That Little Bit of Doubt

Last time we talked, I was telling you about reality-based problems. My ceiling caving in. My computer breaking. My car being towed…you get the picture. But we’re moving on from that and focusing on something new because while all that did happen, other incredible things happened to me in the past week that I would love to share!

Last week, I took a trip out of the country to El Salvador. It was the first time I’d gone abroad in more than two years, so needless to say I was extremely excited – but I was also nervous because I hadn’t traveled like that in so long. Would I still enjoy myself as much as I had when I traveled in the past? Would I want to embrace the new culture and lifestyle that was sure to be in this place?

Though I felt confident that I would adjust, I have to be honest with you – I was scared. But the moment the plane landed and I looked out the window, all that fear went away. I became immediately excited to tackle a culture that was brand-new to me, with so much to see and explore. And I did. I packed more into five days than most people do in a month, going from one place to another with a clear head and a smile on my face. The people I met, the food I ate, the places I went to…all of these experiences will be ingrained in my mind (and my camera roll!) for a very long time.

But why am I telling you this? Because even though I was incredibly excited to go to this new place, I still had some doubt, some fear in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much as I used to. I was afraid that too much of me had changed since I last traveled. Though I am extremely grateful that I could NOT have been more wrong, I recognized that, no matter how happy I was, that fear and doubt still existed.

Wherever this post finds you, I’m sure you’re nervous about an upcoming decision you need to make. Maybe you have doubts about a decision you just made. I’m not here to validate or invalidate those choices – I just want you to know that you aren’t alone in those feelings of doubt. Everyone has them! Whether they’re big or little, important or insignificant, that kernel of doubt is a very real and human aspect of everyone one of us. But you do have control over how you handle it, how you face this doubt. And if you learn how to handle it, that can make all the difference in the world.

P.S. I’m hoping to share my trip to El Salvador on the blog next week. It was a one-of-a-kind experience, and I am very excited to share what I saw and learned!

Shakespeare Quote

Problems Based in Reality

I had a blog post all set and ready to go last week when some things happened. For one, rainwater leaked into my apartment and ruined my computer. Then, that same rainwater pooled up in my ceiling and caused a portion of it to collapse on my bed, ruining my room for the foreseeable future. As I type this I am sitting on a mattress with a gigantic hole in my ceiling with a time TBD for when it will be fixed. This came on the heels of having my car towed and getting a speeding ticket. I know, I know, that’s a lot of shit to be thrown at someone in a week and a half. But I’m okay. Truly, actually, I am fine.

With a well-documented history of mental illness (re: this blog), I feel like it would be understandable for these kinds of problems to freak me out. If I have anxiety about nothing, wouldn’t I feel worse when something bad actually does happen? I thought it might. But it didn’t happen. Instead, something interesting happened: I actually became calmer. I was more accepting of what happened to me and took each necessary step to correct these missteps and fix what was broken. Why did this happen? I have a theory.

As someone who lives in their head constantly, these problems threw me headfirst into reality. I had to deal with real problems that have real consequences, and therefore I had to come up with real solutions to solve them. I emphasize the word ‘real’ because oftentimes, my problems are not reality-based. They are fictitious concoctions that I spend my days thinking about, and while they may have real consequences they are, in another sense, my own machinations.

However, taking up residence in my head allows me to better attack real-world problems. It’s funny, I think nothing of waiting in line for hours at the DMV or having to sleep on my floor for weeks, which might bother the hell out of someone. On the flip side, some people go through life without negative thoughts about themselves and I…do not (you have to smile at that – I personally think it’s pretty funny). But these real problems remind me that I’m human, that I’m a real person that has real things happen to him. And for someone who can spend his days living inside his head, it’s nice to be jolted out of it every once in a while. So I might not be entirely happy with my situation, but I am grateful. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m a person sometimes. We could all use that every now and then.

Muhammad Ali Quote

Happy or Healthy?

Happiness is an interesting word to me. Some days it’s all I’m looking for; other days I don’t even worry about it. I have a complicated relationship with happiness and ‘being happy’, and for a good reason. I feel like it can be a buzzword in the mental health community that is overused and misunderstood. So instead, I’m more concerned with being healthy rather than being happy.

I know I’ve done this before, but I feel like Google search results speak a lot so here is some more fun info again. When you Google ‘how to be happy’ you get more than 4 billion results. When you search ‘how to be healthy’? One billion. Sounds like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of what ‘how to be happy’ has. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because people have a tendency to place a priority of being happy over being healthy. And yes, I’m one of them. But hopefully not for long.

When you think about being healthy, what’s the first thing you think of? Probably your physical health. I don’t blame you. Physical health is supremely important and your wellbeing depends on it. But it’s not the only type of health you should take care of – not by a long shot. Dr. Bill Wettler came up with the Seven Dimensions of Wellness in 1976 and they include:

  • Social Wellness
  • Emotional Wellness
  • Spiritual Wellness
  • Environmental Wellness
  • Occupational Wellness
  • Intellectual Wellness
  • Physical Wellness

Yes I know, I’m going to want to push mental health, which in this case is encapsulated in Emotional and Social Wellness. But each type of wellness is important in leading a productive life – and can certainly lead to a happy life. Instead of worrying about if we’re happy, why don’t we worry about being healthy? And I’m not just talking about exercising a few times a week or meditating more. We need to attack each part of our health as if it’s important as going for a run – because oftentimes it is. My friend Pat wrote a great guest post a few months back about flexing your ‘mental muscle’ and it is indeed a muscle. A muscle that we must work at and strengthen, same as any physical muscle we have.

So yes, I would advocate for practicing being healthy over being happy. Because more often than not, if you are living in a healthy manner, in every facet of the word, happiness is sure to follow. And if it isn’t, that’s okay. I haven’t stopped trying, and I hope you won’t either.

Are We Still Talking About Mental Health?

People are super concerned for a week and then forget about mental health entirely until it happens again.

That’s what a frustrated friend told me when we were discussing the recent passings of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. And he’s right. The media cycle can be vicious, and it chews up and spits out stories every 24 hours like clockwork. This was no different. After stories that included blaming the culture and reports that both Bourdain and Spade had dealt with depression for years, while people still spoke out about their experiences, the mental health discussion died down considerably by comparison. And it shouldn’t.

Mental health is not something to pick up and put down on a whim. It may be that way for some people – and that’s fine. But I would be doing a disservice to everyone with a mental illness if I didn’t say that that’s not the case for millions of people. Keeping track of my mental health is something that I must do daily in order to live a happy and healthy life. This means that there are no days off. That the conversation is always relevant, even on days when you feel good – and especially on days when you don’t.

It’s been two weeks since the unfortunate passings of Bourdain and Spade. But is the mental health conversation still going on? Are we still checking in on our friends and family to see how they’re doing? Are we still taking care of ourselves? We can’t wait until we lose someone else to start thinking about our mental health. That won’t work in a country where the suicide rates have risen to the point where half of the states in the U.S. have seen suicide rates rise more than 30 percent over the past two decades. You think this is going away? It’s not. Continue the conversation. Check in on people. It might not be easy but it will be worth it.

Life Updates

Hello everyone! I know it’s been awhile since I posted last, but I’ve been a little busy. Life happens, you know? And I figured I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t share that part with you because as life goes, so does mental health.

For the past month I’ve been finishing up an online course to achieve my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Once I am fully certified, I will be able to apply to teach English in tons of countries around the world! I still have a few more months of my practicum (practicing teaching and teacher observation), but I am very excited to be certified and begin some new adventures!

But I’m not in any rush to go somewhere for the time being. I’d like to save up some money before I travel, and I have some weddings to be in (because apparently that’s a thing that happens when you get older), among other things.

I’m also doing my best to live present and enjoy where I am in life, which is quite difficult for me – but I’m doing my best! Luckily, being on a consistent dose of medication helps me achieve (some) balance in my day-to-day life, which helps me get through days that can sometimes be difficult. Though it took me years to get there (more on that in a future post, I promise!), being able to maintain some level of consistency in my life has played a huge factor in how I go about my day. I might not be where I want to be, but I think I’m where I need to be – which is quite alright with me.

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!

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.

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!