neon orange sign spelling change in cursive letters

I Want to Be a Quitter: Thoughts on Growth

Counterintuitively, stubborn determination is a trait that really holds me back. When I start something, I automatically lock myself into seeing it out, even if I don’t like it, am bad at it, or if any number of valid reasons for stepping away from something crop up. So, the thought of doing something new comes with a flood of anxiety about entering into something I would never allow myself to quit. I worry about doing a bad job, letting people down, disappointing myself, ruining something, etc., and ultimately being trapped in a role that doesn’t fit. So, I’m tempted to never start at all. It’s rather paralyzing.

But doing something new is not necessarily forever. You can quit things, and it’s ok. In fact, movement and growth can come from quitting, as taking new opportunities frequently requires that you let go of something else. It inherently results in change, and although change is uncomfortable, it’s how we grow. And so, I want to be a quitter, and despite the negative connotation of the word, I want it to be like one of those positive affirmations that I never say to myself in the mirror.

“I’m a QUITTER!”

I’d say, and then do some fist pumps and charge out of the house, ready to quit some things so that I can start anew, flush with the knowledge that if those new things go awry, I can quit those too. I don’t want to quit everything, of course – I just want it to be easier for me to accept risk and not hold myself to impossible, permanent standards.

I quit a job with no warning, once. In fact, I quit on the first day. It was such a terrible fit for me that the discomfort of quitting something was nothing compared to the prospect of working there every day. I called after going home and explained that, having experienced the job for a day, I definitely would not be able to do the job in a safe, satisfactory way. And it was fine! In fact, they thanked me for being frank with them. I felt awful for wasting their time, but in hindsight, it was 100% the right thing to do. Quitting was good.

For some reason, that experience has not completely impressed upon me the non-world-ending nature of most quitting scenarios. Just the possibility of encountering something I end up wanting to quit still causes me a lot of anxiety. But logically, I know that for the kinds of choices I make in my daily life, nothing catastrophic would happen if I chose to change things. Even in the worst-case scenario, my life would be likely be altered, but certainly not threatened. People are resilient. I could make it through the bumps of quitting, just fine.

If only I could just quit my dedication to not quitting things.

envelope labeled 2020 with golden streamers and small potted plant

My Mental Health Resolutions

In December, I gave myself four goals to test before the new year rolled around. I wanted to give myself a chance to work on some (mainly) mental health resolutions without the pressure of an entire year ahead. It wasn’t wildly successful, but it wasn’t a flop, either.

These were my goals:

  1. Keep running, be able to go five miles somewhat comfortably: Done!
  2. Reestablish skincare routine: Sort of done! Currently on track, but it wasn’t a straight line.
  3. Start volunteering: Sort of done! I’m signed up to start in January.
  4. Begin relearning German: Not at all done! Yeah, nope. Didn’t even start.

Even though I didn’t check all the boxes, it felt pretty good to have a list of actionable goals. My overarching goal with all of them (except maybe relearning German) was to improve or support my mental health. In that, I think I succeeded! It was motivating to remember that I only had one month to make progress on my goals, which helped me not get complacent and stuck in bed with depression. As with any vague intention like “improve my mental health,” setting out some well-defined steps is vital. I needed to know where to start and how to do it.

2019 was really, really hard. I plummeted even further into the pit of depression than ever before and ended up hospitalized. I continued on my quest to find medications that work for me, and most of the time, I felt entirely discouraged and worthless. But, I kept going. I kept myself alive, and that was a huge accomplishment. Now, with the assistance of moderately helpful medications and much more helpful IV ketamine infusions, I feel like I’m inching my way out of my blanket burrito of sadness. To continue that progress, I’m aiming to carry on my mental health resolutions from December into the new year.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year’s Eve and a wonderful year ahead.

woman running shoes running up concrete staircase

December Resolutions: Mid-Month Update

Last month, I decided I’d get a head start on my New Year’s resolutions by treating December as a sort of trial run. I set myself four goals:

  1. Start volunteering
  2. Run regularly
  3. Re-establish skincare routine
  4. Begin relearning German

We’re roughly halfway through December, so I thought I would check in with my progress. Currently, I give myself a 2.5/4. I have been running almost every day, persisting despite the weather. I think I’ve surpassed my goal of establishing enough endurance to (somewhat comfortably) go five miles, so maybe I should aim higher for the end of the month.

I’m diligently maintaining my skincare regimen with topical steroids, a giant light, and a lot of sarcastic jokes about how great I look in UV-protective goggles. I’m not seeing much benefit yet, but it’s not an instant fix.

My efforts to begin volunteering have been temporarily halted; it turns out the organization I was interested in has recently moved (still nearby) and stopped their volunteer orientations until mid-January. I am signed up for the first orientation in January, though, so I think that counts for at least half credit.

That brings us to number four: begin relearning German. I have not started this yet, and I’m trying to decide if I want to push forward with it and see where it takes me by the end of the month, or replace it with a different goal.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty satisfied with my December resolutions.

 

yearly calendar on table with cup of coffee and dish of paper clips

December Resolutions

The yearly frustration that most of us can likely relate to is that our New Year’s resolutions only last a few weeks, or at best, a few months, and yet we continue to make them. It’s relatable because change is hard, and the excitement of turning over a new leaf soon gives way to the stresses of normal life and the reality of breaking old habits. But there’s something so attractive about starting fresh; new calendar, new me.

Clearly, I like the idea of making a deliberate change on a specific date. Something about marking your resolution with an external, cyclical change makes it feel more decisive. Unfortunately, I am so put off by the pressure of an entire year ahead of my resolutions that I simply don’t make any. I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past but petered out before they really formed habits. Then, the internal shame of having failed a New Year’s resolution discourages me from trying again mid-year. Because really, why can’t I just resolve to change whenever I want? Because human brains like to impose order on things like arbitrary laps around the sun.

Instead of griping about the pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions and why I can never seem to make it work for me, I’m going to try something different.

~*~*~*~December Resolutions~*~*~*~

This sounds incredibly silly and I think that it’s a little bit sad that it’s come to this, but I think I need to trick myself into meeting my goals. Instead of making a list of resolutions and waiting until the new year to begin, I’m going to have a trial month for my new habits. December will be my 31-day behavior test, and if I hate the goals/habits I come up with, no big deal. I won’t feel bad about quitting because it’s only my December resolutions, not the monumentally more important New Year’s resolutions.

(Yeah. It’s exactly the same thing, but shhh, don’t tell my brain.)

Bonus, if I do like my resolutions and am happy to keep going with them, I won’t have to face the overwhelm of a brand new year stretching ahead of me. I’ll already have a whole month under my belt.

I really think this is going to work for me, at least better than the usual resolution schedule does. Here’s my list of December resolutions, but remember, it’s low-stress, low-commitment, so these can change without me feeling like a failure. At least, that’s the theory.

  1. ACTUALLY start volunteering. Somewhere. Anywhere. Don’t just think about it.
  2. Keep running regularly (yay, I’ve already started!) See if I can reach a comfortable 5 miles by January. I’m more than halfway there, so this seems very doable.
  3. Reestablish a skincare routine, aka get my psoriasis under👏 control👏.
  4. Welcome the hostile Duolingo owl back into my life and start re-learning German.

These seem reasonable to accomplish within a month. The one that I’m definitely most apprehensive about is volunteering. At this point, I’ve thought about it for so long and looked at opportunities in such detail that I really have to just go and do it, and try not to worry about all of the unknowns (thanks, SPD).

Ok, internet, hold me accountable.

lamb sleeping in profile against wooden boards

Let Yourself Dream

Months ago, I made a draft document full of blog ideas. One of those ideas simply read “Let Yourself Dream”, with a brief list of my own lifelong dreams. It sat, unused, for months until, two days ago, my therapist suggested that I let myself dream this week. The words stuck, niggled in my brain for a few hours, and finally clicked. I had already written it down as a blog idea!

My depression is finally starting to lift, thanks to IV ketamine infusions and my rock-solid support system. Over the last few days, I’ve found myself thinking about all of the things that I want to do, now that I’m feeling better. Actually wanting to do something is an unfamiliar feeling, and is honestly a little overwhelming. There’s so much I want to do! Where do I start, and will this newfound mental health last? Rather than getting bogged down in all of the what ifs, this week, I’m going to dream.

1. Train and Certify Stella as a Therapy Dog

This is a goal that I’ve had ever since I adopted Stella, and maybe even before then. I think it would be so rewarding to volunteer with her in retirement homes, physical therapy treatment facilities, and hospitals. When I was a patient in a mental health hospital, we were delighted when a therapy dog came to visit us. To be able to bring a little bit of happiness to people in a difficult situation I have experience with would be beyond gratifying.

2. Hobby Farm

THIS has been my dream for a good decade or so. I love animals, and there’s something about having a house with spacious property and a chicken coop, barn for some sheep and goats, maybe a dairy cow, and some alpacas (so my mother can have their wool) that just sounds perfect. I love routine, and the hard work of caring for animals every day and maintaining a garden and home seems like it would be therapeutic for me. This is a lofty goal, but hey, we’re dreaming, here.

3. Make Writing a Career

Yeah. Not sure how to go about doing this or even if I would do okay at it. But doesn’t it sound nice to wake up, go take care of my farm animals, then spend time writing in my sunny home office before harvesting some home-grown vegetables? Sounds wonderful to me!

4. Have a Regular Social Calendar

This is maybe not so much a “dream” as it is an eventual necessity. Depression combined with introversion has made me very isolated. The thing to do now is to find some groups that interest me and actually go to them. Not just bookmark it or download an app, but actually go to an event and meet people. Easier said than done, but the best things are worth working for.

5. Run a Half-Marathon

Yet another thing I bookmarked and set aside. I used to run almost every day, and at times, it was really beneficial to my mental health. Unfortunately, I stopped running entirely for a while, and since then, have picked it up only in fits and spurts. If I’m going to reach my goal of running a half-marathon (let’s be reasonable- a full marathon is too much for me) I need to run with more consistency and pick a race to train for. The good news is, it’s always easier to get back into than I think.

 

These are just a few of my dreams, and although some of them are distant, it’s nice to remember that I’ve already achieved so many of my old ones. Getting my own dog was number one on my list after college, and now the single greatest joy/irritation in my life is watching my canine friend slam her paw down on my keyboard when I’m not petting her enough. It’s so endearing.

What are your dreams? Have you thought about it lately? Maybe take a moment this week to revisit those goals that seem out of reach and reassess; how would you go about achieving them?

woman wearing floral dress blocking sun with hand while walking on sand dune in desert

Mental Health and Resilience

Is it ever ok to give up? Cultures around the world are inundated with myths, lore, and tales of a protagonist overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles and emerging triumphant. They’re admirable, they’re heroic, and we strive to be like them. How do they do it? It’s not that they’re unaffected by tragedy and hardship. Their secret is resilience.

The concept of resilience can be difficult to pinpoint, but I think this quote by Janna Cachola encapsulates what I think of as the essence of resilience.

“Resilience is not about being able to bounce back like nothing has happened. Resilience is your consistent resistance to give up.”

Resilience does not mean that you’re the same after your ordeal as you were before; we’re constantly changing. It means that even in the darkest of times, we either wait for it to pass, or we work to change our reality. These are both demonstrations of resilience- sometimes you just have to hunker down and hold on. But no matter what, we refuse to give up.

TW: This section discusses suicide

September 10th is International Suicide Awareness Day. In the last few days, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be resilient in the context of mental health.  Cultivating resilience is one way to help us resist hopelessness and feelings of helplessness. It puts the power back in our hands. It says “I can get through this, no matter what.” This line of thinking is in no way a judgment on those who have died by suicide. It’s simply an attempt to continue a conversation started by researchers, therapists, and people fighting mental illnesses every day.

I’m no stranger to the importance of resilience in mental health. I’ve thought about suicide in such detail and for so long, sometimes it seems like an acceptable option. At the same time, the part of me that values hard work and persistence is appalled that I would consider giving up. It’s a dangerous balance that I need to monitor carefully in order to remain safe. Resilience doesn’t mean that you have to do it on your own. Rely on the people who care about you and all of your other resources. Ask for help, and accept it when it’s offered. As the saying goes, you’ve survived every single bad day so far- that’s a damn good track record.

– Love, your brain

 

“i was not born with roses
in my chest
to be afraid of thorns.i was born to
bloom
in spite of them.”
― Vinati Bhola, Udaari

How to Persist Through Apathy

In the depths of depression and throughout the hills and dips of recovery, apathy is a frequent visitor. It steals motivation and leaves nothing behind. When this happens, it’s tempting to let it overtake you. I’ve found that continuing with a task despite apathy can help end a spell of it. Here are some of the ways I use to get me through a period of apathy.

Rewards

Whatever gets you even a little bit motivated can be useful when battling apathy. Granted, if you’re feeling apathetic, even the usual rewards might not have much of an effect. For me, I sit in the shade with a book and my dog. Maybe for you, it’s watching your favorite show or treating yourself to a delicious snack. Whatever it is, reward yourself for your hard work; apathy isn’t easy to overcome.

A Conversation With Future You

You might not care right now, but you might care a lot in the future. We like to think that we can predict the future, but the truth is that none of us really know what’s going to happen in a week or a month or a year. So, while this one requires a little hope for the future, sometimes all it takes is to allow for the possibility that things might get better; to admit that you’re not a fortune-teller. In fact, I’m working on this one right now.

Cultivate Satisfaction

I know what you’re thinking–well, I don’t know. (That’s another distortion.) But you might be thinking “obviously, if I’m feeling apathetic, I don’t want to do anything because I don’t get satisfaction from completing a task. Why would I do something that gives me no intrinsic reward?”

Well, that’s a good point. I’ll counter with this: an oyster creates a pearl when a grain of sand becomes lodged in its tissues. Layer by layer, the mollusk coats the grain of sand with calcium carbonate to protect itself from the irritating particle. What began as a negative from the oyster’s perspective is turned into something valuable.

Motivation often comes from the desire to solve a problem. Whether it’s a seemingly small problem like noticing that your hair needs to be washed, or a larger-scale problem like slipping grades that could affect your graduation, everything we do, we do to solve a problem. Every time you do something that moves you towards a goal, you’re building a metaphorical layer around the underlying issue. Every time you go to class even though you don’t want to, you’re building up to something great. Every time you go for a run even though you’d rather sleep, you add another layer of persistence to your pearl.

Often, it’s only after many layers, many instances of forcing myself through apathy, that I begin to get a glimmer of satisfaction. Sometimes, the only way to reach the other side of apathy is to just begin. Momentum only comes when you start to move.