Home for a Rest

For the last few weeks, my counselling has been focusing on discussions about rest. Specifically, I’ve been working on re-framing my definition of what rest is and allowing myself to rest when I need to.

Before now, and in the black and white delineations of my mind, rest became something that represented weakness. I learned to believe that I only had worth if I was busy and active. And the only excuse for resting was exhaustion or illness. Sounds healthy, right?

How many of us push ourselves constantly to keep going? How many of us don’t take advantage of restful moments because we’re too anxious or have too many expectations placed on us to be constantly engaged?

In my previous relationships, I expected myself (and was expected by my partners) to be available and ready for action at all moments. I was also burdened with the vast majority of the physical and emotional labour in those relationships, which meant that restful moments were few and far between, and that when I did rest, it was out of utter exhaustion as opposed to simply taking a break or relaxing. It was so bad that I actually forgot how to relax entirely! I remained in a hyper-vigilant mode of awareness constantly. I was always, always tired, but could never rest.

I’m still so incredibly tired. I’m still doing the majority of the physical and emotional work for my family. I’m still anxious a lot and I still have this tendency to try and fill all the hours of all the days and then crash afterwards…

But I’m learning how to do things differently. My need for rest is being validated and supported in the therapy I’m doing, which is going a long way towards my acceptance of its validity. I am trying to no longer feel guilty for needing to rest. I’m trying to take advantage of the time I have to relax and recuperate. I’m coming to understand that rest is, in fact, productive! No, seriously!

Think of it this way: in order to be productive, you need to have energy. And how do we get energy? Well, by eating good foods, drinking water, and resting. If we don’t take our downtime seriously, how can we have enough “umph” to keep going and accomplish the things we need or want to do?

My counsellor and I are working to change my thinking to reflect this kind of understanding. Not only do I have the time right now to engage in some really solid rest, my body is also telling me that I need it. A decade or more of being burdened with unfair and incredibly heavy expectations has taken its toll; mama needs a good sleep and to put her feet up or take a nap otherwise she can’t function!

I know I’m fortunate to have time to rest right now. I’m already thinking ahead to the fall when I’m going to be busier (I’m going back to school…yay!) and will have more to worry about. But fuck that anxiety, because I’d rather focus on taking advantage of the time I have now and using it the best way that I can. And instead of thinking that that means doing a million things everyday and never sitting down or catching my breath, I’m thinking that I might take a nap instead. I might enjoy a crossword puzzle, or have a mindful snack. Maybe I’ll watch some Netflix or take a walk. Snuggle up with a book or cuddle under the covers.

Rest is not my enemy. Resting doesn’t make me weak. My value doesn’t come from how much I can get done in a day; it comes from tuning in and responding authentically to the needs my body presents to me. It comes from being my authentic self and showing up in all the ways I need to, including times of rest.

What do your restful moments look like?

How does getting enough (or NOT getting enough) rest affect your mental and physical health?

Who else wants to go take a nap right now?

xxJ

Yep, it’s definitely nap time.

Fearing the End of the Story

It’s starting to feel like I’m hitting the denouement of my story. At least, it feels like I’m hitting it for this part of my story…

I’ve been living in the climax of a stressful, traumatic, gritty, exhausting story for the last four years or so. Unlike the climax in a short story, my life story climax plateaued and stayed climactic for a really long fucking time.

But I can feel myself progressing. I can see it and this week in particular, I’m having an upswing, which is a very welcome change after months and months of being depressed.

But it’s all starting to change and, to be honest, that scares me a little bit.

Okay, it scares me quite a bit. Because I harbour a deep sense of fear that healing means my past doesn’t matter or is no longer true.

I’m often scared that if I stop being an outright champion and reiterating the facts of my past loudly and consistently, then people will think (and I will feel) like they didn’t happen. That me growing and moving forward isn’t a positive thing; that it’s an obliteration of all that came before and as such, leaves no room for relapse, triggers, memories, or scars.

I’m scared of getting better, which sounds ridiculous, but letting go of the fierceness that’s kept me safe and strong is incredibly uncomfortable.

Why do I sabotage myself like this? Why stymie the progress in my life for the sake of holding onto a broken and battered story? Why not celebrate the fact that I’m safe and have moments of joy and can relax sometimes and have goals and achievements that I’ve accomplished as an individual? What the hell is wrong with me??

Well, we all know that the answer to that question—nothing at all, and a whole helluva lot.

I think I’m scared because I learned to not trust good things. I learned that setting expectations guarantees disappointment and that making goals or changes results in failure. These are some of the strongest lessons I carry with me from my past as a codependent and I resent them as much as I recognize them. I hate their potency as I begin to notice all the good shit that’s going on in my life again. I give space to my fear and allow it to bring me back to a state of helplessness, which on an intellectual level I recognize is bullshit, but on an emotional level, feels (strangely) comfortable and normal.

So how to avoid giving up? How to stop the self-sabotage? How to savour the good stuff and build my confidence while recognizing that moving forward absolutely does NOT mean that my past doesn’t matter?

My first instinct is to answer that with a “hell if I know!”, but I DO actually know! The answer lies in the capacity I developed during my trauma to survive…I can’t quit. I just don’t give up. I allow myself to feel my fear and to acknowledge it while also seeing the positive things that are happening at the same time. I get uncomfortable and then push through those feelings and keep trying. I embrace the upswing and the denouement; the falling action in the climactic journey I’ve had these last few years. I remember that every story remains for as long as we exist and that mine is still true even if I’m smiling and even if I move on.

I will always be a person with mental illness. I will always be an abuse survivor. But more importantly, I will always be myself. And being me is a nuanced, changing, shifting, growing, colourful experience; I can’t cling to one version or one time and say that it’s the only truth in my life!

I’m feeling ready to embrace more of who I am and give space to the things that come from this new acknowledgement. Maybe that sounds new-agey and super corny? Fuck it.

Yes, I’m still scared. I still worry (thanks anxiety) that I’ll fail at trying something new or that I’ll push myself too far and have to pull back from the goals I want to achieve. These are very real, very tangible fears that I’m not working at surpassing. I tell myself that being happier is something I deserve and that it’s possible, with love and support around me, to do more than just survive. It’s time to start thriving.

xxJ

I May Be Depressed But I Still Get Sh*t Done

I struggle daily with managing my mental health issues. Somehow my brain and body oscillate between frenzy and lethargy; I’m either totally amped up or completely run down.

What’s also true, is that I still have to get through the day-to-day in spite of what physical or emotional state I’m in. In my case, this means looking after my kids, my pets, my home, and my jobs. Some days, I totally rock it. I have energy and drive; I’m enthusiastic, determined, and productive! I get my shit done and feel good doing it.

Those days, unfortunately, are the exception rather than the norm.

I know that everyone experiences ups and downs, or, as one of my previous counsellors once said, we all experience “stress bubbles” in our lives. But when you suffer from legitimate mental health issues like chronic depression, your capacity to exist and to thrive feel greatly diminished.

First of all, it is EXHAUSTING to be depressed. The lack of physical energy or sense of motivation to do anything is one of the basic characteristics of depression and it’s something I grapple with constantly. Aside from my body feeling tired all the damn time, I also struggle to focus. When I’m depressed, my brain feels foggy; when anxiety decides to take the lead, I feel like a hamster running furiously on a wheel, chasing my thoughts but never managing to make any headway on reaching them. Add to these difficulties low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, lack of purpose, sadness, loneliness, fear, poor diet, poor sleep, and whatever cocktail of psychiatric meds a person might be on (+ associated side effects), and what becomes clear is that people suffering from depression have to manage a LOT in order to perform even the basics in their lives.

So how the hell do I get anything done? In my case, I tend to put things into two categories in my mind, the first being the “must get done; totally NOT optional” tasks and the second being the “could be done now, could be done later; totally optional” tasks. Some things, like feeding my children breakfast, walking the dog, paying my bills, running my tutoring sessions, or preparing meals, sit firmly in my “not optional” category. These are things that just need to be done and I can’t opt out of them (at least, in my mind that’s what I tell myself, because truly I *could* opt out of some of them but that would have dire consequences) so I have to do them, plain and simple. There’s no way that I can avoid them; they just have to happen.

I also use other strategies to get my butt in gear. Things like, having someone hold me accountable for my plans. Writing a list and ticking things off as I complete them. Setting reminders on my phone and calendar for specific tasks. Giving myself something to look forward to once I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, whether it’s some Netflix time, a visit with a friend, or something tasty to eat. I put good music on whenever I’m doing tasks that can have background noise. I try to make sure I’m comfortable while I work. I get outside and let the fresh air rejuvenate me. In short, I do whatever’s necessary in that moment in order to get my jobs done.

This is my “I don’t want to work I just want to binge-watch Netflix and cry but I’m trying anyway” face. The tea helps. A little bit, at least. #shamelessslefie

It isn’t a perfect system—I’m not a perfect person! I struggle constantly with seeing things through to completion and not procrastinating important items on my “to-do” list that need to get done. Some days I don’t do a whole hell of a lot. Some days, I just give in and sit and let the heaviness take over my body and try to rest. But I try hard to have more days that are productive and fewer days that are not. I put effort into moving forward, meeting my goals, managing my day-to-day, and striving for increased wellness and success.

When you’re depressed, it’s hard to be productive. When you’re anxious, it’s no better. Depression is a legitimate disease that causes legitimate difficulties with navigating life and getting what you need and want out of it. But if you’re at all like me, you still have at least a tiny bit of motivation to keep trying, and that’s really the catalyst for making any steps forward, whether big or small.

xxJ