Sometime last year, I wrote about the post-vacation blues. I’d just gotten home from a trip to Texas and even though I go there every year (sometimes more than one), I was particularly down. Fast forward to this week: I once again visited Texas, and when I returned from my trip I felt a little bummed out. There were two key differences here, though. The first difference is that I was in Texas for my twin brother’s bachelor party (!!!), which of course is something I’ve waited my entire life for (being a twin). The second difference is that this time, while I am a little bummed out, it didn’t hit me as hard this week as it did then. And I’d like to expand on that second difference.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘influence’ this week and what it means to me. That word gets tossed around all the time now because of the term ‘influencer’ but honestly, the reason an influencer goes by that term is accurate. If an Instagram influencer posts about an ad or a product, they’re doing so because that company recognizes their influence and knows that what they say matters to tons of people. And while not everyone might have an audience of thousands or millions hanging on to our every word, we all have some sort of influence on others. But the thing is, we don’t always know in what way.
A few months ago, I finished completely weaning off the meds that I’ve been taking for depression and anxiety for the past two-and-a-half years. I’ve written about the process before, but when it comes to the end result, I couldn’t write about it all in just one post.
To be honest, that result will be ongoing, as a person’s mental state is not linear, and I’m no different in this situation. I will say that as of right now, I don’t feel an immediate need to go back to my medication. That’s all I was really looking for in the first place, so I consider that a win. However, there have been some side effects of being off meds completely that have affected my life in ways that I wasn’t expecting – one of which is that I am very tired all the time.
Writing last week’s post about my constant worry made me think of plenty of things (not hard to imagine, right?) But since this isn’t a therapy session, I didn’t want to dive into figuring out why this happens. What I thought would be more helpful is sharing what I’ve done to combat this constant worry since I don’t think I’m alone here. Regardless of any diagnosis, plenty of people deal with this issue. Obviously, some have it worse than others (hello!), but we can all use the same strategies to overcome the problem.
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.
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.
Things have been very strange for the past month. Not happy or sad, good or terrible, difficult or easy. Just very, very strange.
This month, I was supposed to move to Europe and begin a job teaching English. It’s something I’d been looking forward to for a very long time. In fact, I’d taken all the necessary steps months in advance because of how sure I was about this situation. But last month, about six weeks before I was supposed to head out, a feeling hit me. It would be easy to just say I had second thoughts and leave it at that, but that wasn’t it.
Sometimes with second thoughts, you’re just afraid that you’re doubting yourself, and it’s not uncommon to go ahead with the decision you’ve made. But once I got that feeling that I didn’t want to go anymore, it stuck and it stayed there. And while I’m not feeling any one type of way about it, it is…weird.
I’m not going to get into the details right now, because that’s not why I’m sharing this. Maybe one day I’ll share that story on this blog, but that day is not today. At the moment, the most important part of this decision isn’t the decision that I’ve made – it’s everything else that’s going to happen to me now. Say what you will, but a decision not to do something is still a decision – it might not sound that way, but it’s true. And now, even though I’m not moving halfway around the world, my life is still going to change. That’s the nature of making any sort of important decision in life. In some form or other, it will change the trajectory of where you’re headed.
I’m sorry I was gone from here for a while – I couldn’t post as much as I wanted because honestly, it’s been hard to wrap my head around what I’m doing these days. But I’m in a good spot in a ton of ways. As I long as I focus on that, I’ll be good to figure out what’s next. I’m hoping to continue to give you all some #premium mental health content going forward in addition to joining me on this journey. Hope you’re along for the ride!
“I think, therefore I am.”
This famous quote, first uttered by Rene Descartes, is something that’s been on my mind this week. I recently started listening to an NPR podcast which is all about the invisible things around us that affect our daily lives. The very first episode was about the ‘secret history of thoughts’ where the hosts asked a question: are my thoughts related to my inner wishes, and do they reveal who I really am?
All my life, I have been told that what I think is important, that my thoughts matter. They do, and so do yours! But not every single thought is important. Not every single thought needs to affect your life. Learning that – and accepting that – has been one of the most important tools when it comes to how I approach my thoughts.
Think, really think, about the insanely high volume of thoughts you have every day. Thoughts can come from anywhere and be about anything. How often do we get sidetracked by our thoughts, or get distracted by thinking of something completely different from what we’re doing? Anxiety or not, depression or not, I know this happens to everyone.
I have intrusive thoughts that pop up every single day, most of which are negative. And I obsess over them. Some days they are all I can think about. And I get stuck.
But what if I didn’t give these thoughts so much power? What if I took them for what they are? It would not be easy, but it’s not impossible. As I have been told by several therapists who specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one way to reframe my thought process is that instead of trying desperately to ignore the negative thoughts in my head, I can acknowledge them for what they are – thoughts – and move on with my day.
I tried that, and it proved to be very difficult. I still gave importance to every thought that popped into my head, and I was getting stuck on the negative thoughts. I’d like to take a new approach that takes my thoughts beyond the base level of acknowledging them and moving on. I’d like to address those thoughts and tell them what I think of them – that they won’t last, that they aren’t important, that they aren’t me.
I am not my thoughts. I am not a collection of the thoughts I produce. I am a complex person who will have millions of thoughts in his lifetime, and not all of them count. I am going to try to pay more attention to the ones that matter and can make me a better person. As for those intrusive thoughts? Those can go right in the trash.
As a kid, I loved to read. While I had favorite authors and genres, it came to a point where it almost didn’t matter what kind of book it was – if I hadn’t read it before, odds were that I’d give it a shot. I’d guess that I’ve read hundreds of books in my lifetime, but the vast majority of them happened before I went to college – and I had to deal with my mental health.
When my mental health worsened, it became hard to read. I had difficulty concentrating on one task at a time, and the result was many years of multitasking. I would have music on while studying, or stream a show on Netflix while doing some writing. I could not focus on a sole subject or interest because I could not develop a one-track mind. Instead, I would have two thought processes running in my head: 1) the normal thoughts and feelings about what it is I was doing at the time, and 2) the negative thoughts and self-talk that seemed to be popping up more and more every day.
By multitasking, I was occupying both thought processes and keeping my mind fully occupied and away from the negative thoughts. But reading a book meant that I would have to develop a one-track mind that concentrated on the words on the page – a near-impossible ask for my anxious self.
This meant that over the course of my college career, I read very little outside of what was required for school. After college, I tried to get into reading a little more, but it proved to be too difficult. I thought that I had to be busy all the time in order to combat the negative thoughts, and the result was an unhealthy lifestyle that definitely didn’t make me feel better about myself. So, like in many other aspects of my mental health and my life, I took a new approach.
First I started rereading books that I’d enjoyed in the past. Some were easier to read than others, but it helped me get on a good schedule of reading consistently because even if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d already read the book before so it wasn’t a total waste.
When 2019 started, I decided to take a chance and really get into reading again. I started by making it a goal to read only 10 pages a day. It was a small chunk, but it was manageable and made me feel like I’d accomplished something. Soon, I started reading during my lunch break at work, which satiated my need for multitasking while helping me learn how to focus on reading.
It’s taken a few months, but I’ve finally hit my groove. I’ve read four books so far in 2019 and I just started my fifth, and while I’m not in love with reading like I used to be as a kid, I like it a whole lot more than I have in recent years. I hope that as my mental muscles grow stronger I can read not only as a coping mechanism but because I genuinely enjoy it.
Has your mental health affected a hobby or activity that you love? Let me know in the comments!