If At First You Don’t Succeed…

This is a post about trying and failing. And trying again, and failing again. Trying and failing so often, in fact, that I’ve forgotten how many times attempts I’ve made. In some ways, this is a post about meditation (and I’ve written a few of those posts before). But it’s also a post about being resilient, and staying open minded. Most importantly, it’s about the valuable lesson I learned when it comes to mental health. If at first you don’t succeed…well, it might not always work. But sometimes trying again can be just what you need.

The inspiration for this post was reflecting on my relationship with meditation. The way I view meditation has ebbed and flowed over the years. When I first heard about it, I was hoping and praying I’d found a way to solve my anxiety. I read up on the benefits of meditation, the value and importance of the practice. I listened to people talk about mindfulness and give advice, and I learned what I could.

I did my best to learn what I could about meditation and the first time I decided to give it a real try, I failed. Spectacularly, I might add. It put me more on edge, and made me even angrier at myself. It was having the opposite effect, and this first attempt didn’t last long. I left meditation alone for a while after that. I tried other things to manage my depression and anxiety, doing my best to grow my mental health toolboox.

But at least once (sometimes twice) a year, I would try and come back to meditation. And it was a struggle for me every. Single. Time. In fact, it wasn’t until last year – after nine years of experiencing depression and anxiety – that meditation became part of my daily practice. And even that process is still ongoing, more than a year later.

There will be other posts where I reflect on the specifics around my journey with meditation. Today, though, I want to focus on my mindset. When I first learned about meditation, I was excited. I thought it would be an important part of my mental health toolkit.

As it turns out I was right, but not for the reasons I thought. The main reason I wanted to improve at meditation was that I thought it would help me “get rid” of my mental illness. If I could conquer mindfulness, I could stop my depression. And this problematic assumption didn’t solve a thing.

I wouldn’t say that it was my resiliency that led me back to meditation time and again. I felt resilient, but that wasn’t the main motivation in coming back to it. What pulled me back in was the idea that I’d had the wrong mindset about meditation in previous attempts. And that’s the lesson I’ve learned time and again in a decade of living with anxiety and depression.

There’s a famous saying: “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” that I’d like to add to. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – and if trying over and over isn’t working, that’s okay. But that what might not work for you today could be something that works for you in the future. We’re always changing and always evolving, and our mental health can be the same way. Sometimes, trying again is exactly what you need. Here’s hoping that second (or third, or fourth) try works in your favor.

Now I want to hear from you! What is something that took you awhile to learn, or took some time before you found success? Have you ever succeeded at something after failing in the past? I want to know! Let me know in the comments below.

"Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another, but by all means, try something." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
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Why February Always Gets To Me

The winter season has always been challenging for me. Over the years I’ve started to learn more about myself and my mental health which has made things a little easier, but I still feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle. To me, the months between November and March present a challenge I’m not always prepared to fight.

I’ve managed to figure out November and December (loving Christmas certainly helps) and January is starting to figure itself out, but February…I don’t get February. Because no matter how, no matter when, at some point during this month, I break. My mental health feels like it’s at it’s lowest point, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Why does February always get to me?

Don’t get me wrong; my mental health is a challenge all months of the year. But the characteristics of each month (or season, when I think about it) are often helpful or hurtful for my mental health. I’ve learned that I’m someone impacted by the weather, someone who likes having a few things to do but doesn’t need a packed schedule. Knowing what’s going on around me is important and when that’s not happening, I can get anxious.

So when I think about it, February really is the perfect amalgamation of a lot of these things. Weather that fluctuates between winter and spring (some years bring a blizzard, while one day last week saw the temperature reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit). There aren’t many holidays (depends on if you celebrate Valentine’s Day), and there’s a President’s Day holiday tossed in that gives most people a random Monday off – but not so many people you’re certain what’s going on. Couple these things with it being the shortest month of the year (and the Leap Year situation) and there’s just a lot I don’t understand.

It feels like things in February are just done arbitrarily, as though anything that happens this month could happen any other month of the year; we’ve just chosen this one. I know I’m being a little hyperbolic but also, this is a conclusion I’ve come to after multiple years of facing the same struggle. I hope one year I figure things out but for now, it’s just good to get my feelings out on what seems to be a challenging time of the year. Onward to March!

This entire post could just be a venting session about how much I struggle during this month, but I wonder if people feel the same way about a certain time of the year. Is there a week/month/season during the year that you feel like has your number? A time that you know is going to be super challenging simply due to the fact that it exists? I don’t know if I’ll always feel this way, but it’s how I’m starting to feel about February. Let me know in the comments what you think, I’d love to know that I’m not alone here!

When Mental Health Catches Us Off Guard

Life has its ups and downs, and mental health is no different. There are times when I feel like my mental wellness is in the best place it’s ever been. Other times…not so much. Most of my time is spent bouncing somewhere in between these two extremes, but highs and lows are part of life. I’m used to dealing with these highs and lows, but part of that familiarity is what I’ve learned from previous experiences. However challenging some things can be, it’s comforting when you know it’s coming. Sometimes I can feel my mental health slowly deteriorating, which is when I know it’s time to make some sort of change. Other times, I get caught off guard with moments of anxiety or depression, which is what I want to talk about today.

It happens a few times a week; sometimes daily. I’m in the middle of something – at the grocery store, doing some cleaning or organizing, even sitting around at home – and my body tightens up. I’m panicked, and I don’t know why. It’s not always clear what direction this pang of panic will take me in. Sometimes it’s the onset of an anxiety attack or a panic attack. Other times, it’s a reminder that I need to do some deep breathing, or need to slow myself down.

When mental illness manifests itself in several ways, it can be a challenge to determine what might be happening in a specific instance. It might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things but for people who get stuck on specifics, it can feel like a moment that never ends. Is it my anxiety? Is it my depression? Some other third thing? Does it even matter? In the moment, that thought process can quickly evolve into feeling overwhelmed, exacerbating my existing feelings.

There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” and that’s an apt description for my relationship to my mental illness. No matter how hard my mental health challenges get, I always feel slightly more hopeful when I know what I’m up against. When it comes to our health, we can have anxiety over fear of the unknown. If you’re already predisposed to have anxiety, that fear can run your life at times. When I don’t know what’s going on or how it’s affecting me, I can wind myself up even more – the opposite of what I was hoping to do.

I don’t enjoy when this happens but, like other aspects of my mental health, I grow in experience and knowledge every time it happens. Whether it’s grounding yourself or finding a way to get our of your head, you have options when it comes to being caught off guard. Wherever you are in your mental health journey, I hope you find what you need today!

Now, over to you! Do you ever feel like your mental health catches you off guard? What does it look like for you? Let me know in the comments!

Why My Mental Health Makes Me Feel Stagnant

It happens to all of us every now and then — at certain points in our lives, we feel stagnant. We feel like we’re doing too may things and not enough at the same time; we feel like we’ve accomplished so much, but at the same time haven’t accomplished anything of value. And while I have tried to figure out ways to deal with these feelings (keep an eye out for Thursday’s post!), today I wanted to write about how that makes me feel because here’s a secret: part of the reason I feel stagnant is because in many ways, my mental health is improving. And while that can be good, I don’t know what to do with that.

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Depression As a Default

When I was writing my post earlier this week about the trouble with being on autopilot mentally, I wrote that my autopilot state of mind can be full of depressing and negative thoughts. Even when I wrote that, I wasn’t sure what I meant. After further reflection, I realized I wanted to share more about how I experience depression by default, what it means and why I say it. Like many other areas of my wellness, I created that phrase to name part of my feelings and emotions over the course of my mental health journey.

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