Life can be fricken overwhelming. There’s the job, the pets, the house, “save for retirement”, and yet “you only live once”. Do great things, but don’t overextend yourself. Do a great job at everything you touch, but make sure you leave time for yourself. We expect you to accomplish abcdefghijk at work, and actually, can you add lmnop too, and please have it to me by Friday….but please take care of yourself mentally and emotionally too. Be strong, grow, learn…but it’s ok to cry too. It’s a lot. Then add in a little bit of mental health challenges, a touch of tight budget-ness, exceedingly high expectations of yourself, strong passion and desire, and the outcome is an individual who is trying to please everyone (most of all themselves), and yet it feels like they’re failing at E-VER-Y-THING. My dog acts like an a$$hole, I can’t get ahead at work, my house is a mess, I haven’t cooked a meal in a week, when was the last time I bathed my dog?, we need heating oil?!? and it's still over $6 a gallon!!!, I need to emotionally support my family, am I available enough for my best friend, and what she’s dealing with??, oh god…when was the last time I exercised?, have I eaten a single vegetable this week?, great, I can’t button my jeans….you get the picture, right? FAILING AT E-VER-Y-THING. I was in this place recently (truth be told, I have a frequent flyer membership to this place). While I was in this place, I had a day when I knew I’d have a little bit of time to myself. A dirty house causes me quite a bit of stress, so I knew cleaning the house would accomplish two things – a clean house, and a more organized mind. It felt overwhelming because it was the ENTIRE HOUSE that needed to be addressed. I decided to break it into ‘bite-sized chunks’ because otherwise, I’d keep avoiding all of it. So I had more coffee than I ever do in a one-hour span of time, put on some 90’s pop, and decided to tackle the kitchen. If my ADD stayed at bay long enough for me to accomplish the kitchen, I’d call it a win. Dishes done, moved to the stove – cleaned, started in on the countertops. Oh my god…my bread box. My bread box that I absolutely love. I haven’t cleaned the poor thing in a very long time. There were enough crumbs and dust to make any antique shop owner envious. My hyperfocus kicked in. I wanted to give some serious love to my breadbox. But I still needed to tackle the rest of the house, didn’t I? But, what if? What if I gave in to my hyperfocus and cleaned this stupid 1970s breadbox so it shined better than the day it rolled out on the Service Merchandise conveyor belt? I’d feel accomplished. I’d have a project that I could look at, and feel proud of. Something I did, and I did well. It didn’t really matter that this is a bread box and no one else would notice how clean it had become. The important part is my internal voice. This would help me punch a hole in my depression frequent flyer card, and start to climb out of it. I did it. I cleaned that stupid bread box like my life depended on it. Man, did it look great. And I felt proud. I stood back and admired my work. And, as you can see by the picture that accompanies this post, I actually took a picture.
In all seriousness, cleaning my bread box was so much more than actually cleaning my bread box. I knew what my emotional and mental well being needed, was to feel accomplished and proud of myself. I set off on a task- to clean the entire house. The part of my brain that has been trained by professional therapists for most of my life knew this task was going to be too much. So I broke it down. I even broke down the part that I had broken down. And you know what? I walked out of my kitchen with my head higher than it had been in many days, because I had done a DAMN good job of cleaning my bread box.
My takeaway is this – I’m definitely no mental health expert. I’m definitely not, by any means, telling you what you should do to help yourself in your mental crisis. What I’m sharing with you is this; when you’re feeling pretty crappy, find something to do that you can be proud of yourself with. Do it, and do it well. Pick something small and easily attainable, but something you have to truly work at to achieve. You never know, you may start off with a really shitty day, and walk away with three failed attempts at writing, and one half-decent blog post 😉