s a cliche for a reason). You’re allowed to be upset, to be annoyed, but don’t let those feelings dictate your mood for too long because eventually, that will become who you are. And you’re a better person than that.
How do you deal with the little setbacks that happen to you during the day? Let me know in the comments!
Last year I wrote a post about wanting to know what the good things in life were. Not necessarily big-picture stuff or something life-changing, but moments that you look back on and think man, that was good. I had one of those moments this past weekend, and I’d like to share it with my readers because it affected me in an interesting way.
This past weekend I celebrated the engagement of my brother and his fiance, two fantastic guys who have shown me a lot about what it means to be in a loving relationship. They came in from out of town, and we had family and friends over to celebrate their engagement. It was a wonderful day and I enjoyed myself.
But, as often is the case when I enjoy myself that much, I felt guilty once it was over. I felt guilty because, in my head, I didn’t deserve to feel that happy. One of the lies my brain tells me is that I don’t deserve the good things that happen to me. I’m not talking about a relationship or a promotion, but something as simple as being happy for one day. I feel like I’m not allowed to have a ‘good’ day unless I have a string of ‘bad’ days to balance them out (and yes, that is something I will need to work out in therapy).
With this mix of happiness and guilt swirling about, I felt confusion and anger toward myself. I felt like I was ruining another good moment and would not remember the good time I had, but the anxiety surrounding the event.
But then I remembered what my brother said right before people started to come over before the event. He said that everything could go wrong and it wouldn’t matter. Things could break, the food could burn – he didn’t care because he was with people that he loved and who loved him back.
Whether it’s biological or not, the concept of family is extremely important. Having people who are in your corner for every success and failure, who love you no matter what – that is a rare and beautiful thing to have in this life. Whether they’re family by choice or by blood, the result is the same, and it’s something worth celebrating.
I had a good moment in my life, and I will not let my anxiety ruin it. I’m going to lean on the people who love me to get through this moment and on to the next one. Because while I don’t always know what’s next for my mental health, I know who I have in my corner. And that helps me remember the good moments all the more.
Yesterday I went for a run. I hadn’t gone on a run in more than a year, and I was nervous as to how I’d feel after, physically and mentally. Since I have a bad back, my preparation for physical activity is more involved than most, and I don’t always know how my body will react to certain workouts. But I also know the benefits of exercise go beyond the physical, so I wanted to see if this was something I could get back into. And it was...incredible. I didn’t break any records or move at the speed of light, but I was proud of my effort. But then came the hard part – the recovery.
The recovery is where workouts have a tendency to affect my mental health. When my back hurts after a long workout, I immediately tense up and think that it’s the end of exercising. I lose all the confidence I gained during my workout, and feel worse about myself than I did before I started. Then comes the negative self-talk about how I’m a lesser person than I used to be. It doesn’t take much to spiral from there, and all of the benefits of exercise get washed away in a cloud of depression.
As the adrenaline continued to flow after my run, I knew a crash was coming. And sure enough, when I woke up this morning I could feel it. I was sore all over, and my back was incredibly stiff. The negative thoughts began to pop into my head, one after another. Thoughts that I could never run again, that it was a stupid idea to start with. I was crushing myself hours after feeling better than I have in a long time.
How did I get out of this mindset? Well, to be honest, I didn’t. This post doesn’t have all the tips to stop negative thoughts – you might have to read another post for that. But I wanted to share that in spite of the negative thoughts, I was able to do something that I’d long considered impossible for me to do. I’d like to start running on a more regular basis – twice a week is my goal – but for now, I’d like to revel in the fact that I was able to go for a run at all. That despite what I tell myself, I’m still able to accomplish a great deal.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words,’ right? But have you ever used that phrase in regards to the words you tell yourself? In this case, my actions (running) spoke louder than my negative words. I just went out and did the thing.
Sometimes it’s more complicated than that, but sometimes it’s not. I had a goal and, rather than think about it, I went ahead and did it. The success was not in how well I ran, but that I ran at all. Don’t ignore the little victories in life; they add up. Whether I start running as much as I want or never run again, I will always be able to look back on this little victory as a time where I did something. That might not sound like much, but it’s enough for me.
What are some of your favorite little victories? I want to know!
Guilt almost ate me alive last week – I’ll explain. I didn’t wake up on time for work and was about an hour and a half late.
That’s it! That’s all that happened. It wasn’t fatal to my job, and I got all my work done that day. But I felt very guilty about it. And it took much longer than it should have to make that guilt go away.
Why did I feel guilty? A more accurate question would be why did I not feel guilty? I felt like a bad employee and that I let my team down, which consequently led me to think about the worst-case scenario of the ramifications of my actions. I felt lazy and unreliable and perceived my lateness as a character flaw. I didn’t look at being late as a rare occurrence but as an indicator of who I am as a person. Is that true? As I came to realize, it is not, and that is not who I am.
I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone in this experience. Guilt plays a much bigger role in our lives than I’m sure we want – at least, it does it mine. If guilt doesn’t affect you, please let me know how you’re able to exist in this way because I am all ears on that topic.
But let’s say you’re like me, and feelings of guilt are hard to get rid of. How do you get rid of them? I came up with three things I continued to repeat to myself until my guilt subsides.
This is not who you are – you are more than this
This is my favorite of the three things because, as I wrote earlier, my guilt comes from the fact that I believe my mistakes – even if I only make them once – are all character flaws. Reminding myself that there’s so much more to me than what I feel guilty about is a reminder that I am a complex person who is not defined by any one thing – good or bad.
Is it really that bad?
I’ll be honest; sometimes the answer to this question is ‘yes.’ Sometimes we do things that are just as bad as we make them out to be. But the reality is that our guilt permits us to make things out to be much worse than they are. Was being late to work one time, after not being that late all year, really all that bad? In the grand scheme of things, maybe not.
Who does this effect?
Another way my guilt becomes exacerbated is that I think that so many people will suffer from my mistakes. Did I miss a meeting when I was late? No. Did someone need me during the time I was missing? They did not. In reality, this situation affected me and my boss, who was wondering where I was, and no one else. The office didn’t come to a halt; people moved on with their day. Sometimes our guilt can make us think that our mistakes are the end of the world – oftentimes, the opposite is true. Most of my mistakes only affect me, if I’m being honest. That minimizes the impact of my mistake and gives me a good perspective to look from.
I don’t have all the answers. I continue to feel guilty about plenty of things – mistakes or not. But taking steps to assuage your guilt and remind yourself of who you really are, and that you’re more than one or two bad choices, is key to overcoming the debilitation that guilt can produce.
What’s something silly that you’ve felt guilty about? I want to know!