So I decided to go back to school and started an online bachelors in English program with a writing concentration in January, with a full course load. I’m also working full time. Yesterday I realized I missed an EXAM that was due Friday. Yes, an EXAM. One of only four that is responsible for 16% of my grade. I have no good reason for having missed it. There were multiple emails sent out about it reminding us it was coming up and even a study group that another student had started to prepare for it. My only excuse is that a quiz for a different course was also due that day and I got confused. When I realized I missed the exam deadline, I emailed my professor and asked if there’s any way I can make it up. If not, I will ask for extra credit opportunities so I can possibly make up some of the points. I feel so stupid. And inadequate. And like a fraud. It makes me think, why did I ever go back to school? Why am I paying tuition money? At my age, I probably should have saved that money for something more practical. I went back to school to earn a degree in something I love and possibly work in publishing, get away from the vortex of soul-sucking, meaningless jobs I’ve been working. I’m so mad at my stupid mistake, though. I wonder if it’s even worth staying in school while I experience such severe depression-induced fog 24/7. I wonder if I “bit off more than I can chew”. Anyway, I just felt like getting the feelings I’m experiencing out of my head and down “on paper” in an organized way. I realize this isn’t earth-shattering and will not actually affect the outcome of my life, but it feels earth-shattering right now. And I keep obsessing like, what if because of not making an A in this class I get passed up for an internship or job opportunity in the future? I was hoping to make an A in all my classes except for the math classes, where I’d feel lucky to get a B. The self-loathing is just pretty bad right now. I think, there are some people who go to school, work, and have a spouse and kids to take care of and be there for. And maybe other things going on, as well, like church or other community activities. And I do none of that. So why did I screw up? It’s 7 in the morning and I just realized last night I had missed it, and I just woke up and decided I had to write about this. Try to get it out of my system. Because I don’t want to obsess about it even more and it ruin the rest of my weekend before I go back to work. Can anyone reading this relate with mental illness making even the smallest things seem so much harder? Anyway, thanks for listening/ reading.
Anybody else dealing with poor mental health just think, when I work this situation out or achieve this goal or get into this routine or stop doing this, all my mental health issues will fall away? I know this way of thinking has stopped me from getting help. And I just can’t seem to shake it. I do believe my issues are largely stem from living an unbalanced lifestyle, and that if I would just tweak certain things in my life, I’d be a lot happier and less stressed. I’d prefer changing my lifestyle to telling all my issues to a stranger and being put on strong medication with potential serious side effects. But I’m experiencing a vicious cycle where I need motivation, energy, and mental clarity in order to make the changes, which I don’t have because depression and anxiety have sapped those precious resources. I’m tired of the self-help books, as well. I’ve read so many of them at this point, and they all make the same basic points. They’re all helpful but only to the extent that I apply the advice and wisdom to my life instead of keeping it all in my head. I’ve been feeling more in the mood for novels with high intrigue, emotion, and twists. Something to truly allow me to enjoy and relax, get lost in a different world rather than to constantly examine my life, find it lacking, and spend all my time navel-gazing.
Recently I’ve realized how stunted my writing is. I’m constantly holding back. Writing, for me, has always been an essential outlet for releasing my emotions and getting thoughts out of my head and sorted into some kind of more tangible, manageable form. And yet, even privately, I’m unable to keep from censoring myself when putting my thoughts and emotions down on paper. It’s like I’m scared that by committing them to paper, all of my fears, bad memories, and wildest assumptions will take on a whole new, scarier reality. That by putting them to paper, they’ll become more powerful, more actual, more determinative. No more trapped inside my mind to be conjured up and played with or dismissed at will — now unleashed, a separate entity with a will all their own.
Yet what if I’m wrong? What if the opposite is actually true and, after writing down my thoughts and emotions, they seem a lot sillier and more insignificant to me? That’s in some ways more terrifying. I might realize my positions aren’t the most reasonable. I might realize I need to take some kind of action or change my perspective — that scares and unbalances me, makes me feel as though my legs have been swept out from under me. And worst of all, I might realize I have been living a mere existence, based on self-delusion, instead of the full life I could have been living. Is it possible I have created a meaningless existence for myself? Is my life made up of small things? Am I unfit for more important concerns and undertakings? The possibility I’ve been wasting my life on pettiness is crushing to consider.
Lastly, there are things I don’t want to admit about myself that I’m hardly able to think about, let alone put down on paper. Past actions, loathsome character traits I see in myself, reprehensible thoughts. Things that are already so painful to humor for even the brief moments they flit through my mind that I can’t imagine inscribing them and experiencing them via other senses, as well. The feeling of the pen in my hand as I write them. Looking at them on the page. Even smelling the paper and ink. The words, stark and accusing: “See, we are real. All your worst fears, most jaded perspectives, embarrassing memories, and horrifying suspicions about how others view you, they’re all true. We weren’t just ethereal synapses firing at random, easily rationalized away. We represent reality, and you’re going to have to confront us in a meaningful way sooner or later or your life will only ever be pain and sadness.”
Depression and anxiety have both affected my writing negatively. In turns, I feel each emotion. Depression numbs me to the point of no feelings, paralyzing my writing. Inversely, anxiety causes so many feelings to arise I become overcome with emotions and can’t think to write. Can any of you relate?
Does anybody else have the hardest time opening up to others? I long so much to be heard. Yet I feel guilty burdening others with my problems, even when they want me to open up. One coworker divulged to me that even though we had known each other for several months and even though she had told me much about her own life (including the fact that she had been forced by her parents to get an abortion while in college and that as a middle-aged woman she had experienced an attempted rape), that she knew little to nothing about me. I have noticed that people often feel very comfortable telling me sensitive details about their own lives and coming to me for counsel. Yet I don’t feel comfortable reciprocating. I have taken the Myers-Briggs test a few times and always get INFJ as my result. From my research, this personality type is known as “the counselor/advocate” because we are often reticent to share anything about ourselves with others other than a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. We are the “extraverted introverts”. I have always been more of a nurturer (although I have no desire to have children) and abhor the thought of being a burden to anybody. As a result, I end up in a pit of self-loathing, knowing I can’t blame others for not hearing me if I never give them the chance. Thus, the blame lies solely with me.
While the Holidays are touted as an inherently happy, uplifting time of the year, for many people it is anything but. In fact, it can be a depressing time that many just try to “get through”. This time of the year can highlight the things that are wrong in your life, such as a lack of money or family or love. So what can you do to ease the pain?
Be grateful. I know this wisdom can often come off as trite and preachy, but it has worked for me. Whenever I am feeling disconsolate, that the world is against me, that nothing ever goes my way, I think about the positives in my life. I think about what I have that many other people lack. I think about the ways in which I’m fortunate, what I’ve achieved, what I’ve been given, and the ways in which my life is a lot easier and fuller than other people’s. I don’t do this to gloat but instead to foster a grateful attitude in myself and to avoid encouraging negative thinking patterns. And it almost always works. Don’t criticize yourself for not having what others have. Others might have more money, closer families, and better love lives. They most likely also had different upbringings, experiences, and opportunities in life. They also likely face struggles you don’t know about. Keep your focus on you.
Don’t overextend yourself. It’s not worth getting into debt or stressing yourself over money in order to spend more than you can afford just to fit in with everyone else. Avoid getting wrapped up (pun unintended) in the commercialism of the season.
Don’t concentrate on the past. Times might have been better back then. Holidays past might have been a lot cheerier. Thinking about those times might remind you of what you had and what you lost. We can’t go back, only forward, so concentrate on the changes you can make NOW to ensure happier future Holiday seasons.
Make your own traditions. Maybe your family didn’t have any or you don’t subscribe to them. Make your own and start a new generational tradition among your family or friends. Post about it on social media if you have an account. Start a trend. Inspire others.
Attend to self-care. Be extra gentle with yourself around this time of year. It can already be a dreary, cold time. Don’t beat yourself up for having a different life than others or for not being able to enjoy the season the way many others can.
Avoid over-indulging in sweets. While they make you happy in the moment, the inevitable crash can lead to depression. You don’t have to totally deprive yourself unless you have an issue with self-control around food, but make sure you’re not using sweets to fill the void in your life that this season can trigger.
Keep yourself busy. Attend to tasks you’ve been putting off like cleaning or donating unwanted items. Use this season to concentrate on productive pursuits instead of allowing yourself to wallow in self-pity.
Be open to happiness and light. Don’t harden your heart or allow resentment to occur. Consider attending a Holiday party, inviting a friend over for dinner, or taking a drive to see the festive lights and decorations many people put out this time of year. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help an elderly neighbor. Embrace the good parts of the season even though you might find it sorrowful, as well.
I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving today is having a wonderful holiday. And I hope you’re taking care of yourselves in all of the most important ways, including attending to your mental health, and that you will continue to do so throughout this Holiday season. Stay safe and warm!
Concentrating on the present, as opposed to regretting the past or worrying about the future, is important for mental health. But it can be incredibly difficult to remain in the present without allowing your thoughts to slip backwards or forwards. I have found some ways of remaining in the present that are very helpful for me.
First, I think about what I’m grateful for. This helps me realize that as negative as my past and as scary as my future might seem, I am not destined to only have bad in my life. I am lucky to have the present situation I’m in and I should not take it for granted or waste it.
Second, I move my body/get out into nature. It is harder not to be present when my five senses are stimulated. And getting out into nature grounds and calms me in a way nothing else can. I pay attention to my breath/body. How do they feel? Is there pain or tension anywhere? Is my breathing deep and even or shallow and quick? Massages and baths/showers are other sensory experiences that connects me more deeply with my physical body, leading my mind to stay in the present, as well.
Third, I spend time with uplifting people. This is extremely encouraging and enjoying the camaraderie makes falling into patterns of depressive/anxious thinking less tempting and therefore less likely to happen. I’ll admit that even before the pandemic my social life was greatly lacking. Improvement in this area of my life will have positive effects on my mental health.
Fourth, I make a list/stay busy. Concentrating on improving my present circumstances by checking items off either a literal or mental “to do” list is uplifting and makes it less likely I’ll feel the need to “disappear” into the past or future.
Fifth, I write down my current thoughts and feelings. I write what I am currently struggling with. I check in with myself at this present moment.
These are my favorite ways of staying present. You might have other ways that work for you. It is important to prioritize our mental well-being by staying present and not allowing ourselves to get stuck in the continuous and addictive loop of rehashing the past or mentally constructing our futures.
Anyone else having a hard time nowadays reading fiction? I used to love it and read nothing else. The past few years, I have gotten much more into reading non-fiction. I think for me it’s everything going on in this world and the fact that there’s so much to learn. It feels like wasting time to read fiction when there is so much more I need to learn to live a fulfilling, responsible, and informed life. Fiction simply doesn’t offer the same level of satisfaction it used to. I believe a lot of it has to do with depression. I have a hard time, in general, feeling pleasure anymore. Most things I used to enjoy now feel like a chore. Just wanted to check in to see if anyone else is experiencing the same thing.